Recently, on a normal day at McClelland Gun Shop in northeast Dallas, Texas, an old revolver was brought in to the store’s gunsmith for a routine hammer repair. Neither the gun’s owner nor the McClelland employees could’ve guessed the amazing piece of history they were about to uncover. It turns out this patinated old wheelgun had likely seen action in the hands of one of the legendary Pancho Villa‘s bandito gang members or Mexican Revolutionary guerrilla fighters in the early 1900s, and the owner didn’t even know it.
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Its current owner had acquired the historic 45 Long Colt Single Action Army via one of his pawn shops. The gun’s former owner had relayed a story about the pistol’s original owner, his grandfather, who was rumored to have spent time in his youth as a member of the famous/infamous Pancho Villa’s retinue. However, there hadn’t been hard evidence to support this claim. When the SAA was brought to McClelland for maintenance, that all changed. See below for the shop owner’s report, from an August 10th social media announcement regarding the find.
McClelland Gun Shop’s “Viva Villa” reveal:
“This Colt Single Action Army in 45 LC has an absolutely *incredible* history. We first noticed the hash marks on the outside of the almost totally smooth left grip. As we disassembled the revolver, we found Viva Villa and a cross with the name Carranza etched onto the inside.We called the owner to tell him what we found inside the grips and he was stunned. He told us the older man who pawned the gun at one of his shops over 25 years ago told a story about how his grandfather used to run with Pancho Villa. The owner never knew whether to believe the man or not until now. Apparently, the man used to pawn the gun from time to time for quick cash, but one day, he never came back for the Colt.Assuming the story is true, this piece of Mexican history witnessed so much! Pancho Villa eventually became a general in the Mexican Revolution, which lasted from 1910-20. Villa can be credited with decisive military victories leading to the ousting of Victoriano Huerta from the presidency in July 1914. Following Huerta’s defeat and exile, Villa fought the forces of his own erstwhile leader, First Chief of the Constitutionalists Venustiano Carranza (likely the Carranza etched into the cross on the grip). If you like any sort of history, I recommend Pancho Villa’s Wiki page. It’s a wiiiiiiild ride!We dated the Colt’s serial number to the year 1900, making it entirely plausible this revolver saw action during the revolution. And the hash marks…. well… I think you know what those mean. “
McClelland’s owner clarified a few points, most importantly including the date stamping on the frame’s left side. There are three dates visible, the last of which reads “Jan 19. 75”, and some commenters said they thought this meant the gun wasn’t made until the year 1975 – thus making the Pancho Villa connection impossible. However, this is incorrect as Colt aficionados will know. These numbers indicate one of the gun’s relevant patent dates: January 19th, 1875. As stated above, Colt’s serial number confirms its year 1900 manufacture, which would place it at correct timing for the reputed Villa context.
What do you think, readers? Based on the gun’s info and condition, do you believe the story? Do those notches indicate five Mexican Federales gunned down by this fascinating old revolver? Or do you think there’s reason to doubt the gun’s reported history, and if so, why? Let us know in the comments! See you at the range.