Flattop "Influencea"

There is only one known cure

Skeeter’s Lawrence-carved shuck and belt a friend made him cradles a special Ruger flattop.

Driving past New Mexico’s Florida Mountains, traveling over 2,000 miles by plane and hard road, I know it won’t be long. It’s far, but well worth the price of admission. The surreptitiously hidden hacienda in the New Mexico desert is the rendezvous point where we will meet.

Mother nature has been generous with her rain, as everything is green in the usually arid desert. Stories flood my mind of the Turkey Track ranch, Dobe Grant, and a young Buckaroo named Bart.

Man-Made Necessity

It’s funny how a single man has the ability to influence us to the point of needing a gun just like his. Called Gun Influencea, it’s a condition caused by the influence of others, this malady only has one sure cure — and you know what it is.

Over the years I’ve cured myself from numerous bouts by having several blued-steel antidotes locked in my safe whenever a booster shot is needed. Youngsters seem particularly prone to Gun Influencea, but I’ve seen it strike old curmudgeons just as fast.

Avoidance is the best way to steer clear of exposure from this virus, but what fun is that? The breeding-grounds for Gun Influencea appear to mutate in the pages of old gun magazines and books, as well as from fellow gun enthusiasts, especially the older ones.

If a “seasoned” gun buddy cracks open his vault and starts pulling out guns, hold your breathe — and slowly back away to prevent breathing in this airborne contagion. If not, you’ll be sucked in from the glimmer of blued steel and warm walnut, trust me!

Skeeter’s U.S. Customs (now U.S. Customs and Border Protection) photo ID.

Ruger .44 Blackhawk Flattop

This next part has the potential to expose you to a severe case of Gun Influencea and there were only a limited amount of original antidotes made, roughly 2,700. Luckily, I have one!

The gun I’m going to tell you about was a favorite of one of the most beloved gun writers ever gracing the pages of any gun magazine. In fact, he got his start with this very magazine as a young cub writer. For you savvy gun bums, you’ve already solved this caper with the clues I’ve dropped but for you younger or newer guys. I’m talking of none other than Skeeter Skelton.

His hands-down favorite hunting revolver was a Ruger single-action flattop Blackhawk, first introduced by Ruger in 1956. Chambered in .44 Magnum, it was a stoutly chambered pistol in a lightweight gun.

It had an aluminum grip-frame and came in barrel lengths of 6.5″, 7.5″ and 10.5″. The most common was the 6.5″ with 25,660 produced; 2,700 of the 7.5″ were made and lastly, 1,500 copies of the 10.5″ version were built for a total of 29,860 guns.

A Shooter For Sure!

Skeeter and his 7.5″ flattop went together like marinated goat meat and tortillas. He wrote stories of shooting deer, javelina and jackrabbits with it. Imitation being the highest form of flattery, Skeeter — having more than his fair share of admirers — caused a panic. Every now and then, a 7.5″ flattop pops up, but they are rare.

I feel lucky to have gotten one, for I had a severe case of Gun Influencea! I won’t go so far as saying it was terminal, but I wanted one bad and finally acquired it while scouring the Internet.

Tank’s remedy for Gun Influencea — a 7.5" Ruger flattop flanked by a
Barranti Leather-carved shuck with stocks by Zane Thompson of Texas.

The Virus Itself

Skelton’s Ruger 7.5″ flattop has custom walnut stocks Skeeter made himself, meticulously sanding them thin-profile and close to the grip-frame. This sixgun feels surprisingly good in your hand for having such thin stocks, showing Skeeter knew what he was talking about.

The black anodized grip-frame had worn off in spots, so Skeeter polished it bright silver, giving it a two-tone palomino look.

The action and trigger work are top rate and his son Bart believes Skeeter did all ministrations to the mighty masterpiece. While owning an original copy of a gun is enough to quash Gun Influencea, shooting the actual gun itself is the best darn way of curing yourself!


My amigo Doc Barranti and I shot it a few years back. This year, Doc brought his two boys and they had the honor of getting their inoculations, shooting this iconic piece of handgunnery history. Both boys kept the empty shells, good medicine indeed!

There was no need for Doc and I to shoot it again, as you only get one chance to shoot something for the first time. No sense being greedy, but we did handle it.
We had a great two days visiting, talking guns and soaking up the great sunsets only New Mexico has to offer. It was a perfect vaccination to prevent Gun Influencea — or perhaps start a new strain altogether. I sure hope so!

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