Guns of the Old West
The Old West was famous for clashes between cowboys and native Indians, gunslinger versus lawmen, pioneers, prospectors, gamblers, and gangs of gunfighters. This 30-year period in American History roughly spanned from 1865 to 1895 and included famous western figures like Wyatt Earp, "Wild Bill" Hickok, "Billy the Kid," Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Clanton Gang, and Frank and Jesse James. It encompassed the area west of the Mississippi River during the late 1800s, and also the territories of Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Colorado.
The Gun that Won the Wild West
While there was no single gun that won the Wild West, there were a few great guns from that era that continue to influence firearm designs to this day. These six-shooters, repeating rifles, shotguns, and other iconic firearms helped carve this nation from coast to coast and were used in daily life by almost everyone on the American frontier.
You cannot talk about the Wild West without mentioning Samuel Colt’s development of the revolving cylinder. In 1836, Colt patented his first firearm and he produced the 1836 Colt Paterson. His revolvers became more advanced and were used on both sides of the Civil War and by settlers in the West. The most notable gun of his was the 1873 Colt Single Action Army revolver.
The military version was adopted by the US Army in 1873 and dubbed the M1873. It was one of the guns used by George Armstrong Custer and troops of the 7th Cavalry during the battle of Little Bighorn. Used by the military and lawmen such as the Texas Rangers, this pistol used .45 caliber ammunition and had fearsome stopping power.
The “Model P,” which was known as the “Peacemaker,” was the civilian version of this iconic gun. This single-shot revolver was used extensively throughout The American frontier during this time. While introduced into the civilian market the same year, Colt launched an updated version of this revolver in 1878 that used the same caliber ammunition as the 1873 Winchester rifle: 44-40, .38-40, and .32-20 calibers. This shared ammunition allowed a gunslinger to carry both the popular Winchester repeating rifle and the Colt “Peacemaker” at the same time.
Winchester 1873 Rifle
Smoothbore rifles have been in the Americas since the 1500s and were originally brought in by the Spaniards. In 1719, German craftsmen in Pennsylvania began to cut grooves in the barrels of flintlocks, called rifling, to give these guns greater accuracy over distance, and the Pennsylvania rifle was born. Later when the Scotch-Irish pioneers adopted this rifle it became known as the Kentucky Long Rifle. This firearm was used in the French and Indian Wars and the Revolutionary War.
As we expanded further West, fur trappers found that the Kentucky rifle was too long and too delicate to hold up to the harsh conditions and not high enough caliber to down larger prey like grizzly bears and elk. This led to the development of the Hawken 50-caliber rifle. This rifle was the favorite weapon of Mountain Men like Kit Carson and Jim Bridger from the 1820s to the 1840s.
In the late 19th century famous firearms makers Samuel Colt, Horace Smith, Samuel Wesson, and Oliver Winchester all began work on cylinder rifles, revolvers, and metallic rim fire cartridges. The Model 1866 lever-action repeating Winchester rifle became a popular weapon in the American West and continued with the Model 1873 which Winchester marketed as “The Gun That Won the West.”
The iron-framed, lever-action rifle was the perfect companion for the frontiersmen during the westward expansion. It was easy to carry in a saddle holster and the ammunition was readily obtainable. The 1873 Winchester rifles were designed to withstand harsh conditions, were easy to maintain, and they allowed a rifleman to fire a number of rounds before having to reload.
Double Barrel Shotgun
Double-barrel shotguns and coach guns came from all corners of the globe, and had two parallel barrels that could be fired in rapid succession. Early versions of these in America were manufactured by Remington Arms and Colt’s Manufacturing Company. Flexible and easy to use they were deadly to both man and beast and were frequently used for defense against large animals and armed villains.
The shortened down version called a coach gun, like the Mare’s leg, was used to safeguard stagecoaches against raids by highwaymen. These robberies were a frequent occurrence after the Civil War all the way to 1903. Stagecoach companies would hire “messengers” or guards carrying shorter shotguns to protect valuable shipments and even famous outlaws like “Black Bart” who was known to have robbed 28 stagecoaches would avoid the ones guarded in this manner.
Shop Armory for Guns of the Old West
While these are only a few of the guns that helped shape America, they have withstood the test of time and remain to this day some of the most well-remembered. At Armory, we believe that everyone should be able to own a piece of American history and our replica guns and rifles are high-quality works of art that any collector would be happy to possess.