The Magnificent Seven

Sixguns Honoring A Worthy Amigo
309

Sheriff Jim Wilson’s well-worn and used S.S.5 Skeeter gun
sitting in the rack at the Whittington Center after being shot by many.

My yearly pilgrimage to the Whittington Center (WC) in Raton, N.M., the finest shooting facility in the United States, is always special. You just never know who you’re going to bump into. This year was no exception. Mi amigo Shane Jahn brought along Sheriff Jim Wilson to enjoy the festivities. I’d met the Sheriff a few years before during a Gunsite event but had a whole week to visit with him at the WC.

The TLA stamp on S.S. 5.

A Special Gun

One of the highlights was being able to see, handle, fondle and shoot a very special gun of his that I was all too familiar with, as I’d often read about it. To the unknowing, sixgunners are peculiarly complicated — intimidating even. Some people even have preconceptions and biases toward us. These outsiders can’t fathom how anyone appreciating a good wheelgun can also be warm, friendly and courteous. Hell, the funny thing is, some even end up liking sixgunners if they can get over themselves. The story I’m about to share with you is a case in point.

The “Skeeter Skelton .44 Special” and “King” front sight are seen clearly.

Close-up of King mirror sight reflector.

Just One More …

This story was told to Sheriff Jim Wilson by another famed gun writer, John Wootters. The Sheriff then shared it with me. Skeeter Skelton, who needs no introduction, was lying in his Houston hospital bed from the illness that eventually took him from us. Wootters was a good friend and visited often since he also lived in the Houston area.

On several of the visits, Wootters brought gunsmith and fellow sixgunner Bob Baer along. During the visits, like any real sixgunner, Skeeter made it known he wanted to build one last gun — a .44 Special single-action sixgun. He wanted the gun to have a 4 5/8” barrel and be tuned for smoothness and reliability.

Baer said he would look for a suitable donor gun and do the work to Skeeter’s specifications. Baer obtained a .357 Magnum three-screw flattop Blackhawk was obtained and started the conversion. Sadly, Skeeter passed away before completion.

After Skeeter’s death, Wootters wanted the gun to be completed as a way of honoring his close friend. The grips were made from Dall sheep horn that Wootters found while on a hunt Skeeter was also on. Wootters and Baer decided this gun was worthy of having a special serial number, so they sent it through Bill Grover of Texas Long Horn Arms, who stamped it S.S.1 for Skeeter Skelton 1.

It was Wootters’ favorite and most prized sixgun. Sheriff Wilson said it was the only sixgun he ever saw Wootters wear after completion, as it reminded him of Skeeter every time he strapped it on.

Good shot of serial number and Keith #5 base-pin head

Tribute Guns

Another trait sixgunners have in buckets is sentimentality. If they see a gun they like, they’ll have one made, especially if it has an underlying meaning — and a special serialized .44 Special conversion is oozing with a special hidden meaning and message.

Sheriff Wilson wrote up the Skeeter gun story. As a result, six more guns were made. Wootters had #1, followed by Baer, Bart Skelton (Skeeter’s son), John Taffin, Terry Murbach, Bill Grover and Sheriff Wilson. Old Model Blackhawks were used and sent to Bill Grover so he could legally issue new serial numbers to the guns using the SS prefix numbered S.S.2 through S.S.7. The guns were not identical; rather, each man chose which custom features he wanted for his gun.

Tank shooting Sheriff Jim’s S.S.5. What a pleasure and honor.

Some tough hombres as nice as you could ever meet:
Shane Jahn, Dusty Hooley, Sheriff Jim and Tank.

Sheriff Wilson and Boge Quinn holding S.S.5 and S.S.6.

S.S.5

Sheriff Wilson was issued serial number “S.S.5” for his gun. Using an old model .357 Magnum flattop for his donor gun, Bill Grover worked the sixgun over, tuning the action and trigger to perfection. He fitted a large head Keith #5 cylinder base-pin and roll-marked T.L.A. Inc., Richmond, Texas on top of the frame. The left side of the barrel is stamped “Skeeter Skelton .44 Special.” Serial number S.S.5 is stamped under the frame, ahead of the trigger guard. The cylinder chambers were tightly bored, having .429” throats, and the barrel/cylinder gap was set at .0025”.

Old model flattops came with top-quality steel micro rear sights. For a front sight, Sheriff Wilson wanted a “King Custom” front sight having a small, angled mirror made of polished steel which reflects light onto the rear of the blade for the shooter.

The King Gun Sight Company went out of business years ago, but Fermin Garza of 2Dogs Fine Sights now makes a dandy replication of these very sights. Bill Grover gave the Sheriff his last King sight for his gun. Lastly, the whole works was deeply blued.

For grips, Sheriff Jim went with a pair of beautifully aged-looking ivory from Tru-Ivory.

Close-up of S.S.6. It was originally Terry Murbach's who
later gifted it to Boge Quinn in an act of love and friendship.

Serial # S.S.6 on Boge’s gun.

Terry had the back of grip-frame engraved with his name.

Terry and Boge, the day he gave it to him.

Shootin’ & Visitin’

Handling any iconic sixgun is always special. I’ve been fortunate to be able to handle some extra special sixguns during my lifetime. Elmer Keith’s #5 comes to mind, as well as Skeeter’s Ruger Flattop Blackhawk .44 Magnum with a 7.5” barrel. His son, Bart, even allowed me, Doc Barranti, and his boys the chance to shoot it, too, knowing how special it is doing so, sharing in the magic.

Now I can say I’ve handled and shot S.S.5, a Skeeter Skelton tribute gun. Friend Boge Quinn has Terry Murbach’s tribute gun, S.S.6. Terry gifted it to Boge a few years ago before his death. I’ve handled it, too. As nice as it is to handle and shoot these special guns, nothing beats talking to the keepers of these relics and hearing the stories, making the guns special in the first place.

Six of the seven recipients of “Skeeter” guns. Bill Grover is absent.

Play it Forward

Reading articles, looking at pictures and listening to stories is all part of the age-old art of remembering special people and events.

Holding a good sixgun while hearing the stories makes it real and veritable, and certainly more memorable. Yup, who’d a thunk a bunch of crusty old sixgunners could ever be so sentimental? For those who don’t understand, it’s their loss, not ours. We understand completely. Certain sixguns are magical! It can be felt when holding them, let alone shooting one. You know what I mean.

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