Types of Old West Hand Guns

Written by beau prichard
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Types of Old West Hand Guns
Few things are as iconic to the Old West as a six-shooter revolver. (Cocked western style revolver being held in a hand image by Pezography from Fotolia.com)

Thanks to decades worth of books and film, few things are as closely associated with cowboys and the Old West as handguns. The revolving cylinder of the traditional revolver was patented in 1836 by Samuel Colt, and this compact, multi-shot gun quickly became the weapon of choice for close fighting. While traditional gun duels may not have been as common as pop culture would have us believe, cowboys and others in the Old West did traditionally carry a variety of "Big Iron" on their hips.

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Colt Army "Peacemaker"

One of the most famous handguns of all time, the 1873 Colt Single Action Army or "Peacemaker" was retired in 1941 and then manufactured again in 1956 due to the popularity of Westerns and demand for Western-style guns. Just under 400,000 guns were made from 1873 to 1941 before the gun was initially retired. It was released in .45 calibre format initially, with two barrel lengths, 5.5 inches and 7.5 inches, the artillery and cavalry models, respectively. The Colt's ubiquitous presence as an "Old West" gun is thanks, in large part, to it being carried by the cavalry that was present throughout the era.

Schofield Revolver

Carried by Western notables like lawman Wyatt Earp and outlaws Frank and Jesse James, the Schofield Revolver was noted as being a "break top" revolver, allowing it to split in the middle to load all six chambers at once, rather than one at a time, like comparable Colt and Winchester revolvers. It started life as a Smith & Wesson .45 model, but it takes its name from Major George W. Schofield, who requested a new S&W "Model 3" in 1870. The Schofield was released in 1875, incorporating the General's own custom modifications.

.44 Colt 1860 Army Revolver

This was a widely distributed gun during the Civil War, with almost 200,000 made between 1860 and 1873. They were widely available after the war, and many cowboys who served in the Civil War carried them afterward. The gun's long (7.5 or 8 inch) barrel gives it a distinguished look that is still recognisable today. The "Army" designation is to distinguish the model from the "Navy" model, which took a .36 calibre round and was also widely distributed. This gun's popularity is also evident in its wide availability as a replica gun. Its most famous pop culture appearances were with Clint Eastwood, both in "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and in "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly".

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