How much ammo did the average Cowboy carry?


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Rembrandt
February 3, 2012, 09:30 PM
If you're the average Cowboy riding through hostile Indian country, how much ammo would you want to have on hand? Not like you can ride your horse to the nearest gun show and fill the saddle bags up....

How much ammo do you think the average Cowboy carried? Did any of them reload or save the brass?

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Certaindeaf
February 3, 2012, 09:40 PM
At least twelve. Or perhaps zero. Probably between the two.

rcmodel
February 3, 2012, 09:57 PM
I'd guess an average cowboy carried:
13 in a 44-40 1873 Winchester magazine.
5 or 6 in his Colt SAA.
Another 20 to 40 in a cartridge belt.

A U.S. cavalryman fighting Indians with Custer would have carried 24 rounds of pistol ammo and 20 rounds for his 45-70 carbine in a McKeever cartridge box on his belt.

The rest was in the rear with with the gear!

Capt. Benteen has been criticized by some military analysts because he failed to obey Custer's orders to get the ammunition packs from the rear and rush forward to Custer's aid.

One thing you need to keep in mind is, big bore black powder ammo is Heavy!
20 rounds of 45-70 ammo weighs over a two pounds.
A 50 round box of .45 Colt ammo weighs probably three+ pounds.
A horse can only pack around so much of it and still get where he is going.


rc

The Sarge
February 3, 2012, 10:06 PM
Well I got to talk and know a few "old timers" who lived through the late 1800's early 1900's in South Texas and Oklahoma. Rough country back then. Banditos, rustlers and flat out criminals all came to South Texas or the Oklahoma Indian Territories running from the law.
My Great Grandfather was living and ranching in Oklahoma and South Texas during those times. I was about 10 years old and used to listen to him and my GrandPa talk about ranching et al back then.
My Great GrandPa always would say "have the same bullet for your rifle and your pistol."
I do not recall how many rounds they took out checking on the herd etc. I know they talked about being gone for weeks at a time. I also know there was a pocket in his saddlebags he carried a "box of shells" in. Had a flap and a rawhide tie. So I always assumed he had a box of shells (in .45 Colt) in that saddle bag when he went out.
Now my GrandPa would be known today as a bounty hunter. He had tons of stories and newspaper clippings of him and his pals chasing down and capturing folks who had a bounty on them. He would get paid pretty good for these adventures and it supplemented the ranching/farming income. Now they went out in cars by then of course, but still carried their saddle bags believe it or not. This would be in the 1920's and 30's I am talking about. He would talk about cornering guys and they would surrender and he would get paid $7 bucks for 2 weeks of chasing this guy around South Texas. Deal is he was really proud of earning $7 bucks and I am sure it was a bunch of money then.
I knew my Great GrandPa and GrandPa very well. I was lucky to know both of them so well. So I am going to say they "carried a box of shells" :)
My Great GrandPa passed in in 1961 at the age of 84 and my GrandPa died in 1991 at the age of 91.
Here is my Great GrandPa's rifle (and youngest daughter a few years back) and some of his belongings I cherish in a sealed cabinet over my fireplace.
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v647/sgtgeek/GTOSTUFF004.jpg

Old Fuff
February 3, 2012, 10:08 PM
Cowboys (the real kind) depended far more on their rifles then revolvers. Ammunition was carried in cartridge belts, that consisted of a belt usually 2 to 3 inches wide with loops sewn from one end to the other. The number of loops, with one cartridge to a loop, depended on how fat or thin the cowboy was. Apparently most were thin, because most of the original belts I've examined were around size 32 inches.

If you're really interested in frontier leather, buy a book: Packing Iron; Gunleather of the Frontier West by Richard C. Rattenbury. Lots of B&W and color photographs of the real rigs. Don't expect them to look like tipical Hollywood.

bakerloo
February 3, 2012, 10:15 PM
Sarge, that has to be the coolest family heirloom ever!

Murphy4570
February 3, 2012, 10:37 PM
I agree, Sarge has himself a very nice family heirloom! His great grandfather had himself some VERY good genes, judging from the daughter!

Certaindeaf
February 3, 2012, 10:40 PM
I ain't no cowboy but for many a decade, many a hired gunner was on the street with 18.

Double Naught Spy
February 4, 2012, 01:42 AM
I don't think there can be said to be any sort of typical loadout for the average cowboy riding through hostile Indian territory. What constituted being a cowboy is rather varied over time and geography as is what would be considered hostile Indian territory.

Here is a neat article from the northern plains about North Dakota cowboys.
http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/thro1/rickey.pdf

Basically, gear was quite limited to what could be carried and cowboys had a lot to carry.

A revolver might set back a cowboy 2-4 weeks worth of wages. A carbine would run 4-5 month's wages. As noted in the article, after the Indian threat was largely over, few would carry carbines. They were heavy, bulky, and got in the way during cattle tending duties.

How much ammo do you think the average Cowboy carried? Did any of them reload or save the brass?

Cowboys were not likely reloaders during drives, though as noted in the article might be inclined to reload during off times such as the winter when they were at home..

JohnBiltz
February 4, 2012, 06:18 AM
That would depend. Was he packing supplies or hunting for food along the way? How long was he traveling for. Was he expecting trouble along the way.

Think of it this way, we can't even agree on how many rounds you should carry when you CCW on a trip to Wal-Mart. What makes you think they were any different?

we are not amused
February 4, 2012, 07:16 AM
I don't think there can be said to be any sort of typical loadout for the average cowboy riding through hostile Indian territory. What constituted being a cowboy is rather varied over time and geography as is what would be considered hostile Indian territory.

Here is a neat article from the northern plains about North Dakota cowboys.
http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/thro1/rickey.pdf

Basically, gear was quite limited to what could be carried and cowboys had a lot to carry.

A revolver might set back a cowboy 2-4 weeks worth of wages. A carbine would run 4-5 month's wages. As noted in the article, after the Indian threat was largely over, few would carry carbines. They were heavy, bulky, and got in the way during cattle tending duties.


Double Naught has it right. Depending on time period and geographical location, a cowboy may be carrying nothing to being loaded for bear. Generally they would carry what they owned, no specific weapon but what they had. It also depended upon whether they were on a cattle drive over long distances, or rounding up strays on a ranch.

I know a couple of local old time cowboys who used to carry a lever action carbine in a saddle holster, for predators (coyotes), but they were operating from a ranch or a pickup with horse trailer, and were rarely out overnight. This would have been in the 1940's through 80's, in the Flint Hill region of Kansas.

mavracer
February 4, 2012, 09:20 AM
People really haven't changed that much. I'd bet a fair sum that some cowboys carried a new winchester lever carbine some had older sharps or a trapdoor, some had a Colt and a back up of some nature along with plenty of ammo while others had a cap and ball revolver. some probably had a shotgun in the scabbard.
Me I'd do what I do today If I'm close to home what's in the gun and 1-2 reloads, If I'm gonna be away for a while I'll toss an extra box in my bags.

fallout mike
February 4, 2012, 09:20 AM
The "average" cowboy carried all his belongings with him unless he was currently working as a cow hand then he would have some of his stuff at the bunkhouse. I'm not so sure about the 4-5 months wages for a carbine though. I guess it would depend on the timeframe. During the time that a cow poke earned $30 a month, a repeater costs roughly $45. Which was still quite a bit. "a box of shells" were less than $1.

BSA1
February 4, 2012, 09:40 AM
By you saying "passing through hostile Indian country" you are setting the time period from after the end of the Civil War through the 1870's so my first answer is none.

There were a lot of cap and ball revolvers made during the Civil War and these guns just did not get thrown away after it ended. While some were converted to cartridge starting in the late 1860's you have to remember that transportation to the remote regions of the West was poor so finding a store that stocked your particular caliber was chancy. Wth a cap and ball revolver a can of BP, a tin of caps and round ball mold would keep a cowboy shooting for a long time.

Moving to cartridges my next response to your question is not as many as in the movies. In addition to my previously mention supply problems comes with it the cost. I found it interesting that in past a person could buy cartridges individually. So if I rode into town needing cartridges but was short on money to buy a full box or didn't need a full box to fill my belt I could go to the hardware store and buy a few rounds.

Cowboys were not gunfighters and space in a set of saddle bags is limited.

CajunBass
February 4, 2012, 09:58 AM
I found it interesting that in past a person could buy cartridges individually.

When I was a kid, (call it the mid '60's..that's 1960's to you wags :) ), we could still buy individual shotgun shells. I did it many a time, picking up pop bottles along the road to pay for them (hunting with a rifle was against the law where I grew up, and I didn't know anybody who owned a handgun).

From what I've read, "cowboys" didn't wear or carry guns on their person all that often. They were more in the way than anything else while working cattle. They might keep them in their bedroll, or back at the wagon, if they even had one. A cowboys job wasn't to fight indians or bad guys. It was to work cattle. Plain, hard, dull, boring work.

Carl N. Brown
February 4, 2012, 10:47 AM
I suspect most cowboys carried as much ammo as they thought they would need.

...Cowboy riding through hostile Indian country...
What I have read of Western history (as opposed to dime novels or western movies) it was more Cavalry riding through hostile Indian country, with Cowboys riding cattle trails that avoided Indian territory. I have become to believe that Cowboys'n'Indians was Wild West Show and kids' game stuff, Saturday Matinee melodrama written by Easterners transplanted directly to Hollywood California bypassing the real West altogether.

The Sarge's GreatGrandPa: "have the same bullet for your rifle and your pistol."
That's good advice for lotsa reasons that get lost, not just for economy of supply. I've heard a .44-40 cartridge in a .38-40 Winchester '73 would be a solid jam requiring disassembly of the rifle. Marlin ads for their carbines made a big deal that a 44-40 in a 38-40 Marlin just required ejecting the offending round.

buck460XVR
February 4, 2012, 11:02 AM
What I have read of Western history (as opposed to dime novels or western movies) it was more Cavalry riding through hostile Indian country, with Cowboys riding cattle trails that avoided Indian territory. I have become to believe that Cowboys'n'Indians was Wild West Show and kids' game stuff, Saturday Matinee melodrama written by Easterners transplanted directly to Hollywood California bypassing the real West altogether.



^^^this.

happyret65
February 4, 2012, 11:09 AM
Back in those days the ammunition was not always the same load either. Lead bullets and a bad load probably caused a problem.

fallout mike
February 4, 2012, 11:11 AM
Cowhands always carried a pistol. For numerous reasons. One of the biggest being able to shoot their horse if they were thrown or bucked off and being drug by one of the stirrups.

Old Fuff
February 4, 2012, 11:39 AM
Cowhands always carried a pistol. For numerous reasons.

Not always. Once the Indian Wars were over, and sometimes before, many ranch owners prohibited the pactice. Also with limited funds, most cowboys would put a quality rifle ahead of any six-shooter. There are many period photographs of round-ups and other ranch activities where none of those pictured have a handgun.

One of the biggest being able to shoot their horse if they were thrown or bucked off and being drug by one of the stirrups.

So said Elmer Keith, and he was in a position to know. But again sometimes carrying a revolver wasn't allowed. The word "always" is too inclusive.

jeepnik
February 4, 2012, 12:04 PM
Sarge, you need to write down all the stories you heard so they won't be lost. Family history tell a much better story of who we are as a people than all the school books ever written.

My sis and I have started a project where we have the few older relatives left to tell their stories. Yes, we've heard them all before, but this time, we are recording and transcribing them. Too many of my parents and grandparents personal histories are already lost.

2ifbyC
February 4, 2012, 12:08 PM
I agree that the Hollywood portrayal of a cowboy is absurd. Who would travel for weeks on a hostile trail and then the first thing you do upon entering a town is to mosey up to a bar and order a shot of whiskey? Or be itching for a gun fight?

By definition, a cowboy is one who tends cattle or horses. So they were not usually on the trail alone, armed to the hilt, and worried about marauding Indian bands.

However, if they were close to the Southern border, my guess is they packed more ammo. They weren’t about to turn over their revolvers to a bunch of Mexicans with no stinking badges.:)

hogshead
February 4, 2012, 12:24 PM
I imagine the first thing I would do would be to mosey up to a bar. Still trying to picture being drug by a horse and pulling my revolver and shooting it. From what I know about horse's that would only scare them and make them run faster. Horse's are tough don't think a 45 lc in the side would kill them very quick.

Jim NE
February 4, 2012, 12:27 PM
Question:

Speaking of Winchester capacity, my brother inherited my dad's Winchester '73 in .38-40 caliber. It has a LONG octagonal barrel. Since I don't have the gun, I don't know exactly how long the barrel is, but the overall length of the gun is roughly the same as an old Springfield trap door 45-70, standard length (He had one of those, too. Not a carbine). So it's a pretty long gun. Any idea what the magazine capacity is?

Don't know if there was only one standard length for the really long barrels on old Winchesters or not. If there was more than one length for the long barrels, then I realize it would be hard to determine exactly what the capacity is. I could ask my brother, but I'm fairly sure he doesn't have any 38-40 ammo to load it up with and find out. Did they put 36" barrels on them? Something tells me that might be about right.

Just curious. Thanks

JohnM
February 4, 2012, 12:37 PM
My Dad grew up in the open country of northern Montana between the years after WWI and when WWII started and he went to the service.
My Granddad raised horses for the cavalry that ranged over hundreds of miles of unfenced country.
No hostile injuns or desparados ripping across the range then.
he said he and his brothers, all 5 of them, all had rifles and handguns.
But, he said they didn't shoot much because they couldn't afford to.
If they were going to be out gathering horses for some days they usually had a rifle along for some meat. Sometimes just a .22.

fallout mike
February 4, 2012, 12:44 PM
Hogshead, as opposed to..... just being drug until dead?

rcmodel
February 4, 2012, 12:47 PM
Did they put 36" barrels on No.

Standard rifle barrel length was 24" & 26".
Special order sporting rifles might be 30", as was the 1873 Musket Model.

I doubt they had any rifling equipment at the time long enough to make a 36" barrel for a 73 Winchester.

Here are some pictures of the 1873 Musket with 30" barrel.
http://www.rarewinchesters.com/gunroom/1873/model_73.shtml

rc

hogshead
February 4, 2012, 12:48 PM
Well I guess you could just shoot yourself and get it over with. If you were being drug by a horse I don't think pulling your gun would even be possible. If your were hung by your right leg the horse would be stepping on you.If it was your left leg I think your noggin would be taking such a beating you would be unconscious in about ten yards.

baylorattorney
February 4, 2012, 12:56 PM
There is no such thing as an average cowboy. If you mean cowhand, he carried none. A true cowboy carried 20 rifle rounds and 14 pistol rounds. And if he could match them like 44-40, he carried 40 rounds when mounted and riding the range. When traveling he carried four times that amount.


Waste not want not. :)

dev_null
February 4, 2012, 01:04 PM
What I have read of Western history (as opposed to dime novels or western movies) it was more Cavalry riding through hostile Indian country, with Cowboys riding cattle trails that avoided Indian territory. I have become to believe that Cowboys'n'Indians was Wild West Show and kids' game stuff, Saturday Matinee melodrama written by Easterners transplanted directly to Hollywood California bypassing the real West altogether.

From what I read in the autobiographies of men like Uncle Dick Wooten, Charlie Siringo, and others, there were plenty of times both before and into the reservation era, when cowboys (as well as traders, mule or ox teamsters, stagecoach drivers & guards, and many others) were armed against attacks while on or near Indian lands.

However, getting back to the OP, I don't see much mention in these books of how much ammunition they carried in the way of cartridges. Seems in the early days they often carried powder, lead bars, and bullet molds, but when we get into the cartridge era the writers aren't all that specific from what I've read so far.

fallout mike
February 4, 2012, 01:06 PM
Hogshead, I bet you would get several hits from a google search. Although more times than not they were still drug to death for the reasons you, listed.

baylorattorney
February 4, 2012, 01:06 PM
The guns and ammo primarily kept the cowboy fed. Like somebody said, he wasn't a gunfighter. However, his duty was to protect the herd from rustlers and he needed to be armed for that too. Guns also were a way of signaling or calling out over distances to friend and foe alike letting them know I'm here. 3 shots in the air has long been a signal or 911 call for immediate extraction or reinforcement.


Waste not want not. :)

KsThumper
February 4, 2012, 01:15 PM
My 44 WCF [.44-40] Winchester '73 is a 3rd model rifle made in 1885 with a 24" octagonal barrel. The magazine holds 15 cartridges.

My 44 CF [.44-40] Colt SAA [Frontier Six] was made in 1883. I also have the original to the gun Royal brand Model 2 holster which is 36" long and could hold up to 36 cartridges.

Certaindeaf
February 4, 2012, 02:03 PM
Elmer herded cattle with .44 splats.

788Ham
February 4, 2012, 02:31 PM
rc,

And, also remember, those fancy single shots they were given, shot the copper cased cartridges. When they got to shooting "hot and heavy" the cases became stuck in the breech, and were being dug out with a pocket knife, rendering these new marvels as totally useless! They'd given up on the Henry rifle, didn't have as much power as the newer models did. I think Custer was hosed no matter what rifle they used! :uhoh:

jimmyraythomason
February 4, 2012, 03:05 PM
I found it interesting that in past a person could buy cartridges individually.

When I was a kid, (call it the mid '60's..that's 1960's to you wags ), we could still buy individual shotgun shells. I did it many a timeSo did I. It was called "breaking a box" and was common practice in my neck of the woods!

2ifbyC
February 4, 2012, 03:22 PM
I think Custer was hosed no matter what rifle they used! Maybe, but he had the Gatling gun. He left them behind believing they would slow his movement. Custer was an old model officer who rejected the value of machine-gun fire.:eek:

Jim NE
February 4, 2012, 04:25 PM
Special order sporting rifles might be 30", as was the 1873 Musket Model.



It's probably 30". I was thinking 30" at first, but wasn't sure if it was long enough. The picture looks more or less the same proportionaly. We've been told this was a custom ordered rifle. The end of the magazine went out to the end of the barrel, as I recall.

Thanks, rc.

buck460XVR
February 4, 2012, 07:15 PM
Maybe, but he had the Gatling gun. He left them behind believing they would slow his movement. Custer was an old model officer who rejected the value of machine-gun fire.:eek:


Custer was a fool that severely underestimated the abilities of his adversaries. He also was too stuck on himself to take advice from his fellow officers. For this, him and his comrades paid the ultimate price.....and history makes him out to be a hero.

But this has nuttin' to do with cowboys and the amount of ammo they traveled with.

CZguy
February 4, 2012, 11:19 PM
I imagine the first thing I would do would be to mosey up to a bar. Still trying to picture being drug by a horse and pulling my revolver and shooting it. From what I know about horse's that would only scare them and make them run faster. Horse's are tough don't think a 45 lc in the side would kill them very quick.

I seem to remember reading somewhere that the .45 LC was adopted by the Army because it would kill a horse. I could see where it would be possible to shoot a horse while being drug, but it would be a lucky shot. I assume that you would try for a head shot.

As to the amount of ammo carried by cowboys, I had never given it any thought. But find the subject very interesting.

Hardtarget
February 5, 2012, 02:00 AM
As mentioned by BSA1 (#14) and Jimmy Ray (#36) buying single rounds was a likely way of doing bussiness. My dad told me he bought ammo that way often as a kid. I even have a Federal .30-30 box with single round priceing. I've wondered about this myself. Never thought the Hollywood way was very close to reality. Hard to imagine that time and trying to live like they did. I bet it would almost kill me to live that hard.

Mark

Dr.Rob
February 5, 2012, 04:46 AM
My understanding is they packed enough ammo to shoot up Abeline on a Saturday night ;)

Or so the legend of some of the first gun control laws suggest.

cambeul41
February 5, 2012, 09:13 AM
As someone who has been dragged by a spooked horse, I don't see drawing a gun and shooting the horse as reasonable plan for such situations.

furiousbeen
February 5, 2012, 10:06 AM
Despite popular folklore most "cowboys" weren't wandering vagabonds. Most carried 6 shooters and a rifle and carried about 40 rounds with the pistols and at least as much for the rifle. According to the show Wild West Tech they carried as much as they could carry depending who and where they were. I'd guess the "vagabond" cowboys carried more. Almost had had their rigs which were loaded down with extra ammo anyway.

Trunk Monkey
February 5, 2012, 10:09 AM
A U.S. cavalryman fighting Indians with Custer would have carried 24 rounds of pistol ammo and 20 rounds for his 45-70 carbine in a McKeever cartridge box on his belt.

The rest was in the rear with with the gear!

According to Mari Sandoz’s The Battle of the Little Bighorn University of Nebraska Press copyright 1962

http://www.powells.com/biblio/17-9780803291003-3

The troops with Custer had about twice that and quite a bit of it was found on the field after the battle. Actually, some of it is still being found today

Edited: In Sandoz' book Old Jules University of Nebraska Press copyright 1935

Sandoz notes the her father, Jules Sandoz, was consistantly busy making reloaded ammunition for sale to his neighbors in the pan handle of Nebraska in the mid 1880's

CZguy
February 5, 2012, 10:31 AM
As someone who has been dragged by a spooked horse, I don't see drawing a gun and shooting the horse as reasonable plan for such situations.

Now I'm curious, what is the preferred method for this situation?

fallout mike
February 5, 2012, 10:51 AM
I've read many accounts of that czguy. Some are dragged until dead, some live until the horse stops , and some have shot and killed their horse to survive. There is a guy that has now came up with break away stirrups to help prevent that from happening these days.

-v-
February 5, 2012, 01:43 PM
My bet they carried as much as they thought they needed, and as much as they would budget for. Cowboying wasn't exactly a high-paying profession, and guns and ammo tended to be expensive.

When you make $30 a month, saying that a box of shells was less then $1 is equivalent in today's term (assuming income of ca35,000/yr) of saying that a box of shells costly only less then $100 for 20. :uhoh:

jmr40
February 5, 2012, 02:26 PM
Real cowboys probably carried very little ammo after metallic cartridges became the norm. Most carried a handgun in their saddlebags, if at all. Unlike in the movies it is much harder to do the work real cowboys did with a gun belt on.

By the time metallic cartridges were commonly used there was much less need to fight off indians. The real job done day in and day out by cowboys was much different than we have been shown in Hollywood movies all our lives.

Certaindeaf
February 5, 2012, 02:41 PM
Real cowboys probably carried very little ammo after metallic cartridges became the norm. Most carried a handgun in their saddlebags, if at all. Unlike in the movies it is much harder to do the work real cowboys did with a gun belt on.

By the time metallic cartridges were commonly used there was much less need to fight off indians. The real job done day in and day out by cowboys was much different than we have been shown in Hollywood movies all our lives.
I think you're forgetting about the mall cowboy. His coffee cup was all picatinny'd out for heaven's sake!

saltydog452
February 5, 2012, 02:50 PM
John Bianchi was (is?)a collector of authentic leather goods. Years ago I saw some images of his collection. I wouldn't know where on the 'net to view his collection.

I'd imagine an answer to the original question could be found by viewing authentic scabbards, holsters, sheaths, saddle, and tack gear.

Any authentic photos out there? Paging OldFuff.

salty

THe Dove
February 5, 2012, 03:11 PM
I found it interesting that in past a person could buy cartridges individually.

Hell, when I was growing up in SE Oklahoma, we use to go to the Cottonwood store and buy a can of Vienna Sausages and the guy would open a sleeve of saltine crackers and sell us how many crackers we wanted..... Can't find that around here nowadays! Gotta buy the whole danged box.

The Dove

baylorattorney
February 5, 2012, 10:09 PM
Now I'm curious, what is the preferred method for this situation?

An Act of God


Waste not want not. :)

Old Fuff
February 5, 2012, 10:32 PM
Any authentic photos out there? Paging OldFuff.

Yes indeed: See this quote from post No. 5

If you're really interested in frontier leather, buy a book: Packing Iron; Gunleather of the Frontier West by Richard C. Rattenbury. Lots of B&W and color photographs of the real rigs. Don't expect them to look like tipical Hollywood.

Also see: The Taming of the West - Age of the Gunfighter by Joseph G. Rosa; And The Peacemakers, by R.L. Wilson.

Copies should be found at www.amazon.com

Most of John Bianchi's collection of western guns and leather is now in the
Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum in Los Angeles, CA

hogshead
February 5, 2012, 10:32 PM
Avoid the situation altogether.Would be the prefered method. Next you would hopefully have a hold of at least one rein and jerk his teeth out till he stopped.Most of the horse I have owned stop when you fall off.I think they are laughing at me.

whalerman
February 5, 2012, 10:41 PM
PICATINNY coffee Cup. Thanks for that post, Certaindeaf. This is why I love this site sooo much.

tnxdshooter
February 5, 2012, 11:14 PM
Well as you know buscadero gun fighter rigs were developed in Mexico in the early 1900 so they did not have the buscadero gun belts with alot of bullets on them like you see in the movies. Instead cattleman, gunfighters, and lawmen of the day carried their guns in army flap holsters with the flaps cut off. Alot of them wore cross draw because they could draw faster. The fastest gun alive that killed 44 men and used to be an attorney after he got out of prison John Wesley Hardin wore two pistols in shoulder holsters as it was quicker to draw from and easier to conceal. I would say he just carried the ammo that was in his guns and maybe some rounds in his pocket but that is probably it. One of John Wesley Hardin's guns was a Smith and Wesson double action as he said he could fire it faster than a single action.



Sent from Droid Incredible on Verizon Wireless

Iggy
February 5, 2012, 11:50 PM
What Cajun Bass said:

From what I've read, "cowboys" didn't wear or carry guns on their person all that often. They were more in the way than anything else while working cattle. They might keep them in their bedroll, or back at the wagon, if they even had one. A cowboys job wasn't to fight indians or bad guys. It was to work cattle. Plain, hard, dull, boring work.

I grew up on a ranch. I knew guys who rode with and were friends with Tom Horn when I was a kid. A hired hand was on the jury that convicted him. I rode a lot of miles with those old timers and I pulled a lot of sweaty saddle blankets off a lot of good ol ponies.

When I was young, I envisioned myself as one of those ol cowboys, and I strapped on a Colt and off I went. Well that lasted about 2 days.

I soon found out just what the old timers had been telllin' me. Unless you was expectin' a fracas, the guns stayed in your bedroll in the chuck wagon. Ain't nuthin' worse than havin' a hunk of iron bouncin' around when your chasin' a critter. Your rope kin git hung up in it.

If your pony comes unwound, that gun is beatin' the heck out you on ever jump. If you git bucked off its just one more thing to bust you up when you hit the ground. If yure on the ground wrasslin' critters and such, a dammed gun is just in the way. You can git it hung up on a critter or in a fence or a hunderd other ways to git kilt a little.

As for Elmer's story of shootin' his horse while bein' drug. That's pure horse pucky. I kin tell you if you're bouncin' around on your back, ass forward under the feet of a runnin' horse, that gun belt is up around yure neck and the gun is back a half a mile. You couldn't reach it, and if you could, you'd be beat up so bad and bouncin' so hard that you couldn't hit that horse in the gut, let alone in the head.

No sir, there was times to carry that hunk of iron. Mebbe to the saloon in town, or to git your picture took, but not out there on the range.. No sireee.:cool::D

What JMR said:
Real cowboys probably carried very little ammo after metallic cartridges became the norm. Most carried a handgun in their saddlebags, if at all. Unlike in the movies it is much harder to do the work real cowboys did with a gun belt on.
By the time I returned to the ranch I was 40 and I had got some smarter.
I carried a 6" S&W Highway Patrolman and two speed strips in a cantle bag on my saddle for over 20 years. Never saw an Injun or a rustler in all that time.:evil:

kb58
February 6, 2012, 01:22 AM
they didn't shoot much because they couldn't afford to.
I suspect, as much as many would like to believe otherwise, that this is the truth for the vast majority of ranch-hands back then... and pretty much verbatum what Iggy wrote above. Their job was taking care of the livestock, not playing parts in movie westerns.

Certaindeaf
February 6, 2012, 01:39 AM
What's all this talk here then? I think bisecting a spine is better than playing kissyface with a hoof. Discuss.

clem
February 6, 2012, 01:50 AM
When I was a Deputy Sheriff out here in Southeastern Arizona, I carried 22 rounds on me and another 50 in my horse. (.45 ACP).
Then there was my rifle with 20 rounds and a extra 40 more for it. (7.62X51).

ilbob
February 6, 2012, 09:19 AM
From what I can tell, many cowboys were unarmed as they were poorly paid and guns were a luxury. Those that were armed usually had single shot milsurp rifles or black powder muzzle loaders.

Revolvers were very pricey and very few actual cowboys could afford them.

It was not until around 1900 that it became affordable to have better firearms on the frontier. And by then the Indian danger was mostly over.

TV and movies almost never get the actual history right.

Ryanxia
February 6, 2012, 10:35 AM
This was a good thread to read, very interesting things, and I agree the Sarge seems to have good genes :)

longspurr
February 6, 2012, 02:24 PM
Dragged by a horse; The only 3 ways I know of to deal with this is
1) Have the stirrups covered on the front so your boot cannot slip through. This is fairly common.
2) Loose boots so your foot could slip out of the boot that is hung up in the stirrup.
3) Pray quick

Ammo? Quoting the book COWBOYS & TRAPPINS OF THE OLD WEST

“During the late 1870’s and 1880’s saddle makers designed cartridge belts, an innovation which significantly changed the design of cowboy gunleather. A cartridge best carrying 35 to 45 cartridges was useful to a cowboy who traveled long distances between ammo suppliers.”
“ammo was expensive in the old west and many revolvers took unusual cartridges that were not easily available. Cowboys often had plenty of time in the winter to reload their own cartridges. Inexpensive hand held pliers like reloading tools were popular. These kits only cost $2 during the early 1880’s”

Keep in mind the Colt peacemaker was an 1873 model as well as the very popular 1873 Winchester lever rifle. My guess would be that these would not have been common items for several years after introduction. Wild Bill Hickok carried 36 caliber cap & ball revolvers. As others have said cap & ball was likely very common into the 1880’s and later.

Jim NE
February 12, 2012, 06:55 PM
Speaking of Winchester capacity, my brother inherited my dad's Winchester '73 in .38-40 caliber. It has a LONG octagonal barrel. Since I don't have the gun, I don't know exactly how long the barrel is, but the overall length of the gun is roughly the same as an old Springfield trap door 45-70, standard length (He had one of those, too. Not a carbine). So it's a pretty long gun. Any idea what the magazine capacity is?

Don't know if there was only one standard length for the really long barrels on old Winchesters or not. If there was more than one length for the long barrels, then I realize it would be hard to determine exactly what the capacity is. I could ask my brother, but I'm fairly sure he doesn't have any 38-40 ammo to load it up with and find out. Did they put 36" barrels on them? Something tells me that might be about right.

Just curious. Thanks

Okay, this is the same gun my dad had (now owned my brother) not a 36 or 30" barrel, but 32" apparently. I knew there had to be one other one out there somewhere.

http://www.collectorsfirearms.com/admin/product_details.php?itemID=37490

exavid
February 12, 2012, 09:15 PM
The whole question is silly. Everyone knows cowboys never ran out of ammo with their sixshooters. They just kept on shooting and shooting, you could always tell the good shots by the color of their Stetsons, white Stetson wearers were excellent shots and black Stetson guys could hardly hit the side of a barn. A typical white hatted cowboy could hit the gun in the hand of a black hatted fellow at 50yds while both were riding over broken ground on horses who never seem to bet winded.

CONNEX 3300
February 12, 2012, 10:19 PM
Unlike in the movies it is much harder to do the work real cowboys did with a gun belt on. Very True. I work cattle fairly often and ride horses occasionaly. It is a royal pain to wear the drop loop "hollywood" style holster with a revolver. I had a friend who swore up and down that he could wear his six shooter in a cowboy rig while working. I soon discovered that his definition of "work" meant playing with horses and just riding around for the heck of it. When he came up to my place and did REAL work, feeding cattle from a feed truck, bucking hay bales, building fence, cutting firewood, clearing brush and roofing a barn, he quickly realized that the hollywood gunfighter rig is useless. He eventually started carrying his gun like my brother and I. In a cavalry flap holster on his regular belt. There is NO way that the original cowboys used the classic drop loop rig. They probably just kept an old civil war surplus pistol in the saddle bag, and then tucked it in their belt if they anticipated trouble.
I have done fairly extensive research on the old west in western Oklahoma, and I have decided that while nearly everyone always carried a gun, it was usually concealed, and rarely carried more than a handful of extra shells if that. Most of the court records I have turned up indicate that cowboys accused of shooting up the town had purcheased a box of shells right before they got out of hand.

saaman
February 13, 2012, 05:36 PM
My Daddy was born in 1915 and as a child often rode horseback with my Grandfather who was a cattle trader in Texas. Dad told me about one trip to a large ranch where they were allowed to stay in the bunkhouse with the cowboys. When the cowboys came in from the day's work they would take off their gunbelts and pile them on a table in the bunkhouse. One cowboy my Dad remembered wore a sawed-off shotgun on his gunbelt instead of a pistol.

I grew up in West Texas and frequented pawnshops as a kid--and drooled over the Colt Single Actions brought in and sold or pawned by old retired cowboys. Caliber was invariably .45 and barrel length 4 3/4".

crracer_712
February 13, 2012, 05:40 PM
From the western's I've watched at my dad's house, they tend to have an infinant supply of ammo and seldom ever have to reload, they just keep blaster away with those revolvers!

crracer_712
February 13, 2012, 05:47 PM
Avoid the situation altogether.Would be the prefered method. Next you would hopefully have a hold of at least one rein and jerk his teeth out till he stopped.Most of the horse I have owned stop when you fall off.I think they are laughing at me.

So you ended up with my horse.

Dr T
February 13, 2012, 06:18 PM
I think that part of the answer depends on the point in time. During the late 1850's and into the mid 1860's, my great-grandfather (and yes, that is the correct number of generations ago) go conscripted to ride with the Texas Rangers for several months every other year. In 1864, he moved into the Concho Valley in West Texas which was Indian territory. I would image his habits of personal armament changed with that move, and then again when he made his first cattle drive in 1867.

Looking at pictures taken on the family ranch (7-D) in 1892, there is no sign of any side arm carried by any of the cowboys, nor is there a sign of a rifle scabbard on any of the saddles.

In the 1930's, when my late father was a foreman on the Bar-S he occasionally carried a rifle on his horse. However, this was usually when they were hunting feral hogs (on horses with ropes) or coyotes (by coursing them with greyhounds).

And, having busted enough brush on horseback (and with enough involuntary exits from the saddle), I can think of a lot of things I would rather land on than a handgun in a holster.

I did try carrying a Ruger Blackhawk in 45 Colt with a 7.5 inch barrel in a tie down holster on horseback once. It did get in the way. I went to a Single Six with the 4 5/8 inch barrel in a belt holster after that. It was much handier for the occasional rattlesnake.

I would never be so foolish as to fire a gun while mounted. I don't think any of my horses would have liked it very much.

BBQLS1
February 13, 2012, 06:51 PM
My Dad grew up in the open country of northern Montana between the years after WWI and when WWII started and he went to the service.
My Granddad raised horses for the cavalry that ranged over hundreds of miles of unfenced country.
No hostile injuns or desparados ripping across the range then.
he said he and his brothers, all 5 of them, all had rifles and handguns.
But, he said they didn't shoot much because they couldn't afford to.
If they were going to be out gathering horses for some days they usually had a rifle along for some meat. Sometimes just a .22.

This sounds familiar! :D

Geno
February 13, 2012, 07:04 PM
clem said:

When I was a Deputy Sheriff out here in Southeastern Arizona, I carried 22 rounds on me and another 50 in my horse. (.45 ACP).
Then there was my rifle with 20 rounds and a extra 40 more for it. (7.62X51).

I just went green with envy. :o

Geno

Ky Larry
February 14, 2012, 10:17 PM
They were probably just like us. Some carried very little, some carried as much as they could.

Jim K
February 14, 2012, 11:45 PM
"A cowboy always carried a pistol."

Well, no. On some ranches it was prohibited for a cowboy to carry a handgun. If they hired a hand who had a gun, it would be kept in the office safe until he left or until he had some need for it. Rifles were issued, as needed, for controlling wild animals and for protection against Indians or rustlers. A few cowboys did own horses or saddles, but most got around by stage or (later) train, until they found a job. Once hired on, the ranch provided food, shelter, horse (first come, first horse at the remuda), equipment and weapons. The ranch would even provide, or advance money for, clothing and boots. And cowboys weren't always cowboys. They were drifters who worked at any job to make money. That romantic cowboy could have been a hostler, or a cook, or a gandy dancer yesterday.

And the typical "cowboy gun" was not a Colt SAA or S&W No. 3, it was more likely to be a solid frame (suicide special) or an inexpensive breaktop that sold mail order for $2-5. A Colt SAA cost around $16, half a month's pay for a cowhand. As for needing a gun to shoot up saloons, most cowboys who got to town had other ideas about using a gun that didn't involve pumping bullets into the ceiling (and getting thrown in jail - there really was law in the Old West!).

Jim

CZguy
February 15, 2012, 12:37 AM
JimK,

You do realize that you just ruined 59 years of Westerns for me. :D

What are some good references on this subject? I find it very interesting.

fallout mike
February 15, 2012, 09:05 AM
Apparently most everyone has a different opinion, and most are probably from something we have read and think is true.

Old Fuff
February 15, 2012, 11:40 AM
You do realize that you just ruined 59 years of Westerns for me.

Western novels, movies and TV shows are made to provide entertainment, and from that perspective are great, but very few are historically accurate. If someone made a western with no guns in it they probably couldn't recover they're production costs.

What are some good references on this subject? I find it very interesting.

Understand that from the late 1830's to about the early 1900's (and in some areas you could extend that to the early 1940's and even today) cowboys (and others) carried firearms that were appropriate to what the situation was in whatever area they were in. Also when lugging arms around while on horseback they tended to carry the least weight possible. For that reason for example, during the 1870's and 80's a cowboy in Nebraska or even eastern Texas wouldn't normally be carrying the same arms and ammunition one in New Mexico and southern Arizona were because of entirely different threat levels.

Fortunately during most of the era photography was well advanced, and there are still many newspaper accounts, personal letters, and court records that have come down to us, along with other historical evidence that makes it possible to get a much truer picture of what was what – where and when. Also a fair number of guns, holsters and cartridge belts have survived and can be examined.

I will be back later with some specific references.

ThorinNNY
February 15, 2012, 01:03 PM
Pony Express Riders depended far more on speed vs. firepower.I`ve heard that they were originally equipped with two revolvers but quickly switched to one revolver with one loaded extra cylinder to save weight.

Iggy
February 15, 2012, 07:50 PM
I grew up on a ranch and still run one.
I knew some of the "old timers". One of our cowhands was a friend of Tom Horn and was put on his jury in an effort of save him. He was found guilty, but he wasn't hanged, but that's another story.

Here is a link to some insight into old time cowboys and how they lived.

http://home.bresnan.net/~buflerchip/bunkies.html

Certaindeaf
February 15, 2012, 08:41 PM
What is "is"?

No slight to you all above,

TwoWheelFiend
February 15, 2012, 09:17 PM
That is the most arbitrary question ever asked on THR, lol.

Trunk Monkey
February 15, 2012, 09:21 PM
FWIW Thomas Ripley's "They Died With Their Boots On" C1937 Sun Dial Press (A biography of John Wesley Hardin) States that when Mr. Hardin carried a gun it was generally in a pocket sewn into the inside of his jacket. Similar to concealed carry jackets sold today

http://www.worldcat.org/title/they-died-with-their-boots-on/oclc/2688837/editions?referer=di&editionsView=true

Certaindeaf
February 15, 2012, 09:42 PM
And sew it was.

george29
February 16, 2012, 03:33 AM
I read quite a bit on the subject (written by those that did it) and it's surprising just how inaccurate Hollywood is. For example; a photograph of a whole bunch of lawmen (like 15 or so) posing were all holding sawn-off double barrel shotguns. Not one revolver in sight. Thet were also pretty hefty gentlemen (overweight), dressed very well in black suits, beards (all of them) and well into their 40's and beyond. None of that handsome, rakish, thin, athletic type that Hollywood casts.
Cowboys preferred the term Waddie/Waddy and not Cowboy. Cowboy was reserved for young men and not men.
I also read somewhere that on the border wealth meant many bullets and that Border Rigs were so named for the ability of being capable of carrying mucho ammo. Hence the Border Rig which was wider than a normal rig and carried a double loop http://i92.photobucket.com/albums/l15/avisamuel/arizona_c.jpg. The Mezican Bandito's were also to first start using Bandoliers in the border area's.

See also http:// biblioklept.org/2010/11/07/historic-photos-of-heroes-of-the-old-west/

Certaindeaf
February 16, 2012, 10:21 AM
^
That's a fair modern get up. How I hear it, most rigs of old were much more sackish.

ThorinNNY
February 16, 2012, 10:40 AM
I`ve read a lot about the Earp brothers, the gunfight at the OK Corral and the COWBOYS.
Back in Arizona in the 1880`s "cowboy" was a derogatory term. It was a specific reference to a criminal element. One newspaper said that : COWBOYS lived in their saddles ,never held a real job, had no fixed place of residence, nor visible means of support, yet always had superb horses, were well armed and had plenty of ammunition, and enough money to indulge all their wants.
People who actually worked day in ,day out with cattle, called themselves herders or cattleman or maybe ranchers.
The term Cowboy only became popular and romaticized when writers like Owen Wister began selling their books.

Certaindeaf
February 16, 2012, 11:31 AM
^
True. The "writers" of olde were something else. It was really bare knuckle back then when it came to the written word.. anyway.
The writers wrote of the "indian wars" for like 60 years. Pure fabrication.

Dr T
February 16, 2012, 12:30 PM
The term "cowboy" is the English corruption of the Spanish word "caballero" (the "ll" is pronounced with a "y" sound).

"Caballero" means "Horseman".

We used terms like cattleman, stockman, foreman, ranch hand, sheep herder, windmill man, etc. For example, my father was the windmill foreman for a ranch company.

As far as derogatory terms, Rexall Ranger comes to mind. A Rexall Ranger might be seen in a border rig. But a working ranch hand--I doubt it.

JO JO BANG
February 16, 2012, 12:37 PM
Who knows what they put in they pockets at times.

Certaindeaf
February 16, 2012, 01:33 PM
You have the preciouses in your pocketses?

coloradokevin
February 16, 2012, 03:45 PM
I'm not the historian that some folks are around here, but my suspicion is that the answer to this question sits entirely on the shoulders of the individual you are speaking about. Asking how many rounds of ammunition a cowboy carried is probably going to produce answers as broad as asking how many rounds of ammo the modern gun owner carries. It all depends on the preferences of the individual.

tdstout
February 16, 2012, 04:35 PM
lol, gollum.

I figure that, just like in todays time, it really depended on the person. I would bet you a nickel to a donut that more people carry guns today than they did way back then, if only for the fact that more people can afford guns and it's easier to travel to a gun shop nowadays.

george29
February 17, 2012, 01:52 AM
That's a fair modern get up. How I hear it, most rigs of old were much more sackish.
'Tis a modern rig. Idear is still the same.

Ringolevio
February 17, 2012, 02:17 AM
Dr T:
The term "cowboy" is the English corruption of the Spanish word "caballero" (the "ll" is pronounced with a "y" sound).

"Caballero" means "Horseman".

We used terms like cattleman, stockman, foreman, ranch hand, sheep herder, windmill man, etc. For example, my father was the windmill foreman for a ranch company.

Well, you're partly right. "Cowboy" likely evolved from a corruption of "caballero", which does literally mean "horseman" (because "caballo" means "horse"). But "caballero" more commonly means "gentleman", from the days when only the gentry rode horses. That's why, in Spanish, "Ladies and Gentlemen" is "Damas y Caballeros".

A real working ranch hand, even today, is more likely to refer to himself as a "buckaroo", which is a corruption of the Spanish "vaquero", which literally means "cow-man".

BTW, a "bandito" is a character on a bag of Fritos; Mexican highwaymen (the ones who don't got to cho you no stinkin' bodges) are "bandidos".

ˇManos arriba! ˇNo se mueve! ˇLo tengo apuntado!

Dr T
February 17, 2012, 10:39 AM
The terms will vary by the part of the country.

In the ranch country of West Texas (where I grew up working on a ranch), I never heard anyone refer to himself as a buckaroo. However, I have heard it used in Colorado and Wyoming.

Of course, now in West Texas ranch hands spend most of their time riding in pickups (where the weight of the ammo you carry doesn't matter as much) and the usual firearm is the basic truck gun. Not many carry handguns in the truck, unless they have special circumstances (and a CCP). At least cattle and sheep are still worked on horseback.

george29
February 18, 2012, 09:35 PM
BTW, a "bandito" is a character on a bag of Fritos; Mexican highwaymen (the ones who don't got to cho you no stinkin' bodges) are "bandidos".You got somethin' against Frito's muchacho? :D

baylorattorney
February 19, 2012, 12:59 AM
A bandit is a bandit.


---
I am here: http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=27.354714,-98.158189

whalerman
February 19, 2012, 02:41 AM
Interesting reading. You guys have convinced me that the old guys didn't shoot that much because of costs. I'm sure some did, but for the most part they likely were a frugal bunch, by necessity. How do we expain how so many were so good with firearms if the average guy didn't practice? Of is their legendary proficiency just that, a legend?

shiftyer1
February 19, 2012, 04:07 AM
Whalerman.....get 20 guys together that are familiar with guns and shoot at targets. See who hits where. Some folks enjoy shooting and will shoot more instead of buyin a new shirt or some whiskey. Also back then most people didn't have alot of cash and bullets cost $$'s, guns were for food. If you missed, most times you went hungry and kids grew up hunting rabbits and squirrels for meat. An empty belly sure makes u focus on potential food.

I would bet the amount of ammo and guns depended on the need. If u carried a gun on the range it probably held it's capacity with maybe a reload. I would imagine if it was a hostile environment that would double. During drives i've always been told that guns were kept in the chuckwagon. Keep in mind that the needs of a working cowboy were different than a drifting cowboy or someone traveling.

It has been romanticized to death but truth be told, a drifting cowhand was basically a homeless guy that still had his car and maybe a little cash looking for the next job to feed him and a roof to sleep under. In either case, movie or real life.....I sure wish i'd been there.

It was also a common practice to feed anyone that showed up at the homestead or at camp, considered rude not to offer. Imagine how things would be different if we didn't lose things like that.

CajunBass
February 19, 2012, 07:15 AM
Interesting reading. You guys have convinced me that the old guys didn't shoot that much because of costs. I'm sure some did, but for the most part they likely were a frugal bunch, by necessity. How do we expain how so many were so good with firearms if the average guy didn't practice? Of is their legendary proficiency just that, a legend?

I suspect just like today, some were good shots, and some weren't. Some might practice and others never did.

They probably weren't. I have read accounts of two men shooting it out across a saloon and nobody being hit. After standing there watching the smoke clear, they laughed and one is supposed to have said "We'd do better with an ax" or something along those lines, at which point everyone laughed and they were friends again. True? I have no idea but it's a good story.

Bill Hickock is said to have practiced every day. According to the story he fired his Navy Colts every day and reloaded them fresh. That of course was loose powder and ball, not cartridge. Bill Hickock was also sort of employed regular, and was a well known gambler, so he probably had a bit more spending money than most.

On the matter of cost, don't forget that money was scarce in those days. I don't mean just that people didn't make much, the physical money itself was scare. Coins and paper money were somewhat rare everywhere. People might go months or longer without seeing "spending money."

Leanwolf
February 19, 2012, 06:40 PM
RINGOLEVIO - ""Cowboy" likely evolved from a corruption of "caballero", which does literally mean "horseman" (because "caballo" means "horse"). But "caballero" more commonly means "gentleman", from the days when only the gentry rode horses. That's why, in Spanish, "Ladies and Gentlemen" is "Damas y Caballeros".


And the Spanish "caballero" derives from the original French, "chevalier." It meant literally "mounted knight." In medieval or middle ages times, the French "knights" on their feudal estates could be called by their King to come on their horses with arms to fight for the King. The word "chivalry" derives from what became the "nobless oblige" of the chevaliers, or medieval knights.

As for "buckaroo," (vaquero), this term is still used extensively for the "hands" who work the ranches in N.E. Calif., N.W. Nevada, S.E. Oregon, and S.W. Idaho. As noted by others, it's a regional thing.

L.W.

Leanwolf
February 19, 2012, 07:45 PM
GEORGE 29 - "...I also read somewhere that on the border wealth meant many bullets and that Border Rigs were so named for the ability of being capable of carrying mucho ammo. Hence the Border Rig which was wider than a normal rig and carried a double loop ..."

I have a book entitled, The Arizona Story, edited by Joseph Miller, Hastings House Publ., (c)1952, in which is a collection of very interesting stories all taken from early Arizona newspapers. There are a number of pictures, one being of the early Arizona Rangers, with a long line of armed Rangers posing for the picture, 1901. Several of them are wearing the "border Rigs," with double rows of ammo. Another picture shows a couple of Rangers wearing the "Border rigs" in which it appears the top row of loops are holding rifle cartridges. (.30-30 Win., .30-40 Krag, or perhaps the various Win. lever cartridges???)

I can certainly understand why a peace officer of that time, working way out in the boonies of Arizona, would carry plenty of cartridges on his waist. I surely would. ;)

L.W.

Trunk Monkey
February 19, 2012, 09:36 PM
There is another aspect that is being overlooked as well, locality.

If it's a three day trip the nearest place you can purchase ammunition I would think you'd use what you had sparingly

cpileri
February 21, 2012, 11:46 AM
No one yet has much addressed the reloading aspect. i know the buffalo hunters reloaded their paperpatched bullets. And here is what Lewis and Clark (admittedly, not the 'average cowboy') packed with them, at least initially:

15 Prototype Model 1803 muzzle-loading .54-caliber rifles "Kentucky Rifles"
15 Gun slings
24 Large knives
Powder horns
500 Rifle flints
420 Pounds (191 kilograms) of sheet lead for bullets
176 Pounds (80 kilograms) of gunpowder packed in 52 lead canisters
1 Long-barreled rifle that fired its bullet with compressed air, rather than by flint, spark, and powder
15 Powder Horns & pouches complete
15 Pairs of Bullet Moulds
15 d. of Wipers or Gun worms
15 Ball screws
Extra parts of locks & tools for repairing items


C-

ThorinNNY
February 21, 2012, 01:16 PM
Define "average cowboy" please. Also factor in a specific state and the time period.I guess a man working on a ranch and returning to his bunkhouse might need to carry a lot less ammunition than he would if he were on a long cattle drive say from Texas to Dodge City,Kansas.
A Lawman or Gunfighter would probably think he needed to carry a lot more ammunition than a ranch hand would.

mrwilmoth
March 19, 2012, 07:50 AM
His has to be one of my favorite threads, lots of good info and stories!

hang fire
March 19, 2012, 01:47 PM
The cowboy would not need to carry different cartridges after Colt chambered the SAA in .44-40 in 1878, which was also a favorite cartridge for the 1873 Winchester. The rest was history. With one interchangeable cartridge for two guns that could be found in any settlement or trading post, it truly became the cartridge that won the west.

CraigC
March 19, 2012, 04:00 PM
The cowboy would not need to carry different cartridges after Colt chambered the SAA in .44-40 in 1878
He would if he already had a sixgun in another chambering. Or if he had a rifle which had no sixgun counterpart. While it's relatively easy for us to save a few bucks and pre-plan our purchases so we can have a rifle and sixgun in th same chambering, it was probably not quite so prolific in the old days. A new SAA was expensive in 1878, especially for a cowpuncher and I suspect there were probably a lot more percussion sixguns and cartridge conversions riding in holsters at the time than Frontier Sixshooters. They also did not shoot as much as we do so I highly doubt it was all that big of a deal.

No inanimate object "won" the west. Hard working men and women settled it. The Army "won" it in their genocidal campaign against the plains indians.

Old Fuff
March 19, 2012, 09:35 PM
The cowboy would not need to carry different cartridges after Colt chambered the SAA in .44-40 in 1878,

Not really. If they could have gotten away with only two chamberings Colt would have. But the market demanded more so they added to the list. At different times certain cartridges were more popular then others. For example, during the early years of the 20th century the .32-20 (.32 WCF) outsold all the rest. Buyers then, like now, bought what they wanted, not what someone said they should have.

CZguy
March 20, 2012, 02:10 AM
I've always wondered, what was a .32-20 used for primarily?

It always seemed too light for deer, but too big for small game, to me.

Having said that....I've always wanted one.

tarosean
March 20, 2012, 02:21 AM
Regarding being dragged by a horse.... Typically you will come free soon after going limp (loosing consciousness).

mavracer
March 20, 2012, 11:18 AM
I've always wondered, what was a .32-20 used for primarily?

It always seemed too light for deer, but too big for small game, to me.

Having said that....I've always wanted one.
yes but it doesn't do too much damage to small game and it's just big enough to kill deer cleanly if the hunter will do his job. So if you just have one gun it makes a good compramise:D

hang fire
March 20, 2012, 02:30 PM
Not really. If they could have gotten away with only two chamberings Colt would have. But the market demanded more so they added to the list. At different times certain cartridges were more popular then others. For example, during the early years of the 20th century the .32-20 (.32 WCF) outsold all the rest. Buyers then, like now, bought what they wanted, not what someone said they should have.

Colt & Winchester both chambered several different cartridges, to include .44-40, .38-40, .32-20, etc.

The .44-40 was the most popular as it had the greatest striking power. The .44-40 in its BP loading heyday probably killed more big game like deer, elk and bear than any other cartridge.

As I understand it the .45 Colt was not loaded by Winchester for several different reasons, with #one being straight walled, it did not feed well in the 1873.

The .32-20 later became popular for recreational shooting such as target and small game hunting. In former dangerous times in the west, it would have been considered a pip squeak if one's life was on the line.

http://www.sixguns.com/tests/tt4440.htm

CraigC
March 20, 2012, 03:07 PM
Colt & Winchester both chambered several different cartridges, to include .44-40, .38-40, .32-20, etc.
True, but those were far from the only cartridges available. Like I said, there were a lot of sixguns already available in many other chamberings by the time the SAA became readily available to civilians. Most people probably never even saw one until the 1880's. Percussion guns and cartridge conversions were far more prolific.

The .45Colt was never chambered in any rifles until the mid-late 20th century because of its tiny rim. Something that would've proven troublesome with the early folded head cases.

tipoc
March 20, 2012, 06:32 PM
A note on a point made above...

"Cowboy" is a direct translation of the term "vaquero" which comes from "vaca" for cow and means a cowherd. A person who tends cows or a cowboy. Sometimes a cow hand. Before 1836 the term was unknown.

The term "Caballero" has a very different meaning and origin. An interesting one but off topic. The caballero was not a vaquero. But the vaquero was often a "caballero" to his friends, strangers and peers.

When folks from east of the Mississippi first came west they encountered Mexican vaqueros (actually the first meetings took place before Mexico won
independence from Spain) . They adopted a good many things from them including the name. As J. Frank Dobie has explained they took up wearing the chapparras or "chaps" for riding through brush. They learned to use la reata, the lariat, the lazo or lasso. They took to wide brimmed hats against the rain and sun. They learned to break "broncos" and called themselves, at times "buckaroos". They kept stock in a corral. They organized rodeos. They built rancheros or ranches. When they got in trouble with the law they were tossed in the juzgado or hoosgow. These terms and many more reflect the extent of cultural borrowing and the origins of the term "cowboy".

In the cowboy a brand new "type" was created. New to the world. Part Mexican, part what passed for American in those days, freed slaves and a batch of immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Italy and a lot of other places where the "huddled masses" hung out. They spoke with many accents. They represented a kind of freedom many back east and in Europe longed for.

Being a cowboy was a job, like being a miner or a sawmill worker.The heyday of the cowboy was from the end of the Civil War to about the turn of the century and coincided with the large and long cattle drives. The latter were done in by the railroads. They were permanently romanticized first by novels, articles and short stories and later the movies. Part of the great westward expansion.

By the 1890s they were organizing themselves into unions and striking in Idaho, Montana and Texas.

tipoc

baylorattorney
March 20, 2012, 06:37 PM
Tipoc, that's some good info there. U mentioned Mssisippi, reminds me I was deep in Missisippi all last week and when Mr Sippi came home from the rigs I had to skidaddle. :D


Waste not want not. :)

tipoc
March 20, 2012, 07:03 PM
Sure your name ain't Jodie? And did you skedaddle or vamoose? :)

tipoc

Agsalaska
March 20, 2012, 07:29 PM
Outstanding thread. Exaclty why I finally joined THR.

I have always understood cowboys to be minimalists. I think the most important factor would be location. Cowboys on the Goodnight-Loving probably carried a lot more than Cowboys on the Chisolm or expecially near there ranches. My family is from the city but I married into a family that has ranched Texas since the 1800's. I used to listen to the old timers tell there stories about pre WW2 cattle drives to Fort Hood and none of them ever really mentioned guns. In fact the only gun I know of in the family is an old Winchester 12 gauge that is forgotten about in the spare bedroom at the ranch house. I know there are more because they have talked about hunting a little, but it didnt seem to be a big deal to them. I would imagine that a normal cowboy carried far less than the average person would believe. But, like today, some were probably also gun enthusiasts and spent as much of there disposable income as they could on new Winchesters and ammo. Some probably were almost uncomfortable around guns too.


I have this new found interest in the tecnological advances made after the civil war, specifically the lever actions, revolvers, and the ammo developed for them. As I understand it the 32-20, 38-40, and 44-40 were the cream of the crop and became much more widespread after 1880 or so. What other cartridges would have been used at the time? I would also guess the 30-40Krag was around as well.

blue32
March 27, 2013, 12:07 AM
...

BSA1
March 27, 2013, 01:04 PM
Well at least we know Cowboys worked long hours in all type of weather from the hurricane deck of horse and, at the end of the day, they relaxed with a friendly game of cards with a little betting while enjoying a some whiskey with trusty firearm close at hand in case of attack by Indians or Rustlers...

Well I think we know that for sure...

Then maybe not.

Rules for the XIT Ranch

No employee of the Company, or of any contractor doing work for the Company, is permitted to carry on or about his person or in his saddle bags, any pistol, dirk, dagger, sling shot, knuckles, bowie knife or any other similar instruments for offense or defense.

Card playing and gambling of every description, whether engaged in by employees, or by persons not in the service of the Company is strictly forbidden.

Employees are strictly forbidden the use of vinous, malt, spirituous, or intoxicating liquors, during their time of service with the Company.

Loafers, “sweaters”, deadbeats, tramps, gamblers, or disreputable persons, must not be entertained at any camp, nor will employees be permitted to give, loan or sell such persons any grain, or provisions of any kind, nor shall such persons be permitted to remain on the Company’s land under any pretext whatever.

Employees are not allowed to run mustang, antelope or any kind of game on the Company’s horses.

No employee shall be permitted to own any cattle or stock horses on the ranch.

It is the aim of the owners of this ranch to conduct it on the principle of right and justice to everyone; and for it to be excelled by no other in the good behavior, sterling honesty and integrity, and general high character of its employees, and to this end it is necessary that the forgoing rules be adhered to, and the violation of any of them will be the just charge for discharge.

Certaindeaf
March 27, 2013, 02:02 PM
I think you mis-spelled XIT for NY.

huntsman
March 27, 2013, 02:14 PM
By the 1890s they were organizing themselves into unions and striking in Idaho, Montana and Texas.

A cowboy union? Wow you just killed it for me, so much for the rugged individual image.

returningfire
March 27, 2013, 02:18 PM
The most they carried one full box and the Revolver with five and the rifle full.
Extra ammo was a luxury most could not afford.

Certaindeaf
March 27, 2013, 02:18 PM
A cowboy union? Wow you just killed it for me, so much for the rugged individual image.
Who said what you quoted? Did you find that on the intermet somewhere?

Certaindeaf
March 27, 2013, 02:20 PM
The most they carried one full box and the Revolver with five and the rifle full.
Extra ammo was a luxury most could not afford.
Unless you were Elmer Keith and your Dad gave you a one ton pig of lead.

12many
March 27, 2013, 03:52 PM
My father grew up on a ranch in Montana and knew the area well. They carried very little and had very little. Might have a few in the gun and maybe a few more in the saddle bag.

Even hunting they might only take a couple rounds. Deer and other animals were very plentiful and could be more easily approach on a horse or walking behind a horse.

Certaindeaf
March 27, 2013, 03:59 PM
I think the modern cowboy shooter carries like 12 all the way up to the stage.. I'm just guessing though.
If I was a "cowboy", I'd want like 18 at least.. perhaps months of travel. Might depend on what you call a cowboy though.. like that matters.

critter
March 27, 2013, 04:40 PM
My great grandfather was from that era, mostly after the Indian Wars. He was a smallish, wiry little guy. He was not what I consider a 'cowboy', but was a 'mule skinner' and drove 8,10 & 12 hitches of mules pulling freight wagons.

I have found no references whatsoever of him carrying either a rifle or pistol. He may very well have. There ARE, however, several stories of his 'sorting out some difficulties' using his expertise with a black snake bull whip with which he was said to be an expert. He could, supposedly, flick horse flies off the mules without touching the mules.

I DO remember him and, though small of stature, would not have wanted to tangle with him.

gym
March 27, 2013, 07:23 PM
Ok, now what about those who made their living with a gun, like sheriffs and martials. Also what did the Bad Guys carry, the Gunfighters, of the era, like Jessie James and Bat Masterson, Billy the Kid etc. I think Scofield's were big with many as well as Colts. I remember hearing Doc Holiday carried a 32 in that shoulder rig, "but who knows where I heard that". I assume they had more of a need for a better weapon and more ammo.

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