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Discussion Starter #1


It doesn't take much of a ranch or much imagination to wonder how our old 1st Generation Colts got used and in many cases abused.

Upfront from what I have seen most were simply "cleaned to death". Well taken care of hand guns (good ones were expensive even then by any measure) were cleaned because of the common use of black powder ammo in many of the older cartridges even up to WWII and the daily wear and tear a hand gun gets carried out in the weather 24/365. Gray guns, with little blueing left and a similar amount of case colors and no pitting were...in fact, well taken care of every day tools.

And those were the well taken care of Colts!

This on the other hand is the Swiss Army knife of tools. The first Leatherman? May be :)

US Troopers in Cuba, during the Spanish American War, cracking coffee beans with the butts of their artillery models.



dogface6 said:
Since we're talking 'bob ware', and the use of a revolver butt to secure staples - 'not' a whole helluva lot of fun, by the way - here's yet another possible culprit for those chewed-up gun butts...

Coffee grinding...
Seriously - back when Civil War troops were issued coffee, they were issued coffee beans - not 'fine roast' - and it fell to whomever in the squad given mess duty to prep the squad's meals.
There's even a reference in 'Hardtack and Coffee' but I'm too lazy to ferret it out.
'Maybe' this can account for some of the markings - maybe not - but it does beat the hoary 'wanted poster' stories, though I have no problem attaching credence to the use as a quick hammer - I 'know' what guys will do in a pinch...
Here's a different fencing tool - a 'saddlehorn' fencing tool first patented in 1945 - Glaskin's 'Atomic Hammer' - it'll go perfectly with that holster-worn Second Generation SAA.






"In the West there were always more coffee beans and fence staples than wanted posters"




Been a good many older Colts with the bottom of the back strap and one piece wood grips damaged by using the gun's but as a hammer, like our well meaning coffee grinders above. As said prior way more fence staples set than tacks putting up wanted posters.

Fencing? Barbed wire and other. Lots of different kinds of fencing although most folks want to think of "bobbed wire" when thinking about the expansion and settlement of the West. Truth is folks used what ever was available and "easy" to put up. Wire being one of them but there are others depending on the resources available locally.

When wood is cheap and it is hard to dig a hole.

Buck rail



Barbed wire

The inventor was Lucien B Smith of Ohio. As Ranchers and Farmers moved out on the plains, and needed to fence their land in against encroaching farmers and other ranchers. The railroads throughout the growing West needed to keep livestock off their tracks, and farmers needed to keep stray cattle from trampling their crops. Traditional fence materials used in the Eastern U.S., like wood and stone, were expensive to use in the large open spaces of the plains, and hedging was not reliable in the rocky, clay-based and rain-starved dusty soils. A cost-effective alternative was barbed wire. Three or four staples to hammer and loosen per post.



I'm a lucky man. Last couple of weeks we have torn down and are now rebuilding a couple of miles of fence line.

Like many here I have a different perspective on building fence. Folks like to think that riding fence line on a horse (checking to see if the fence is intact or is in need of serious repair) also means you'll fix some fence from horse back. So goes the romance of that well worn Colt 1st Generation pistol :)

One needs to think about that for a minute and what it actually takes to build or even just fix a fence besides a minor..as in very minor repair.

You'll likely need all of this this...

roll of wire
puller
pliers
staples
30# Breaker bar
Post hole digger
shovel
pick
posts



Seen more than one Colt grip and butt strap that a fencing staple fits into perfectly. Staples are soft steel...early split rail fence posts were generally very soft wood or just green wood cut from lodge pole pine, aspen or anything skinny enough to haul to your fence line in bulk. So yes you can see every strike on the butt of a pistol used for that job. And done enough the grip's butt and frame will be beat up pretty badly.

Horses and wire...neither were good for early lever guns or pistols. Horse likely broke more lever gun stocks that Injun fights :) Wire likely damaged as many handguns as have been lost to time.

FWIW, In 1905, Hubert L. Wright invented what is known today as the "Hammerhead Plier," which kicked off the invention of the Modern-Day Fence plier. Wright was connected to the Utica Drop Forge & Tool company in Utica, NY, Which is where our current UTICA Plier gets its name from.


A copy of that early version of a fencing tool with a spike added....both versions still get used on a regular basis if you have wire on the property.



A latter design for a "Plammer" (plier/hammer below on my work saddle) if anyone is interested. Bigger, easier to use hammer, but not as tidy to carry on a horse. Claw will put a hole in your chaps as will that sharp spike, given a chance.


Anyone wanting to match their disfigured Colt up to a fence staple I have hundreds in the barn I can loan ya ;)





If you look close it is the same place my Grandfather carried his set of fencing pliers.




Fencing work means a shit load of heavy and awkward tools and supplies. And hard labor. Chain gang type ha rd labor. You aint gonna carry that on a horse. You won't carry much of it on just one pack mule. Pretty much requires a fence crew and a wagon to get a serious fencing job done. Did then, does now. Cowboys didn't (don't) like working on the fence crew.





You may not think that, because you look at it as more of a collectable and not as the tool that the original owner did, and using it to twist and tighten barbed wire was but one of the uses it was probably put to.
Times changed, and with them, so did attitudes towards 'things', so when one looks at a period object, he can't judge it with the eyes of today, but with the eyes of the time frame of its era.
That there are scratches that are present from back then indicate the man's life it accompanied since it was first built, and how it served him well.
They didn't revere them - they didn't sit around the campfires, singing good ol' cowboy songs like 'Little Joe the Wrangler' and 'Utah Carroll', and cleaning them, tuning them and Ren-Waxing them to a high shine, either - when and if they cleaned them, they'd use boiling water and sometimes soap for the black powder, with a rag on a stick pushed through the barrel and charge holes and follow up with sperm oil - with more sperm oil dripped into the innards for good measure.
Then, they'd re-holster them in their un-lined, mail order house holster built without a safety strap or hammer thong, and that'd be that - and every do often, in the boredom of winter, maybe someone would even find a good, straight nail, and with an artistic bent, would do a bit of 'punch-dot' engraving to make his a little different from ol' Shorty's over yonder.
As to clubbing someone with their piece - Earp did it, and often, in the trail towns.
It's all in the way it's held, as to whether it damages the backstrap/triggerguard and their screws, but in a fight, anything that's in the hand becomes a weapon, and remember, even though it wound up on the screen, there's usually a historical precedent or three that adds verisimilitude to salve the writer's conscience and convinces him that not everything he's writing is a bald-faced lie.
The other one yet to be mentioned is a 7 or 8" barrel used as a lever to tighten wire. Anyone else seen a old Colt with wire marks on the barrel? Although the worse one I have seen that shows evidence of "wire work" was a 4 3/4" 38wcf. "I 'know' what guys will do in a pinch" makes one realize how firearms have been looked at simply as tools by many owners. Pry bar, gun, lever or hammer....still beats a Phammer most days.


Using a barrel like that does nothing for shooting POA/POI btw. Longer the barrel the better the leverage on the fence. And the more likely you'll bend a barrel.








Handguns have always been expensive. Used as a tool? For sure. But much of the damage done to them early on was from cleaning and sitting in holsters that were sewn shut on the bottom so that dirt and dust became emory paper to grind the barrel ends, ejector rods and ejector rod housings away along with cylinders and front sights. Anything a early Colt rubber grip touched would do the same to the soft rubber, wood, bone or ivory.


Bench vice marks from turning a barrel...





More here:

https://www.coltforum.com/forums/single-action-army/368277-worn-grip-panels-tell-alot.html
 

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I always thought the claw hammer was developed after the SAA was introduced.
 
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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I always thought the claw hammer was developed after the SAA was introduced.

An early claw hammer is seen in Albrecht Dürer's etching "Melencolia I," dated 1514

hamm.jpg

The Plier was invented in Europe about 2000 BC and was used most often than not to grip things that were hot. Now, almost 4,000 years later, we have more pliers than we know what to do with. But to those of us in the Fence Industry, one man made all the difference.

In 1905, Hubert L. Wright invented what is known today as the "Hammerhead Plier," which kicked off the invention of the Modern-Day Fence plier. Wright was connected to the Utica Drop Forge & Tool company in Utica, NY, Which is where our current UTICA Plier gets its name from. Below is the actual patent drawing submitted to the U.S. Patent Office back over 100 years ago.

Later, in 1909, H.F. Kelleman, also for the Utica Drop Forge @ Tool company Introduced what will later become the Square Nose Fence Pliers.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Patent was given in 1867 to Lucien B. Smith of Kent, Ohio for barbed wire. A set of fencing pliers wasn't invented until 1905. That gave us the opportunity of 38 full years of 1st Gen Colt abuse :) And it did happen.

Part of the point to my post is that sure, staples got hammered with guns butts, but fence wasn't built by cowboys on horse back. Fence got built by fence crews and wagons or pack animals to haul all the gear needed to get the job done. When you look at strigging a mile of hard scabble barbed wire fencing a Colt wouldn't last the first 3 posts.

Guns got worn out from cleaning way more than we can appreciate now. They got worn out from riding in holsters full of dust and dirt all the while being exposed to the elements 24/365 while rubbing on what ever happened along, leather chaps, wool and canvas coats, saddles, riata or a snorty horse. A sewn bottom on the holster just made the wear happen even faster. Common wear pattern on a 7.5" in a military style holster.

Obviously a six gun was good for self defence against wild critters or bad men. A long gun is almost always better and cheaper. Now a days folks carry a hand gun for similar reasons, along with putting an animal down when needed. What you don't hear of these days and where a long gun is of no use, is on a hung up stirrup or a mean ass cow trying to hook your horse. Both common and likely lethal events back in the day. They call them "wrecks" for a reason. Ever wonder where the term "car wreck" or "train wreck" came from as opposed to a "wreck". For a long time "horse wrecks" killed or seriously injured way more folks than cars or trains.

russ1.jpg

russ.jpg

russ2.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #10
saintclair said:
…..I have owned Colt SAA's that were used as a hammer and for tightening up barbed wire with the barrel.
Thanks Terry. First buggered up SAA I saw from wire I was stumped how it happened. But I knew I'd seen the same marks on something. Just couldn't figure out what it was from or where. Took me a bit to put 2 and 2 together. Once you know what you are looking at it is easy to identify. Some times a good stick is just damn hard to find :)

 

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Patent was given in 1867 to Lucien B. Smith of Kent, Ohio for barbed wire. A set of fencing pliers wasn't invented until 1905. That gave us the opportunity of 38 full years of 1st Gen Colt abuse :) And it did happen.

Part of the point to my post is that sure, staples got hammered with guns butts, but fence wasn't built by cowboys on horse back. Fence got built by fence crews and wagons or pack animals to haul all the gear needed to get the job done. When you look at strigging a mile of hard scabble barbed wire fencing a Colt wouldn't last the first 3 posts.

Guns got worn out from cleaning way more than we can appreciate now. They got worn out from riding in holsters full of dust and dirt all the while being exposed to the elements 24/365 while rubbing on what ever happened along, leather chaps, wool and canvas coats, saddles, riata or a snorty horse. A sewn bottom on the holster just made the wear happen even faster. Common wear pattern on a 7.5" in a military style holster.

Obviously a six gun was good for self defence against wild critters or bad men. A long gun is almost always better and cheaper. Now a days folks carry a hand gun for similar reasons, along with putting an animal down when needed. What you don't hear of these days and where a long gun is of no use, is on a hung up stirrup or a mean ass cow trying to hook your horse. Both common and likely lethal events back in the day. They call them "wrecks" for a reason. Ever wonder where the term "car wreck" or "train wreck" came from as opposed to a "wreck". For a long time "horse wrecks" killed or seriously injured way more folks than cars or trains.

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Old Charlie Russel was a real genius in picturing these wrecks. He is my favorite Cowboy and Western Painter.

Cozmo, this is a great thread to learn from, thank you for it.
 

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Dane, some of my most memorable experiences growing up on a ranch are from building fences. Most are unpleasant because there was a cottonmouth or copperhead involved. I suspect the worst was clearing out the briars and bushes that seemed to become entangled in the barbed wire fence. No matter how impenetrable it appeared, if the wire wasn't strung right a cow or calf would find away to get through. Sometimes a calf would lie down against a fence post and get up on the wrong side of the wire. This was usually on the coldest day of the year. When I was about seventeen I discovered the easiest way to dismantle a barbed wire fence was to put a bull on either side of it. Of course after the demolition and with nothing separating them, they were best friends. While I never used a firearm to hammer staples, I did discover that drilling drain holes in a feed trough was a lot easier with Dad's old Official Police .38 than a carpenter's brace and a wood auger! Keep those stories coming!
 

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Patent was given in 1867 to Lucien B. Smith of Kent, Ohio for barbed wire. A set of fencing pliers wasn't invented until 1905. That gave us the opportunity of 38 full years of 1st Gen Colt abuse :) And it did happen.

Part of the point to my post is that sure, staples got hammered with guns butts, but fence wasn't built by cowboys on horse back. Fence got built by fence crews and wagons or pack animals to haul all the gear needed to get the job done. When you look at strigging a mile of hard scabble barbed wire fencing a Colt wouldn't last the first 3 posts.

Guns got worn out from cleaning way more than we can appreciate now. They got worn out from riding in holsters full of dust and dirt all the while being exposed to the elements 24/365 while rubbing on what ever happened along, leather chaps, wool and canvas coats, saddles, riata or a snorty horse. A sewn bottom on the holster just made the wear happen even faster. Common wear pattern on a 7.5" in a military style holster....
Good stuff, I love history.

I've always figured if someone could afford a good Colt, they would not use it as a hammer. Actually, fencing pliers were invented pretty much as soon as fencing was. It's not like a person had to make due with improvised ones. Here is one that I have, pat 1898, but there are earlier types too. https://patents.google.com/patent/US597896 And another from 1900 https://patents.google.com/patent/US650186A/

 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
dallascowboy said:
Old Charlie Russel was a real genius in picturing these wrecks. He is my favorite Cowboy and Western Painter.
You're welcome! My favorite western artist as well. Well may be next to my Mom :) I was looking for this painting earlier and didn't have the time to find it. Note the other guy's gun smoke in the back ground trying to save his pard. But even old Elmer Keith mentioned this was a good place for a six gun. As a young kid the first man I ever saw die was hung up and drug to death. Not a good way to go. I've been hung up once. Likely less than 10 feet...scared the chit out of me. Amazing just how calm you can talk to your horse in that situation trying to get them not to move again.

 

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Wrong tool story: When I was about 12 or 13 we were camping near Black Mountain, NC, the ancestral home of my family. My cousins and I were wandering the campground looking for kids our age, preferably girls. We were good hunters, and found some. We had sheath knives on our belts, as good mountain men would. My cousin had a Buck, mine a Schrade. We escorted the girls we met on a trail that wound up the hills a mile or so for a nature walk. About mid way, we stopped and sat on a little wooden foot bridge. The girl I liked asked about my knife.

"Don't you sometimes need to use the back end for hammering things?" she said, batting her eyelashes.
"Uh, yeah, sure you do" I replied.
"Can I see your knife?"
"You can" (unsheathing and handing over my prize that my WWII uncle Charlie had given me)

She turned it over and WHAM, WHAM, WHam! started hamming in a loose nail sticking out of the board beside her! "Stop!" I yelled. I still have that knife. And it still has the handle damage to show for it.
 
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