GENERAL TOPICS > Saddlebag Tales

A inspired gun tale


Major 2:
This topic is not old west, it is a testament to friendship and perhaps returning back to the cowboy way.

Inspired by the article written by  Rio (a.k.a. Phillip G. Stricklin) Texas Kid’s Gun

I want to mention my late friend John Holmes gun.
 I met John about 40 years ago. He was Civil War Suttler and unit commander. I was a mounted union cavalry unit leader; John's unit was non-union shall we say  ;D 
Through the hobby and years, we became fast friends.
After we both retired both as reenactors and our chosen careers, John was History teacher for 36 years.
  We would travel together to NCOWS events, the National and several conventions and together John and I started Cracker Cow Cavalry the Florida NCOWS posse'.

  John and I would get together two or 3 time each week, visit our friends LGS, and have lunch at some of our favorite restaurants. We both had gun collections and eclectic interests in history and militaria.
John and I often bought and traded with our LGS friend and with each other.

Here then is the last trade I had with my Friend.
 On one of our many weekly luncheons, I was discussing a purchase I had made some time back at the Gun Store. John expressed he would like to shoot it and in fact acquire it.
 So, the short version, a trade was agreed on.

  The gun (John's GUN) which I traded for is a MAB PA 15 also known as the P-15 or P.15 Standard) was a French semi-automatic pistol, designed by the Manufacture d'armes de Bayonne. The model number, 15, refers to the magazine capacity. The PA-15 was introduced in 1966.
It is quite reminiscent of the Browning High Power. It was designed as a French entry for NATO handgun acceptance.
These military versions (John's) are somewhat rare here in the States, though the commercial version was imported for a short time.
This one, was purchased in 1974 Germany at the Hohenheim Army Base Exchange by John's Grade School friend. (Aside story, John's and his High School buddy both were in ROTC, both dreamed of an Air Force service and pilot training. Sadly John's eyesight precluded his service, so John went after his teaching degree at Florida State. Kenny joined the Air Force; it was he, then Captain now Col. Kenneth Nickolson retired who purchased the MAB in 1874.)

  So, that is an abridged version of how I acquired the pistol below. Unbeknownst to me, it would become the last time John and I traded or had one of our weekly lunches and LGS visits. John passed just two days later. I miss my friend.

I have another, earlier trade with John and by extension Kenny, which is in fact more Cowboy,
this original 73 Winchester circa 1891.

 You can read about it here in the article I wrote for the NCOWS Shootist.

  Victorian Technology - Belle Époque
      I wasn’t even looking, but my Spidey sense is always tingling ….                                                                                                                                   A friend of mine, tells me of a collection of old guns, including a Winchester M1873 that were the pride of his childhood friend‘s Father. He told me he remembered seeing these guns 55 years ago in the Dad’s home office.  The accompanying written background stated the gun was purchased by the Father (Mr. Nicholson) in North Carolina. It had been offered in the estate of the original owner through (D.J. Walker) the estate lawyer in 1962 for the lofty sum of five dollars.  John told me that Mr. Nicholson used to show the boys the guns with pride. The old gentleman passed away 15 or so years ago and the collection had been sequestered in a closet in North Carolina for years.  Kenneth, John’s lifetime friend decided it was time to do something with the collection…. enter moi.
     I held in my hands a nice example of a standard Model 1873 Sporting rifle in 32 WCF with 24" Octagon barrel, full magazine, and crescent butt plate. It’s a 3rd Model Configuration with a serial number in the 389,000 range having been made in 1891. This rifle is original down to the smallest screw and is in untouched attic/closet condition.  Overall, smooth metal has turned to a brown patina with 20% original barrel blue with traces of finish around the side plates and protected areas of the receiver. Screws are in good condition unmolested except for the dust cover screw. The gun has good tang markings and somewhat lighter barrel address. The barrel is stamped "Winchester Repeating Arms New Haven, Conn. U.S.A." - Kings Improvement Patented March 29, 1866 October 16, 1860 and has 32WCF on the side next to the receiver. The 32 CAL marking on the lifter is legible. Original sights include semi-buckhorn rear sight (though missing the Adjuster) and a standard front sight with a German silver blade. The wood is in good condition, untouched with very few minor dings and still retains some of its original varnish. The wood is nice and tight, with all wood fitting even to the metal.  The butt plate is the solid steel type without the trapdoor which is correct on all .22 caliber and .32 caliber 1873's.  The action works good, Bore is in fair to good condition with rifling intact with some scattered rings or bulges...which improved with a good cleaning.  After contacting the Buffalo Bill Museum, Cody Wyoming for a FIREARMS MUSEUM RECORDS LETTER the following information was acquired.
Serial number applied on June 10, 1891
Type: Rifle                                                                                                                                    Caliber: 32                                                                                                                                    Barrel Type: Octagon                                                                                                               
 Trigger: Plain                                                                                                                         
 Received in warehouse  on June 22, 1891                                                                                 
 Shipped from warehouse  on August 20, 1891,  Order number 9607   

    I mentioned the few issues found, like the missing Buckhorn sight elevator adjuster; this is a flat stepped metal part. I found these were basically the same for 73, 76   and other Winchester models to about 1892… turned out it was an easy find and I ordered an original 73 replacement from Winchester Bob, in Maine.  I also ordered a dust cover guide & screw. The Loose dust cover was due to the small flat spring being bent downward. Someone seemed to attempt to address the issue but was only able to bugger the dust cover screw. Try as I might, there was no way to get it to budge. I carefully drilled out the head and slid the guide out and removed the cover. Winchester Bob had the part with the screw and a new flat spring and screw was also ordered.                                                                                                             I suspect the old flat spring is tired and perhaps why it was laying down on its 127 year old job. I have bent it back into action, I’ll see if the OEM spring can cut it.  I’m a believer of the old adage,” If you have one you won’t need it, but if you don’t have one you will need one!”  I’ll replace it if necessary, so far so good. 
     Next on the agenda was to see if it would feed, I already knew it would chamber and head space was good, it would also eject rather smartly. Years of oil had both good and bad effects. First the follower was sticking due to varnishy oil residue and the magazine spring seemed a bit weak. It was easy task to remove the end cap screw and with few taps the plug itself.  Here is where years of old oil paid off, no rust pitting! A few passes with Ed’s Red and a swab removed the varnishy crud. The spring wasn’t even rusty; the follower began to slide nicely. I gave it a good cleaning (Ed’s) and noted there is Walnut plug in the end of the spring that bushed out the slip joint between the follower and the magazine spring. I don’t see this in any parts schematic and led me to believe it is an old repair of some sort .The spring itself is weak and drags on the magazine tube wall and will not feed the rounds reliably, a replacement spring was ordered from Winchester Bob. The corrected spring solved the feed issue.
    This leads me to addressing the dark wood; all too common old guns are oiled and stored in a corner, often too much oil. This oil flows down due to gravity and soaks in to the butt stock and attracts dust. I began with a clean bundle of white t-shirt rags & unscented Mineral Spirits. Turning the rags often I rubbed the butt & fore stock and removed years of old grime. Before too long the warm reddish glow of the 1891 finish shown through. I have provided a before photo of the dark wood and some of the wood after the initial cleaning.  A bore snake in 32/20 and a cleaning rod and patches with my concoction of Ed’s Red brought the bore to a reasonable shine.
    The minor issues put right, my next order of business was to load some rounds.  I already load 32/20 smokeless (Trailboss and/or Red Dot) for my Marlin 32/20 CL, (Shootist Spring 2017) and my Uberti SAA (Shootist Spring 2018) as well as my Dad’s S&W Hand Ejector. Starline brass is my stock and a .313 -115 grain hi-tech coated bullet is what I use in the guns above. I’ve contacted Springfield Slim for some of his BP big lube groove also .313 -115 grain cast bullets. I plan to start there with black powder or APP (Jim Shockey's™ GOLD™ Powder) and coated bullets. I want to see which the gun will approve of, for Historic reasons I’m leaning toward Black. I have a good supply of KIK, but the APP has its relevance.
    First up was the APP (Jim Shockey's™ GOLD™ Powder) lightly compressed under the coated bullets.  I had some NRA Pistol targets I pressed into service. Set at 25 yards at the range, the first shot was a flyer (1.75 inch off center @ 11:00) because I was just a bit apprehensive. With every following shot both my confidence & my aim improved. I settled down and kept the entire magazine within 3 inches, with 9 bullets in the black, 5 in the 8 ring and the one flyer in the 7 ring. Pretty much that’s the way it went all morning, I even snugged up my grouping. This old gun is still quite spry and is not near ready to retire. But it has earned my respect and so all my shots were slow and deliberate, off hand.  Next was to test the BP big lube bullets from Springfield Slim.  These are a little heavier at 125 grains on my RCBS Model 505 Reloading Scale and mic at .314.                                                                                                                                                 At the same 25 yards, with a full case of 3fff KIK (13 gr.) compressed under the bullet I saw similar groups; however I was printing higher on the target than with the APP and coated bullets. I decided to move my target out to 50 yards, I twice ran a bore snake through with 10 to 1 Ballistol, adjusted the rear sight to the 3rd step, and again off hand I shot at the center of my target. The Group opened to about 7- 8” but I was on paper from the get go, I’ll also mention it was a bit breezy off my right side and I think that may have influenced my point of impact. I’ll take that 7-8” at 150 feet, heck I was using pistol targets and couldn’t really see the 2 ½” bullseye.  But I have to say the APP and coated bullets performed and may just be the Bee’s Knees for occasional NCOWS match distance.
    Bear with me a moment longer as I wax nostalgic and offer some other facts. Eighteen Hundred and ninety one, 127 years have passed. There was the splendid little War with Spain, conflicts with the Boxers and Bangsamoro, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and numerus other entanglements. The Wright Brothers first flight, Lindbergh, the Moon landings, Shuttle missions & the International Space Station and this old gun was around. It is a true survivor from the Victorian age. Some 720,609 73’s were produced from 1873 to 1923, with 41806 made in 1891. Calibers were 44 WCF (44/40), 38 WCF (38/40), 32 WCF (32/20), 22 Long and 22 Short.
     I would be neglectful if I did not thank some folks …                                                                              To the late Mr. Nicholson for caring for this old Winchester, and having purchased it some 56 years ago. Also noteworthy, the remaining pieces in Mr. Nicholson remarkable collection which included a Spencer Carbine, A Springfield M-1822/28 Conversion Musket, A Colt M1861 Bridesburg Contract-Springfield 58 Caliber Rifled Musket, a Vetterli Model 1878 Border-Guard Carbine, and a Type-38 Arisaka.
John Holmes, thank you for thinking of me and to his lifetime friend Col. Kenneth Nicholson USFA for allowing the Winchester to pass to my stewardship.
Credit and thanks also goes to Larry Clarey of Akron Iowa for his efforts tracking down the Winchester factory records letter from the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody Wyoming. 
Update: I just had to have a Genuine COLT in 32WCF to compliment this grand old gun. Stay tuned for a future article on that acquisition.  > Roger Ragland (Major)


I can relate to your story, one of my proudest possessions is an 1899 vintage model 94 Winchester that I bought from a well known (to our cowboy crowd) gun writer. The history that it has...


[0] Message Index

Go to full version
Powered by SMFPacks Ads Manager Mod
Powered by SMFPacks Likes Pro Mod
Powered by SMFPacks Menu Editor Mod