I officially have two guns that were made in Western Germany, and both wear the Sauer name. My SIG Sauer P220 was the first, which I adore. Now I have a JP Sauer and Sohn revolver. Specifically, a .22LR wheel gun known as the Western Marshal. This Colt SAA replica was imported by Hawes Firearms Company of Los Angeles and I acquired it through my local gun store.
My local gun store is doing a remodel and reorganizing, and along the way the owner, who’s a personal friend, is finding a variety of bizarre guns he’s acquired over time. Florida had a weird quirk in its gun control laws that allows you to bypass the three-day waiting period for a handgun by trading in another handgun. As a result, he’s has a number of bizarre guns people have traded in — many of them broken — to avoid the waiting period. One was the Western Marshal revolver we have here.
The Short and Sweet History of the Western Marshal
JP Sauer & Sohn began producing these revolvers in the mid-60s, from what my research can find. After Ruger created the Single-Six, the six-gun market took off alongside the crazy rise in western films at the time. Well, that inspired several gunmakers overseas to import much more affordable six-gun replicas including Rohm, and JP Sauer.
Their cheap nature and rather reliable design ensured they were affordable to all. Since gun control is both racist and classist, the 1968 Gun Control Act was born, and inexpensive handguns were banned from import, and the sporting purpose clause was introduced. This banned a number of inexpensive handguns from importation. The Western Marshal was likely part of that ban.
I’m not an expert on the GCA or the points system it uses to classify handguns, but from what I’ve researched, it seems like the Western Marshal doesn’t get many. It’s a pot metal frame, has non-adjustable sights, falls into the 22LR category. However, it does have a long overall length of 11.5 inches, and it is quite heavy. At two pounds and six ounces, it’s a little heavier than the Rough Riders with a 6.5-inch barrel even though it’s only got a 5.5-inch barrel.
JP Sauer produced the gun in a variety of calibers, including .45 Colt and .44 Magnum. These were apparently imported until 1980. I can’t find any information if the GCA affected the .22LR variant. If you look at the point system, the caliber and lack of adjustable sights don’t add many points to the gun’s import factor.
The Cool Factor
The cool factor of this gun comes from the fact that’s it is a 1:1 replica of a Colt SAA…or very close to it. It’s larger and heavier than the current .22 LR ‘reproductions’ from companies like Ruger and Heritage. It feels like a ‘real’ gun, for lack of a better term.
The Western Marshal is huge and heavy. Everything from the thick barrel profile to the massive cylinder make the Western Marshal a substantial, solidly-built handgun.
In other words, the Western Marshal a product of its time. It lacks a transfer bar, but has a frame-mounted firing pin (OK, so it’s not an exact replica of the Colt SAA). However, the size and weight make it feel like a very capable weapon, just one that’s chambered in .22LR.
The Western Marshal came with a variety of different grips, but mine has a set of hand-carved grips. I’m guessing the original owner of this revolver lost or broke the original grips. They then carved their own, and I’m not judging. I couldn’t carve grips as nice, although these are rather rough.
The Western Marshal was a budget-friendly handgun then and they still are, when you can find one. They don’t have much collector’s value, and the demand for them is low. I’m not losing out on any real value with my lack of original grips. Actually, I think the hand-carved grips add a little panache to the gun and give it a story.
Zamak seems to be the material of choice to build the majority of the gun (hence the relatively low value). Zamak is a cheap mix of zinc, aluminum, magnesium, and kupfe(copper). It’s what most of us call “pot metal.” The barrel is thick and seems to be zamak around a steel barrel insert.
How It Handles
The Western Marshal delivers fun at the range. I can see why guns like this were popular. It’s a .22LR cowboy gun, and it’s tough for a revolver like this to not be a fun little shooter (see affordable current models like the Heritage Rough Rider and Ruger Wrangler). All that extra weight makes the Western Marshal feel much more capable than it is and delivers almost no recoil or muzzle rise. It barely moves when it goes bang.
The fixed front sight and rear trench sight are just what you’d expect from the gun. It’s accurate enough to hit a 4-inch gong at 25 yards. Not too bad, and at close range, I feel plenty confident in popping snakes and squirrels with the Western Marshal.
Does it make me feel like a cowboy? Darn tootin. Something about the series of clicks you hear as you pull the hammer to the rear is something that will always delight me. The short trigger pull is so utterly smooth, and the gun’s design forces me to cast aside modern shooting styles. I like to blade myself to the target and shoot with one hand.
If you gave me another of these guns, you know I would be a two gun man….at least at the range. The Western Marshal and guns like it are just a ton of fun. That’s where they excel, and since most of my shooting is done for fun, that’s just fine with me.
The Western Marshal is surprisingly ammo picky…not in terms of reliability, but in terms of fit. Copper-covered rounds don’t squeeze into the cylinder. The projectile seems too wide to allow it to smoothly slip in. Standard lead projectiles fit the cylinder fine. I might be able to force once in there, but why? It seems like I’d be asking for trouble.
There were a number of soft hammer strikes that failed to ignite the round on the first go around. However, rarely did the rounds make it past the second pull before they went bang. Is this an inherent flaw?
Are rimfire rounds a little harder these days? Is this gun just old? Well, who knows If it was a defensive pistol, I’d have problems with that. For me, though, this is just a fun little .22LR cowboy cannon.
The JP Sauer Western Marshal is just plain cool. Its size and weight make it feel like a ‘real’ gun. For a cheap pot metal revolver, it’s very smooth and seemingly well-made. While it might not have much monetary value, it’s made me smile at the range, and that’s certainly worth the price.