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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.

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February 2019