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The Art of Engraving: with F.lli Pietta you’ll never look at a laser engraved gun the same way! 2of3

The details of the engraving patterns used on both the Sheriff’s Model and 7-1/2 inch (there is also a 5-1/2 inch version) are traditional Helfricht and Nimschke styles made popular in the late 19th century. Note the deep laser engraved screw heads!

F.lli Pietta’s Plan

Several years ago Italian armsmaker F.lli Pietta, which has succeeded in building superior out-of-the-box reproductions of Colt Single Action Army models in both the early black power frame style and later c.1892 transverse cylinder latch (or smokeless powder frame) version, started working on a new laser engraving technique. It is technically referred to as “deep laser engraving” which is a highly precise technique developed in Italy by S.E.I. Lasers S.p.A. in Curno, (located 25 miles from Milan).

The company has developed specialized lasers for, among other specific tasks, deep-engraving. Working in conjunction with Pietta, S.E.I. built a bespoke laser system to their particular requirements, capable of engraving barrels, frames, and even intricate details such as screw heads. S.E.I. is a seasoned company that lives by its motto, “any traditional application has a laser alternative.” That alternative for F.lli Pietta has culminated in the most highly detailed laser engraved Single Action revolvers ever produced.

The difference between traditional laser engraving, which Pietta also uses, is that S.E.I. laser deep engraved guns have the cut depth and fine detail traditionally achieved only with hand engraving techniques.

Depth and Detail

Hand engraving has many variations, some of which depends entirely on the engraver’s style. In creating traditional vine scrollwork, bank note scrolls, punch dot backgrounds, crosshatch patterns, sunbursts and other details (including animal heads, a tradition established at Colt’s by Gustave Young and Cuno A. Helfricht), the engraver can use a lighter touch and create very fine lines (such as the work by famous American engraver Winston Churchill), or a more robust “Germanic” style creating the depth representative of work by Young and Nimschke, the most copied 19th century engravers.

This is also the style used by the Colt’s Custom Shop today. The deep laser engraving system at Pietta falls somewhere in between, producing patterns that have depth to the cuts thus creating a high relief appearance that implies hand work, rather than the flat, two-dimensional effects commonly associated with laser or etched engraving. Is it more costly? Absolutely, but in comparison to hand engraving it is a fraction of the price.

Among the various new models that will be released by Pietta using the new deep laser engraving technique are the 3-1/2 inch Sheriff’s Model with a bold vine scroll pattern on the frame barrel and cylinder, accented by diamond and crosshatch details, sunbursts and floral motifs on the frame, hammer, and backstrap.

The same basic designs are extended and repeated on the 7-1/2 inch version. In addition there is a special commemorative 140th Anniversary SAA that will be available in 2015 with engraving patterns based on the Colt’s 1876 Centennial Exposition display guns, and an engraved version of the 5-1/2 inch barreled Colt carried by frontier lawman Bat Masterson. The later two are Pietta’s deep laser engraved copies of their very exclusive (and expensive) hand engraved guns done in Italy by Dassa (see Guns of the Old West #79, Fall 2013).

Among the newest deep laser enfraved models is a copy of the Dassa hand engraved reproduction of Bat Masterson’s 5-1/2 inch barrel Colt Peacemaker. The Dassa gun is shown at bottom.

Currently E.M.F. is taking orders for the Pietta produced Great Western II deep laser engraved Sheriffs Model with a retail of $800. Other models like the Bat Masterson, and 7-1/2 inch deep laser engraved models will be available in 2015 as special order items and orders should be placed in advance directly through F.lli Pietta by contacting the company through their website.

Suggested retail prices will range from $800 to around $1,250 depending upon the model. In most cases guns can be shipped within 45 days of an order to one of Pietta’s US retailers, such as E.M.F. or Cimarron F.A. Co. From there they can also be shipped to a local retailer.

All of the Pietta deep laser engraved Single Actions have the same quality fit and finish and tuned actions of the standard models making them one of the best out of the box six-guns on the market. Average hammer draw on the Pietta engraved models tested was a modest 3 lbs. 12 oz., with those four perceptible clicks that define a quality Colt-style action. The average trigger pull was 3 lbs. 14 oz, and this is pretty much a constant average with current Pietta Single Actions, guns worthy of the name originally created by Colt’s.

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The third and last part awaits you in the next article!


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