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Guns of the Border Patrol

by Ben OBrien   |  October 7th, 2011 22

Sheriff Jim Wilson takes a look at the guns border patrol agents have used over the years to keep our American border safe. One gun in particular holds a special place in the hearts of the agents featured in the video below–the 1898 Colt Single Action Army revolver.

Learn more about the agents past and present and the mark they’ve left on our fight to keep freedom alive.

  • John W. Slagle

    Excellant video re:the Border Patrol single action Colts. My first assigned USBP Station in 1972 was Presidio, Texas. I remember the stories passed on by locals including a long retired Texas Ranger, an old river rider. Redford and Mulotto, Chih. where a border patrol agent was hung by bandits were a few problem areas.

    These were dangerous times when agent's reputations as pistoleros prevented many shootouts. The Presidio County Sheriff was shot and killed by a fugitive fleeing to Ojinaga in 1972. The Sheriff didn't have an opportunity to return fire. Marfa border patrol agents tracked and arrested the killer without incident. Our standard issue firearm was the old Colt Trooper Border Patrol model in 357 magnum. The Colt was later replaced by the S&W model 19 .In Presidio our Remmington 870s were the standard backup on checkpoints and traffic stops.

    As a retired agent with over thirty years service, it's great to see the old service revolvers in good hands.

    • T. James Price

      Am lookin' for info on the men, their guns, & stories of how they did their jobs. Can travel to listen. In process of writin' documentry on River Riders.

      • Luis Ortiz

        There is a book I am reading that tell of the true stories of a border lawman. The title is " Down on the Border" by the famous Bart Skelton published by Guns and Ammo Magazine 2003 pics of the guns they used the bandits he encounter. Including the story of the El Paso Saddlery which still exist. The best holster made by the El Paso Sadderly. Used by Butch Cassdy, Pat Garrert, John Wesley Hardin and Jeff Milton. Great book to have.

    • T James Price

      Please contact me 432-923-2748

  • John W. Slagle

    To correct the previous comment, the date of Presidio County Sheriff' Daniel Hamilton's death was April 27, 1973 not 1972.

    The Sheriff and his deputy were assisting the U.S.B.P on a felony lookout. A suspect was encountered along the road to Presidio who shot Hamiliton five times and his deputy once.

    At times memory fails on dates without my book Illegal Entries.

  • Lance Miles

    I love single actions! I almost wish the semi's had never been invented (almost) .
    I 've watched this video several times and every time I feel as if I'm with friends talkin' guns. I wish I could've met Charlie Pirtle, he must've been a heck of a man from what I've read.
    There are not too many heroes I have left, most are dead now. Joaquin Jackson is one I want to meet-hope he can come to Wyoming someday or I can make it to Texas. Anyway, thanks for an excellent job of examining some beautiful historic sixguns. I must say too, I do get to carry a single action (on special occasions) at my Dept. All I have to do is qualify on them. My Sheriff likes them too!

    • Dyana Pirtle-Nawman

      My grand father Charlie Pirtle would have been honored to have met you. He was a heck of a man and would have been very flattered by your admiration! Thank you for the kind words about him!

      • USBP29

        Wasn’t Chuck out of the Deming, NM station?

  • Phillip

    I can't imagine anyone chosing to use a Colt Single Action Army for law enforcement. I have never known anyone or any department that would do so. They are attractive and fun to shoot but they are obsolete. However, if you just have to carry a single action revolver, may I suggest the Ruger Blackhawk, a cheaper, stronger, safer firearm with better sights.

    • mike

      America is full of little hick towns that are cursed with losers who can't make it in the real world so they live as though they were hard drinking, alcoholic, cowboys, even in the guns they carry,

      • Lawman

        We see the deranged have added their foolish comments.

  • Lawman

    Like the man said, for "Special Occasions" Phillip, they are good to go. Too bad so many today are enamored with " Swat Team" mentality LE. They don't know what true Peace Officers are all about. I bet you don't know about Horseback Patrol and carrying Leveractions either.

  • Dave

    The ability to reload quickly, and carry ammunition that can be passed to another officer for immediate use, gives the semi auto mag fed pistol a tactical edge. Having said that, I would not feel undergunned with a single action revolver, and a lever action rifle chambered for the same cartridge. Quality shooting beats quantity.

  • Todd Campbell

    The Border Patrol was a rare early variant on the Trooper frame, chambered in .38 Special only. Only about 500 were made, in 1952 only. They have "BORDER PATROL" roll stamped on a heavy barrel. These often sell for $4,000+ and are considered one of the Holy Grails for Colt double action collectors. Source: Wiki

  • Todd Campbell

    The MK III series incorporated a number of models, several of which were updates of existing designs. Classic models included the venerable Colt Official Police chambered in .38 Special as the basic/entry-level offering, and the Trooper in .357 Magnum. New members of the line up included the Lawman, Metropolitan Police, and Border Patrol.[2][3]

  • Joseph curry

    I was issued one of the Border Patrol specials in 53. It had a 4" barrel of almost 3/4 " in diameter. I soon abandoned it for a S&W .357 Hi way Patrol model with a 4" barrel and Keith long range front sights.

    I reloaded .38 spec cases to Mag velocities with Keith semi wad cutters which could be used in an emergency in the .38 revolvers that some of my fellow Border Patrol officers carried.

  • william

    I am the deputy that was with Hank we where not on a road we were out in a field west of marfa down a cow road. Duckworth was sitting out in the field in his car. He recorded the whole shooting on a old tape recorder and the owner of the land wanted Hank to check him out and tell him to leave. He was not wanted by anyone that we knew. What we found out was that he was a retired serviceman. He shoot us with a 22. He never fled the scene. The date was1973.

  • Mark Garduno

    Anyone remember a Ranger named Ben White? He retired to Ciudad Mexico and kept a display of single actions on a wall of his flat. He had a son-this was in the late 50's, used to fly freight from Mexico down south and back.

  • mike

    The border with Mexico is extremely safe, millions have crossed it ilegally in just the last 10 years.

    • Lawman

      Sarcasm duly noted and appreciated! I have never been to the border with Mexico. I have always wanted to go though. My wife's parents were both from Mexico. She is a first generation American. At the present time I believe it is way too unsafe for us to travel into the land of her ancestors. I would love to go back in time to when you could cross into Mexico and carry your guns with you.

  • mike

    Didn't have to be an emergency, I shoot 38's in my .357 all the time.

  • Dan

    I was a Patrol Agent in the Chula Vista sector for a couple of years before transferring to the Customs Service. My first handgun issued at the academy in Port Isabel TX was a S&W model 10 heavy barrel in .38 Special. Others were issued the Colt Border Patrol was was essentially the Official Police model with a heavy barrel. Both excellent revolvers.
    There were also available S&W Heavy Duty models, sometimes called the .38/44 because it was designed to fire a high powered .38 Special cartridge that was the predecessor to the .357 magnum. Fine guns, but heavy and most preferred the medium frame Colt and S&Ws previously mentioned.
    Upon completion of probation an agent turned in his .38 Special and received either a brand new S&W model 19 in .357 Magnum or another revolver also called the Colt Border Patrol, a re-badged Colt Trooper mark III.
    These guns were perfectly adequate for the times and we received intensive handgun training and were quite confident of our abilities with all of these revolvers.
    It was an all – male outfit in those days with a lot of Texans and we were pretty cocky and macho.

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