From just before the American Civil War to just after the turn of the century, America underwent a westward expansion unparalleled in history. Millions migrated with the sun to the new opportunities beyond the wide Missouri. In order to have this happen, the frontier population went armed with the fast-developing firearms of that day. In our time, this movement has been romanticized heavily, including the use of a wide variety of guns. The process has involved a great many so-called “western” motion pictures and TV shows. This, in turn, has created a demand for shooting samples of all of these types of guns. I’m delighted to point out that you can now buy brand-new examples of almost all of the guns that served to conquer the frontier. Made of modern steels and fitted very nicely, these guns come from a variety of factories, most of which are in Italy.
While long arms of many brands are available (including such gems as Sharps and Spencers), we’ll stick with the handguns. Some of the very earliest revolvers were imported from Italy by Val Forgett in the late ‘50s. They were the black powder, caplock revolvers of Colt and Remington. The Colts were in greater variety and are still available for those fond of shooting cap-and ball guns. Eventually, other black powder guns came along, including the ’58 Remington and even the exotic LeMat.
The vast majority of Frontier cartridge revolvers were made by Remington, Smith & Wesson and of course, Colt. The ever-popular Colt Peacemaker has been replicated in virtually every one of its major variations—Bisley, Flat Top, Storekeeper’s, Buntline and others, and several varieties of Remington are available. Only fairly recently have the difficult-to-make breaktop series of S&Ws come on the market. Called the No. 3 model, there are four major revolvers in the series—American, Russian, Schofield and New Model. Only the earliest—the Americans—have yet to be replicated. I was really pleased to see the No. 3 New Model in the Taylor's & Company catalog at SHOT this year.
It remains for a domestic replicator to come up with a working model of the Merwin, Hulbert revolver. This Frontier period gem is intricate and finely fitted, but a delightful revolver with many desirable features. An American entrepreneur is said to be hard at reproducing this gun and I wish him the best of luck.