1.8.1 Total Production Extrapolation: During the evaluation process of the serial numbers of the close to 100 Uberti miniature guns in the Hunzinger Collection we were unable to identify any trend lines or correlations regarding the total production of models or variants. Likewise serial numbers cannot be related to a certain period of production. These observations are in line with the assessments of Wayne Driskill.
We assume that these findings result from the Uberti company's change in operating policies when USHS terminated their subscription program in 1997/98. Because after USHS's drop-out as major customer Uberti started accepting orders from their dealers for miniature guns with each and every serial number desired. This in turn led to the duplication, triplication or quadruplication etc. of serial numbers already issued earlier. In other words, since around 1998 miniature Colt SAAs, Navies and possibly other models as well have been encountered with serial numbers identical to those produced earlier or in the editions of the previous HEGE and/or USHS subscription programs, respectively. This represents a variable which dilutes attempts for potential projections of total production quantities.
1.8.2 Unexpected Findings: 40% of the revolvers over all models in the Hunzinger Collection feature the caption Mario Passeri and/or his mark PM or MP (see also chapter 1.3 titled Aldo Uberti and his Team of Movers & Shakers). Miniatures with this caption or marks are known from Europe only.
Only 10% of the miniatures of Colt revolvers of the collections were recorded with markings and marks corresponding to those found on originals.
18.104.22.168 Without Maker's Address: No maker's address underneath the barrel represents specimens of the USHS subscription program between (assumingly) 1986 and 1998 (oldest USHS documentation from 12/1986, youngest dated from 09/1997)!
22.214.171.124 With Maker's Address: Miniatures with maker's address underneath the barrel were probably produced for the Italian home market or distribution preferably through the U.S. dealer network.
1.8.3 Embellishments: A higher grade of embellishment implies a more intricate finish only. It does not mean more complete or period correct markings and marks like you find in originals.
1.8.4 Surprises at Second Glance: All percussion revolvers of the Hunzinger Collection feature rifled, unplugged barrels and bored through chambers of their cylinders. Their nipples
however, are not bored through.
Also the cartridge guns – Colt SAAs, Winchester Carbine and Rifle – sport rifled barrels (except UK imports). They are plugged, however (see chapter 1.2 Legally Non-Guns but Pieces of Art). Like noted in the percussion revolvers the chambers in the cylinders of the cartridge revolvers are bored through.
Chambers like the real one in Colt 1873 SAA Old Model miniature #1 from USHS Classic Line are rare. NB assembly nr. #205 of cylinder (courtesy Erwin Gräber collection)
Rare removable cylinder bushings found in Colt 1873 SAA New Model "Buntline Special" #PM3428
Removable cylinder bushings were observed in USHS miniature Colt SAAs. It is our considered opinion that this is the rule in the USHS SAAs. In their HEGE marked counterparts or those distributed through the Uberti dealers removable are infrequently observed, however.
The chambers of cylinders of Colt SAAs produced for the USHS subscription program were found to have the typical step in the forward section to accommodate inside lubed cartridges like you find in the originals.
This observation does not apply to all SAAs of the HEGE subscription program or subject miniatures distributed through dealers. Most of the latter’s chambers were found to be straight bored through i.e. chambers like in originals are the exception.
1.8.5 Miniature Revolver Kits: In January of 2022 I received a package from my good friend Karl Nedbal, master gunsmith and conversion artist from Vösendorf, Austria (www.nedbal.at). During some tidying up and cleaning of his shop Karl had “rediscovered” two plastic bags in one of the drawers. These bags contained what seemed to be parts and semi-finished miniatures, namely a Colt 1851 2nd Model Navy and an 1873 Old Model Single Action Army. The parts were in the white, without polished surface, the one-piece wooden grips roughly contoured only.
Size comparison: U.S. Coin 1 $ vs. semi-finished Uberti miniature of a Colt 1851 2nd Model Navy & …
… plastic bag containing nipples, nipple wrench, wedge, screws, front sight and spring for the Navy
After some phone calls to and from Austria and checking measurements of a few selected parts of the two kits it seemed this were Uberti miniatures in an early stage of their making.
Uberti Colt 1873 Old Model SAA miniature semi-finished with plastic bag containing the front sight
According to Nedbal some 40 years ago he had purchased altogether three such bags - the two kits mentioned above plus a bag with parts for a Colt 1960 Army miniature – at a gun show in Germany at the booth of the HEGE company. Please, remember back then and still today HEGE is importer and main dealer for Uberti in Germany. As the smith recalled he had assembled and finished the 1860 Army and sold it a bit later. He had started working on the other two miniatures, too ‘til he forgot about them due to other more pressing projects.
The only markings or stamps rather on the two kits are found under their barrels, i. e. the HEGE importer stamp to the left of the BKA (Bundeskriminalamt – German equivalent to U.S. FBI) mark over 142 in a diamond. The HEGE stamp supported the earlier assumption that these two bags with the kits started their career in 1:2.125 scale at the Uberti Gardone factory. The BKA mark over number 142 tells us the parts were for a miniature gun which legally is not a gun by German regulations.
Ony two (2) stamps: HEGE importer & BKA over 142 in diamond mark under the barrel of Navy and SAA
There are a couple of pending questions, however. One would be “Did Uberti ever offer their miniatures as kits in addition to the finished master pieces”? The official answer from the Uberti company arrived a few days ago by e-mail, a firm “No, we never sold miniature kits”. Also, our good friend Wayne Driskill of Wayne Driskill Miniature Firearms in Texas advised that the pictures I had provided him with were the first such kits he had ever seen.
The fact of the matter is at least three of these kits existed according to Karl Nedbal, two of them are sitting on the table in their bags in front of me. How did they come into existence and wound up in Germany? They might have been rejected parts.
Close-up of Colt 1873 Single Action Army miniature: Right side view, one-piece wooden grip roughly contoured
Entering the stage is one Friedrich Hebsacker of Schwäbisch Hall and later of Überlingen, Germany (1936 – 2021). He was a gunsmith and businessman particularly partial to historical target and Western guns. He is one of the few members of the first generation of the replica industry like William B. Edwards, Vittorio Gregorelli, Albert and Paul Hanquet, Sig Shore, Aldo Uberti or Val. Forgett, to name just a few.
Hebsacker founded and owned the HEGE company until his retirement sometime in the 1990s. But since the 1950s he regularly spent time with Italian gun makers in Northern Italy. He even worked with a few of them on the floor to introduce them to famous historical German and Swiss target pistols and rifles he wanted to be replicated for sale in Germany, Europe and later in the U.S.A. as well.
Close-up of Colt 1851 Navy miniature: Left side view, note very rough surface of booth steel and brass
Aldo Uberti and Friedrich Hebsacker were good friends not only because the latter was his most important European importer and dealer. Through this connection old Aldo might have asked his friend during the 1980s to test the German market for his miniature kits hoping that they might attract aspiring craftsmen. Hence, he would have given him a few plastic bags with subject parts. Probably this test did not lead to the desired results and the test kits were sold eventually…
My 5 € cent and the rest is history.
Through this long and winding story the two miniature kits with the semi-finished Colts came into the possession of the Hunzinger Collection. They represent an interesting note to the manufacture of these little gems back then.
February 5, 2022/WDN
® Wolf D. Niederastroth, 2022
The combo of two semi-finished Uberti miniatures (top down): Colt 1851 Navy and Colt 1873 SAA with U.S. 1.00 $ coin in between for size comparison