Wild West Weapons that Hollywood Forgot


My affection and affliction with Hollywood westerns goes again to 1946, once I noticed a Roy Rogers film referred to as My Pal Set off. From there, it was solely a decade to the heyday of the TV westerns, and thence to the extra sensible (however barely so) oaters of the 60s so far. I realized an ideal many issues in regards to the Outdated West from these movies: Most arguments had been settled with fists, not weapons. If a Good Man used a gun, it was to shoot the Dangerous Man within the hand; nobody ever killed anybody. If there was an actual shootout, the sooner man at all times gained, and the code of the quick draw was as scrupulously noticed because the Code Duello had been for tons of of years earlier than. And, most vital, everybody used both a Colt Peacemaker or a Winchester Mannequin 92, which pretended it was a Winchester 73.

All of this was, after all, nonsense. Some fights had been punch-outs. (Wyatt Earp was famous for his talent at administering beatings and his willingness to take action.) However not many.

(The one western lawman I do know of who used his fists as an everyday factor was an ex-New York Metropolis policeman named Thomas Smith, who was a reasonably good middleweight boxer within the bareknuckle period. Smith was concerned within the killing of a 14-year-old boy in New York, and soured on weapons. He went West, grew to become often called Bear River Tom Smith, and finally was employed as marshal in Abilene, Kansas. Smith beat up plenty of folks reasonably than taking pictures them, however died in a gunfight, courtesy of an enraged farmer who shot him the chest, brained him with a rifle butt, after which reduce his head off with an axe.)

In actuality, if a Good Man used a gun, he shot to kill, as a result of the Dangerous Man was doing the identical. The Quick Draw, as we all know it, didn’t exist, both the tools or the code. You would possibly have the ability to get your revolver out of the holster earlier than the opposite man, however that was so far as it went. Again-shooting and killing from ambush had been thought to be environment friendly and smart by individuals on each side of the legislation.

And as for the weapons, it was not all Peacemakers and pretend Mannequin 73s. Listed here are among the hottest fashions of the Actual Outdated West which have by no means gotten the respect and a spotlight they deserve, in Hollywood or in any other case.

1. Colt Mannequin 1851 Navy Revolver

A percussion Model 1851 Navy Revolver made in 1857 on a white background..
A percussion Mannequin 1851 Navy Revolver made in 1857. Rock Island Public sale Firm

Initially a percussion arm, the Colt Navy had the excellence of being one of many first sixguns that you possibly can put on in your belt and never have to hold in a saddle scabbard. At 2½ kilos, it was mild for the time, and had great steadiness and really feel. Chambered for a .36 ball, it was not highly effective—about the identical ballistics as a contemporary .380. After the Civil Conflict and the appearance of metallic cartridges, the Navy was usually transformed to make use of the .38 Brief Colt cartridge, which was a equally weak sister.

However its customers weren’t bothered, and Colt made roughly 1 / 4 million Navy revolvers till it was lastly edged out of the lineup in 1873 by the Single Motion Military.

The Navy was the popular sidearm of some males who had actual data of violence, together with Doc Holliday and Nathan Bedford Forrest, however its most well-known admirer was James Butler Hickok, who carried a pair of percussion Mannequin 1851s, ivory-handled, nickel-plated, and engraved, butts ahead in a sash. Hickok could have been probably the most deadly shootist ever, and the truth that he selected the Mannequin 1851 speaks volumes for it.

2. Remington Rolling Block Rifle

A Remington Arms Model 4 Rolling Block rifle.
A Remington Arms Rolling Block sing-shot rifle, made in Ilion, New York. NRA Nationwide Firearms Museum

I can’t recall ever seeing this one on the display screen, which is astonishing as a result of it was in some methods the AK-47 of its time. Launched in 1866, the Rolling Block held just one shot, however a skillful consumer might get off 16 to 17 rounds per minute, as in comparison with the three per minute of a Springfield Rifle Musket. The Rolling Block was extraordinarily robust; it managed the transition from black powder to smokeless with no modifications. It was additionally dependable to a fault, correct, and chambered in most half for critical cartridges just like the .45/70 and the .50/70.

The Rolling Block was in manufacturing from the tip of the Civil Conflict to the tip of the First World Conflict, and through these years it grew to become the problem rifle for half of the world’s armies. Remington chambered it for a mind-boggling number of cartridges, and made all types of variations, together with navy muskets.

Buffalo hunters doted on the Rolling Block; its solely actual competitors was the Sharps. Nelson Story, making ready for his history-making cattle drive from Texas to Montana, purchased 30 Rolling Blocks in .50/70 and plenty and plenty of ammunition, a few of which his group expended in no less than two main battles with Indians alongside the best way. The latter, getting a style of the Rolling Block’s wallop, long-range accuracy, and speedy hearth, determined to battle another person.

George Armstrong Custer, who preferred to kill every little thing that moved, owned a civilian sporting-rifle version of the Rolling Block in .50/70, and waxed lyrical about it. The rifle went with him to the Little Massive Horn, the place it got here underneath new possession.

So robust is the Rolling Block, and so nicely made, that there are many them nonetheless giving good service at present.

3. W.W. Greener Coach Gun

In the 1971 Western Big Jake, John Wayne's character describes this coach gun as
Within the 1971 western “Massive Jake,” John Wayne’s character describes this coach gun as “Considered one of my Greeners.” NRA Nationwide Firearms Museum

“Minimize-down shotguns” or “messengers’ weapons,” as they had been truly referred to as within the day, have by no means fairly gotten the eye they deserve. Through the nice TV Western Plague of the 50s, consideration was often paid, however actually not what was due.

The coach gun originated in England within the early seventeenth century, the place the stagecoach originated, and the place banditry quickly adopted. It was a blunderbuss, a brass barreled, smoothbore flintlock.

Within the 1860s, Wells Fargo issued short-barreled (18 to 24 inches) 12- or 10-gauge blackpowder shotguns to its guards on stagecoaches that carried shipments, not passengers. (The passengers had been on their very own, so far as W-F was involved.) The weapons, all side-by-sides, had uncovered hammers, and had been made by Remington, Ithaca, Colt, Parker, and L.C. Smith, however probably the most valued had been those made by the British agency of W.W. Greener.

Messenger weapons shortly discovered a welcome with sheriffs and marshals. They knew, as do legislation officers at present, that if there’s more likely to be taking pictures, you allow your handgun in its holster and take a shotgun out of the rack. Additionally, as a village constable as soon as mentioned to me, lots of people who get courageous dealing with a pistol or a rifle will again down when confronted by a scattergun, and it’s fairly potential that quite a lot of the Outdated West confrontations involving shotguns resulted in no taking pictures in any respect.

One which did concerned the homicidal ex-dentist Doc Holliday who, on the O.Okay. Corral, used a 10-gauge W.M. Moore shotgun to shoot a thug named Tom McLaury within the chest at a spread so shut that the coroner might simply cowl the wound along with his hand.

Wyatt Earp used each barrels from a 10-gauge, most likely a Greener, to kill one Frank Stillwell in an Arizona rail yard, and never lengthy thereafter, walked by a hail of gunfire with the identical Greener to finish the profession of Curly Invoice Brocius in a gun battle at a spot referred to as Iron Springs.

At present, W.W. Greener, which opened its doorways in 1829, remains to be very a lot in enterprise, and the messenger gun has morphed into the slide-action riot gun, after which the semi-auto riot gun, and now the tactical shotgun. However its precept, and effectiveness, stay the identical.

4. Remington New Mannequin Military Revolver

A exposed-hammer W.W. Greener shotgun on a white background.
A percussion New Mannequin Military revolver manufactured within the mid-1860s. Graham Greener/W.W. Greener

Patented in 1858, however not produced till 1861, the Remington New Mannequin Military was a direct competitor of the Colt Mannequin 1851 Navy and Colt Mannequin 1860 Military and, like these two weapons, was made in .36 and .44.

Not like the Colts, the Remington had a prime strap over the cylinder that made for a a lot stronger, stiffer body. You could possibly use heavier powder costs, and you possibly can whack a fleeing personal over the top with out damaging your sidearm. Of the Military and Navy variations, the previous was the extra favored; it was an enormous, heavy percussion revolver with an 8-inch barrel and had a popularity for excellent accuracy, which the Colt didn’t. (The New Mannequin was sighted in at 75 yards, which is an eloquent testimonial to how nicely it shot.)

The Remington had one other benefit. The corporate milled slots between the cylinders to retain the hammer when the gun was in its holster. (The choice was to have the hammer resting on a percussion cap or on an empty cylinder.) For a mid-Nineteenth-century firearm, this was a unprecedented security measure.

After the Civil Conflict, with the appearance of metallic cartridges, an ideal many New Mannequin Military revolvers had been transformed to cartridge use in .36 and .46 rimfire. It was finally adopted by the armies of 9 international locations, and was discontinued in 1875.

Foremost amongst its followers was Buffalo Invoice Cody who, Wild West Present apart, was the true deal. Cody carried an ivory-handled .44 New Mannequin from 1863, when he served with the Union Military, till 1906 when he gave it to the foreman on his ranch with a be aware that mentioned partially, “It has by no means failed me.”

Or anybody else, for that matter.





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