Saddle Rifle Extraordinaire

Arikara-scout-Bloody-KnifeFor nearly two centuries, the horse and the gun have been among the most iconic images of the West—and for good reason.

A strong horse and a reliable rifle were considered among the most valuable possessions a frontiersman could have. The American Quarter Horse was a breed that proved a fitting transport for the wide, open frontier, making saddle guns a necessity.

The lightweight, easy-to-handle, flat-sided Winchester repeater was one of the most popular saddle rifles of the day.

In this 75th year of preserving the breed and history of America’s most popular horse, the American Quarter Horse Association is offering a replica of the classic 1866 Winchester rifle as an iconic and legendary symbol of the Western horseman’s rifle.

From headquarters in Amarillo, Texas, one of True West’s Top 10 Towns of 2015, the American Quarter Horse Association contracted with Cimarron Fire Arms to produce a limited run of 500 replicas of the “Yellowboy” for $1,995. American Indians called the sporting rifle by that name because of its shiny yellow brass receiver.

Frontiersman William E. Webb relied on his 1866 Winchester, which “weighed but seven and one-half pounds…” during his horseback trek across the plains in 1868. Explaining the virtues of the rifle for a horseman, he wrote, “Hung by a strap to the shoulder, this weapon can be dropped across the saddle in front, and held
there very firmly by a slight pressure of the body…with a little practice, the magazine of the gun may be refilled without checking the horse.”

His is but one of the many favorable recollections of Winchester’s repeaters, written by men who rode the rough and tumble regions of the Old West. With more than 170,000 model 1866s produced up until 1898, the rifle was a favorite among cowboys, Indians, lawmen, sport hunters and especially anyone who rode a horse.

Original 1866s were made in .44 Rimfire—a round that has not been available for nearly a century—so Cimarron’s 75th Anniversary commemorative is chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge, a popular centerfire round with cowboy mounted shooters who compete in the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association’s Rifle Class, as well as the Single Action Shooting Society’s competitors.

Produced in Italy by Uberti, the commemorative is manufactured of industrial grade brass and gun steel, and is machined on state-of-the-art, computer-driven CNC devices. Artisans then hand finish the rifle to produce a polished, nickel plated, 20-inch octagonal barrel (carbine length), lever and hammer.

The sporting rifle’s enhancements include a receiver styled with laser assisted hand engraving in the elegant Victorian-era scroll design. The handsomely figured select grade, hand finished walnut stock and forearm make the rifle stand out even more.

Topping off this attractive saddle rifle is the “75 Quarter Horse, 1940-2015” logo on the left side of the brass receiver and the unique “American Quarter Horse Association” title on the right side.

Overall, the American Quarter Horse Association’s 75th anniversary commemorative rifle maintains the appearance of a presentation-grade Winchester from the Golden Age of 19th-century firearms. As a firearms lover who appreciates the elegant lines of these classic arms and the Victorian-style scroll engraving, as accomplished by the old master engravers,  I can attest that this rifle is a spitting image of a presentation-grade vintage Winchester. If, like me, you have a fond appreciation for the American Quarter Horse and for Old West firearms, this 75th Anniversary commemorative rifle will suit your saddle.

Phil Spangenberger has written for Guns & Ammo, appears on the History Channel and other documentary networks, produces Wild West shows, is a Hollywood gun coach and character actor, and is True West’s Firearms Editor.

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