why "Horse Pistol" ?


rusty bubbles
April 22, 2009, 10:20 AM
I've heard many references to a Horse Pistol;recently, someone referring to a Colts Dragoon as a Horse Pistol. were these (Usually )large pistols better adapted to cavalry simply on account of their size?

I'd be interested to know-thanks

Rusty B

If you enjoyed reading about "why "Horse Pistol" ?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
April 22, 2009, 10:25 AM

"They were called "horse pistols" because they usually were issued in pairs with a set of connected holsters designed to be draped over the pommel of a saddle. Horse pistols weighed several pounds each, and were so long they could not comfortably be carried at the hip. In fact, the belt holsters that we commonly associate with cowboys were not used in the era of Lewis and Clark."

Hungry Seagull
April 22, 2009, 10:46 AM
Other models of horse pistols had a long metal tab almost the whole lenth of the gun's left side opposite that of the flint, pan etc. You could use that long metal clip to hang the gun on a horse or about a horse any place convient to you.

It's was about as big as you can pack and still shoot from a horse without putting down one hand. They are also big enough to dispatch a horse that went lame and only recourse is to put it down.

And finally but not last, the pistol has a metal butt peice that is very large and stout. You could knock a bad guy highwayman down and keep going. They had alot of heft to them, pounds of heft.

In those days they had horse units known as artillery, supply or even a bit of heavy horse or dragoon. But the calvary as we understand it in the late 1800's were only swords and pistols suited to horseback combat against infantry on foot in the colonial times. LAter calvary had pistols tied to a string to keep them aboard horse and a long rifle to fight beyond pistol range.

The English were pretty good, Indians even better and the french not so bad. And to defeat a horse unit you move into ground not so good for horses.

Finally but not last, landed gentry riding in coaches had very short shotgunlike coach guns and those were the tatically dangerous weapons in thier day for close up and personal defense.

If you have been inside a stage coach, there isnt much room for 6 people in a space not much larger than a Mc Donalds mealtable.

Cap n Ball
April 22, 2009, 11:14 AM
John has it right. 'Horse pistols' were large caliber smoothbores of the 'New Land Pattern' sort. I have one such pistol that was given to an ancestor of mine as a souviner after the Revolution. It has the Tower Stamp, the date of 1761 and the lock makers name of Wilot. Its .58 cal and the metal is in the white. The rammer on these things are pretty much decorative. They require a much stouter ramrod to seat the wad and ball. Reloading one of these while on horseback in the middle of action would be fairly impossible.
Riders would carry a brace of these, possibly as many as three on each side of the saddle arranged in thimbles. One side would be loaded with ball and the other with buckshot and ball. The former was for use on the enemys horse who being thus dismounted, most likely injured and at great disadvantage was then run over with a sabre or if the blade wasn't available the heavy brass covered end of the grip makes for a skull crushing club. The latter was for use on the enemy themselves in close combat. The results are similar to a sawed off shotgun. Very effective and brutal even if rather messy. We tend to think of Napolenonic war tactics as an almost polite, formal sort of engagement. The reality was anything but and the 'horse pistol' is indicative of it. I'll post a pic of mine later. Its quite a beautiful piece. I let one of my nephews fire it on the 4th of July every year. They like the real sound of the Revolution.

I've done artillery at Civil War events for quite awhile now and even though you know its all for show facing the charge of a bunch of screaming 'sabre fairies' is terrifying.

rusty bubbles
April 22, 2009, 11:15 AM
Thanks for those speedy replies guys-must've been the best way to tote such big pieces-

Hungry Seagull
April 22, 2009, 11:57 AM
Cap and Ball, I have stood line of battle against 200 screaming infantry in thier last stage of a proper charge drill. Very... scary even though everyone involved knows what's what; still that chill.. whoo.

But when... 40 horsemen charge from one end of a field to the other in a demonstration, the ground shakes.

I agree with the ability to destroy people's skulls with that pistol butt, but left it out because I did not want to.. put of some of our more sensitive people here. LOL.


Cap n Ball
April 22, 2009, 12:24 PM
Heres a pic of us at an event at a battlefield in southern Kansas. Can't see us too well but it gives an idea of what conditions are like during firing. Cavalry are usually felt before seen. They sort of materialize out of the smoke like devils.

April 22, 2009, 12:30 PM
I always thought "horse pistol" was just somebody trying to say "hospital" :neener: Might be where you ended up if you got hit by one! Ok, sorry I don't have anything but that lame joke to contribute... :p

rusty bubbles
April 22, 2009, 04:02 PM
A cavalry lieutenant's action at the 1893 Battle of Omdurman-
"Crowds of Dervishes were pulling men from their saddles, and hacking them to pieces. Swords were little use in such a melee-"

"Recently I had purchased in London, one of the new automatic Mauser pistols, and I shot several fellows who tried to unhorse me-after which, they left me alone."

"I found this to be a lesson in life -
If you are well mounted and armed-
people will not molest you."--

Winston Churchill

April 22, 2009, 05:40 PM
Were the Walker and Dragoon model Colts also considered horse pistols?

April 23, 2009, 01:18 PM
"...the belt holsters that we commonly associate with cowboys..." Holsters seen in movies and TV weren't used by 19th Century 'cowboys' either. Invented for movies. Not everybody and his brother carried a handgun of any kind, either. Too expensive.
Early 'horse pistols' had long barrels. Kind of like a carbine with no stock. Horse pistols didn't start with the American Rebellion. There were horse pistols from the very beginning of hand held firearms.

Ron James
April 23, 2009, 06:47 PM
Yes, the Walkers and Dragoons were too heavy to be any type of belt guns. They were carried on the saddle, hence Horse guns. A Walker weighs what? 73 ounces. over twice the weight o0f a 1911!

April 25, 2009, 10:49 PM
"...A Walker weighs what?..." Yep. Four pounds, 9 ounces, empty. Almost sixteen inches long. It was designed to be carried by the horse.

Cap n Ball
April 27, 2009, 09:10 AM
Heres some pics of my 'horse pistol'. Sorry they arn't better but I didn't have much time to do it proper. The barrel is 12 inches. The large horn is my great grandpas. I fitted it with the measure spout rather than use the deer antler tip he fashioned. The small pan powder horn is modern. The shot bag is fairly old. I carry the whole rig in a leather scabbard with a rammer. I got the spelling of the name on the lock wrong in my previous post. It is spelled 'Wilet'. I don't think the gun saw much use since its in such good condition. I know that it wasn't fired in a very long time and just kept wrapped up in a box.

If you enjoyed reading about "why "Horse Pistol" ?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!