Firearms of the Texas Rangers, by Doug Dukes, University of North Texas Press, Denton, 2020, $45
The lore of the Texas Rangers over the past two centuries has been both collective and individual, with about as many books written about the characters who contributed to the organization’s evolving form and reputation as have been written on the institution itself. Considering the Rangers’ original purpose—to guard the Western frontier against depredations by Indians, Mexican bandits and lawless Anglos—and the long transition from “weapons of choice” to standardization, the Rangers’ firearms often were and continue to be as individualistic as the persons with whom each was associated. Given that fact and the rather comprehensive collection of historic weapons preserved by the organization, Doug Dukes’ hefty volume, Firearms of the Texas Rangers, not only seems inevitable, but also might leave Old West aficionados wondering why it took so long.
In essence, Dukes recounts the origins, notable personnel and development of the Rangers by tracing the weapons that accompanied them from formation to the present. More than 180 photographs illustrate the point. The first firearms mentioned, in association with Stephen Austin’s 1823 call to arms, are a mixed bag of flintlock and percussion firearms in use at the time. The first of those tied to specific individuals is a caplock rifle converted from a flintlock that was used both by Samuel Johnson during the 1836 Texas Revolution and in 1841 with Captain James Bourland’s Texas Ranger company. From there on Dukes relates the history behind specific weapons, such as a cut-down Colt single-action revolver packed by the incongruously named Baz Outlaw, an engraved Remington Model 8 semiautomatic rifle presented to Frank Hamer and a Colt Combat Commander semiautomatic pistol presented to John W. Dendy for his rescue of kidnap victim Amy McNeil in 1985. Aficionados of the Texas Rangers will find this specialized volume a welcome supplement.
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