Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Man With No Name’s Snake Grip Colt

The original snake grip Colt from the second episode of Rawhide
This post is in response to several e-mails 
and messages here and on FaceBook 
about the photo I posted of the Colt snake grip .45.
Click on any image to enlarge.

As most Clint Eastwood fans know, the famed actor first used the famous snake grip Colt Single Action Army (SAA) revolver in the first season and second episode of Rawhide. The air date was January 16, 1959. The episode was titled “Incident at Alabaster Plain.” Eastwood would use that same gun again in A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1966), both directed by Sergio Leone. Eastwood had purchased the gun from the production company and owns it to this day. In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), the snake grips are seen on a different gun, the 1851 Navy Colt.
Troy Donahue (left), Mark Richman with the Colt in holster (center)
and Eastwood in  the Incident at Alabaster Plain episode of Rawhide 
I thought I would clarify the history a bit for the benefit of those new to riding the Old West range. In that Rawhide episode, the snake grip Colt is carried by actor Mark Richman who played a bad-ass named Mastic. Troy Donahue co-starred in this episode along with Martin Balsam and series regulars, Eric Fleming, Sheb Wooley and Paul Brinegar. This is a pretty good episode. In fact, in the final showdown, Eastwood gets a face full of adobe dust when a bullet (squib) blows a hole in the wall next to his face. The gunfight is well-staged, and Eastwood as Rowdy Yates chases Mastic into the bell tower of church. Fleming as Gil Faver helps knock Mastic off the tower by yanking on the bell’s rope. Mastic falls to his death.
Clint Eastwood and Sheb Wooley in the episode's finale with the snake grip Colt
Throughout the episode, we are afforded several views of the gun. The silver inlaid snake grips adorn both sides of the traditional walnut grip. Rowdy Yates has the gun in the finale and he hands it to Pete Nolan played by Sheb Wooley, who then becomes the third actor in history to handle that gun on film. I knew Sheb Wooley personally, and he always spoke fondly of working on Rawhide. He made no secret of the fact that Rawhide was enjoyable “play acting” as he called it, and Sheb later made a brief appearance in Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).
Eastwood with the snake grip Colt in holster in A Fistful of Dollars 
NOTE: As far as I know, the snake grip Colt is NOT seen in subsequent episodes of Rawhide. I did a brief scan of the first season episodes and Eastwood is wearing a traditional Colt with a plain Walnut grip. Of course a full review of all 217 episodes is needed to verify if the snake grip Colt shows up again. Anyone with additional information is free to contact me through this blog.
Eastwood reloading the snake grip Colt in A Fistful of Dollars 
Clint Eastwood brought the gun with him when he filmed both A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, and the gun is plainly visible in multiple scenes. However, as I mentioned, this gun was NOT used in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. That gun is an 1851 Navy Colt supplied by Uberti, the Italian gun manufacturer who are still in business today. Another silver inlaid snake grip was added to the Navy Colt.
Another view of the Colt from A Fistful of Dollars
Keen viewers can easily spot the snake grip SAA in A Fistful of Dollars although the best view doesn’t occur until Eastwood is reloading, and later when he is using the gun to tap some barrels to determine if they are empty or not. In For a Few Dollars More, the SAA is likewise visible in Eastwood’s holster and in a scene where he is reloading the gun.

The snake grip Colt in  For a Few Dollars More

Replicas of the snake grip SAA have been on the market for years, primarily made by Uberti in Italy, or Pietta for the American Firearms company, Cimarron. I own the Cimarron version. There are slight differences in the snake design. The original snake has a single tongue whereas the replica offers a forked-tongue. Also, the rattle tail has a slight downward curve compared to the original. The Cimarron replica features the snake on the right side only, unlike the original which has the snake on both sides of the grip. According to an excellent Internet article by Bob Arganbright, the grips were supplied to the Rawhide production team by Andy Anderson of the North Hollywood Gun Shop. There are multiple other snake grip replicas available, and you can even order knock-off grips minus the gun on Amazon. I have occasionally seen a custom SAA with the snake grips on both sides.
Eastwood reloading the Colt in For a Few Dollars More 
The Snake grip Colt is now part of Western television and film history largely due to Clint Eastwood. The Cimarron .45 caliber Man with No Name Model Colt Single Action Army revolver with a five-and-a-half-inch barrel handles as well as any Colt, Uberti Colt, Cimarron Colt, Taylor & Company Colt or even the Ruger Vaquero. This is a fine gun and those few of you that know me personally are aware that I consider the 1873 Colt Peacemaker the pre-eminent handgun, and owning them is a great privilege. As always, please follow the basic rules of safe firearm handling. When firearms are used in a safe and responsible manner, they provide much pleasure, satisfaction and protection, and represent a fundamental part of our personal liberty.
Author Thomas McNulty's Cimarron Colt .45 with the snake grip

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