Tall, But True, Tales

Fascinating Guns You Never Saw

The owner of this Colt found out Tom Mix owned it — after he bought it from an old movie studio.

No, while all these guns tell a story, none are in my collection. Sigh … But I do know the stories of all but one, and strangely I did own it at one time.

A Tom Mix Find

Back in about 1955, the ad in the L.A. Times described a Colt revolver for sale for $350, so the current owner called, got the address in Hollywood and hurried over only to find an old movie studio. The Colt was a .44-40 SAA with a 43/4″ barrel, SN 765XX, made in 1882. It had the remains of a cheap stove chrome finish through which engraving could be seen.

It sported a pair of original Colt mother-of-pearl grips, the right one having a carved longhorn steer’s head with 24kt gold horns and ruby eyes. Both escutcheons having the Rampant Colt facing forward indicated the grips were made in 1913 or later. The owner decided to call the movie company back to inquire about any known history of the gun. He was told all they knew was it had been owned by Tom Mix.

A Colt letter described the gun as seen, being factory engraved with no grips indicated. The owner decided to have the chrome electrically removed and found the engraving showed use, but was beautiful, and it was agreed, due to its era, the original finish was probably silver, so he had a light silver finish applied. If only it could talk!

Real Fitz Specials

Born in Manchester, NH around 1870, John Henry Fitzgerald became interested in firearms at an early age — especially Colt revolvers, which he became adept at working on. By the mid-1920s “Fitz” was customizing Colt New Service and other Colt DA revolvers by shortening the barrel to 2″, bobbing the hammer spur, doing a smooth DA trigger job and removing the forward portion of the trigger guard. The result was called a “Fitz Special” and was done to make it easier to conceal the gun and access it more quickly.

The New Service gun shown was made in 1940 and bears SN 3494XX and Colt records report it was shipped as a “Fitz” Special to a dealer in Texas for a company in Prescott, AZ. Years later, it popped up in the estate of a police lieutenant in Oregon. With no Colt records kept of “Fitz” Special revolvers, it estimated only about 100 were made.

Biscailuz’s Revolver

Here’s an exceptional S&W originally owned by Los Angeles County Sheriff “Emeritus” Eugene W. Biscailuz (1883-1969). With the accomplishments of Sheriff Biscailuz far too numerous to cover here, his law enforcement career spanned from 1907 to 1958, during which time he created the California Highway Patrol. He also liked fine guns and carried this one, a S&W .44 Hand Ejector, popularly known as the “Triple Lock.” Arguably one of the finest revolvers ever made, the “Triple Lock” had a third lock to hold the front of the cylinder firmly in place. It was only produced from 1908 to 1915 with a total production of 15,376. With the SN of this one being 81XX it was likely made about 1911.

This S&W New Model Number 3 ended up with a priest after a confession.
Confession to what, we might wonder?

The Priest’s Gun

A Catholic Priest showed up at the indoor range and asked if he could shoot. He was given a stall where he produced a single action New Model Number 3 S&W revolver and a nearly full box of .44 Russian ammunition. As several shooters gathered around, the priest reloaded and fired another six shots at the target. All 12 shots hit the target, producing a group of about 6″. “Not bad,” said one of the onlookers who was a Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff. “Thanks,” said the priest, “but it’s a little big for me; I think I need something smaller.”

The deputy produced an S&W six-shot .38 Special revolver with a 2″ barrel, unloaded it and handed it to the priest. “Probably something like this,” he said. “Yes,” replied the priest, “this is just what I’ve been looking for!” The deputy told the priest he had another one at home that was identical and he’d trade it to the priest for the old S&W.

Being curious, the deputy asked the priest where he got the old revolver and the priest told him after receiving a confession the gun was surrendered to him. When the deputy asked what the man confessed, the priest said he couldn’t divulge the details.

It was last fired in good hands.

The Medusa was a multi-caliber revolver, popular in Europe where guns and ammo are limited.

The Multi-Caliber Medusa

When I got married, I had the first Phillips & Rogers multi-caliber revolver. Made on an S&W K-Frame, the gun had a unique cylinder, the chambers of which would accept and fire everything in the 9mm/.38 family, except for the 9mm Makarov. I found 17 different rounds I fired in it. Years later a friend of mine took over the design, improved it and called it the “Medusa.” It was a huge hit in Europe where handguns are limited, as is ammunition.

Around 1998 Colt got wind of the design and contracted the company to incorporate it into a brand new .357 Magnum revolver called the Colt Magnum Carry. The new gun was introduced at the 1999 SHOT Show and was called the “Survivor,” but another company had a rifle by this name and threatened to sue, so the following day the “Survivor” was not present. However, another Magnum Carry called the Colt “MC” made an appearance.

Some 25 Magnum Carry’s were shipped to the Medusa’s company in Texas. However, there was a huge upheaval at Colt where several new guns were cancelled, including the Magnum Carry and its sibling, the Multi-Caliber. Only a handful of Colt Magnum Carry revolvers were sold and the number of Colt Multi-Caliber revolvers is unknown.

D.W. King’s custom work arguably led to the development of the classic Colt Python.

King’s Python Origins

Born in Colorado in the latter part of the 19th Century, D.W. King moved to San Francisco where he began a fruitful career designing and making sights for rifles. Soon King’s business turned to customizing Colt and S&W revolvers with better sights, superb lock work and ventilated barrel ribs that added weight, looked great and provided an elevated plane on which to mount King’s sights, the most elaborate of which had a tiny mirror to shed light on the red front sight.

King converted Colts and S&Ws and bought new guns from both companies to convert for his customers. King’s complete package was called the “Super Target.” Following D.W. King’s death in the mid-1940s his business was “acquired” by former employees who formed the Micro Sight Company using many of King’s ideas.

With the war over, Colt and S&W also began incorporating some of King’s features with Colt bringing out a mass production version of the “Super Target” in 1955 called the “Python.” This King Colt “Super Target” is built on a Colt Official Police model made in 1937, the SN 6105XX. Unusual is it’s been engraved and has ivory grips.

Like the WWII-era Liberator Pistol, the CIA’s Deer Gun was intended to provide a cheap
single-shot solution, allowing capture of enemy guns through up close and personal surprise and force.

The CIA Deer Gun

I encountered the CIA Deer Gun shown in the mid 1970s and the owner (long deceased) had limited information, except to say only 10 remained of the thousand produced for clandestine use during the Vietnam War.

From a request by the CIA, the Deer Gun was designed and manufactured by the American Machine & Foundry (AMF) — the same company that makes bowling equipment and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Spawned by the Liberator Pistol of World War II, the Deer Gun reportedly took its name from a top-secret OSS element called the Deer Team active in Indo China near the end of that war.

Made of die cast aluminum, the single-shot Deer Gun had a steel barrel with a smooth bore. The barrel was unscrewed to load one of the three rounds of 9mm ammunition furnished in the white Styrofoam flotation box. The box also contained a wooden rod to extract fired cases, and a cartoon instruction-sheet on how to operate the weapon to kill communist forces and then take their weapon.

Due to tactical changes in the Vietnam War or politics, or both, the Deer Gun project was cancelled with only a few Deer Guns reported as having been tested in the field, and the rest being destroyed. One Deer Gun was recently reported as having brought $27,500 at auction. Whether it was the one seen here is unknown, but consider the irony a cheap, throwaway gun that originally cost the government less than $4 would bring a price 6,875 times that much 50 years later.

What collector wouldn’t drool over the opportunity to buy a Lawman’s 1891
Colt SAA complete with his original Deputy Sheriff’s badge?

Colt Pistol For Sale

The newspaper ad read, “Old Colt Pistol For Sale.” It was right after the Korean War and the pistol was pricey, but the collector beat it right over to the address where he met an elderly gentleman who led him to an old dental cabinet in the garage. He opened a drawer and pulled out a very dirty Colt Single Action Army revolver and handed it to our collector. He said it belonged to his great such-and-such who had been a lawman in Arizona many years before and he wouldn’t take less than $75 for it.

The collector later said he reached in his pocket so fast he thought his hand was going to go right through it. He could see it was nickel plated, but he rubbed the dirty grips and began walking before the seller could change his mind. It was then he realized the grip was one piece of ivory. The seller yelled to him asking, “Don’t you want his badge that goes with it?” The collector was so excited he didn’t ask the original owner’s name or where he had been a deputy sheriff.

The Colt is a .45 and was made in 1891 with SN 1374XX. It letters to a 71/2″ Colt SAA with grips and finish not listed. The original owner could have returned it to Colt to have the barrel replaced with a shorter one. It’s got lots of personality, been in and out of a holster a thousand times and is still in great running condition.

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