• Red Nichols, Holstorian

The silvered badges of courage

Updated: Nov 19

More badge images have collected in my research than one would expect when considering I am only looking for gunleather. Some are self-explanatory, some will need a bit.

Let's start with Frank Hamer's, who was both a Texas Ranger and a Treasury agent; and remembered primarily for killing Bonnie & Clyde. His wallet I.D. is included because the two were necessary companions and a Treasury agent's name was not ever on the badge itself; but rather on the wallet I.D. (makes more sense that I mention this when you reach Tom Threepersons' badges that follow):

Equally famous Texas Ranger John R. Hughes had the same gold Captain's badge that Hamer had:

And the following image is of the various badges attributed by the Texas Rangers Museum at Waco as being genuine (lotsa 'replicas'/fakes out there). My references indicate that the Rangers did not wear badges at all in the 19th century and thereafter generally did not wear them where they could be seen until modern times. 'Stealth' LEOs. These same sources remind us that the Texas Rangers were a sort of State-funded police force with the mission of protecting King Ranch cattle. At times there were only 20 Rangers! In four companies.

Tom Threepersons, who was an El Paso policeman (three times!), a U.S. Customs inspector, a Prohibition Agent, and an El Paso Sheriff's deputy. None of the badges shown below were actually Tom's issue badges, including the two with his names on them. His Treasury badge is recorded as returned at the end of 1922 along with his wallet I.D. and one can see how the Prohibition badge attributed to him (now at The Autry Museum) instead is an 'homage' made by someone who mistakenly thought these were made from Mexican coins (as the silver Ranger badges really were) but otherwise appears quite like someone's recollection of the badge of a Prohibition Agent (not 'Officer' as on that badge!); compare it with Hamer's to see the striking similarity.

Oh what the heck; Tom Threepersons guns, too:

His 1905 Colt SA is unmolested and at The Autry. The grips are factory post-1911 medallion-equipped pearl. The barrel length is original but plating and the sight are not; it's a McGivern sight from a later period.

His 1909 Colt SA (below) is heavily used-and-abused with it originally being blue like his 1905 Colt. He has scratched his name into the backstrap, the front sight filed smaller and lower, the topstrap notched with a file to accentuate the rear sight picture, and the front strap checkered crudely with that same file; all of this after it was plated nickel from blue. It was this checking that led to the legend that Tom's revolver was notched for the men he had killed; he himself denied it and instead the notches are in the grips from the filing of the metal grip frame:

Tom's Smith & Wesson .44 Special, it's owner tells me, is as-new inside and still shoots well. It's a First Model Triple Lock with 6-1/2" barrel with lots of holster wear on same:

And finally, one of the two Winchester M94s attributed to Tom Threepersons. The article is a 1988 American Rifleman piece about today's modern El Paso Saddlery. None of the legend of Tom told there is true, but rather came from dime novelist Eugene Cunningham with an assist from Tom's second wife Lorene Threepersons; selling these appealing but false stories to newspapers was how the three of them made their livings:

Tom's holster has been in my personal collection since 2016 and it reveals the secret of the design: twin, very thick leather welts that grip the frame of the SAA so that a strap will not be necessary. In fact he had to add a hammer thong to it (notice the holes for that and more for securing it to his gunbelt). The leg thong is original.


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