True West
Hollywoods Six gun Fakery Image Credit: True West
Hollywoods Six gun Fakery Image Credit: True West

Hollywood's Six-gun Fakery

“Movie magic” tricks saved time, training and production costs, helping filmmakers keep the action fast and furious.

Phil Spangenberger

If you’re an Old West gun buff, and enjoy Western flicks from the Golden Age of Hollywood films, roughly 1930 through the late 1960s, you may have wondered about some of the six-guns used in a number of Civil War films. Looking suspiciously like the 1873 Colt Single Action Army (SAA), the smoke wagons have the percussion-era underbarrel loading lever assembly, giving them a Remington cap-and-ball revolver appearance. The guns in question had the familiar Peacemaker Colt fluted cylinder, where most of the large belt-sized caplock pistols had unfluted cylinders. Well, the truth is, those guns were indeed ’73 Colt Peacemakers—but with nonfunctional, cast metal underbarrel loading lever assemblies added to give them that 1860s look, while allowing their use of metallic cartridge “5-in-1” movie blanks.

This simple alteration to an 1873 Colt was a common practice with motion picture gun rental houses of the period. They’re hardly ever seen in currently produced films, largely due to the great number of authentic replicas of Civil War period six-guns— many that have been converted to take metallic cartridge blanks—and a more gun-wise audience that demands a greater degree of authenticity. The studios save countless hours in costly production time by using the faked ’73 Colts, or modern replicas converted to metallic cartridge, by not having to keep multiple loaded guns ready for filming, or taking the time needed to load


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