My heroes have always been cowboys, so growing up in Montana I became interested in the history of the “real” old west at a very young age. By the time I was twelve years old, I had already put together a rather impressive collection of old guns and cowboy gear, much to the delight of my parents. I was never discouraged, but rather encouraged by my folks to seek out our history and the many interesting items associated with that period. As I got older, the collection grew and by the time I was out of high school, I had gathered around four hundred items which included many old guns, mostly Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles. In addition to the firearms, I had put together a pretty nice collection of antique cowboy gear. Several of these pieces were marked with saddle makers names such as F. A. Meanea and E. L. Gallatin, Main & Winchester, the Moran Brothers and several others. Because my interest was primarily within the 1849 to 1900 era, I specialized almost exclusively in pieces from that period. I also became extremely interested in the saddle makers who had actually made some of the pieces in my collection and the techniques used to produce them. Very little historical information had been published about their leather shops, so I started gathering that information on my own. It was actually quite easy to do once I found out where to look and how to do the research.
The years passed and my passion grew as I studied more about the Old West. I became increasingly interested in the techniques and materials used by the leather workers in making gear they sold to the range riders of the 1870’s. With this information, I began doing a small amount of restoration work on some of the items I had collected; starting out slowly and learning as I went along. Every piece was different, which made each project very challenging and in time I became very good at what I was doing. Before long, I was restoring old cowboy gear for a few dealers and museums, as well as some of the largest private collections in the country. Along with the restoration, I had begun copying some of the old original gear from my own collection and those reproductions were selling as fast as I could make them. In 1978, I finally opened my shop, “Old West Reproductions”, and printed my first catalog. All of this took place long before anyone had thought about a sport they would later call Cowboy Action Shooting.
Getting the business up and running was a careful process. Finding the right leather was the most important step to ensuring that I would produce a quality product for my customers. I purchasing saddle skirting from several sources around the country and after much trial and error, I chose Hermann Oak, in St. Louis. They have always been willing to listen to my ideas on what kind of leather I needed to duplicate the leather of 140 years ago. At my request, they do several special things to my skirting material that make it unique to the products I offer. Because of the extra time spent on my leather, it’s easy to see the difference in the finished product.
As the business grew, so did my ability to create beautiful leather gear. My attention to detail and finish work is unsurpassed. These products are assembled using authentic techniques; the patterns for my gear are taken from original vintage pieces I own or have owned in the past. The period-correct tooling designs are all done by hand, with tooling stamps I have made myself. All stitching is close-set, neat, and secure. I do not use any nylon thread, edge paint or alcohol-based dyes. Edges are all hand-burnished and my leather is darkened with a formula that was once used by saddle makers of the old west. From the very beginning in 1978, my goal has always been, to give my customers the same quality gear that they would have purchased in most of the early frontier saddle shops. I am also interested in special projects, so if you have any custom needs, please let me know.
Today, thirty-one years after opening Old West Reproductions, I’ve married and had three wonderful children, Tanner, Shayna and Kaylee, all of whom are now grown up and out on their own. Leslie and I also have a young grandson, Noah, who thinks grandpa's shop is real cool. In addition to that, we now have a western memorabilia collection that has grown to over two thousand of the finest pieces in the country, some of which are prominently photographed in the book, Packing Iron, by Richard Rattenbury. In the past thirty-one years, we have printed seventeen issues of our OLD WEST REPRODUCTIONS, INC. catalog and I have made and shipped thousands of holsters, cartridge belts, and other fine pieces of leather gear all over the world. I have provided some specific items for many movies including Dances with Wolves and Tombstone. I am my own worst critic when it comes to the quality of the product. Don’t waste your time looking for a “seconds” or “rejects” page on this web site because you won’t find one. I NEVER make seconds. If I don’t have time to do it right the first time, I sure won’t have time to do it over. It is my guarantee that you simply won’t find a better handmade product anywhere, at any price. We hope you will enjoy our web site. Your comments are always welcome.
Rick M. Bachman, President
Old West Reproductions, Inc.