A Milestone in Wood and Steel

posted on January 17, 2018

Any working actor will tell you that his biggest worry is his next job. Many aspire to become household names but a miniscule few ever realize that dream. Fewer still can claim top billing in a hit series that runs eight years or more. And how doubly blessed can one be to find themselves repeating that success, 30 years later?

For Tom Selleck, the eighth season of the CBS hit series Blue Bloods (2010) holds a special place in his heart. It was back in 1980 that he was cast as Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV, a former Navy Seal turned private investigator. That series ran for eight seasons, exactly 163 episodes. The show was a colossal hit and helped define the 1980s, the Reagan Era of American history. This year, the eighth season of Blue Bloods reached and passed the 163 episode mark. Tom Selleck wanted to preserve the occasion with a special memento similar to the one he commissioned to commemorate Magnum P.I.’s eight-year run.

In real life, #1 Police Plaza may actually be located in lower Manhattan, but in the alternate universe where Police Commissioner Francis Xavier Reagan is the third longest serving NYC Police Commissioner, we met up with actor and NRA Board of Directors member Tom Selleck in a perfect copy of the Chief’s 14th floor office, just a mere five miles away in Brooklyn. He shared with us the back story behind a stunning Winchester Model 1886 that was being delivered on set by Doug Turnbull of Turnbull Restorations. “Back in the day, when someone reached a milestone, an inscribed gold watch wasn’t the only way of commemorating that event. Many people gave and received specially inscribed firearms. That tradition is what I wanted to carry on when Blue Bloods hit the same mark that Magnum did.”

Working with his longtime friend Doug Turnbull on designing a tasteful tribute to matching the run of Magnum P.I., Mr. Selleck said, “When Magnum ended with 163 episodes, I thought it might be nice to have a memento of those years spent with my friends from the cast and crew. I asked the custom shop at Colt to commission a set of three pistols, Magnum 1 (1911A1), Magnum 2 (Combat Officers ACP) and & Magnum 3 (Mustang .380), all in a beautiful oak and leather case lined with billiard green felt. With Blue Bloods, I wanted to do something slightly different. So, Doug and I selected a Model 1886 Winchester to work with.”

Turnbull located an antique Model 1886 and began to work his magic on it. It started life as a standard rifle in New Haven, Conn. back in 1889, but when Doug and his team in Bloomfield, N.Y., finished with it, it was a true work of art. The .50-110 was originally a standard rifle but is now a 22” take-down model, complete with its own red felt lined oak and leather case reworked by David Bennett, including a full set of accoutrements. Emblazoned on the interior lid, the numbers “163” are engraved on a brass plaque signifying the unique role this particular rifle played in the historic canon of Selleck’s screen credits.

The team at Turnbull Restoration Co. began work just six short months ago on what could now easily be considered a masterwork in any arena. Engraver Tom McArdle recreated numerous L. D. Nimschke-inspired panel scenes, one of which included a Ram motif that was specifically desired by Mr. Selleck. “I own quite a few of Doug’s guns, but I’ve never had one with a ram on it. I’ve always thought a ram would look good right in front of the loading gate,” he said. The exquisite hand checkered (24 lines to the inch!) black walnut stock has some of the finest grain ever turned out by the Turnbull shop. As per typical Turnbull work, the color-casehardening is only equaled by the high luster and polish of the blue on the gun.


An original and rare Marble/Sheard express sight regulated for 50, 100 and 150 yards gives the barrel flats a distinctive and classic look. “I intend to shoot this.” Mr. Selleck said. “I’d really like to take a buffalo with it.”

As the rifle was “unveiled” at Commissioner Reagan’s desk by Tom and Doug, cast and crew members drew near to look at the rifle that was unanimously declared a true work of art. Actor Will Estes, who plays Commissioner Reagan’s youngest son, P.O. Jamie Reagan, looked on admiringly as the rifle was removed from the case and assembled by Mr. Selleck, who executed the often difficult maneuver with dexterity as if he had done it a thousand times. (Which, as it turns out, he has, as he is a very knowledgeable and advanced collector.)

The Colts that were commissioned to commemorate the 163 episodes of Magnum P. I. are currently on display at the NRA National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va., on loan from Mr. Selleck along with numerous other guns, both loaned and donated to the museum. Perhaps one day this splendid Winchester 1886 will join others from the Selleck collection that are on exhibit and reflective of a life and career of a sincere kindred spirit to even the most dedicated firearms historian and enthusiast. Well, maybe one day after he takes his buffalo.


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