Saturday, October 16, 2010


In an article by Bob Boyd for Shooting Illustrated, they mention the following about a very influential figure in the history of combat revolvers. Fitz Special's they are called, and know there is a matching pair of N frame Fitz Specials at the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, Texas.

Bob has a blog here, with a cool project on the Man from Uncle pistol, and the pictures of the above Novak Half Fitz Special made on a Model 65 Smith are from his site. He's a Fitz maniac and I suspect he's written a lot about the Fitz over the years.

At the outset let me say I am against cut trigger guards. It may have been the thing 80 years ago to get the edge, but the safety dangers so greatly outweight any slight tactical advantage as to hope anyone with common sense would see the "hair trigger" reality of a cut trigger guard as to realize only the most serious gunfighter in the old days could have had a need for the cut triggerguard.

I find the bobbed hammers ok, and have no problem with a DAO revolver. The Novak special mentioned here has a bobbed hammer but the top is serrated so it can be cocked. I've noticed a couple of the Taurus Judge and Public Defender models have this feature, a bobbed and out of the way but very cockable hammer spur. Although this feature I don't think came on the old school Fitz customs, It's what I'd like to have on mine.

Nonetheless, to me they are highly interesting, and I suppose I'd admit to wanting a very cool old one in the collection if'n I could, but it's low on the priority list. a nice .22 on a K frame that had been "Fitzed" wouldn't be bad if it was cheap and came with a firm and safe holster rig for it, just for doing snake and turtle reduction therapy in the country under rather controlled circumstances.

Here's the article by Mr. Boyd, and you really need to it the link for the photos of the excellent examples of fighting handguns in days of yore. After that, I cut a few sentences of interest about the article, but the far more interesting stuff you'll have to make the jump for. Plus the very cool pictures are there.


Pistol-Packing Irishman

Worthy of a Pistol-Packing Irishman
Leather makers, such as Tom Dyer of Saguaro Gun Leather and Rusty Sherrick, add contemporary flair to the vintage holster designs of Berns-Martin and Tom Threepersons.
Nothing goes better with a vintage pistol than a vintage-designed holster. While the original makers—Berns-Martin, Chic Gaylord, George Lawrence, Hermann Heiser and S.D. Myres—may be long gone, a few custom leather makers, such as Bell Charter Oak Holsters, C. Rusty Sherrick Custom Leather Works and Saguaro Gun Leather still work to keep the time-tested designs alive. Similarly, a pair of stylish grips made from classic materials adds a whole new level of aesthetic appeal. Eagle Grips produces them for a wide variety of handguns, including Colt’s 1917, New Service, Detective Special and Police Positive revolvers. Materials range from traditional wood—such as rosewood and walnut—to exotics like buffalo horn, Indian sambar stag and American elk, along with imitation ivory and pearl.

MR. BOYD SAID: To some, it looks like the victim of an experiment gone horribly wrong. To others, it is an example of early revolver refinement still reflected in many of today’s self-defense wheelguns. Its creator, former New York City cop J. Henry “Fitz” FitzGerald, worked for Colt from 1918 to 1944. During that time, he traveled across the country to shooting competitions, fixing pistols (not just Colts) and spending countless hours on the firing line.
Conversion often required fabrication and installation of a new front sight. Gunsmith Andy Horvath duplicated Colt’s crescent-shaped profile, while military armorers used a tubing cutter disc.
Considered a ballistics and firearms expert, FitzGerald regularly lectured and instructed on the principles of competitive and defensive shooting. In addition, he occasionally testified in court when an authority was needed in relation to firearms. He even wrote the book, “Shooting,” which was published in 1930. J.H. FitzGerald’s contributions to the shooting community were many, but his crowning achievement was still to come.

Sometime back in the old west days, long before Fitz ever walked the earth, somebody cut down the barrel of a Single Action Army and removed the ejector rod to make it much more concealable. At times in my life, various handgun makers have marketed reproductions of these guns as "shopkeeper's specials" and the like. So I suppose that in the context of the cartridge revolver, those persons deserve credit for inventing the combat handgun.

But certainly, whether Fitz is the Father of the Snubnose/combat revolver (probably) or Grandfather or simply one of the most gifted visionaries that made snubnose combat revolvers a reality neary a hundred years ago, using the modern double action revolver instead of the single action army as the base of his fighting machine.

Bear in mind that 1911's and soon the Hi Power would also be readily available back during the late teens and early 1920's. Fine firearms, but the killer revolvers of the day did one thing the autos did not: they didn't jam. For generations of cops, citizens and even the bad guys, they came to represent reliability and dependability, important in the days when gunfights happened in broad daylight between good guy and bad with surprise and somewhat frequency.

My dad grew up in East Texas, "behind the Pine Curtain" as they used to say. I still do. Within our extended family then, during the depression, there were bootleggers aplenty and folks willing to run the moonshine either by pack mule through the woods or in a hot rodded early truck or car. My family was law abiding, in fact my grandfather was a paid deputy sheriff at the time, and at most other times of his life was some type of reserve officer, as he farmed and ranched his land for a living.

As did his father, my great grandfather, before him.

And as did his father, my great great grandfather, before him.

All of my people, my father and I included, Texas law enforcement. Me, I've been in it longer than most of them already, and I'm the first one to be a career law enforcement person. All of them carried revolvers, and I'll tell soem of their stories in later posts. Of course, these stories, and my early experiences shooting guns of all types as a kid, shaped my opinions.

Nearly thirty years of law enforcement work, as an officer or a prosecutor, shaped a lot of what I think as well about crime. I've mostly worked in violent crimes, much of my career, many of these crimes involving weapons. My shooting hobby and lifelong interest in the history of and knowledge about various weapons, past and present, has been of great assistance to me and as I embark upon this new clearinghouse blog about combat revolvers and their holsters, stories, owners, gunfighters and customization, I find I really don't know a lot about the revolvers made before the Korean War in America.

Yes, I know a smattering about double action revolvers from 1900 to 1950, and even own a Model 22 of 1917. But in reading about Fitz and his work for Colt, I realized I don't know much about the old Colt guns or the old Smith guns either. And although this blog will look at some great wheelguns of the past in .38 Special and above calibers, my special interests at this time are guns in the big bore sizes...

41 Magnum.

.44 Special

.45 ACP or Long Colt

Of course, they're are a lot of other calibers worth owning and shooting as well. I don't know much about the .38-20 or some of the other calibers we'll talk about from good old days, but I know they could defend lives then and they could defend lives now as well.

I have a friend desperately interested in a particular turkish cymbal that I own. It's an old one, and this drummer friend has wanted after this particular Zildjian for at least three decades, since the mid-80's. Like many of my friends, regardless of walk of life, he comes from a Texas shooting family and as a businessman, has a CHL and many fine weapons.

He also knows of my weaknesses about the same things he has. Guns. Drums. Guitars. Tube Amps. Fishing gear.

Many if not most of my lifelong male friends also suffer thusly. It's not a case of being a gearhead, it's a case of getting certain minimal things that are high quality or interesting to use in one's hobby's and life.

So one of my lonmgtime Houston musician and business owner friend has been waving a several year old minty Taurus Titanium .44 Special five shooter with a 2 1/2" ported barrel in my direction. 19 point something ounces empty. A nice kind of stealth blue grey finish. Ribber grips, which I know from experience work very well to reduce felt recoil. Most importantly, wide combat hammer and trigger with a glassy DA and SA pull. I was very impressed with the trigger on this gun, which is why it has my interest at all.

So there's that friend waving that particular pistol in my direction, and some cash, hoping to trade me some great old time cymbal for it. There may have to be another gun involved for El Fisho Jr to make the trade happen, but somehow I feel it will. The gun apparently fits K frame holsters, so I'm already in good shape there. Although it'd be nice if it were a six shot .45 ACP, the five shot .44 Special is far thinner and far easier to conceal than a six shot .45 wheelgun.

Charter Arms, I am sure, are great guns but I've never cared for them. I have always liked the Bulldog .44 Special design and have written before how a .44 Special or .45 ACP wheelgun with a 3" barrel and lasergrip should be the primary gun of the Air Marshals, with a 9mm Beretta PX4 Storm Subcompact as the backup.

At least one of my kin died in the line of duty many years ago, riding as a Texas Ranger, just before the invention of the Colt Walker revolver, and I mean just a couple of years before.

So I want to take the history of this great fighting machine called the revolver and look at past and present combat revolvers. Primarily, I've always been fascinated with the guns from the 20th century, the double action revolver and although I've always stared at pictures of customized Colt New Service and Smith and Wesson custom medium and large frame combat revolvers with awe and desire, my personal carry and shooting preferences have always been for the Colt Python and Cobra and the Smith and Wesson K frame. These three guns carry well, and they shoot well.

But I'm ready to start learning about some of the great revolvers of the past 100 years or so and try to corral some information for you fellow revolver enthusiasts. I hope to see lots of custom ideas for some great combat handguns, and I'll close with a link to an article by the same writer in the article above, Bob Boyd, about a Novak Custom Combat "Semi" Fitz Special.

This one doesn't feature a cut-away triggerguard (could you imagine the plaintiff's civil attorneys lawsuit alleging your "made for killing" gun with the trigger guard cut off? yes, guns are made for killing but the jury is not going to like it, and besides, who wants to carry these hair trigger guns anyway?), but it has a cool scalloped trigger guard to supposedly help focus the trigger finger on the trigger. Not something I'd have, but kinda cool on a custom gun.

What do you think about the cutaway triggerguards on the old school Fitz Specials? Have you seen the set of 1911's at the Texas Ranger museum with the same cut off trigger guard treatment? Yikes and double yikes! I wonder if these items were gifts from grateful constituants or something that made a difference in their gunfights back in the day?

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