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Which lever-action rifle REALLY had the biggest hand in "winning the West"?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow, Jan 6, 2010.


Which rifle really won the West?

  1. Spencer Rifle

    7 vote(s)
  2. Henry Rifle

    22 vote(s)
  3. Win 1866

    6 vote(s)
  4. Win 1873

    48 vote(s)
  5. Win 1886

    2 vote(s)
  6. Win 1892

    5 vote(s)
  7. Win 1894

    3 vote(s)
  8. Win 1895

    0 vote(s)
  9. They all had a hand in it

    9 vote(s)
  10. None of the above (specify)

    10 vote(s)
  11. I have no idea

    30 vote(s)
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  1. Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow

    Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow member

    Nov 14, 2007
    Which one really killed the most game, and defended against the most Indians and other enemies for the Settlers and Uncle Sam during the 19th century?

    It's been attributed to the 1873, of course, and that's probably right, but maybe there's a difference of opinion out there.

    Just a fun thread - see poll & discuss amongst yourselves. I'm getting nostalgic & verklempt!

    Oops, accidentally left out the 1876... you can do a write-in vote for it if you like!
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2010
  2. Mr_Pale_Horse

    Mr_Pale_Horse Member

    Nov 27, 2007
    I voted 1873, although, the 1876 is a very likely candidate in that it was successfully used in the Great Buffalo Slaughter.
  3. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Sep 17, 2007
    Eastern KS
    The west was already won before the 86, 92, 94, and 95 were even invented.

    I wanted to vote for three.
    There are .44 Henry/66/73 rim-fire cases found in about every major Indian battle site by modern day archeologist's.

    I would think the Sharps & Remington single-shots as used by the commercial hunters played a bigger role in wiping out the Buffalo herds then the lever-action.

    Last edited: Jan 6, 2010
  4. Rshooter

    Rshooter Member

    Sep 29, 2007
    I must agree with rc. Unfortunately the Army had some pretty outmoded weapons up to and after the Civil War. Single action rifles "Springfields" were used at the battle of Little Big Horn. I believe this was one of the final battles of the west.
  5. John Parker

    John Parker Member

    May 14, 2009
    There were still several more significant battles after LBH.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2010
  6. eastbank

    eastbank Member

    Jul 30, 2009
    wounded knee(i think 1891) was the last major killing ground for the us army, but it was not a glory thing,just a killing thing. eastbank.
  7. Float Pilot

    Float Pilot Member

    Jul 27, 2007
    Kachemak Bay Alaska
    They Cavalry Scouts (Forsyth's Scouts I think) used Spencer carbines at the Battle of Beechers Island Sept 1868 in what is now Colorado. They were late civil war production guns and the ammo , which came in copper alloy loading tubes, was corroded due to the high copper content used in the cartridge casing.

    Many of the battles that could be called the Winning of the West occurred during the Civil War period (War of Northern Aggression). Many of the troops being Militia or Union Troops manned by units of Galvanized Yankees. Those being former Confederates who had a choice between starving in a Yankee prison camp or going out west to fight (murder) Indians.

    The Colorado War of 1863 to 1865 is an example.

    Poor record keeping and the fact the the war raging in the east directed much attention away from all that went on in the vast west during that period.

    I once reviewed the types of weapons used by the 1st and 2nd Colorado volunteers during their attacks during the Sand Creek massacre "1864".
    They were listed as having, Harpers Ferry Rifles and Muskets, Austrian Muskets (Common during the civil war) Whitney revolvers, Springfield rifles, some Colt Navy pistols and they also needed ammo for some Sharps rifles or carbines. They were also listed as having Civilian rifles as well.

    All sorts of things happened well before the advent of mass produced lever action rifles. The first breach firing carbines played a much more serious role when you look at some of the time-lines...

    Indian Wars
    West of the Mississippi

    * Texas-Indian Wars (1836–1875),
    o Great Raid of 1840 (1840)
    o Antelope Hills Expedition (1858)
    o Battle of Pease River (1860)
    o Red River War (1874–1875)
    * Apache Wars (1851-1886)
    * Puget Sound War (1855–1856)
    * Dakota War of 1862 (1862)
    * Colorado War (1863–1865)
    * Red Cloud's War (1866–1868
    * Comanche Campaign (1868–1874)
    * Great Sioux War of 1876-77
    * Nez Perce War (1877)
    * Pine Ridge Campaign (1890)
    * Battle of Bear Valley (1918)
  8. goon

    goon Member

    Jan 20, 2003
    I'd say the Sharps breechloaders had more of an impact on winning the west than any other rifle.
    I like Winchesters and Henrys, but it was the Sharps that was used to kill off the buffal herds, which starved the Indians, which put them in a weakened position for fighting and negotiation, which made westward expansion a whole lot easier for whites.

    Having said that, there were some Henrys and Winchester 1866's at Little Big Horn. Unfortunately for Custer, most of them were being fired at him by angry Indians.
  9. Wanta B

    Wanta B Member

    Oct 2, 2008
    Under my cover and in my boots Currently somewhere
    "...defended against..." Hmmm...Have ansestors on both sides of that one,most European,still would not classify it as defense.NO way,no how.Still every conflict has a winner and a loser.C'est la vie.To wit I would have to agree with Goon off the top of my head.:scrutiny:...Did I just say "how" and "off the top of my head" in the same paragraph to this topic?!:eek::D
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2010
  10. Badlander

    Badlander Member

    Mar 14, 2008
    South Florida
    I don't think most settlers had expensise guns. The west was most likely won with cheap single shot shotguns that would put meat on the table and do double duty as protection.
  11. 76shuvlinoff

    76shuvlinoff Member

    Jul 6, 2007
    Beat me to it.
    More than once I've been told it was the multipurpose scattergun that "won" the west.
  12. R.W.Dale

    R.W.Dale Member

    Oct 14, 2005
    Northwest Arkansas
    I agree with he above comment

    leverguns back then were the equivalent to a high end piston AR or HK today. IE expensive and few and far between amongst the population
  13. Speedo66

    Speedo66 Member

    May 31, 2008
    Won the West for who?

    As previously stated, the Army had Trapdoor Springfields until and during the Spanish American War in 1898, when they were replaced by Krags. The lever actions were favored by the Indians, who put them to good use. I'm sure they helped them win some battles, particularly as we know, the Little Big Horn.

    For an interesting time line, think of this: while Custer was getting his butt kicked in the Black Hills, the Brooklyn Bridge was being constructed in NY. Hard to believe they were still fighting Indians out west while that marvel was being built back east.

    I vote for the 1873, the fact that I own one has nothing to do with that. :rolleyes:
  14. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

    Dec 29, 2002
    Los Anchorage
    I doubt any levergun can claim that distinction, Hollywood aside. Only a handful of active fighting tribes remained after the Civil War. The great bulk of the actual settler vs native fighting was done with muzzle-loaded firearms. Flintlocks and caplocks. Same thing with hunting. Lever actions took decades to get available and cheap enough to supplant the caplock as the dominant frontier game getters. They were expensive to buy and feed. They didn't really dominate until the 1880's and 90's--well after the west had been 99% quelled. By the turn of the century so much game had been taken even the deer were getting scarce in places, and only a very few of the great bear remained alive in the lower 48. That's when you see smaller, higher velocity rounds coming into favor such as the .30 WCF and .32-20.

    Believe it or not there are still a handful of uncontacted tribes around the world to this day. One of them, the Sentinelese from the Andaman Islands, greeted helicopters checking them out after the Tsunami with a wave of arrows! You gotta love that kind of chutzpa. They're known to kill any poachers who venture too close. The last truly free people in the world, bless 'em.

    Last edited: Jan 6, 2010
  15. d2wing

    d2wing Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    The last battle between federal troops and Indians was in Oct. 1898 on or around Leech Lake Minnesota. Most settlers weren't cowboys and were not as well armed as the movies would have you believe. One group of settlers defended thenselves with a shared shotgun after the James gang raid in Minnesota.
  16. Arkansas Paul

    Arkansas Paul Member

    Mar 18, 2009
    Central Arkansas
    I'm with RC, although the Winchester 73 wasn't rimfire. It was originally chambered in .44-40 and later chambered for other rounds. I take that back about the rimfire. They did later chamber the rifle for .22 but only made 19,000 in that caliber. It was also the least produced caliber I think. The only thing that kept me from voting for the Henry was the fact that only 14,000 were ever produced.
  17. Nicodemus38

    Nicodemus38 Member

    May 11, 2009
    if you go simply by post civil war settlement westward, the most popular lever gun were milsurp Henry rifles, followed by mil surp Spencer rifle. However, at the end of the civil war the most powerful lever gun was the spencer, not impressive going by enfield rifle musket balistics, but still far more powerful then the henry rifle and its cartridge.
  18. glockman19

    glockman19 Member

    Mar 16, 2007
    That is an easy question.

    Winchester 73
    Jimmy Stewart
    Great cast too:

    Cast (in credits order) verified as complete

    James Stewart ... Lin McAdam
    Shelley Winters ... Lola Manners
    Dan Duryea ... Waco Johnnie Dean
    Stephen McNally ... Dutch Henry Brown
    Millard Mitchell ... High Spade Frankie Wilson
    Charles Drake ... Steve Miller
    John McIntire ... Joe Lamont
    Will Geer ... Wyatt Earp
    Jay C. Flippen ... Sgt. Wilkes
    Rock Hudson ... Young Bull
    John Alexander ... Jack Riker
    Steve Brodie ... Wesley
    James Millican ... Wheeler
    Abner Biberman ... Latigo Means
    Tony Curtis ... Doan (as Anthony Curtis)
    James Best ... Crater
  19. RonE

    RonE Member

    Aug 19, 2007
    Rockport, Texas
    A good argument might be made that the railroads won the west and the buffalo hunters fed the railroad workers. I would say that the buffalo hunters shooting .50 caliber guns won the west.
  20. Float Pilot

    Float Pilot Member

    Jul 27, 2007
    Kachemak Bay Alaska
    Check out:

    Battle of Little High Rock Canyon, on Northwestern Washoe County, Nevada, March 1st, 1911.

    How about the Battle of Bear Valley, Arizona, January 9th 1918? 10th cavalry vs Yaqui Indians.

    I guess if you figure that many of Pancho Villa's northern Mexican troops were predominately Indian blood line, then the Battles or Columbus, Veracruz and The Battle of Carrizal would come into play.

    Crafty Indian Agents and sickness laden blankets killed many more than bullets.

    Of course up here in Alaska, the native population first had to do battle with Russian Troops and Naval forces... Then later the US NAVY, like in Oct 1882 when the US NAVY shelled and burned the native village of Angoon in South East Alaska.

    Last edited: Jan 6, 2010
  21. RockyMtnTactical

    RockyMtnTactical Member

    Oct 21, 2006
    I chose the Henry just because that was the design that started it all.
  22. CajunBass

    CajunBass Member

    Jun 2, 2005
    North Chesterfield, Virginia
    It was the unstopable human wave that started at Jamestown (and the Spanish settlements in the south/southwest and the French from Canada). People fleeing whatever in Europe and later "the east", were always pushing west with whatever weapons they had. The people who occupied the land were simply overwhelmed. They might win one battle/war, but another, fresh group of invaders was always just over the hill pushing forward toward them. Just a slow motion human wave attack. With an unlimited supply of "fresh troops" no force on earth was going to stop them.

    It was the plow that really did it. The plow and the log cabin/sod hut meant those invaders were going to stay, and occupy the land, not just cross over it be gone. When those people "dug in," the next fresh, wave passed through the lines and resumed the attack.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2010
  23. d2wing

    d2wing Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    Float, The battle at leech lake is considered to be the last major battle, with US troops. I see that I did leave out the word major. You do have a point.
    In the Dakota uprising of 1862, the deciding weapon was a cannon at Fort Ridgely. I don't think either side had many if any repeating rifles.
  24. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Member

    Sep 8, 2005
    I think it was the action of the throttle lever on these things that "won the West", not the lever action on an early Winchester, so much.:)


    The slaughter of the bison was closely connected to the railroads in various ways, also, and was done, largely, with Sharps rifles and a few of their competitors.
  25. Float Pilot

    Float Pilot Member

    Jul 27, 2007
    Kachemak Bay Alaska
    True.. The Leech Lake Battle or Battle of Sugar Point Oct 1898 as I learned it back in military history class, had around 75+ troops from the Army and another 30 or so US Marshals, Sheriffs, Indian Police and Deputies. As I recall the Army took some casualties, including 5 or 6 killed and the less than 20 local Indians involved managed to avoid any casualties on their part. While the over 200 troops from the National Guard showed up after the battle, the Army never was able to arrest the guy they had come for in the first place.

    The Battle of Bear Valley Arizona (Jan 9th 1918) was only 24 Cavalry Troopers from the 10th when they ran into 25-30 armed Yaqui's.
    Having done battle with US and Mexican government troops all through the WWI period, the Yaquis made the poor decision to open fire..
    Although,,, in this case, the US troops, all being Buffalo Soldiers, won the battle by killing the Yaqui chief and wounding several others. The Yaquis gave up and surrendered to the 10th Buffalo soldiers, who had no causalities on the US side of things.

    The Leech Island (Sugar Point) battle had much more press since the Army commander took newspaper reporters along with his force. All to arrest a bootlegger.

    The battles of the 9th and 10th Cavalry along the south west boarder (and in Mexico) during the 1900 to 1918 time period gained much less attention since the US Troops were black and the area was not well suited to the comforts required by newspapermen.
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