Curious Relics #049: West German – J.P. Sauer & Sohn Western Marshal
Welcome, if you are a newcomer to this fun bi-weekly segment of AllOutdoor.com! The last time around was a whole host of articles covering the German Mauser 1914 and its extended family of pistols. We started out by covering history, variations, specifications, range time, and aftermarket parts. Today we get to run through a revolver that I admittedly know very little about. This is the J.P. Sauer & Sohn Western Marshal also sometimes referred to as the Hawes Firearms Co Western Marshal. These West German-made revolvers were imported into the United States and they were meant to be fairly inexpensive. As an unlucky byproduct, the inexpensive guns in world history usually get drowned out and forgotten. That being said there is not a tome of information on these out there and what there is I take with a grain of salt. Please keep that in mind while reading forward. Let’s dive right into the J.P. Sauer & Sohn Western Marshal 22!
Welcome to our recurring series of “Curious Relics.” Here, we want to share all of our experiences, knowledge, misadventures, and passion for older firearms that one might categorize as a Curio & Relic – any firearm that is at least 50 years old according to the ATF. Hopefully along the way you can garner a greater appreciation for older firearms like we do, and simultaneously you can teach us things as well through sharing your own expertise and thoughts in the Comments. Understanding the firearms of old, their importance, and their development which lead to many of the arms we now cherish today is incredibly fascinating and we hope you enjoy what we have to share, too!
History Abridged: J.P. Sauer & Sohn Western Marshal 22
The 1940s and 1950s were filled with western movies and stories coming back to life and being imprinted into the American psyche. Fathers who yearned to be cowboys since their youth suddenly had little boys of their own begging for department store costumes and catalog bb guns. The real deal Colt Single Action Army revolvers were (and still are) ridiculously expensive. All in the same frame of time starting around 1950 up to 1960 there began to be a movement of cheaper copies of the good old Single Action Army. Colt themselves would produce aluminum and alloy framed 22 revolvers such as the Colt Single-Action Frontier Scout which we have previously covered on Curious Relics (link here). One such product of this want was the J.P. Sauer & Sohn Western Marshal 22 at its centerfire relatives.
Before going under the microscope we have to take several leaps back to understand where and why these 1960s pot metal revolvers came about. After World War Two J.P. Sauer & Sohn establishes a new base of operations in Eckernförde, West Germany. During a space of three years, an engineer by the name of William R. Wilson set out to manufacture and export copies of the famed Colt 1873 Single Action Army. This began the formation of the Great Western Arms Company which in turn enlisted Haywood “Hy” Hunter and his mail order catalogs to handle the importation and distribution of these new 1873 single-action revolver clones. Those Hy Hunter catalogs became a great marketing force for these western revolvers but unfortunately, they were the only marketing. This resulted in the Great Western Arms Company going into financial turmoil with one investor/debtor taking control and getting rid of Hy Hunter in favor of E&M (Early & Modern Firearms, Inc.) and Stoeger. By late 1958 the Great Western Arms Company goes bankrupt and ceases to manufacture.
At this point (roughly around 1959) Hy Hunter comes up with a proposal to J.P. Sauer & Sohn to manufacture the same Single Action Army clones that the Great Western Company had made and that he would be the sole distributor in the United States. By late 1960 approximately 300,000 “Western Six Shooter” revolvers, as they were marketed, were produced. These were supposedly made in varying barrel lengths and were in 22, 22 Mag, 38/357, 44 Mag, and 45 Colt. By 1960 these revolvers had gained popularity and would be reliable clones to pick up into the mid-1960s. Apparently, around 1964 Hy hunter and his company went through some odd and confusing legal battles (regarding the importation of stuff like machine guns) that are outside of my scope of concern as far as research today. Besides Hy hunter being forced to cease importation and distribution, I am not sure what occurred in the window between then and the next paragraph timestamp.
Roughly around 1967, the Hawes Firearms Company is formed by a former employee of the Hy Hunter conglomerate and begins importing and distributing the previously mentioned revolvers but with new names such as Western Marshal, Montana Marshal, Deputy Marshal, Federal Marshal, Chief Marshal, and Silver City Marshal. Initial 1967 and 1968 revolvers did still have the name “Western Six Shooter”. The Hawes Firearms Company would continue to import and distribute the J.P. Sauer & Sohn Western Marshal 22 (and its centerfire counterparts) all the way up until roughly 1980 when the Hawes Firearms company goes out of business because of a great many lawsuits regarding accidental discharges. I have not read of any particular fault to attribute to the cause of these accidental discharges besides these revolvers having a frame-mounted firing pin with no transfer bar system.
End of Part One: J.P. Sauer & Sohn Western Marshal 22
So closes out the first part of the J.P. Sauer & Sohn Western Marshal 22. I hope it was informative. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, finding this information was difficult and extremely scattered. Some of it very well could be misconstrued by me or other authors as well as being totally incorrect. I apologize in advance if more in-depth work comes out and reveals such notions but for now, I have to stick with what I know and present it as such and transparently. if anything new or relevant pops up I will try to go back and amend whatever is necessary. See you next time!
In closing, I hope our Curious Relics segment informed as well as entertained. This all was written in hopes of continued firearm appreciation and preservation. We did not just realize how guns were supposed to look and function. It was a long and tedious process that has shaped the world we live in. So, I put it to you! Is there a firearm out there that you feel does not get much notoriety? What should our next Curious Relics topic cover? As always, let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.