The (Almost) Perfect
Rattlesnake Gun

A Never-Ending Quest …
; .

The Pietta 1873 10-shot is a reasonably priced revolver that does the job with no fuss.

It was a moment starting me on a path I still follow today. Gerald, my future father-in-law, wanted me to join him in getting a rattlesnake. At the time, I didn’t know if he wanted to get rid of me as a suitor to his daughter or genuinely wanted assistance hunting the largest rattlesnake species in North America.

The snake’s location was a hole dug in a canal dike at a place he frequently went fishing. We didn’t have a plan, but we did have a single-shot .22 rifle and a lot of enthusiasm.

We reached the dike and I started poking a stick into the hole. Suddenly, a giant rattlesnake popped out. With Daniel Boone-like precision, Gerald killed the 52″ eastern diamondback and moved it to the tailgate of his Ford pickup.

As Gerald admired the beautiful pattern of the rattlesnake, I poked the stick in the hole again, feeling something soft. Realizing there may be more trophies, he came back down the slope to the hole. Unfortunately, the rifle was still on the tailgate when the second rattlesnake shot out of the hole and into the nearby sugar cane field.

In my quest for the perfect rattlesnake gun, I learned my first lesson — a firearm is useless laying on a tailgate 20 feet away when a rattlesnake appears.


The Ruger Mark series of semi-automatic pistols are fun for plinking
and serve the purpose when snake hunting.

Game Time

A few years later, we moved to Arizona, an area blessed with rattlesnakes. The official count is 13 species.

I armed myself with a Dan Wesson stainless steel .357 revolver that hung on my side with comforting authority. But the CCI .357 shotshells were expensive at a time when we often didn’t have two nickels to rub together.

Then one day, it hit me. We were living in a tourist destination, and nothing screamed “Wild West” like a rattlesnake belt buckle! It wasn’t long before I had to up my rattlesnake hunting game.

Stupidly, I sold the Dan Wesson and bought a Ruger 10-22 rifle. CCI .22 shot shells were cheaper than the .357 version and I could purchase more of them for my hard-earned money.

Toting the rifle around central Arizona’s mountains, deserts and canyons was anything but convenient. The shotshells didn’t have enough energy to cycle the action so it was a heavy gun needing two hands to operate. The one advantage was the longer barrel was accurate for headshots.

I better explain something. Every inch of the snake is worth a 10-dollar bill once I make it into a buckle, hatband, knife sheath or other doodads the tourists clamor for. I have to make accurate headshots. A stray shot can cost me $50 or more in losses. Luckily, the #12 shot commonly used in CCI and Winchester shotshells kills without making a huge mess.

As fate would have it, my lovely bride took a job at the Ruger plant in Prescott, Ariz. On my next birthday, she surprised me with a Ruger Mark II semi-automatic pistol! I still had the same issue with needing to cycle the action manually, but at least it could ride on my hip, leaving my hands free to use hiking poles and snake tongs.


The Uberti Cattleman 12 is Alan’s current choice of a “perfect” rattlesnake
hunting gun. It provides capacity and reliability with an Old West feel from
color case hardening, dark bluing and walnut grips.


The summer months are not productive, as the snakes are dispersed, hunting for food and finding females to mate. But, in the spring and fall, rattlesnakes head back to their dens to hibernate in security. While rattlesnakes are dangerous, they are also a fatty meal few predators give up. Rattlesnakes must find a crack, cave, or rocky talus slope to find protection.

During this period, snakes are concentrated. A den can have a dozen to hundreds of snakes. A den is what any rattlesnake hunter wants to find. Before you get worked up about depleting the resource, the hunting of rattlesnakes in Arizona is regulated, and there are bag limits just like fishing. In fact, of those 13 varieties in Arizona, four are protected and off limits, so a hunter has to be on their game and not take a protected species.


Finding the perfect rattlesnake gun means lots of fieldwork. All of these —
Ruger 10/22 (top), Ruger Mark II (middle) and a Colt .22 LR 1873 Frontier Scout
—have been “perfect” at some point!

It is a myth that each rattle segment means one year. In reality, the
rattlesnake grows a new segment each time it sheds its skin, which
can happen two to four times a year.

Choices, Choices …

Somewhere along the line, I became nostalgic. I was in the West — I should use a Colt. I have a duo-tone Colt Frontier Scout made at the height of TV westerns’ golden years. It started riding my hip as I went hunting. The problem occurred when I ran into a snake that ducked and weaved like a champion boxer. I usually expect six shots to produce six dead rattlesnakes, but not this time. The more I shot, the more I panicked it might get away. When I finally killed the snake, my gun was empty! The Colt returned to the safe, and the Ruger Mark II returned to my hip.

The Ruger has a 10-shot capacity. Surely, someone made a 10-shot .22 revolver? Ruger, Colt and Smith & Wesson offer expensive 10-shot .22 revolvers. I briefly thought about getting a Colt Diamondback (Get the connection?) but the sticker shock and the six-round capacity canceled the notion.

But, the clouds parted, and a ray of sun shined down on a .22 Caliber Pietta version of the Colt 1873. It had been offered briefly through Cabela’s, and while they are not easy to find, I finally found a used model in my price range. Serendipity! Ten shots, one-handed operation, easy to carry, Old West feel. What more could I ask? Read on.

Not long ago, I heard about the 12-shot single-action revolver USFA once offered. Unfortunately, any USFA is a collector’s item and out of my price range.

But I heard a rumor Uberti built a Cattleman-12, a 12-shot full-framed .22 revolver almost identical to the USFA model! Be still, my heart! After months of searching, I found a Cattleman 12 with a 7 ½” barrel. It’s almost perfect — perfection would be a stainless version!

The Cattleman 12 is patterned after the Colt Peacemaker and is single-action, meaning the hammer must be manually cocked before each shot. Perfect, I don’t need to pull off target with a long double-action trigger pull.

To increase safety, my revolver has a two-position cylinder pin acting as a hammer stop, and another hammer block is activated when the hammer is placed on the safety notch. Newer versions have the hidden firing pin activation rod, so the firing pin only extends when the trigger is pulled.

Unlike some of my other .22 revolvers, the Cattleman 12 hits POA, so in a pinch, I could use standard .22 Long Rifle bullets and save a little cash. Knowing my tendency to get excited while rattlesnake hunting, I’ll stick with shotshells.

As I write this, the Cattleman 12 is hard to find. Retailers such as Taylor’s and Company offer their versions. Careful searching on, Guns International and Guns America will generate offerings. As time goes by, Uberti and Taylor’s will backfill their stock, so watch their sites as well.

In the meantime, I will be putting my choice of weapon to good effect as I roam the deserts and high plains of Arizona in pursuit of a deadly quarry.

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