The Barbecue Guns of Summer
Written by Joel R. Kolander
It’s that magical time of year. You know the one, where the smoky aromas of briquettes, wood chips, and slowly cooked meats permeate the summer air. Yes, collector friends, it’s barbecue season and in addition to donning your favorite whimsical apron, wielding your trusty tongs, and stocking up on some frosted barely pops, that also means it’s “barbecue gun” season. Being an uneducated Yankee I was once unfamiliar with the premise, but when finally introduced to the concept I came to appreciate it immediately.
For those who are already scratching their Stetsons about the term barbecue gun, you may have also heard it called a church gun, court gun, or even a 4th of July gun, but the concept is the same. This is not an EDC (Every Day Carry), but a gun that you would carry on a special occasion, as the various monikers would imply. The gun is to one’s personal taste and can express yourself to a certain extent. Unfortunately, this is the essential stopping point for all agreements on what should constitute a barbecue gun. Some folks believe in a set of rules meant to enforce a sense of decorum and good taste. Rules are proposed on what the grips can be made from, how much engraving can be present, to whether or not a semi-auto is appropriate or whether the purist notion of a revolver should reign supreme. Others subscribe to the “the flashier the better” camp with no embellishment off limits, and of course there are a million different viewpoints between the two extremes. Actually, everybody does tend to agree on one other thing: only a leather holster will do. Frankly, the idea of using an animal hide seems downright proper considering one will likely be consuming the tastier bits of the beast at the same event. Extra respect will be given for exotic leathers. Tooling is all but standard operating procedure.
You get the idea. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so no two folks will be real keen on agreeing on the exact nature of the gun or holster, but one can certainly appreciate the formal nature of putting a gussied-up piece of iron on your hip for a special occasion. In fact, numerous manufacturers have produced their own versions of barbecue guns – Wilson Combat and Turnbull are two such companies that come immediately to mind. Many modern versions tend to lean toward a more conservative, classy, minimalist approach to their embellishments, but that’s not to say such interpretations are the final word on the subject. Maybe you’re the type of person who thinks gold plating would be essential for such a gun. Maybe you think pearl grips are what any self-respecting tycoon’s smoke wagon should wear, no matter what Old Blood and Guts has to say on the matter. Here at Rock Island Auction Company, we don’t care what you wear as long as it’s something a little more formal and YOU like it. To that end, we’re going to show off a few barbecue gun contenders that are appearing in our June 2017 Regional Firearms Auction. Take a look and see if there’s one or two that would give you a little extra strut at the next worthy summer shindig.
This is going to be a hotly contested suggestion, but it simply couldn’t be ignored. A lot of folks believe that gold plating only belongs on your guns if you’re a Middle Eastern dictator or an African warlord, but this gun is an exception to the rule. Avoiding the brightly polished finish of those infamously embellished weapons, this Colt Frontier Six Shooter has a beautiful finish more akin to golden honey, a frequently encountered ingredient of many a secret barbecue sauce. The engraving is abundant yet tasteful, and the nitre blue accented screws pop against the lighter tones. One thing about this gun that everyone can agree on is that stag grips are a beautiful and highly acceptable component of a solid barbecue gun. Personally, I think the two complement each other nicely and feel that this boldly chosen wheelgun would get plenty of approving nods from your fellow firearms enthusiasts.
In my mind, this is a classic barbecue gun. Steel is an acceptable choice, but nickel really gets the job done and this Colt proves it. The engraving, done in the style of L. D. Nimschke, demands the time to be inspected, while the 7 1/2-inch barrel on a Colt Single Action Army clearly indicates an appreciation for the watershed revolver and the gunslingers of yore. The pearl grips are the icing on the cake that are sure to glint and glimmer enough in the summer sun to attract their fair share of wandering eyeballs. For extra respect, when you carry this Colt you also carry the knowledge that it’s a black powder frame and an antique, which you are permitted to casually drop into conversation with a sense of pride. If you’re really forced to up the ante, you can also mention that the backstrap is inscribed “Texas Jack 1896.” If you prefer one without engraving, Lot 308 is another Colt SAA black powder, nickel/ivory beauty!
Colts are far from a requirement when it comes to barbecue guns, but here’s a MK IV Series 70 that more than fits the bill. It’s wearing nickel, it has stag grips, and it’s a 1911. I don’t know a single American who could complain about any of that. Even the revolver purists can see the reasoning behind the acceptability of a 1911 even if they don’t necessarily agree. Simple and well done, this is a Colt ready to accompany you to any barbecue or wedding.
Even more subtle, yet completely acceptable, is this Kimber Super Carry Custom HD. A high-performance pistol or revolver, such as those out of a custom shop, is a fine way to dress up one’s sidearm if visual garnishes are not the owner’s cup of
tea barbecue sauce, though both internal AND external modifications are encouraged. In fact, having internal work done is often a highly overlooked part of having a barbecue gun, where appearance is often given the primary consideration. Original condition is also to be commended for collectible firearms where such a quality is desirable. Thankfully, this Kimber gives a little of everything. Its condition is listed as “New” in our catalog, so it definitely has the originality and high condition for a barbecue gun. In addition to its “Custom Shop” level parts, it also has been given some visual treatment by Kimber in the form of fish scale serrations. Not only are these at the front and back of the slide, but the top of the slide as well as the front and back strap have a triangular version of the pattern, more akin to dragon scales than fish scales. This pistol is ready for a black tie event.
Some folks don’t want anything to get in the way or a mirror black finish, and for those folks guns like this Smith & Wesson new Model No. 3 Target revolver would be just perfect. Clean, black, and a little bit of glitz in the grips to show that you dressed for the occasion. Plus, the No. 3 has the bonus historical “cool factor” being good enough for the Russian Empire as well as world class exhibition shooters such as Ira Paine.
Collector friends, these are only five obvious choices in an auction filled with nearly 10,000 collector firearms. There are plenty more for you to search for in our online catalog. In your search may I humbly suggest you select “handgun” in the left hand toolbar (you may also specify “revolver” or “pistol”), enter your desired embellishment in the search bar, and then click the small box above that bar labeled “Include Description.” Now you’ve not only limited your search to handguns, but also expanded it to search beyond the headline and into the gun’s description. Good luck in your hunt! Now go search for the sidearm that will be the envy of every formal occasion or cookout this summer. Just don’t forget the Wet Naps, because the only thing everyone agrees doesn’t belong on a barbecue gun, is the sauce.