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Gun Of The Week by S.P. Fjestad

Gun of the Week image   The Gun of the Week is an exclusive editorial article that highlights a different gun each week. The guns featured represent some of the finest and most desirable collectible firearms available in today’s marketplace as well as many common guns that are encountered on a regular basis by many shooters and collectors. Carefully written captions provide interesting and comprehensive information, and up-to-date values are included for an in-depth article you won’t find anywhere else! Check back each Monday for a new Gun of the Week.
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1970 Colt SAA Texas Ranger Commemorative Engraved by Weldon Lister
This Colt SAA started out as a Grade I 1970 Texas Ranger Commemorative, and approximately 50% of the engraving was completed by the firm of Frank Hendricks Engravers located in San Antonio, Texas, before Mr. Hendricks passed away. This uncompleted gun was later sold at auction, and Mr. Weldon E. Lister, Jr. of Boerne, Texas, was selected to finish this 2nd Generation SAA by its new owner.

During 1970, Colt produced a Texas Ranger SAA factory commemorative in .45 LC cal. with 7½ in. barrel. The left side of the barrel had an unusual marking TEXAS RANGER COMMEMORATIVE “One Riot One Ranger”, and it was available in four variations. The standard model was not engraved, and approximately 800 were manufactured with rosewood grips and a silver miniature Texas Ranger badge inlet into the left grip. The three engraved models with silver plated finish included the Grade I featuring 95% engraving coverage (approx. 25 mfg.), the Grade II had 75% (approx. 85 mfg.), and the Grade III was 50% (approx. 90 mfg.). The engraving was done by Frank Hendricks Engravers located in San Antonio, Texas. All 1,000 came with a glass top, two drawer walnut display case, which included a Texas Ranger badge, and a book entitled A Pictorial History of the Texas Rangers covered in Texas longhorn hide, hair on.

Note extensive and detailed high relief 18 and 24 Kt. inlays on the recoil shield, hammer, and lone star medallion on top of rear grip assembly. Elaborate geometrical gold wire accents also aid immensely to this gun’s overall eye appeal.

This particular SAA, ser. no. 561(star)R is an anomaly of sorts in that Frank Hendricks completed approximately only 50% of the engraving before he died. The original client also passed away before the gun was done, and this unfinished SAA remained in this incomplete state for quite awhile. Eventually, the estate of the original owner sold it at auction, and the new owner realized that it could become quite valuable if it could be finished by someone else who had Hendricks’ ability, talent, and skill.

Weldon E. Lister, Jr. of Boerne, Texas, a third generation firearms engraver, was selected to complete this commission after the new owner contacted Weldon and made an appointment with him. It turns out that Weldon’s father worked for Hendricks during the time period these Texas Ranger SAA commemoratives were being manufactured (circa late 1960s-early 1970s). Additionally, a young Weldon spent quite a bit of time in Hendricks’ shop, and as a result, acquired quite a bit of knowledge regarding Hendricks’ technique and engraving style. One of the biggest obstacles was that while Hendricks had completely finished both 18 Kt. gold eagles for the recoil shields, he had not installed them. Weldon had to figure out how to attach these delicate raised inlays to the recoil shields without damaging the detail that had already been applied. Additionally, the eagle wing on the loading gate actually spans the joint. Says Weldon, “The 24 Kt. raised wire inlays were quite technically challenging as well.”

Weldon is well-known as an engraver and extremely well versed in all styles and types of firearms embellishment. In the recent American Engravers – The 21st Century by C. Roger Bleile, he has been recognized as one of America’s top 44 living engravers. Uniquely combining both high relief and sculpted 24 Kt. gold inlays, symmetrical geometric raised gold wire accents, fire blued screws and ejector rod button, a striking French grey finish, and ivory grips with silver mini-Texas Ranger badge, this finished gun is now an engraving tour-de-force.

With gold hovering around $1,600 per ounce, this massive 24 Kt. “Texas Rangers” inlay gets to be very expensive. While large, this treatment covers only the area on the back of the grip strap, and the tasteful scroll engraving accented with lots of gold on the rest of the gun matches the overall Texas motif.

So what’s it worth? Good question. Now that the new owner has his finished gun, he has placed its value at $35,000, and is not interested in selling at the moment. Is it really worth that? It all depends on if the next buyer likes this gun’s unique engraving style and gold inlays enough so that he/she wouldn’t feel compelled to order a custom gun similar to this from scratch. Lester states that if he were to engrave another gun in a similar style and complexity, the final price tag would be considerably more.

Some information and images courtesy of Weldon E. Lister. More information and color images on Mr. Weldon Lister’s most recent significant engraving achievements and other selected American Engravers are featured in American Engravers – The 21st Century by C. Roger Bleile.

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