Few epochs in American culture are exalted as much as the Old West. It not only captures the imagination, but represents a notion that defined a century: manifest destiny, or the great westward expansion. It was an era that spawned countless books and movies based on the exploits of those rugged individualists who inhabited it.
Guns of the Old West
So iconic is this time period that it is revered by historians and historical enthusiasts the world over. And those who were alive and living west of the Mississippi during these times relied as much on their six-shooter as their wits. It was an unforgiving and hostile time, to be sure, one that saw the emergence of some of the most classic firearms in American culture.
In the interest of brevity, here are some of the more famous guns that helped tame the Wild West.
Colt Peace Maker
Few pistols are more iconic in any era of weaponry than Colt’s Peace Maker model. If this list of guns that tamed the Wild West were to only include one entry, this one would be it. This .45 caliber six-shooter was first produced in 1873, and was known for being able to drop a person with a single gunshot. The Peace Maker’s fame so endured that modern versions are being produced even today.
Remington New Army
If Colt had one main competitor, it was Remington. Its New Army model handguns were designed to go head to head with the Peace Maker on the open market. But the weapon’s popularity surpassed all expectations, eventually becoming a favorite of both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. In such a contentious, highly charged arena of conflict, it makes sense that the only thing the two sides could agree on was weaponry.
Smith & Wesson top-break revolver
The “top break” in the title refers to this pistol’s center-fire design, which allows for rapid loading. The barrel lowers in order to release all bullets at once and is raised back up once reloading is complete. So efficient was the model that the U.S. Army adopted it as its official pistol in 1870.
Cooper Pocket Revolver
When writing about pistols of the Wild West, Colt and Remington tend to get the most ink. However, James Maslin Cooper’s own weapons manufacturer made a bit of a name for itself, at least from the year 1850 until it closed in 1869. In that time it produced the iconic Cooper Pocket Revolver, notable for its “double action” makeup, which was unique for the time. Its compact design also made it an easily concealed weapon in a gentleman’s topcoat, or even a dress.
If the Peace Maker is the West’s most famous handgun, then the 1873 Winchester is its most famous rifle. After all, how many westerns feature a character firing away with this lever-action blaster? The answer is: if not all them, then certainly most. What made the Winchester so popular in real life was its efficiency as a long-barrel weapon, meaning cowboys of all stripes could use it effectively.
Ultimately, there are many more pistols, handguns and machine guns that were in use up until the sun set on the West. However, the five weapons listed above should make the cut of weapons aficionados and Old West enthusiasts everywhere.
Note: Gregory Tillman is a professional blogger that shares his knowledge on replica firearms. He writes for MaxArmory.com, where you can find replica and collectible firearms.
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