Tales of Wells Fargo Part 3

Tales of Wells Fargo Part 3

Barra recreates the 5-inch Schofield model

By Dennis Adler

No matter how famous or infamous the owner, the S&W Schofield found its way into the holsters of legendary outlaws and lawmen alike, many of who also famously carried Colts, Merwin Hulberts, and Remingtons; but the Schofield in its several iterations and barrel lengths was conspicuous throughout the period from 1875 to the turn of the century.

There were more than 300 refurbished Schofield revolvers purchased by Wells, Fargo & Co. with the majority having their barrels cut down to 5 and 5-1/2 inches. Some were also nickel plated in the refurbishing process. The shortened barrel .45 S&W Schofield caliber revolvers were easy to carry undercover, especially in some very innovative holsters that used steel clips to attach to the wearer’s trouser waist.
One of the most infamous guns of the Old West is the Smith & Wesson New Model Number Three used by Bob Ford to assassinate Jesse James in St. Joseph, Missouri on April 3, 1882. James, pictured at left, may even have given Ford, shown at right, the very gun that was turned against him. (William I. Koch Collection)
As the tenuous relationship between Jesse James and his men began to further disintegrate in 1882, brothers Robert and Charles Ford, (pictured), set upon a plan to kill Jesse in exchange for amnesty from the Governor of Missouri and a $10,000 reward. After they had murdered Jesse, Bob Ford had the S&W engraved and used it in a stage show about how he captured and killed the West’s greatest outlaw. The play was a sham because Ford had assassinated James by shooting him in the back of the head. Ford was reviled by everyone from the Governor of Missouri to the audiences at his plays who usually booed him off the stage.

Frank and Jesse James both had Schofield revolvers among their arsenal of handguns, (Jesse James was murdered by Robert Ford with an S&W Topbreak believed to have been given to him by Jesse), celebrated frontier lawmen Bill Tilghman carried a Schofield 7-inch model, El Paso, Texas, City Marshal (and Territorial Deputy U.S. Marshal) Dallas Stoudenmire also carried a 7-inch model in a leather lined trouser pocket, John Wesley Hardin owned an S&W No. 3 Topbreak (not a Schofield); as did Virgil Earp (the very gun he may have handed to brother Wyatt at the OK Corral shootout); lawman Pat Garrett had a Schofield, and Theodore Roosevelt carried a finely engraved New Model No. 3. The S&W topbreak revolvers were not at all uncommon guns. The Wells Fargo model and other cut down refurbished military Schofields more so into the 1880s and 1890s, with several hundred being purchased by Well Fargo alone. Civilian sales also likely numbered in the hundreds, and eventually more military Schofields, a sizable number also refurbished with cut down 5 inch and 5-1/2 inch barrels, ended up on the secondary market. The new Barra Schofield 5-inch models then, are in some very good company, including some very pricey .44-40 and .45 Colt caliber Schofield Wells Fargo reproductions manufactured in Italy by A. Uberti. (Smith & Wesson also made a limited edition of 7-inch and 5-inch models as commemorative pistols in 2000. These were official S&W copies, however, for safety reasons; these guns were fitted with an internal firing pin and a transfer bar, rather than a proper Schofield hammer-mounted firing pin.

Schofileds and S&W topbreaks were among the guns favored by Frank and Jesse James and their gang. They also liked Colt Peacemakers, Merwin Hulberts (upper right by boot) and while not shown, Frank James eventually took a liking to the Remington Model 1875.
The appearance of being unarmed (at least with any kind of larger caliber handgun), was almost assured by rigs like the Louis Hoffman that attached to the wearer’s trouser waist with a steel clip leaving the gun and holster easily covered by a coat and the waist free of a cartridge belt.
In an instant a topcoat could be pulled back and the larger caliber .45 S&W quickly drawn.

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The Well Fargo CO2 model’s performance

With impressive velocity from pellet shells and lighter weight alloy wadcutter pellets in the high 400fps range, I decided to put the Barra through a couple of more realistic Old West test scenarios, including drawing and firing from the hip at a full size Silhouette target from 15 feet, drawing and firing at the target aiming one handed at 21 feet, and with a two-handed hold from 10 yards.

The Barra Schofield feels like the real gun in the hand with approximate and balance. Shooting from the waist is fairly predictable after you familiarize yourself with where it is hitting. I almost had two shots in the same hole at 15 feet. They were all a little low but well entered in the bottom of the 10 ring.

My quick draw six shots from the hip, each time re-holstering and drawing again, put six with one pair almost overlapping around bottom of the 10 ring at 3.01 inches; my six aimed shots fired one-handed (Duelist style) from 21 feet hit inside the 10 and X at 2.15 inches, and from 10 yards aimed with a two-handed hold (purposely aiming a little higher), put six hits in the 9 and 10 rigs with a measurement of 2.75 inches. Not exactly 7-1/2 inch rifled barrel Peacemaker accuracy but pretty good for a 5-inch smoothbore.

Aimed shots from 21 feet firing single handed gave me a good six shots in the X and 10 at a little over 2 inches.

Overall, the 5-inch Schofield did not disappoint at any distance with the pellet-loaded cartridges. With the Chisholm’s Trail reproduction of the famous Louis Hoffman holster, the Wells Fargo was quick to draw and delivered respectable accuracy for each shooting situation. It is a darn good gun for the money (same price as the 7-inch), and one that opens up the possibility for an even more accurate rifled barrel model in 2021 and a clean nickel pallet for the engraver’s art. For Western CO2 guns enthusiasts, this is one to own, SASS indoor practice ready right out of the box.   

Here is the full size B27 silhouette target with all 18 rounds inside the 9, 10 and X (all 5-point hits on the target with 4 X and two in the 10 aimed and fired single handed). Shooting from the waist I drew and fired six consecutive times and all six grouped in the bottom of the 10 ring. My six from 10 yards (shot higher) came in at 2.75 inches. Not bad for a 5-inch smoothbore, fixed sight air pistol at 30 feet. Give this gun a rifled barrel and look out Peacemakers.

NOTE: As soon as the 5-inch Schofield models are in stock I will go back and add the product links to this series of articles.

2 thoughts on “Tales of Wells Fargo Part 3”

  1. Nice handling revolver. Have always found that serious lead throwing Single Action revolvers conceal and carry well . Chisholm retro holster does a nice job. Only having a 7 inch Schofield to pit against a 7 1/2 Peacemaker, I found the Peacemaker slightly faster. Will be interesting to pit a 5 inch Schofield against a 5 1/2 Peacemaker, no fanning . The 5 inch barrel may help the Schofield shave some time, not just due to barrel length but shifting the muzzle heavy balance

  2. Barra is looking like they are a serious force in the Western Airgun market. Will be interesting to see if they will offer any other S&W top break model variations. These Schofields are well made , straight shooting, and quite reasonably priced, and now come in a box.

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