If there’s one era of American history that stands out more than most others it is that of the Old West. Indeed, this time period holds a special place in many people’s hearts and is still romanticized even today. It was a period marked with frontier bravery, unchecked hostility and near lawlessness as people pushed westward in search of infamy, fortune or just a new life. And it’s just this push that led to the eventual establishing of the country’s borders that we know today. Through it all, the Old West was predominately defined by one thing: firearms.
Yes, the guns of the Wild West were used to keep the peace as well as to commit untold crimes and reap vast amounts of human suffering. Even to this day most Americans can recognize a Wild West-era revolver when they see one. But not all pistols and rifles were created equal in those days. So with that in mind, here are some of the distinctive guns that are as much a part of the time period as saloons and Stetsons.
Colt Peace Maker
One of the defining instruments of death of the Wild West, few guns are more famous than the Peace Maker, also known as the “SAA.” Just hearing the name conjures up images from any number of Hollywood westerns. The Peace Maker was a .45 caliber pistol manufactured by Colt and first released to the public in 1873. It fired six .45 Long Colt bullets and could easily drop a man with a single shot. The weapon proved so popular that a version of the SAA is still being manufactured today.
Few rifles are more iconic than the Winchester. In fact, most people can likely identify this rifle merely due to its lever action. It’s just this distinctive loading mechanism that made the 14-shot M1873 an efficient long-barrel weapon for cowboys everywhere. On the surface, it appears as though the Winchester M1873 is double barreled, but this is a misnomer. The tube beneath the barrel is actually the weapon’s magazine and stores the bullets until such time they are cycled into the chamber.
Like the Colt, can purchase a version of the M1873 even today.
Remington New Army
Remington’s New Army Model gave colt’s similar handguns a serious run for their money. This .44 caliber pistol was released in 1858 and proved so popular that both Union and Confederate soldiers used it. It’s encouraging to know the two sides could agree at least one thing.
Smith & Wesson Top Break Revolver
The U.S. Army adopted this .44 caliber pistol in 1970 in due to its quick loading speed. This is because of the gun’s center-fire design, which allowed for the barrel to be tipped down in order to eject all shells simultaneously. Interestingly enough, this weapon became the favorite of criminals and lawmen alike, from Jesse James to Virgil Earp.
These are just a few of the defining firearms of the Old West. There are, of course, many more examples spanning decades from the 1850s through to the turn of the century in 1900. But the four listed above should make the list of any serious weapons enthusiast with a passion for the Old West.
Preston Cooper Is a professional blogger that provides information and advice on firearms. He writes for Fire Arms For You, the best place to find firearm ammo, firearm holsters and all firearm accessories.