Chapter 1.9 - Thoughts on Uberti Miniatures

1.9.1 Guns That Never Were (GTNW): Most of the Uberti produced miniature revolvers are based on historical models but a few are not. Such "Guns That Never Were" also dubbed "Frankenstein Guns" or "Franken Guns" on the western banks of the Big Pond play an important role in the Uberti assortment of replica fame. It all started back in 1959. During the fall of 1959 Aldo Uberti began the volume production of replicas for the U.S. market in a partnership with Vittorio Gregorelli. 

 

GTNW Griswold & Gunnison "Army" miniature #PM03: Period correct Dragoon type barrel lug, round barrel with .44 cal. bore, but original Griswold & Gunnisons were never built with .44 cal. rebated cylinders and stepped frames

Fantasy Schneider & Glassick "Army" miniature #PM02: Period correct contoured octagon barrel with .44 cal. bore but original Schneider & Glassicks were never built with a .44 cal. rebated cylinder and stepped frames

1.9.2.2 Squareback Triggerguards & Other Anomalies in Colt 1861 Navies? The same applies to Colt 1861 Navies with squareback triggerguards. During the production of these pistols between 1861 and 1873 all inventories of old squareback triggerguards used to be processed in the making of early models of predecessor 1851 Navies had been gone for years.

Another fantasy Colt 1861 Navy miniature #PM1781: No 1861s are heard of with squareback triggerguards, let alone the marking MODEL 1861 NAVY on the left side of the barrel lug

Frankenstein Colt 1873 SAA Old Model miniature: Particularly Italian directors liked the actors in their cowboy operas toting pistols with the "more colorful" brass grip frames

1.9.2.3 Brass Grip Frames in Colt SAAs? The Colt factory never ever fitted their Colt 1873 SAAs with brass backstraps, brass triggerguards or both. Not in their 1st, 2nd nor in their 3rd generation SAAs. Many collectors see these brass backstraps like something of an affront to SAA aficionados. They feel Peacemakers simply are not supposed to have brass grip straps. Even if today's cowboy action shooting fraction demands such replicas for cowboys and cowgirls on a budget. Anyhow, these brass applications add a flamboyant touch.

The pragmatic Wayne Driskill of Wayne Driskill Miniature Guns in Pearland, Texas (www.waynedriskillminiatures.com) offers another less complicated but simple explanation for the availability of these brass backstrap Colt SAA miniatures: 

"The majority of these Colt SAA miniatures without historical background were of the late production period after Aldo Uberti passed away." 

"At that time Uberti was stuck with way too many brass parts from their Colt Navy miniature series productions. They had to cut down on this inventory." 

"These miniature Navy triggerguards and backstraps will fit the SAA frames with little fitting only just fine…!"

I hate to admit that Wayne is probably right. What do you think? Please, share your opinion, send me an email at wn@american-frontier-miniatures.com.

1.9.3 Comprehensive Assortment? Wayne Driskill repeatedly mentioned that Uberti's

craftsmen replicated as miniatures all the Colt revolvers, CS Colt 1851 Navy pattern percussion 

revolvers, Henry and Winchester lever guns which were made as full-size replicas during the life 

of Aldo Uberti. But not all of them were made in quantities!

 

 

 

 

Bearing this in mind however, not only is there a number of miniature guns currently "missing" in the Hunzinger Collection, they also did not surface in the market to the best of my knowledge:

 

1.9.3.1 Schneider & Glassick Historically Correct: With brass frame of Colt Navy style, straight cylinder version in .36 cal. and 7,5" octagon barrel.

 

1.9.3.2 Leech & Rigdon: CS Navy pattern percussion revolver with steel frame, 7,5" Dragoon pattern barrel lug and round barrel, straight .36 cal. cylinder without engraving. Remember, the Leech & Rigdon was one of the first replicas produced bearing the Uberti name. It was made from as early as 1961 already.1)

 

1.9.3.3 1st, 2nd & 3rd Model Colt 1848 Dragoon: These three variants of the mighty Dragoon could not (yet) be added to the Hunzinger Collection. Their existence in miniature format is confirmed, however. In the miniature gun section of a 2006 Uberti catalog a Colt 2nd Model Dragoon is featured. Also a few such specimens were offered recently in the U.S.A. Hence, these models were produced at least in small scale. 

A 3rd Model 1848 Dragoon with 4-screw frame, shoulder stock, with or without folding rear sight on the barrel lug has not surfaced so far.

 

1.9.3.4 Colt SAA Flattop Target: Variants were made as replicas since the 1990s but no such Uberti made miniature has surfaced. As discussed in previous chapter 1.6.6 Currently Recognized Uberti Colt Single Action Revolver Miniatures a number of different Uberti Colt 1873 SAA miniature variants are recorded but not a Flattop. 

Miniatures of Uberti Colt 1873 SAA Flattop Target models are currently only known as external conversions using Uberti SAAs as base guns. For details see chapter 1.4 titled "Aldo Uberti Loved Miniatures", sub-chapter 1.4.4 Miniatures "in the White…

 

1.9.4 Eldorado for Miniature Gun Aficionados and Dedicated Collectors: Back then and

today the Uberti miniatures make the hearts of connoisseurs beat faster and most red blooded gun collectors miss a beat. These gems were produced for those captivated by both the fine arts, the history of the American Civil War and the Wild West.

Since the 1980s they were "discovered" by another target group, too. An increasing number of mostly European collectors switched to miniatures after legal gun ownership was and still is affected by a tightening of gun regulations in most countries.2)

New insight and appreciation of Uberti miniatures was gathered through the evaluation of the sizable Hunzinger Collection. Many questions remain unanswered, though. For example, were other full size replicas of the Uberti assortment miniaturized, in addition to the recognized Colts, CS percussion revolvers, Henries and Winchesters? Like Colt Bisleys, Smith & Wesson top-break revolvers, Remington percussion and cartridge revolvers, Sharps buffalo guns, Winchester 1873s etc. as surmised by a few dealers. This leaves ample room for speculations. 

The Uberti miniature collectors' community will have to wait patiently for the answers to these burning questions. Until the Uberti family decides eventually to present the personal collection of the "King of the Replicas" to the public. 

Therefore, these miniatures represent themselves as a vastly untilled field begging to be researched by eager collectors. They will have to be prepared for many surprises but also to strike gold off the beaten track.

 

References

1. Niederastroth, W.D., Reitmeyer, G.: KÖNIG DER REPLICAS, DWJ 10/2018. 68-73

2. Wensing, G.: 45 JAHRE VERSCHÄRFUNGEN, Novo, 15.03.2017

3. Niederastroth, W.D.: FEINE, KLEINE MEISTERWERKE, DWJ 02/2019, 78-83

 

February 23, 2019/WDN

Jack "Sneaky" Elam one of the thugs in Serio Leone's 1968 epic Western "ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST" checking his Italo SAA with brass triggerguard and backstrap

Anti-hero Franco "Django" Nero with his brass enhanced Colt SAA from the official Django poster of Sergio Corbucci's 1966 "DJANGO" Spaghetti western

I like to share these thoughts with you. Being a romantic on the side I like to believe that Aldo Uberti launched this picturesque line of brass embellished SAAs, as a tribute to famous director Sergio Leone and his Italian colleagues, their thugs, anti-heroes and heroes in the spaghetti westerns of the 1960s and 1970s. Remember Franco Nero in the 1966 western "DJANGO" or Bud Spencer in "TRINITY IS STILL MY NAME" from 1971? All these icons carried Italian made SAAs with brass triggerguards and backstraps.

One thing is for sure, however. Italian SAA replicas could be had at much less money than an original Colt SAA no matter the generation. This was a fact in the 1960s as it is today and during all the decades in between. In addition the Italian pistols are available from your dealer around the corner off the shelf or at short notice whereas that is certainly not the case when it comes to the Hartford product.

1.9.2 Line Extension? This exposure of "Guns That Never Were" to the public was not limited to the fancy Italian western movies. You find them in American made westerns as well. Be that as it may this created even more demand and still does on both sides of the Big Pond. Which adds some more spice to this highly emotional subject. Now you got the picture. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.9.2.1 Brass Framed CS "Army" Percussion Revolvers? Brassers with rebated .44 cal. cylinders and stepped frames were advertised as Griswold & Gunnison (Dragoon pattern barrel lug with round barrel) and Schneider & Glassick (octagon barrels) Armies, or Navies of Army caliber, respectively.

For what it is worth and on a personal note such a Uberti Griswold & Gunnison "Army" was my first percussion revolver back in 1972. Nice action, crisp trigger and pretty accurate at 25 meters. But after a year or so it had to go. Why? Because I learnt from my studies of gun literature that such a pistol had no historical background. Back then and the purist I used to be something I would not tolerate. 

This verdict also applies to the Schneider & Glassick in Army configuration: such pistols just never existed during the 19th century. 

Still life of three Uberti 1862 Griswold & Gunnisons displayed on the State flag of Georgia (clockwise from left): "son" #PM03 .44 cal. Frankenstein miniature vs. "son" #PM01 period correct .36 cal. miniature vs. #16158 period correct .36 cal. full size replica "father"year code XXVI (1970; courtesy Wolf D. Niederastroth Collection)

Their first two models were replicas of the Colt 1851 Navy and its Confederate States pendant 1862 Griswold & Gunnison. The maker's mark on these early pistols to sometime in 1963 was G.U.. The Griswold & Gunnison is a brass framed copy of the Colt 1851 Navy with Dragoon pattern barrel lug, round barrel and straight cylinder of .36 cal. without engraving. Both these early G.U. marked pistols do not have the safety pins of the Colt Navy pattern percussion revolvers on the breech side of the cylinders. The original Colt Navies from the 19thcentury had them but the original G&Gs not, however. Later production Uberti marked guns have these safety pins. Gregorelli and Uberti marketed the Navy as "Yank", the Griswold & Gunnison as "Reb".

These brass framed revolvers were priced below their steel framed counter parts. They attracted the reenactors portraying Southern States soldiers but also shooters on a budget. Once Aldo Uberti added the Colt 1860 Army steel framed replica in .44 cal. with its rebated cylinder to his line of replicas in April of 1963 these same shooters wanted more boom for the buck. They suggested to have the Army's rebated cylinder (with or without naval scene engraved) fitted to stepped "Reb" brass frames with their barrels bored to .44 cal. Voila, the first "fantasy" revolver was born. 

 

1.9.1.1 Impact of Spaghetti Westerns? Entering the stage were the directors of spaghetti Western movies during the middle of the 1960s. These gentlemen seem to have developed a certain preference for more colorful looking revolver replicas with brass applications over their steel pendants, in the hand of their thugs and heroes. 

Quite a lot of their prop masters however, did not know or care about period correctness. They equipped the actors with whatever brassers were available. No matter if they were the .44 cal. fantasy percussion revolvers or the proper .36 cal. ones, or even the big Colt SAA replicas with brass backstraps and triggerguards that never existed on the real thing. 

 

 

 

 

 

Particularly regarding these brass grip frame Single Actions there are other thoughts floating around as to their why. Why launched Uberti these historically not correct Colt SAA replicas and miniatures in the first place in addition to their period correct brothers with backstraps and triggerguards of steel? 

Brass framed Colt SAAs? Uberti manufactured and still produces a line of Colt SAA replicas with brass backstraps and triggerguards. Their subject fantasy miniatures sported brass backstraps alright whereas the triggerguards of the specimens in the Hunzinger Collection are all of the steel variety. Go figure.

Back at the Uberti Miniature Dept.: Aldo Uberti's miniature gun artists were quick to follow suit during the 1990s and early 2000s. They created such fantasy guns sought after by today's collectors. The percussion revolver models are much rarer than the Single Actions, however.

A couple of examples of these "Guns That Never Were" miniature revolvers are in the Hunzinger Collection, see below.

The Exceptions of this Rule: Small frame Colt percussion revolvers like the tiny 1848 Baby Dragoons and 1849 Pockets, and the harder hitting improved models 1862 Pocket Navy and Police were made as full sized replicas but not in miniature format.