Courage, Determination & Revolvers

Wheelgun Diaries

They say every gun has a story. A reader submission series from American Handgunner, Wheelgun Diaries seeks to tell some of those stories through the words of revolver owners.

The following stories were shared by email with permission to publish.

Courage, Determination & Revolvers

This gun came to me recently, both its owner and creator having passed on. The creator, “RP,” had taken a Smith & Wesson Model 1917 and cut the barrel down to 2 inches, added a front sight, bobbed the hammer and Parkerized the firearm. It was also cut for moon clips but can be used with Auto Rim. The refinish had removed any markings with the exception of the serial number, which shows the same number on the butt, cylinder and barrel. The trigger pull is not for the faint of heart, but it is smooth.

Originally a full-size N-frame Pachmayer with Smith & Wesson stamped on it, I added the grip adaptor and modified it to follow a pattern shown to me by Ken Hackathorn that suits my smaller hands perfectly. The M1917 was given to “EJ,” who will figure largely in the story of this revolver.

RP was an entrepreneur, particularly in the local gun world. He was also a keen shot and competitor. RP decided to open a gun store and took EJ in with him to be the face of the business. He could not have made a better choice, as EJ was one of the first IPSC shooters in the area, was a keen competitor in multiple disciplines and an enthusiastic and successful hunter. His firearms knowledge was encyclopedic, and he had authored articles for various gun magazines. He was one of the nicest people I have ever met and was a man of courage and determination.

In 1983, EJ was working in the gun store when an individual came in armed with a 1911 and the intention of carrying out a robbery. He confronted EJ and demanded he hand over the displayed handguns. Being under the gun, EJ complied with the demand, and then, with no apparent reason, the individual opened fire and shot EJ in the lower stomach. Despite being grievously wounded, EJ grabbed his M1917 and chased after him, out of the store and down the sidewalk of one of our main thoroughfares.

Upon reaching his vehicle the man was unable to gain immediate access allowing EJ to catch up with him. He then made a very bad decision and pointed the gun at EJ who immediately opened fire with his M1917 from a very short range. The robbery was over; the S&W had done its job and protected its owner. The police arrived and EJ was transported for urgent medical attention, where thanks to skilled doctors and modern medicine, EJ recovered. The suspect did not. There was a Coroner’s inquest but no other legal ramifications resulting from the shooting.

It took EJ years to recover the revolver from the police evidence locker, but when it was finally his again, he spent time working on loads for it using the Auto Rim cartridge. He kept it until his passing when it was then given to me.

I prefer moon clips but will continue to use the M1917. Before being disrupted by the pandemic, my plans had been to use it in IDPA matches. I still plan on doing that in the future.


(Photo: Mike "Duke" Venturino)

Filling A Need

Guns were always a part of my life — imaginary guns, toy guns and real ones, too. Blame my grandfather, who gave me three .22 rifles to take to New Mexico with us, as we passed through North Carolina from a U.S. Air Force base in Germany to Roswell, New Mexico.

One of those .22 rifles was a Winchester pump with an octagonal barrel and exposed hammer — a boy’s dream. Another was a single shot bolt-action, but the third is lost in my memory as we gave my rifles away when my father retired in 1961. I took them to a friend’s house the day we departed and left them on his front porch with a note explaining their provenance.

My father loved cowboys, the myth of the West and horses and cattle. Sixty-plus years later I can remember two toy pistols he gave me: a 1911 in a GI holster that fired caps loaded sideways when the grip slid out and the other a replica Colt with faux ivory grips. This revolver, in its own way, was better quality than many handguns I have owned down the years. When it came to gifts for his son, he bought me the best.

When I started to work part-time in high school, my father’s advice was to save half of my earnings, then I could spend the rest on whatever I liked. I had bought a Russian Moisin-Nagant Model 1891 (7.62x59R) for $9.95 at Sears, but I wanted— no, needed — a handgun; something that spoke of the West, cowboys, history and my life in New Mexico.

Only one revolver could fill that need, a Colt. And not just any Colt, but a Colt Single Action Army in .45 Long Colt. The 7.5” barrel was too long and the 5.5” barrel not esthetically pleasing, so I chose the 4.75” barrel and decided to pay $5 extra to have the walnut grips instead of the standard black rubber with the Rampant Colt design. My father drove me to Southside Hardware where we special ordered my Colt. I paid for the handgun, took my receipt and we headed home. While waiting for the Colt factory to ship my revolver, I needed to choose a belt and holster to go with it.

Flipping through catalogs, I finally decided on a brown cartridge belt with 30 loops and the Garcia model holster with a suede lining to protect the revolver’s case-hardened finish. It was brown leather, single Mexican loop style, and I had them add a safety strap for security. In 1967, just $36 got me a high-quality cartridge belt and the finest western holster money could buy to go with what I thought was the best revolver around.

Phillip Jones

Share Your Wheelgun Diaries

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