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American Handgunner May/June 2011 - Page 36
TAFFINTESTS John Taffin THE SIXGUNNER HIMSELF: GUNS, GEAR AND MORE Turnbull did the bluing and color case hardening and Jerome Harper of Tennessee did the classic engraving. Simply stunning! Born AgAin Bisley i n the early 1890s, Colt was playing catch-up in the target revolver category, while records were being broken with S&W’s New Model 3 with adjustable sights. To come up with a target pistol, Colt flattopped the frame of their Single Action Army, added a rear sight set in a dovetail to make it adjustable for windage, and made the front sight adjustable for elevation by moving it and locking it in place with a set screw. Very crude by today’s standards but it was a start. Target pistols are best when they don’t shift in the hands from shot to shot. The grip of the Smith & Wesson was such this was accomplished, however the Colt was designed to roll in the hand under recoil; a better grip pattern was needed. It arrived with the Bisley Target Model in 1894. The name “Bisley” comes from the English target shooting range, Bisley Commons. To make the Colt Single Action Army more conducive to target shooting, Colt drastically changed the Even in the beat-up state John found the original gun, it could still shoot! This “after” photo of John’s Colt shows what talented craftsmen can do, in spite of the condition of the original gun! John says it’s the finest handgun he owns. The Bisley profile allowed the gun to sit more comfortably in the hand for target shooting and was easier to cock. grip frame. The Bisley Model was made more vertical to the bore axis and made to ride up higher along the backstrap. In fact, Bisley Model mainframes are also higher along the back edge to gain the needed height. The frontstrap also came up higher behind the triggerguard to allow the grip frame to really nestle into the shooting hand. The Bisley was also given what is now normally referred to as a target hammer for easier cocking, and the trigger was made wider and also curved to fit the trigger finger. Expanding The Model fter the introduction of the Target Model Bisley there was enough of a demand for a standard Model Bisley for Colt to begin producing a Bisley counterpart to the standard Single Action Army. By this time gunfighters and gunfights were mostly a thing of the past and sixgunners wanted an easy handling revolver. The Bisley Model is nowhere near as fast from leather as the Single Action Army, however it’s much easier to shoot, for most shooters, once it’s nestled into the hand. Its popularity today can be seen in the modified Ruger Bisley grip frame which is used by most custom makers on heavy recoiling sixguns. Total production of single action Colts from 1873 to 1940 was just under A Continued on page 82 The born again Bisley mates well with period leather by S.D. “Tio Sam” Myers. Dennis Holland carved the Mexican Eagle grips. 36 WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MAY/JUNE 2011