How the West was won: Salisbury resident to present rare gun at NRA gun show

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 11, 2024

SALISBURY— Through May 17-19, Dallas, Texas is hosting the “2024 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits” event where Salisbury resident Eric Olson will be on hand to show off his “exceedingly rare” Winchester Prototype Mason’s Patent Revolver from the late 1800s. 

While the annual gathering will have contemporary guns, Olson is going to be a part of the “collector’s session” to share his historical gun with the general public. 

Olson is representing the Winchester Arms Collectors Association, a collector’s organization, with the Winchester revolver he obtained with his late father. Primarily known for producing rifles, Winchester once dabbled in making revolvers, with this particular one being designed by William Mason, a famous gunsmith, in the 1880s. 

At around that time, a supposed meeting between the Winchester and Colt companies transpired where they both came to a mutual understanding on how they would each corner the gun market. 

“So, Colt and Winchester got together in what they call a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ and both decided to stay in their respective lanes. That meeting potentially changed the way the American West was won because had Winchester started making revolvers and Colt started making lever actions, we might have seen a completely different Wild West history if the guns that won the West were different,” Olson said. 

At this month’s show, Olson will have the gun in a 20-foot display case along with ammunition and advertising from the time period. He said he’s most looking forward to being around people who have the same passion for these kinds of firearms as he does. 

“The camaraderie, talking to people, educating people about these. I’m relatively young, I’m in my mid-to-late 30s and you don’t see people my age interested in old collectable guns like this,” Olson said. “It’s fascinating every time you get to see and stand that close to a piece of history, especially when it’s not in a museum, sometimes these aren’t even under glass, you get to be that close to them.”

Olson mainly collects guns with “an interesting history and guns that have a documented past, it has been somewhere, it was owned by this person.” He is also on the board of directors at the Colt Collectors Association and even though he does not receive any monetary compensation for being on it, Olson is happy to carry on the legacy of the country’s beginnings. 

“My whole purpose for doing that and joining and helping, unpaid, is to help promote appreciation and try and get future generations to get involved and enjoy collecting and at least appreciate these old guns,” Olson said. 

Guns have been and will continue to be a hot-button issue for many Americans. Still, Olson said he doesn’t want to focus on the politicization of his gun collection, but rather its significance during an era that was about opportunity and marking a new chapter for those in need of one. 

“It’s the Wild West! Previous generations grew up watching ‘The Lone Ranger’ and all these westerns and that’s gone by the wayside and I think it’s a shame. I really love encouraging younger generations to have the fascination and the romanticism with the Wild West,” Olson said.