Two Of A Kind

Custom Vaqueros To Commemorate A Friendship

Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. August McCray and W.F. Call. Frank Hamer and Manny Gault. Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. Bacon and Eggs. They all have something in common — they’re famous duos, a yin and yang of personality and temperament greater in sum than the individual parts. I’ll also have the temerity to add my friend Ken alongside Your Faithful Servant to this category, though we tend more toward the Fred and Barney end of the spectrum than Wyatt and Doc.

They’re pretty enough to be “safe queens” but this pair of consecutive-serial-number
.45 Colt Ruger Vaqueros, customized by Tyler Gun Works, are working guns dedicated
to commemorating a singular friendship.


Ken Campbell is the CEO of famed Gunsite Academy in Arizona. Brent T. Wheat is the threadbare editor of this otherwise-distinguished magazine. However, before either of us achieved a modicum of notoriety in the firearm industry, we were both “baby cops” working side-by-side for decades back in Indiana.

Through those years, we’ve shared countless eight-hour shifts while he was a sheriff’s deputy (later Sheriff) and I a city cop in concurrent jurisdictions. We helped form the SWAT Team, been in innumerable car chases, literally fought side-by-side in bars and on the street, had guns pointed at us and more frequently, pointed guns at other people. I’ve allegedly given one of his sons life-changing — and very bad — advice, he knows the combination to my gun safe and together we’ve killed more bottles of Kentucky Holy Water and maduro cigars than we’d care to admit to our healthcare providers. It’s been a good life and a special friendship.

In fact, we consider each other “best friends,” though such labels seem a little trite when you reach a certain age. Regardless, we can generally finish the other’s sentences.

Special guns deserve special leather and both guns ride in custom Gunsite-theme
rigs from Simply Rugged Holsters, just a stone’s throw from the famous shooting school.

It’s Time

Thus, two years ago, it seemed past due to commemorate this alliance with something tangible. As we’re both “gun guys,” something made of blued steel — perhaps romantically Old West related — seemed the only logical candidate. The answer came one day as I scanned an online gun auction website.

“For sale: two consecutive-serial-numbered .45 Colt Ruger New Vaqueros, never fired, purchased for a Halloween costume,” the listing read. Are you kidding me? Who does such a thing? Regardless, and somewhat skeptical, I made an offer. I won with a low-end bid.

The guns arrived and were exactly as described. I couldn’t believe my luck and felt like it was the proverbial “meant to be.” When I finally showed Ken the pair after our annual Christmas squirrel hunt, he loved them. When I explained one of them actually belonged to him, he was deeply touched — exactly as I expected.

My hope for these guns was they be roughly used so when we were someday sitting on the porch of the old folks’ home, we could make up lies about the time we carried the sixguns to storm the heights of Chapultepec and shot charging lions in the Veldt. It’s unlikely we’ll do either but we will need something to fill our time between rocking and waiting for the 4 p.m. ration of ardent spirits.

Each revolver has the owner’s initials, the year and takes
note of the fact they’re a matched set.

A meaningful quote from the movie Tombstone adorns the backstrap.

The Plan

After a few days of cogitation, Ken came up with a great idea: Let’s make the guns even more special with some touches of customization. He even knew who should do the work — Bobby Tyler of Tyler Gun Works in the Texas Panhandle. I immediately concurred.

Bobby, a salt-of-the-earth Texan straight out of central casting, loved the concept and the story. He made several additional suggestions, discussed terms and we were off to the races.

In keeping with the idea of having field guns rather than “safe queens,” Bobby suggested several performance enhancements along with a few exterior embellishments to make the pair unique and special. The wait was intolerable, though only a few months, and the results were even better than we expected.

The Gunsite Academy raven oversees matters on the recoil shield.

Finished Product

Tyler Gun Works is noted for their action jobs and the Vaqueros are a living, shooting example. The revolvers received Tyler’s Revolver Accuracy Package and results were stunning. Twenty-five yard groups smaller than 2″ — even in my middling hands — are the order. The trigger feels like 2-1/2 lbs. of quicksilver and the overall mechanical operation is smoother than a vintage Mosler bank vault. I can attest why Bobby and Company’s gunsmithing is rightly famous.

The bluing was removed and Tyler applied his renowned color case hardening treatment to the frames and hammers. The cylinder, barrel and grip were given a deep midnight hot blue and the engraving process started. A pair of real stag grips complemented the work.

A tasteful amount of flourish and scrollwork was engraved, then custom work added. On the recoil shield a raven — the icon of Gunsite — watches over things, then our initials, the year and “1 of 2” and “2 of 2” added to the backstrap. As males love to pass a broadsword through a buddy’s ribs whenever possible, I take every opportunity to remind Ken my gun is number one.

A final touch on the backstrap are the words “I don’t.” This is Ken’s favorite quote and comes from the movie Tombstone in the scene where Doc Holliday and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson are discussing the reasons the men are assisting Wyatt Earp in his vendetta ride. Doc Holliday simply explains, “Because Wyatt is my friend,” to which Johnson replies, “Hell, I’ve got lots of friends.”

Doc definitively concludes the matter by saying, “I don’t.”

Those words are now immortalized in tangible form to commemorate an extraordinary friendship with a singular pair of firearms.

Subscribe To GUNS Magazine

Purchase A PDF Download Of The GUNS Magazine July 2022 Issue Now!


Taylor & Company...

When I first saw the Taylor’s & Company’s snub-nosed, cap & ball 1858 Remington with a conversion cylinder to shoot .45 Colt, it instantly struck me as...
Read Full Article
Black Powder Sixguns

Looking for the best load for percussion sixguns is not all that different from cartridge-firing sixguns in the endless possibility of choices
Read Full Article
Ruger BirdShead...

The .22 LR Ruger Wrangler has been around a couple of years now and is a favorite among all kinds of shooters.
Read Full Article