NWMP Headgear

A place for discussion of mounted services uniforms, headgear, footwear and related personal equipment of the horse soldier.
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NWMP Headgear

Post by G.KUSH.UE » Mon Jan 06, 2003 12:06 pm

The serial number range for the S&W Russian starts at approx. 21400. An initial order of 30 revolvers were purchased from a New York jobber, M.W. Robinson & Co. and shipped to Fort Benton, Montana Territory. A further lot were purchased through I.G. Baker & Co. of Fort Benton. As far as I know, and I've only seen two authentic examples, they are not stamped. I have more history on them and how they were distributed, but that's neither here nor there.

I should have mentioned that the Frontier was replaced about mid-way through the South African war with the Colt New Service. So you have a change-over that's difficult to chart. Basically the Stratchcona's and the First Contingent used the Frontier.

Another point. The NWMP purchased quite a supply of .38 calibre S&W revolvers in both hammer and hammerless models from about 1888 onward. They were very well liked. Any good S&W revolver is an excellent choice, but then agaoin, you're stuck with that DA business.

It seems to me, and this is just my opinion, that DA weapons were a very popular choice in Canadian service. SA's just weren't as popular for some reason. Maybe it's British thing. I don't know.

I don't have a small NWMP S&W revolver here, and the reference texts aren't clear, but would these early weapons be chambered for .38 Long CF?

George

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Post by John Lindly » Tue Jan 07, 2003 7:28 pm

George,

I'd like to know more about the S&W Russians used by the NWMP - can you give me a reference or two? Also, you are right about the S&W pocket revolvers - they were as good they got in this type of weapon. I've owned three, but don't have any right now. These can be had in both 32 S&W short and long and 38 S&W - the 32 is just plain pitiful and the 38 is not exactly a powerhouse load either, so other than the low recoil, I can't see the attraction for men who need to defend themselves and those around them. The double action is a problem, but S&Ws were pretty smooth - not as smooth as say the Webley WG (the finest DA pull there ever was, IMHO)- but not bad for a "cheap" handgun.

John

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Post by G.KUSH.UE » Wed Jan 08, 2003 3:28 pm

John,

The best reference I can give you without digging through my own files is Arms & Accoutrements of the Mounted Police, 1873-1973, by Roger F. Phillips and Donald J. Klancher. It was published by Museum Restoration Service, Bloomfield, Ontario, K0K 1G0 in 1982. It's 212 pages, fully illustrated and may still be avaliable from the publisher for about $50. Cdn. It's now somewhat out-dated but I'm sure you'll find all you need, and then some in there. Including S&W Russian data. It also contains lists of serial numbers of weapons issued from 1873 to 1973.

As for the lack of power with the .38 S&W. That wasn't really an issue with the Mounted Police. What they wanted was something reliable and to some extent easy to carry - and conceal. Today most police forces use heavier calibre weapons, but there was a time when the .38 was considered all the gun necessary.

Keep in mind that the Mounted Police weren't out to fight a war, just enforce the law.

Funny thing about guns. I used to do quite a bit of historic NWMP interpretation, at schools and such. I was also heavily involved with the RCMP March West project in 1999. I discovered that whenever I wore a sidearm that was the first thing that attracted people's attention, especially the children. They always wanted to know all about the gun and the bullets. They wanted to see it and even touch it. I felt this interest detracted from the real issues at hand, so I stopped wearing it. After that, when people asked me why I wasn't toting a gun I told them the truth, that a weapon is always the tool of last resort, and that a good police officer doesn't need to carry a gun to enforce the law. That answer always seemed to satisfy them and we went on to discuss more important matters, like who in G___'s name thought of the pill-box cap as a practical piece of headgear.

George

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Post by John Lindly » Thu Jan 09, 2003 8:57 am

George,

Thanks for the book rec., I'll try to find one. I've got the guys and gals on the Smith & Wesson Collectors Association Forum thinking about the russians now. Most of them had never heard of the NWMP order either.

As far as guns and kids, I think it's the influence of tv and movies, where a kid sees the LEO use his or her gun a lot. They don't realize that this isn't an everyday occurrence.

John

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Post by Light Dragoon » Sat Jan 11, 2003 5:53 pm

George; The 1878 Colt Double Action Army/Frontier Model is a GREAT gun! I have had a couple of them, both in .45 Long Colt. One was the 4&3/4" length barrel, the other was 7&1/2". I wish I still had them! I prefer the SAA, or the New Service, but the '78's are fine weapons, to be sure. Darned near all of the big-frame Colts of the era are wonderful examples of ergonomic engineering and astheticly pleasing lines. I guess I'm a bit prejudiced however.

I guess the reason that the SASSholes (sorry, just the term we use in these parts, nothing really against SASS... just some of the gamesmen who populate it) don't allow the early double actions is that they just want to only use single actions. Most of the founders were burn-outs from the PPC shoots of the early '80's, and were just looking for something fun, and a way to shoot their Single Actions in a fun sport, without the pressure. Unfortunately there are always gamesmen who follow... thus the .38 Spl enthusiasts, or the jokers who use super-light loads in the bigger bores. I for one always use a LEAST a 30 grain charge in the .45, better yet the full-boat 40 grains of compressed fffg! THAT always gets folks attention! Get's the attention of the palm of your hand, too.

"Eeew! Yucky Black Powder! It might rust my gun, just from the smoke from YOURS! EEEW!"

We all have our special hot buttons, I guess.

Gordon

"After God, we owe our Victory to our Horses"

Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada, 1543

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Post by G.KUSH.UE » Tue Jan 14, 2003 12:35 am

John:

I have a couple of questions. If they're not too personal. Why did you chose the NW Mounted Police? And why have you picked that particular period in the Force's history? Nothing much was really going on in the mid-1890's. The Rebellion was history & Klondike Gold Rush was still a few years off.

And where are you going to get all of the items to complete your kit, buttons, badges, insignia, etc? The only fellow I know who had repros made passed away a few years back. Won't you need some of the items I've mentioned?

I certainly commend you on your determination, but it's going to be a formidable task.

If you want to reply privately, you're free to do so. I'm always willing to lend a hand.

Just curious,

George

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Post by G.KUSH.UE » Tue Jan 14, 2003 12:50 am

Gordon,

I agree, the Frontier is a nice piece of hardware, and you can still find them for a decent price.

Apparently it was quite a hit in South Africa and the boys had a hard time holding on to them. They were a prime target for theft.

I don't know much about the SASS. There's a small group shooters in Medicine Hat and another over in B.C., but the sports not popular here. It may be growing, but not from what I see here. There may also be a group in Calgary, but I think they just do fast draw stuff.

It's all so difficult now. There was a time when you could get a blanket permit and do a wee bit of exhibition shooting. We used to shoot baloons at a charge and also going over jumps. And do it all in public. The times they are a changing.

Cheers,

George

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Post by John Lindly » Thu Jan 16, 2003 3:34 pm

George,

No concrete reason, accept that it has to be pre-1898 (SASS rules), and I don't like the earlier "uniform" at least the pillbox hat or pith helmet part of the dress uniform - before this topic and all the great answers, I thought there was a definite uniform for the NWMP and I wanted to wear the traditional mountie hat, but now I'm not sure. As far as all the accoutrements, it is very difficult but if I go with an "in the field" mountie, I won't have to worry too much about badges and buttons. I do have a contact in Canada who is trying to find info. on someone who reproduces the red serge tunics - I don't know what kind of buttons she uses. He also said something about a badge and feather for a side-pinned hat. Still waiting on that info. I received the Arms and Accoutrements book and it is helpful. All in all, it will be a long process to get it as right as I can. I appreciate your offer to help and I'm sure I will be contacting you periodically.

John

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Post by Light Dragoon » Thu Jan 16, 2003 6:28 pm

John, I don't think you could do better than to copy the outfit in the last photograph posted by George, what with a good "Smasher" hat, the blue breeches/trousers, boots and a good Athabaskan Buckskin jacket for your SASS impression. If the other fellows can't figure out what the heck you represent, then you shall have a wonderful chance to illuminate them on the Wild West of the North, which so many of our fellow Surenos remain completely ignorant of.

For arms, the '73 Rifle (as per George's "hero" Jerry Potts), and the S&W Russian, along with a good English Double Shotgun, and you are ready to go!

Good Luck!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our Victory to our Horses"

Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada, 1543

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Post by John Lindly » Thu Jan 16, 2003 7:27 pm

Gordon,

I agree, great photo. Where does George find these? As far as weapons, I am the proud owner of an original NWMP 1876 Winchester carbine for show and I'm still thinking about how to make a 1873 look-a-like for matches. I also own a S&W russian and several new model 3s and a Belgian DB shotgun. It's the outfit now that needs my immediate attention.

John

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Post by Light Dragoon » Thu Jan 16, 2003 7:42 pm

Wow, a real NWMP '76! Way Cool! It shouldn't be TOO difficult to fit a fore-stock to a '73 carbine to give it the right "look", and it would really be a nifty addition to the outfit!

Per the clothing, indeed, I see your point. On occasion there are some decent Canadian "First Peoples" made jackets available in some of the nice "Trade Stores" in Victoria and Vancouver, BC., so you might check out the net for some of the phone numbers, perhaps it will net you a cool now item! From time to time the Mountain Man crowd comes upn with that sort of thing as well, and they come available to some of the retailers... again, you might get luck. Of course the ultimate is to have someone make you one from brain-tan, to do it right. If you want a couple of sourses in that area, send me an email.

Gordon

"After God, we owe our Victory to our Horses"

Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada, 1543

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Post by G.KUSH.UE » Fri Jan 17, 2003 1:28 pm

John,

Please don't scare me. Someone who makes tunics & a feather in a side-pinned cap. And a badge!

As Gordon says, "you can't do better than copy the last photograph" I posted. And that was the way they actually looked in the field. For a hat, a nice "Boss of the Plains" style Stetson, and for a jacket, something buckskin. Brain-tanned with some porcupine quill work or beading would be perfect.

Also, check out the photograph #30 on page #17 of Arms & Accoutrements and you'll have another good image. Hovever, keep in mind that the two men in the back row are wearing brown canvas stable jackets. And the men are actually members of the NWMP and NOT NWMP scouts.

As for the photographs. I've been collecting them, and other items for decades.

On the repro front, I wish I could be of some help but I don't know of anyone who makes historically accurate NWMP uniforms. The outfits I've seen are pure crap, but most people don't realize it. If I were you, I'd stay away from the uniform look. The only person I knew who could supply buttons, etc., passed away about two or three years ago. He was a corporal in the RCMP and had a nice little cottage industry.

Genuine "Queen's Crown" NWMP bison head buttons (c1882-1901)are getting harder to find and the price has risen steadily over the years. You can expect to pay $25. or more for each button. The first issue buttons (1874-1882), with just the Queen's Crown are even harder to find and will set you back, at the very least, $100. per button. The first issue buttons are like gold, and I've only ever seen one coat-sized 1" button.

However, Canadian Queen's Crown "militia" buttons were used by the NWMP during the early years and you can still pick them up for a fair price, about $3. each. I saw some on e-bay about a week ago and they'd be perfect for your outfit. There were about a half dozen and they went for about $25. Not a bad deal.

George

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Post by John Lindly » Sat Jan 18, 2003 5:36 pm

George,

You and Gordon have convinced me to concentrate my efforts on a "field mountie" outfit. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this would be a Boss of the Plains" hat, buckskin shirt/jacket, some kind of under shirt, kerchief, blue pants with yellow stripe, over the pants pull-on brown boots (but no lace up, Strathcona types) with appropriate small-rowl spurs, cartridge belt with flap holster and lanyard (or no?), possibly a bandolier, and appropriate carbine. If there is anything else anyone can think of, then please let me know.

I've got some of this and will be searching for the rest. Thanks for the advice - this should be fun!

John

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Post by Pat Holscher » Sat Jan 18, 2003 7:28 pm

By the way, George was the author of a very interesting article on a 7th Cavalry horse which came into the possession of a NWMP trooper which appeared in The Western Horseman a year or two ago. That article included a photograph of a NWMP trooper with a buckskin jacket. George can, and should, correct me if I'm wrong but I recall that photo as being a studio photograph, and the mountie was carrying his sabre.

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Post by G.KUSH.UE » Mon Jan 20, 2003 1:57 pm

John,

Here's what you need: A good "Boss of the Plains;" a fringed buckskin jacket; a wild rag; dark-blue riding breeches with a red or yellow stripe (it depands on the period you want); black or brown English--style riding boots (again, it depends on the period); buckskin gauntlets; British/Canadian cavalry spurs; a home-made thimble-belt(waistbelt) with covered holster (worn on the left side with butt forward); a colourful frontier shirt (a red Garibaldi-style shirt with black tie would be good for the 1870's). Absolutely NO lanyard if you're doing the 1870's or early 1880's. If you do decide on a lanyard for the later look, it MUST be brown, not white. If you used the photo I posted you'll do just fine. And don't bother with the bandolier. They look cute but they weren't used in the early years. Your riding breeches should be worn as tightly as possible and you can substitute light tan as a colour.

I get a real laugh out of MP reenactors that wear loose-fitting uniforms. The REAL Mounties actually wore their uniforms as form-fitting as possible & they custom-tailored their outfits to give that appearance. The VERY British when it came to their dress.

If you get a buckskin jacket made up, make sure it has plenty of fringe and elaborate bead-work would be great. Also, make sure the jacket has NO collar and has ties in front instead of buttons.

Even better than a jacket would be a fringed pullover buckskin shirt. Wear it over a heavy wool shirt and tuck them both into the waist-band of your breeches. NO SUSPENDERS.

If you can get brain-tanned buckskin, that would be excellent. Brain-tanned & smoked would be even better as the smoking process water-proofs the buckskin, and that's what they wanted.

If you're on horseback, make sure that your carbine is carried in front of the saddle horn, cross-wise, in a sling-carrier and not in a saddle scabbard. Saddle cabbards were simply not used on the Northern plains prior to 1890. You'll see a picture of one on page 150 of Arms & Accoutrements.

This is just a suggestion, but if you select an actual period of MP history to portray, you'll find it a lot easier to kit up.

George

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Post by John Lindly » Wed Jan 22, 2003 9:24 pm

George,

Thanks for the information. In terms of selecting a period, I guess the time of the Rebellion of 1885 would be my first choice. My concern is that the outfit be as realistic as possible, but also comfortable. There's nothing more miserable than being at a match in uncomfortable attire. Most go all day long. At least now, thanks to your posts, I have something to go on.

John

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Post by G.KUSH.UE » Wed Jan 22, 2003 10:23 pm

John:

Here's what I would recommend: The Last War Drum. The North-West Campaign of 1885. Desmond Morton, Hakkert, Toronto, 1972; Prairie Fire. The 1885 North-West Rebellion. Bob Beal & Rod Macleod, Hurtig Press, Edmonton, 1984; The Battle of Batoche. British Small Warfare and the Entrenched Metis. Walter Hildebrandt, Canada Park Service, Winnipeg, 1983.

Hildebrandt's softcover book is simply the best book on the Rebellion ever written and published, to date. Even though it deals with just one small battle it is a must. I once had about 30 copies but unfortunately I've given them all away. But, it still should be available from Parks Canada at a reasonable price.

And you should definately acquire a copy of Red Coats on the Prairies. The North-West Mounted Police 1886-1900. William Beahen and Stan Horrall, Centax Books, Regina, 1998. ($59.95 Cdn.) This book is 350 pages and is still in print. It really is a MUST if you want to understand the role of the NWMP during the last part of the 19th century.

These four books will give you a good handle on the NWMP and the Rebellion itself. These books also contain plenty of photographs.

George

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Post by John Lindly » Thu Jan 23, 2003 9:23 am

George,

Thank you!

John

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Post by Light Dragoon » Thu Jan 23, 2003 4:07 pm

John, there is no way that anyone could do better than follow George's suggestions to the letter. He knows whereof he speaks! Good stuff, George.

BTW, I always enjoy pointing out to folks that the Mountie saddles were "California Style", and the rifle loop on the horn was refered to as a "Californa Loop". Hehehe...proof that all good things Cowboy came originally from California!

Now to go find that helmet and body armour before the Texans read this...

Gordon

"After God, we owe our Victory to our Horses"

Gonsalo Jimenez de Quesada, 1543

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Post by Rob C » Fri Feb 07, 2003 3:46 am

Hello,
I'm really enjoying reading the topics in this forum.
I ran across this outfitter on the internet. I don't know how accurate their product is, but it might be worth a look if you were still interested in a red serge. Maybe someone in the forum has dealt with them before?

http://www.sutlers.co.uk/acatalog/THE_S ... 01_73.html

It's about 1/4 way down the page

Rob

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