Guns with True Grit

Movie prop man Keith Walters’ selections add authenticity to the Coen brothers film.


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If not for replica firearms, we’d still be watching movies where the actors shoot it out with 1892 Winchesters and 1873 Colt revolvers—regardless of the time period of the film!

Thanks to detail-conscious prop men and armorers like Keith Walters, the 2010 True Grit’s property master, this story first shared on film by John Wayne is authentic and a real treat for Old West gun lovers.

Walters already has an impressive resume of Westerns under his belt, including 1999’s Ride with the Devil, 2003’s The Missing and 2008’s Appaloosa—all noted for their authentic looks and firearms. When it came to True Grit, he says, “I made a special effort to select weapons and gunleather that were well defined by the characters in the original Charles Portis novel, as well as being solid work horse guns, that is . . . arms that were commonly and popularly used in the particular era, rather than a novelty or unusual weapon that might seem ‘cool’ or flashy to a modern audience.”

Walters got most of the guns needed for the Coen brothers movie from the well-respected replica houses of Cimarron Fire Arms and Taylor’s & Co. Through the use of replicas he was able to simulate many guns as Portis described them in his novel. Rooster Cogburn packs his 7½-inch barreled, plain blued “Peacemaker” Colt (Uberti-made) with walnut grips in a simple cross draw holster (while extra cartridges are carried in a coffee sack). He also carries an 1873 Winchester sporting rifle (Uberti) in his saddle scabbard, while pommel holsters contain a pair of Colt’s 2nd Model Dragoons (Uberti).

Texas Ranger La Boeuf also totes a 7½-inch barreled Peacemaker (Uberti), however his smokewagon is adorned with carved (simulated) ivory stocks, tucked into a holster with the traditional Texas star carved into the leather. La Boeuf’s rifle is a Pedersoli-made 1874 Sharps carbine, carried in a cavalry-style carbine boot on the fork of his saddle. He also packs in his cartridge belt a Bowie knife, his revolver ammunition and .45-70 cartridges for the Sharps.

“Lucky” Ned Pepper uses a 7½-inch, 1875 Remington (Uberti) that sports ebony grips with a four-leaf clover bone inlay. This six-gun, along with his antler-handled knife, is worn in a distinctive four-loop holster. As in Portis’s book, gang member Tom Chaney carries an 1860 Model Henry (Uberti), and one of the Parmalee brothers in Pepper’s gang packs a replica of the 1878 Colt 12-gauge coach gun, while the idiotic, animal mimicking brother relied on a Smith & Wesson Schofield (Uberti) to do his dirty work.

Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross, who is not as familiar with firearms as she is with finances, relies on her late father’s 2nd Model Colt Dragoon (Uberti)—stowed away neatly in a canvas sack, along with the appropriate bullet moulds, caps and other percussion necessities.

With appealing details like these on the big screen, True Grit is a great example of how the replica firearms industry has added authenticity
and flavor to Westerns. Long live replica guns!

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