Since it premiered in October of 2016, HBO’s new series Westworld set its viewers’ imaginations alight with the possibilities of blending futuristic technologies with our desire to live out our fantasies, both wholesome and dark, in a nostalgic world from the past. The mind-twisting revelations from the final few episodes of the first season were enough to make viewers glad the future isn’t now.
The series revolves around the premise that in the near future, a company and some innovative programmers create a monstrous theme park called “Westworld” set in the American frontier of the late 1800s. The park is populated by “hosts” who are synthetic people playing parts that will seem familiar to gamers who have explored titles like “Red Dead Revolver.”
How Westworld Works
When the park began, they were robots that looked like people, but by the show’s main timeline, the hosts are biological and extremely lifelike, created on 3D printer-like machines. And, of course, since the world is set in the Old West, there are plenty of firearms around and gunplay is plentiful. See, the whole purpose of the park and the hosts themselves is to entertain the “guests,” who pay exorbitant sums to be completely immersed in the fake world and pretty much do anything they want with and to the hosts, up to and including gunning them down.
First, it’s important to get an idea of how the guns work in the show. The park allows hosts to shoot hosts, and for guests to shoot hosts, but if a host shoots a guest, the bullets somehow don’t hurt them. The technology hasn’t been explained yet, but the park officials can also remotely disable guns in the park if it becomes necessary.
A hallmark of any Western is a host of sixguns. As expected, there are a slew of Colt Single Action Army revolvers with various barrel lengths. One striking example is a gun that repeatedly ends up in the hands of Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood). It’s a Cavalry model SAA with a 7½-inch barrel and a dark blued finish.
But what do you do when you’ve got a bad guy and you need to give him a distinctive sidearm that stands out in a sea of SAA wheelguns? The show opted to go even older school and give The Man in Black (played by Ed Harris) an eye-catching LeMat 1861 revolver.
In reality, the LeMat was a blackpowder cap-and-ball gun only, as it’s age and design made it incompatible with later cartridge conversions. In the show, however, Ed Harris carries a customized cartridge-firing model, which isn’t technically anachronistic for the show itself, since these events take place in the future from even our world, but it certainly doesn’t fit the timeline in which the park is set. If you look closely at production stills from the show, you’ll notice that the cylinder is cut on the outside to look like a cap-and-ball gun.
The LeMat design’s most distinctive feature was a chamber for an additional 20-gauge round in the center of the cylinder. This was fired through a separate smoothbore barrel located beneath the pistol barrel. When the hammer was cocked, a button dropped the striker to a lower position, where it would fall on the shotgun shell’s primer, necessitating only one trigger. The sidearm saw service with the armed forces of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War and during the Franco-Prussian War.
The LeMat in the show retains the original’s nine-round cylinder and the 20-gauge center chamber, but while the real gun was chambered for a .42- or .36-caliber ball ammunition, the show’s pistol is chambered for .38 Short Colt rounds. In the second episode, we get a great view of Ed Harris taking the gun apart and loading it in bright sunlight, and the markings can be seen on the back of the cartridges.
Harris loads what looks to be a 20-gauge, all-brass shell in the center chamber and fires it only once over the whole season, using the buckshot to shoot through a small wall at an enemy taking cover.
It’s worth noting that the LeMat would be a difficult gun to operate in most circumstances compared to other available pistols, as it must be disassembled to reload, which is obviously slow and cumbersome, but it somewhat makes up for this with its slightly larger capacity than the typical sixgun. In the second episode, we get a brief glimpse of what appears to be an additional LeMat barrel and cylinder carried behind the holster on Harris’ gun belt, presumably for a faster reload, though he’s never seen using it. In the season finale, we see an earlier version of his gun belt with four 20-gauge cartridges stored at the small of his back.
Winchester Model 1873
As with the SAA, a Western practically demands a number of Winchester Model 1873 lever actions being worked with speed, taking advantage of their high capacity for the time.
One of the most notable on the show is a specially configured Model 1873 carried by the mostly villainous Hector Escaton (played by Rodrigo Santoro) in a scabbard on his back. The rifle has had the barrel and magazine tube shortened and the stock sawed off, leaving a wooden handle. The configuration is known as the “Mare’s Leg” and it’s purely a Hollywood invention.
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The original Mare’s Leg was created by the makers of the TV show Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958-1961) for Steve McQueen’s character. It was made by cutting down a .44-40 Winchester Model 1892 so it could fit in a drop-leg holster and be shot one-handed. McQueen also had it fitted with a duck-bill hammer and an enlarged lever loop.
Escaton uses his Mare’s Leg repeatedly during the different versions of the bandit raid on Sweetwater. Again, since the gun exists in pop culture, and is actually made today by a number of companies like Chiappa and Rossi that make them chambered in modern handgun cartridges like the .44 Magnum and the classic .45 Colt, it’s technically OK for it to exist in the park, though it’s out of place for the setting. Which isn’t to say someone in the Old West couldn’t have had the same idea and had a gunsmith cut down his or her rifle.
Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) also uses a full-sized Model 1873 during the raid on Sweetwater, though hers is a bit more battered than the Mare’s Leg or Teddy’s rifle, which he uses a number of times as well through the first season. Berdal gets to fire a bunch of guns during the town raid, including a 10-gauge, lever-action Winchester Model 1887 shotgun and, at another point in the raid, a Winchester Model 1897 pump-action shotgun, which seems a bit anachronistic for the time, but again, the man who ran the park, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) didn’t seem to care about that.
Teddy Flood (James Marsden) has died perhaps more times on screen than any other Westworld character. He also gets to play with a range of weapons, including the aforementioned Model 1873 rifle and his constant sidearm, a 5½-inch-barreled Artillery model SAA. During one scene, as he and The Man in Black infiltrate an Army camp disguised as soldiers, Teddy mans an 1865 Gatling gun mounted on a cart to mow down almost every soldier. The scene shows that the usually gallant Mr. Flood does indeed have a darker side.
But for all this, there are some “modern” firearms in the show. The park officials are, of course, operating in the present day of the show, which is slightly in the future. The go-to sidearm of the park’s security team is the Beretta Px4 pistol, and the head of the team, Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), carries his in a cross-draw appendix holster. On the occasions he has unholstered the small pistol, we can see that the barrel is colored red, so it’s obvious which guns are “park guns” and which ones are lethal, real-world firearms.
Another Beretta makes an appearance in one episode from the first season in the hands of Clementine Pennyfeather (Angela Sarafyan), the U22 Neos, a semi-auto .22 LR target pistol that was clearly chosen for the show because of its futuristic appearance.
For more firepower, the park’s security squad is equipped with the select-fire FN P90 TR, which is first shown in the first episode. They’re all fitted with accessory rails holding weapon lights, and they all feature red paintjobs that presumably serve the same purpose as the as the red barrels on the handguns—to designate them as real lethal firearms.
Audiences can only speculate as to where this show will go or what can be expected for the second season after the many revelations at the end of the first, but one thing is for sure: There’s going to be plenty more gunplay in the future of Westworld.
This article was originally published in “Guns of the Old West” Summer 2017. To order a copy, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.