Di Dennis Adler
To carry two guns you generally need two holsters.
Most Old West historians will note that rarely did a lawman or an outlaw wear two gun belts, it’s more of a western cinematic cliché, but that’s not to say Sheriffs, Marshals, and lawmen of all stripes never strapped on a brace of guns; most did, with one usually a having a shorter barrel for close up work and a second longer barreled six-shooter for distance. Short guns ended up in a pocket, a shoulder holster (by the 1890s), a custom belt holster, but mostly just tucked into a pant’s waist. Legendary El Paso, Texas, City Marshall Dallas Stoudenmire carried a short-barreled Colt .44 conversion turned butt forward in his leather-lined left front trouser pocket, and a full size Colt on his right side.
The most practical pairing of six guns was a 7.5 inch Colt and either a 4-inch or 3.5 inch model, the latter generally without ejector housing. Either barrel length often required a special holster made to fit the shorter gun. Among famous American holster makers who produced classic Mexican double loop rigs for Colt Single Actions with 3.5 and 4 inch barrels (appropriately named the Sheriff’s Model), was R.T. Frazier Saddlery in Pueblo, Colorado.
The rig pictured with the Pietta Sheriff’s Model is an authentic copy of a Frazier holster c.1885-1890, handcrafted by Rick Bachman of Old West Reproductions in Florence, Montana.
Bachman also made the copy of the famous F. A. Meanea Cheyenne, Wyoming, double loop holster, and F. A. Meanea Money Belt cartridge belt shown with the Pietta Lawman 7.5 inch Single Action. Both belts have clipped corner buckles; the 3.5 inch cartridge belt is also border stamped on the top and bottom, while the lined Meanea 7.5 inch holster is both border stamped and hand tooled, with a sewn in toe plug.
The graceful little Frazier rig is border stamped, and tied (behind the skirt) to prevent the short pouch from backing out of the bottom loop. Both rigs and cartridge belts suit the well crafted Pietta Single Actions, providing both an authentic look and a quick draw.
About The Guns
The Lawman set is a matched pair of Single Actions with a deep, high polish blue-black finish, contrasted by white Micarta grips.
The pair is typical of the guns carried by peacekeepers in the 1880s; the standard 7.5 inch Single Action and a short-barreled 3.5 inch model without ejector. Aside from being eye-catching, both Pietta revolvers come with standard factory tuned actions that are very impressive for out-of-the-box six guns. To get a revolver with a glass smooth hammer that positively clicks through each step and a trigger pull of 1 lb. 8 oz. (7.5 in. model) and 2 lb. 7 oz. (3.5 in.), usually requires a trip to the gunsmith’s shop.
While the 7.5 inch model’s average of well under 2 lbs. would be regarded as a hair trigger in most circles (the author’s preference is 2 lbs. for single actions), the 7.5 inch Pietta proved delightfully consistent, with the trigger breaking cleanly shot after shot with only 3/16th inch take-up. The factory action on the Pietta is commensurate with those of specially-tuned guns like the Taylor’s & Co. Runnin’ Iron and the E.M.F. Alchimista (which is made for E.M.F. by Pietta).
Another factor often overlooked is hammer draw, which on most Single Action models averages 6 lbs.
The Pietta Lawman set averaged 3 lbs. 14.2 oz. for the 7.5 inch revolver, and 4 lbs. 1.7 oz. for the 3.5 inch, which is substantially better than most guns with tuned actions. This is one of the reasons that SASS/Wild West Performing Arts Society 2009 World Champion Johnny “Hotshot” Tuscadero (Jonathan A, Mincks www.hotshotperformer.com) uses a pair of Pietta Single Actions in his world touring act.
“Pietta’s talk about new metallurgy techniques, making springs stronger and the care and dedication to precision and authenticity are impressive. But I have one requirement; I want guns that anybody can buy,” Mincks explained in a recent interview with the author.
“Basically right out of the box, not custom made guns and the Pietta factory action job is on par with action jobs I’ve paid top dollar for on other pistols. These are smooth as butter and lock up tight every time.”
During 2009 Mincks put his pair of nickel plated 4.75 inch .45 Colt Pietta Single Actions through the ringer. “Performing in front of a live audience there are no second chances. No double takes.
After performing about 50 tricks of spinning, flipping and twirling and running through a fast draw demo and five or six other trick shots, and I’m drawing a bead on my last target for an over the shoulder mirror shot, I simply need the pistol to work; every time, five shows a day, weeks on end.
There is no room for a cylinder that doesn’t lock up or a light hammer spring not setting off the primer. And I’ll be the first to admit, I’m rough on guns. I power through my fast draw with little finesse. I use way too much hammer pull on just about every fast shot I do. If you are a competitive shooter you wouldn’t want me using your guns in my work,” says Mincks with a chuckle.
Our test demands are a lot less rigorous than a showman’s, so the pristine pair of all blue Single Actions in the walnut cased Lawman set were certainly up to the task. Both guns exhibited excellent fit and finish and look really sharp in the burgundy velvet lined presentation box. Priced at $510 each, the guns come standard with either walnut or white Micarta grips. The presentation box is an additional $160.
For our test we elected to use smokeless ammo, Ten-X 165gr. HBFP (hollow base flat point) and 200gr. RNFP (round nose flat point). The two cartridges chronographed slower than the factory specs but were still clocking respectable speed, especially from the 3.5 inch barrel.
The 165gr. rounds cleared the ProChrono traps at 480 fps (feet per second) and the heavier 200gr. loads at 440 fps. The same combination through the 7.5 inch revolver recorded average speeds of 600fps and 680fps, respectively. The ambient temperature on this particularly cold afternoon was 38 degrees and dead calm. And yes, cold temperatures do have a mild effect on muzzle velocity.
Our initial test set up used 50 foot slow fire pistol targets at a distance of 10 meters (33 feet) for the 7.5 inch barrel and 21 feet for the 3.5 inch barrel. All shots were fired freehand using a Weaver stance. I also had a John Wesley Hardin moment with the 7.5 inch revolver, placing a five of hearts in the center of the target. The net result was six rounds at a maximum spread of 1.5 inches with two sets of two overlapping.
As for consistent accuracy, you can’t ask for much more than the 7.5 inch Pietta delivered from 33 feet fired freehand. Best 5-round group measured 5/8th of an inch, the second best group 7/8ths of an inch with all shots overlapping their edges. The 3.5 inch gun deposited 10 rounds over a spread of 2.75 inches with three cutting one jagged hole at 1 o’ clock in the 7 ring, and four grouping under an inch in the 8 and 9 rings.
I can remember when F.lli Pietta (F.lli is the abbreviation for Fratelli “brothers”) started manufacturing Colt-style SAA revolvers in 2002, they were not this well refined or accurate.
In less than a decade the company has improved fit and finish (polishing and bluing techniques), metallurgy, internal quality (just as important as how the gun looks on the outside), and is now making production-priced single actions that come out of the box with standard features and finishes you’d traditionally pay extra for.
While we run a couple of hundred rounds through a test gun and then move on to the next one, and the next, professionals like Johnny “Hotshot” Tuscadero put thousands of rounds through a single pair of guns, and when those guns continue to work without fail they have passed the toughest test of all. After a year says Mincks, “I haven’t even changed a part or made an adjustment to them the whole time.”
If the new Pietta Lawman set is any indication of things to come from this long established Italian armsmaker, the bar has just been raised another notch. And Cowboy Action Shooters will be the biggest benefactors.
 Texas history tells two versions, the second being that Stoudenmier’s right hand gun was an S&W .44 topbreak, not a Colt SA.
 Jonathan Mincks, (Johnny “Hotshot” Tuscadero)’s show tours the world and Mincks’ is now the Official Product Tester for F.lli Pietta.