Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Best of Theme Guns: John Deere

 This a "best of" post, the best of a category of theme guns, this month is John Deere.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Firearm Factory of the Month: Cresecent Firearms

Crescent Arms was a maker of affordable single and double barrel shotguns. They also made shotguns under numerous trade names for other gun companies and general mercantile stores.

The company got its start from the Bacon Arms company of Norwich Connecticut, which was started in 1863 by Thomas Bacon, one of the three gun making enterprises started by Bacon.
In 1865 Bacon sold his interest in the company and the firm continued until 1888. 

That year the equipment and building of Bacon's last company were purchased by George Cilley.
Cilley was a former employee of Hopkins & Allen, as were many of the gun makers in Norwich.
Cilley named his new company Crecent Arms. His new venture proved successful and in 1892 he purchased land on Holly Hock Island in the middle of the Yantic River in Norwich, CT on which to build a new factory.

This is what the building looked like.

60 or more employees worked in the narrow 2-story building. Light was provided by the many windows and power was provided by the river.
The company produced more than 15,000 guns per year. As mentioned earlier, the trade names were numerous, below is a sampling of known names, there may have been more as it has been reported that they would brand label guns for an order as small as a dozen guns. One collector has identified more than 550 such trade names.

In 1893 H&D Folsom, a sporting goods wholesaler/retailer based out of New York, purchased The Crescent Arms company. They had already been selling the Crescent shotguns under various trade names.

In late 1930 Crescent Firearms Company were purchased by Savage Arms/J. Stevens Arms. H&D Folsom Arms had purchased The Baker Gun Company and probably didn't need two shotgun factories.

Savage also purchased the Davis-Warner Arms Corporation and the two were merged as a subsidiary of Savage. A bit of a coincidence that Warner Arms (before merging with Davis Arms) was located on Holly Hock Island, next door to the Crescent Arms factory.

The Crescent-Davis division continued until 1935 when it was dissolved and the machinery sent to the J. Stevens plant in Chicopee Falls, MA. The Crescent-Davis name and gun designs continued to made as late as 1938.

What remains:

I believe the Bacon Arms building is still standing, there is only one building at the corner of Pond and Franklin Streets and it appears to be pretty old.

It took some work to find where the location of the Crescent factory building on Holly Hock Island, I found this in a listing of businesses from July of 1892. The other half of Holly Hock Island was once occupied by the Manhattan Arms and the 1st Smith & Wesson factory. 

The factory building is long gone, replaced by a ramp to the transportation center and two buildings on both shores.

The J. Stevens Arms Factory in Chicopee Falls is still standing, as far as I know anyway.


Friday, January 19, 2024

TINCANBANDIT visits the Alamo

In the past I have visited sites like the Little Big Horn battle site and the Veteran's Memorial Museum.

This is another one of those posts, this time we traveled to San Antonio Texas to see what remains of the Alamo.

After a 13-day siege by the Mexican Army, on March 6th, 1836, the Alamo fell, which led to a series of events including a war between neighboring nations, a new country being formed, and eventually new states being added to the Union.

I won't go into the long story of how the battle came to take place at a little mission in Texas, nor will I tell the long tale of how the battle went. 

Instead I will just tell a few short stories about the notable people who died there and show you what is left.

We'll start with a couple of the famous people.

James Bowie was a pioneer, soldier and politician. Before the Alamo he was most famous for the knife that he wielded in the infamous Sandbar Fight.

The knife has been researched ad nauseum, but most researchers agree that the legend of his knife and Bowie's mastery of it is mostly true.

Bowie researcher Russell T. Johnson described the knife in his writings: "It must be long enough to use as a sword, sharp enough to use as a razor, wide enough to use as a paddle and heavy enough to use as a hatchet." 

Bowie had already served in a few battles against the Mexicans before the Alamo and had moved his relatives with him to the fort before the arrival of the Mexican Army on February 23rd.

During the preparations in February Bowie was elected to be the commander of the Alamo Texians, much to the chagrin of Lt. Col. Travis. Although the two worked out an agreement for joint command, Bowie would lead the volunteers while Travis would lead the regulars (soldiers).

Just before the siege began Bowie came down with an undiagnosed sickness. He was bed ridden during the final assault on March 6th.

There are many stories about Bowie's final minutes, some say he was bayonetted and died in his bed, others claim he was dragged from his bed and thrown onto the funeral pyre still breathing. 

However, most agree that Bowie fought from his bed, back against the wall using his pistol and his knife.

When his mother was told of his death, she said "I'll wager no wounds were found in his back". Bowie was just 39 years old.

Davy Crockett was also famous before the battle of the Alamo, a frontiersman, politician and soldier. He was an elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives and by all accounts earned his title of "King of the Wild Frontier".

Crockett came to Texas for a couple of reasons, one was to separate himself with politics, as he despised Andrew Jackson and his successor Martin Van Buren, the second reason was to assist with Texas Independence. Crockett went to Texas with 30 Tennesse volunteers.

Crockett acted as a scout, messenger and confidant to both Travis and Bowie. During the final assault Crockett made a quick stop in the church to say a prayer and then headed to his post. He and some of his men were caught in the open in front of the small wall in front of the church. Crockett fired his last shot, then used his rifle, nicknamed "Old Besty" to beat the attacking Mexicans, at least that is what most people believe.

There are multiple accounts of Crockett's death. Some say he died fighting on his feet, surrounded by the corpses of dozen or more Mexican soldiers. Others claim he survived the battle and was executed by orders of Santa Ana. 

Either way he died, like the rest of the Texians on March 6th, he was 59 years old.

Below is how the Alamo looked at the time of the battle, the building everything thinks of when they hear the name Alamo, was actually an old Spanish church that predated the fort and was in ruins at the time of the battle, it is the H-shaped building on the right.

The small wall in front of it is where Crockett made his last stand, the sick bay where Bowie died was the long skinny building that ran along the front wall, near the half-round parapet.

Here is what it looks like today 

The church still remains as do some parts of the walls, but most of the fort is gone, replaced by streets and sidewalks.
The church has undergone much restoration in the last 50 years or so.
The two people standing in front of the grass is about where Davy Crockett fought his last battle.

This monument sits near where the fort's sick bay once stood, this is where Jim Bowie was when he died. The monument sits on the sidewalk along N. Alamo Street.

The pictures below are from the museum, located at the back of the property. Many items were donated by Rock -n- Roll legend Phil Collins, who is very well versed on the battle, he also narrated the battle for a scale model display in the museum.

The Alamo is a State Park, run by the Alamo Trust Inc, a non-profit organization.

For more information, click here.


Saturday, January 13, 2024

Colt Single Action Army Clones

The Colt model of 1873 Single Action Army revolver (aka "the Peacemaker") is perhaps the most iconic gun in history. It arrived on the scene just a few years after the Civil War ended and while Manifest Destiny was still a favored belief.

The Homestead Acts and the discovery of gold sent ambitious pioneers out west. Along with those pioneers came criminals, bent on getting their own fortune. This mixture of personalities created the history we know as the "Wild West".

The Colt S.A.A. has shared the title of "The Gun That Won The West" along with the Winchester model of 1873 rifle. I'm not sure if one is more deserving of the title than the other, but sharing the title seems appropriate as they were introduced the same year and often found to be used by the same people.

I suppose most people do not know that the design of the 1873 Peacemaker was ready long before the 1st ones were produced in 1872. Smith & Wesson held the patent rights to Rollin White's bored through cylinder design and the Colt Company (sadly Samuel died in 1862) did not want to pay royalties to their revolver competitor. Thus Colt waited until the patent expired. 
The biggest push to get the revolvers into production came from the U.S. Army trials of 1872. Colt won the contract, and the name of the gun became the "Single Action Army model of 1873", it remained the sidearm of the US Army through 1892. 

The first generation of Colt S.A.A.s were made from 1872 until 1940, when Colt needed to focus on orders for weapons (gearing up for the war in Europe) from the US Government.
The second generation of Colt SAAs began production in 1956 and the third generation in 1976.
In 1955 a TV show debuted called The Life and Times of Wyatt Earp, followed four days later by Gunsmoke.
The proliferation of TV shows and movies dedicated to the tales of the Old West along with some new competitors led to Colt re-introducing their Single Action Army revolver in 1956. 

In 1953 Ruger introduced their Single Six .22 revolver (not really a clone, but it was a start). 

The original Ruger Single Six

One year later Great Western Arms introduced their Single Action Army clone. The guns were very close copies of the Colts, including the finishes and barrel lengths. They were so close that many of the Western movies filmed in the 50's used the Great Western.

The Great Western

After making some 22,000 revolvers, Great Western Arms went out of business in 1964 and their guns have become popular with collectors.

 In 1955 Ruger introduced their full-sized single action in .357 Magnum. Named the Blackhawk, it was nearly identical in sized to the Colt SAA, but featured a rear adjustable sight and different internal lock work that used coil springs.

We cannot really call the Blackhawk a clone due to it's squared off frame, adjustable sight & different lock work, but it got Ruger started down the path that would lead to a clone of the Colt.
Sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s the Hawes Firearms Company began importing a Great Western/Colt clone with model names like "Western Marshal", "Western Six-Shooter" etc. The guns were made in West Germany by JP Sauer & Sohn. The quality varies considerably, and their value reflects that. They also used aluminum parts like the Ruger Blackhawks.

The Western Marshal

Thanks to the interest in the Old West by Italians (who would've guessed?) we had a run of "Spaghetti Westerns" led by Sergio Leone. These westerns helped launched Clint Eastwood's career.

The love Italians had for the Old West no doubt induced Italian gun makers like Uberti, Pedersoli and Pietta to create their own Colt Single Action Army Clones.

By the mid 1970s there were several Italian gun makers crafting good quality Colt clones
Uberti has dozens of combinations utilizing different finishes, barrel lengths and calibers. 
Model names include Cattleman, Chisholm, Desperado, Cody, Frisco and other old west sounding names.
Uberti also brand labels their guns for companies like Taylor's & Co., E.M.F. and Cimarron. 

the Uberti Cattleman:

In 1993 United States Fire Arms Mfg Co. (U.S.F.A.) started operations in Hartford by assembling guns using parts imported by Uberti. They eventually made every part of their guns. They are prized as some of the finest single action revolvers ever made. In addition to their authenticity, they were made in the old Colt Hartford factory.


Pietta operates under similar circumstances as Uberti, although on a smaller scale.

the Pietta 1873 SAA

Davide Pedersoli is primarily a maker of black powder replica firearms, but they do make at least one Colt Single Action Army copy, the Doc Holliday Special

These guns became more popular with the introduction of Cowboy Action Shooting.
Sturm Ruger & Co recognized the opportunity and recreated their New Model Blackhawk single action revolver into a closer copy of the Colt. By removing the rear adjustable sights, adding a simple patridge blade front sight and rounding the frame. In 1993 Ruger introduced the original Vaquero. 

Ruger original Vaquero, 45 Colt 45/8" barrel

Being built on the New Model Blackhawk frame meant that this gun while being slightly larger than the original Colt could handle 44 Magnum cartridges as well as the hottest 45 Colt loads. Barrel lengths were originally the 4 5/8", 5 1/2" & 7 1/2". Other options included the Bisley grip/hammer/trigger and the birdshead grip. Finishes were the blued with a simulated color case frame (not a true color case hardening) and a high polish stainless steel finish (intended to mimic the Colt's nickel plating).
in 2005 the revolver was reworked and was now built on the original Blackhawk frame (which was smaller and nearly identical to the Colt).

the New Vaquero Montado

Beretta Stampede is an SAA clone made by Uberti for Beretta (Beretta owns Uberti)

The Taurus Gaucho is made in Brazil and imported by Taurus USA.


1872: Colt produces the prototypes for what becomes the Single Action Army, Colt wins contract from U.S. Army to supply the Single Action Army in .45 Colt
1873: Colt introduces the model to the public
1892: The Single Action Army is retired from U.S. Army service
1940: Colt discontinues production of the SAA
1950: Winchester '73 debuts in movie theaters

1953: Ruger introduces their Single Six revolver, Shane
debuts in movie theaters
1954: Great Western Arms introduces their SAA Clone(s)
1955: The Life and Times of Wyatt Earp & Gunsmoke both debut on TV.
1955: Ruger introduces a full size single action revolver named the "Blackhawk"
1956: Colt re-introduces the Single Action Army, known as the "2nd generation"
1958ish: Hawes Western Arms begins importing German made SAA copies 
1959: Italian Aldo Uberti begins making reproductions of old west firearms
1960: The Magnificent 7 debuts in movie theaters
1964: Clint Eastwood gets his first starring role in a Western movie when A Fist Full of Dollars is released

1969: The Wild Bunch & True Grit debut in movie theaters
1976: The Colt SAA 3rd Generation revolver is introduced.
1992: Unforgiven debuts in movie theaters
1993: Ruger introduces the Vaquero, built on the .44 Blackhawk frame; Tombstone debuts in movie theaters.
1995: Ruger introduces a Vaquerito, a Single Six styled like the Vaquero, only smaller, in .32 H&R magnum
1996: United States Fire Arms Mfg Co. begins operations by importing Italian made parts and assembling them in Hartford. They would eventually make every part in Hartford including the screws

1997: Pietta adds a Single Action Army copy to their catalogue
2003: Open Range debuts in movie theaters 
2005: Ruger redesigns the Vaquero using the smaller .357 Blackhawk frame
2007: Ruger introduces the short-barreled Vaquero Montado.
2011: U.S.F.A. closes their doors 
2016: The remake of the Magnificent Seven is released in theaters.

National Firearms Museum
Gun Digest  
Gun Auction
Cimarron Fire Arms Co.
Taylor's and Co. Inc.
F.A.P. di Pietta 
Davide Pedersoli