“Who was that Masked Man?”
That was the question that ended each episode of ABC’s The Lone Ranger, one of the best-liked television series of the 1950s.
From 1949 to 1957, Clayton Moore portrayed the Lone Ranger, except for 1952 and 1953, when actor John Hart replaced Moore as the masked frontier lawman. Although Hart portrayed the Lone Ranger for only one season, he went on to make occasional appearances in that role in other TV shows. He enjoyed being known as the “other” Lone Ranger for more than 50 years, until his passing in 2009.
One of Hart’s personal firearms—a nickel plated and engraved 1873 Colt Single Action Army revolver—is now owned by a museum in Cody, Wyoming. The Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West acquired the gun at James D. Julia’s auction in October 2013.
The .45 caliber Colt’s serial number, 32395SA, reveals the six-gun was manufactured in 1960. Ben Shostle, of Muncie, Indiana, later engraved the gun in an exquisite ornamental style. Fitted with one-piece ivory stocks, with a buffalo skull carved into one side, this handsome revolver is housed in its original velvet-lined Colt display case.
The six-gun sold with a photograph of Hart in his Lone Ranger outfit, standing with his white steed, Silver (see p. 16). The Colt also came with Cowboys in the Kitchen, a cookbook by Hart that is less a recipe collection and more a set of anecdotes from the actor’s Hollywood days.
A WWII veteran, the handsome actor spent decades in Hollywood, playing character roles in numerous movies, such as Cecil B. DeMille’s 1938 epic The Buccaneer, his 1940 classic North West Mounted Police and, in the 1960s, even a couple of Elvis’ films. Besides his stint as TV’s Lone Ranger, Hart added credits to his small screen career that included the lead in the 1957 U.K. series Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans and guest appearances on Rawhide, Perry Mason, I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver and Happy Days, for which he reprised his role as the masked man in one 1982 episode.
Hart was an easygoing guy who worked as a cowboy while growing up, his long-time friend Mick LaFever says. Hart later raced cars and motorcycles, flew airplanes, was an honorary life member of the Former Texas Rangers Association, loved firearms and Cowboy Action Shooting, and was an all-around man’s man. Hart used to joke that he’d “had big parts in lousy movies and lousy parts in big movies…but it sure was fun.”
We don’t know if Hart ever used this Colt in any of his films; for now, the Colt Firearms Museum is positioning the gun as one owned by the actor. The collection also showcases other firearms from filmdom, including a Colt Single Action Army from the 1955-75 CBS series Gunsmoke, one of Paladin’s Peacemakers from the 1957-63 CBS series Have Gun-Will Travel, the Winchester Model ’71 used by exhibition shooter Herb Parsons in the making of the 1950 movie Winchester ’73, starring James Stewart, and a customized Colt Bisley owned by WWII hero-turned-actor Audie Murphy.
For a look at some interesting firearms with colorful pedigrees, check out the Cody Firearms Museum’s collection in Cody, Wyoming. Sure as shootin’, you will be glad you did.
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.