In 2002, I worked on one of the hot new films of the season—Hidalgo, to be released in March 2004.
This action packed Western is based on the legend of Wyoming cowboy and long-distance rider Frank T. Hopkins and his paint mustang stallion, Hidalgo. In the film, the pair compete in a 3,000-mile race across the Arabian Desert in 1891.
Firearms enthusiasts should enjoy the historical guns used in the Western. The weapons range from authentic to those that stretch historical accuracy by a few years, such as the Model 1896 “Broomhandle” Mauser pistol, a Webley revolver and the Model 1899 Lee-Enfield Mark I rifle.
Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen of Lord of the Rings) uses a U.S.-marked, 51?2-inch Peacemaker that reflects his service with the cavalry. U.S. Fire Arms produced a quartet of perfectly detailed replicas as props for the film. Mortensen’s six-gun—along with a Sheffield bowie knife from Dixie Gun Works—was packed in leather crafted by renowned artisan Jake Johnson.
In the Battle of Wounded Knee sequence, the Seventh Cavalry is properly armed with .45-70 caliber 1873 “trapdoor” Springfield carbines and 71?2-inch 1873 Colt Single Action Army revolvers. One of my responsibilities for this segment was to train about 50 of the 150-man military unit in the 1890 manual of arms. My trainees used either replica or original carbines, along with a handful of EMF replica cavalry Colts. The rest of the troops were equipped with perfectly detailed prop guns. The rubber dummies looked so good from a few feet away that I’ll bet nobody will doubt their authenticity.
Hundreds of Native American actors and extras filled the Sioux village for the battle scene, and many were armed with bona fide frontier-era hardware, including Sharps carbines chambered for .50-70 caliber centerfire cartridges and 1873 Winchesters. Four authentic 1.65-inch Hotchkiss breech-loading cannons were also used in the film. The army actually fired these cannons in the December 1890 battle.
Another of my jobs in Hidalgo was to train Elizabeth Berridge, who plays Annie Oakley, to look like a professional sharpshooter in the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show segment. The film displays several firearms similar to those actually used by the original “Little Miss Sure Shot,” such as a .22 caliber Colt Lightning pump rifle, a brace of fancy Stevens single-shot pistols and Parker and Remington shotguns. On camera, Berridge fired a .22 caliber 1897 Marlin lever-action rifle and a Colt Single Action Army revolver. I’m proud to say she never missed a target.