Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by BringHomeTheBacon, Apr 16, 2022.
I think these are the five-most quintessential cowboy guns ever.
@Driftwood Johnson may break the internet with all the pictures of his originals.
Other than that, I like your selection as representative, although I'm not familiar with that particular shotgun manufacturer. Colt made double barrels back then, though.
I had an original '73 Winchester in .38-40 until recently, but I wouldn't say it was minty, actually, far from it. But it did operate and shoot well. Same for another gun I had from that era, a Trapdoor Springfield in .45-70.
all the American gun manufacturers of the Old West Era. Were there any Winchester Saddle Ring Carbines made in .45 Colt during the actual Old West times? I think the Old West officially spans from 1865 through 1895. I think some old-time cowboys wanted a rifle in .45 Colt as a companion to their 6-shooter which shoots the same ammo. Were Colt coach guns common on stagecoaches? I read that a William Moore double-barrel shotgun was used by Doc Holliday in the Battle at OK Corral. I once had the notion that Colt Peacemakers were carried by the good guys while Remington 6-shooters were the guns of the bad guys. White Hats = Colts, Black Hats = Remingtons. I think of "original" cowboy guns as ones actually made during the Old West. I think most cowboy action shooters these days use cheap import reproductions for their sport. What do American cowboys usually carry for guns this day and age?
Remington 1875 revolver. I am the 6th owner. The 1st two were the father & son who owned the gun store in Sandusky, OH. The 3rd owner bought it sometime in the 1930s still in the original box. It went to the 4th owner in the late 30s or early 40s. My father-in-law traded a stock that he made for the 4th owner's shotgun in the middle 1940s. I bought it from my father-in-law in the late 1980s. It has been handled a lot, but the fellow my father-in-law got it from said it only had been fired on New Years and July 4th a few times. From what I have been able to determine, it is a later model because of firing pin and hammer style. Other than the top of the barrel - E Remington & Sons, Illion, N.Y. USA, there are no external markings. Under the left wood grip is hand stamped 574. I first thought it was in 44 Remington caliber since there are no external caliber markings, but since it appears to be a later style, it might be 44-40 caliber. A 44-40 cartridge will drop into the cylinder. Some late models were chambered in 45 Colt.
About 25,000 were made from 1875 to 1886 with somewhere around 10,000 ordered by the Egyptian Government. I have taken it to several gun shows and received very favorable comments except for one gentleman who immediately and loudly proclaims that it has been refinished and then briskly walks away.
NRA Benefactor Golden Eagle
No lever guns were ever chambered in 45 Colt prior to the 1980s. The rim on the original Colt rounds was insufficient to work well with extractors. If one wanted a revolver / carbine combo in the same cartridge the hugely popular 44/40 was the way to go. And many did.
While Winchester effectively created the myth that the 1873 was “the gun that won the West”, it was more likely the side by side shotgun, many of them lower cost trade guns from Europe and CT, quite a few of them Remingtons.
What is the quintessential caliber for an original Winchester 1873? What chambering would mounted cowboys have commonly in the scabbard carried from 1865 to 1895 in these guns?
Not sure about the Colt Remington thing or the hats for that matter. If you think most cowboy action shooters use "cheap" imports, you should price a few reproductions especially those with action jobs for competition used by the top shooters. Don't know about "this day and age." My dad was born in 1915 and a rancher all his life. His main guns were a Colt Woodsman and a Winchester 1894 in .25-35. Later on, he acquired a Smith and Wesson Model 28.
Just for the record, my pick for the gun that won the west is the Northwest Trade Gun, a muzzle loading musket in use from the mid 1600s to the early days of the 20th Century across the American continent.
The Colt SAA pictured by the OP is actually a Umarex CO2 pellet gun--specifically the "Duke" version to commemorate John Wayne as indicated by the stock medallion.
Instead of the Remington revolver which didn't sell very well, I would have listed the top break S&W model 3 which beat Colt to the marketplace by at least 3 years and sold in several configurations from the 1st model American to the Schofield to the Russian. Historians now believe that the S&W model 3 is what Wyatt Earp used for the gunfight at the OK corral. Virgil Earl famously carried one for the rest of his lawman career due to losing the use of one arm after he was ambushed on the streets of Tombstone. The top break and automatic ejection features make the gun handier to load for someone thus disabled.
I have one of the Italian Schofield models and find it to be more accurate and easier to aim than any of my SAAs. Unfortunately, an original American like the one shown below is usually way above my paygrade.
Smith & Wesson with The Old West.
Then there were Marlin and Henry lever guns. The Savage lever gun didn't come along until just after the Old West.
Were there any true companion guns of the Old West era that cowboys could shoot the same ammo from both a six-shooter and a lever gun?
1st Gen Bisley Colt, 38-40, shipped 1909.
1st Gen Bisley Colt, 38-40, shipped 1907.
Colt Richards Conversion, 44 Colt. Not sure exactly when it shipped, I have not lettered it yet. Probably sometime around 1871.
Remington Model 1875, 44-40. Not sure exactly when it shipped, probably somewhere around 1875.
Remington Model 1890, 44-40. Probably shipped sometime around 1890.
Merwin Hulbert Pocket Army, 2nd Model. 44-40. Still sooty after a CAS match. Shipped sometime between 1881-1883. No factory records exist anymore, the factory burned down at some point.
Smith and Wesson Tip Ups. Top to bottom, No 2 Old Army, 32 Rimfire, shipped 1863; No. 1 1/2 First Issue, 32 Rimfire, shipped 1865; No 1, 2nd Issue, 22 Short, shipping date unknown.
Smith and Wesson 1st Model Russian. Shipped in 1873. Identical in appearance to the American Model except chambered for the 44 Russian cartridge. Not in original condition, the barrel has been shortened, an old coin substituted for the front sight, and nickel plated after being aggressively polished. I bought it because, 1, it was affordable, and 2, it rounded out my collection of Top Break #3 S&W revolvers.
Smith and Wesson 2nd Model Russian, 44 Russian, shipped 1875.
Smith and Wesson 1st Model Schofield, 45 Schofield, shipped 1875.
Smith and Wesson New Model Number Threes, 44 Russian. The blued one shipped to Japan in 1896, the nickel plated one shipped in 1882, refinished at the factory in 1965.
Smith and Wesson 44 Double Actions. Both chambered for 44 Russian. The one at the top is a target model, it shipped in 1895, the one at the bottom shipped in 1881 and was reblued at some point and an old coin substituted for the front sight.
Stevens SXS Hammered Shotgun, 12 Gauge, shipped around 1908.
Winchester Model 1897 pump shotgun, 12 Gauge, shipped 1909.
Springfield Trapdoor. 45-70. Shipped 1883.
Marlin Model 1894, 44-40. Shipped 1895.
Winchester Model 1873, 38-40. Shipped 1887. "The Gun That Won The West", an advertising slogan made up by Winchester about the Model 1873 rifle.
Winchester Model 1892, 44-40. Shipped 1897.
Winchester Model 1886, 45-70. Shipped in 1886.
Winchester Model 1894, 30-30. Shipped in 1895.
(24) Guns of the West - YouTube
It seems that pistols and levers chambered for .44-40 or .38-40 would have been good companions for a pre-1895 cowboy on his horse during a cattle drive. I don't think pre-1895 Colt Peacemakers were ever made in either caliber, just .45 Colt??
How about an 1875 Remington in .44-40 to go with that Winchester 1873 Saddle Ring Carbine in the same chambering for a trail-drive companion duo?
It depends on your definition of The Old West. Most historians consider the time frame of the Old West to be the end of the Civil War (1865) until 1900 when the Census Bureau officially declared the Frontier to be closed.
No, the 38-40 cartridge was not developed by Winchester until 1879. The original chambering of the Model 1873 Winchester in 1873 was 44-40. 38-40 is simply the 44-40 case necked down to .401 diameter. Don't ask why it was called 38-40, that would require a longer explanation. Winchester developed the 38-40 cartridge because they felt they had already saturated the market for the 44-40. The 1860 Henry rifle, the immediate predecessor of the Winchester rifles was chambered for the 44 Henry Rimfire cartridge, as was the Model 1866 Winchester, the first rifle to actually carry the Winchester name.
Rifles were never chambered for 45 Colt until sometime in the 1980s. Yes, 1980s. There were several reasons, one reason was the rim of the old 45 Colts were very narrow and would not give the extractor claw of a rifle much to grab. This is because ejection with the old Colts was done with an ejector rod that poked the empties out from the inside, A large rim was not necessary to poke empties out of a revolver. All the old Winchester Centerfire Cartridges, such as 44-40, 38-40, 32-20, and 25-20 were originally developed for rifles, so they had rims large enough for a rifle extractor to grab.
This photo of old 45 Colt cartridge in my collection shows how narrow the rims were on most of them. A modern 45 Colt, with a larger rim is all the way on the right. The round next to it with the massive rim was developed for a Colt double action revolver that extracted the empties with a modern style extractor.
Left to right in this photo are a 44 Henry Rimfire, 44-40, 38-40, and 32-20. These were all Black Powder cartridges. A cartridge loaded with Black Powder, unlike modern cartridges loaded with Smokeless powder, was completely filled with powder. So the overall size of the cartridge is a good indicator of its power. The little 44 Henry cartridge only contained about 26 grains of powder. This was OK for the bronze frames of the Henry and 1866 Winchester rifles, but as can be seen, the 44-40 had a much greater powder capacity, about 40 grains. The Model 1873 Winchester at first had an iron frame, later a steel frame to be able to safely handle the more powerful cartridge. As can be seen in this photo, the 38-40 was really nothing more than the 44-40 necked down to 40 caliber.
Smith and Wesson had a huge impact on the Old West, as you can see from some of my photos. Colt had a strong foot hold with the Army ordering thousands of Single Action Army revolvers starting in 1873, but Smith and Wesson sold the first cartridge revolvers to the Army in 1869, if memory serves. An order of 1000 revolvers. This was the American Model, which looked just like that 1st Model Russian that I posted above. Not wanting to be left out of the lucrative Army contracts, S&W sold something like 9,000 Schofield revolvers to the Army, starting in 1875. S&W was in the middle of producing over 150,000 Russian models for the Russian, Turkish, and Japanese governments, but they made time to produce the Schofields for the Army. Many of these revolvers eventually made their way into the Old West as they were surplussed out.
Can't say I blame him for saying it's been refinished. Holy cow is it pristine looking. I probably would've said the same thing (although in a nicer tone and with an interrogation sign instead. ).
The '73 was chambered in .44-40, .38-40, and .32-20, Colt revolvers were eventually chambered in those cartridges also.
Driftwood mentioned that the .38-40 was actually a .40 caliber. Similarly, the .44-40 was not a .44, but was actually a .42.
The .38-40 was a fairly powerful cartridge, having similar ballistics to a modern .40 S&W.
What a beautiful gun. Great story/history to go with it.
original cowboy guns, I'm fascinated by the whole COMPANION concept. I'm sure there a lot of reproductions that could give one such a companion pair of guns.
It might be especially super tough for collectors to find minty pre-1895 guns of a "companion" caliber if they are romanticized by the companion gun notion.
Colts and Winchesters were expensive, each maybe a month's pay for a ranch hand.
There was a brisk business in Army surplus in those days, a cap and ball revolver or cartridge conversion and a single shot rifle, even a muzzleloader would be a feasible outfit.
I don't think as much thought was given to common caliber rifle and revolver then as now.
There were two historical cases in opposite directions, Driftwood can probably provide the names.
A Texas Ranger was in a battle with Indians. He got in a rush and stuck a .45 revolver cartridge in his .44 lever action. He stayed calm, unscrewed the side plate with his Bowie knife, cleared the jam, and resumed the fight. A friend did that in a CAS match and it was a chore to get back in action.
Another lawman had a .44-40 cartridge split and lock up his revolver. He went to a .45.
Although bullet diameters varied widely, the original spec for 44-40 bullets was .427. I generally load my 44-40 ammo with .428 bullets. So if we are going to be rounding off bullet diameters to two digits, 44-40 would be a 43 caliber. Just like 44 Russian, 44 Special and 44 Mag which have .429 diameter bullets. 38-40 bullet diameter is actually .401, so it truly is a 40 caliber.
cowboy guns since we are on this topic have come to me.
It could be that cowboys in 1880 commonly carried a Colt Peacemaker (or perhaps a surplus cap n ball) then because no Blackhawks or autos were around yet.
Because of Hollywood, some folks still envision cowboys with old-fashioned guns today. There might still be a real working cowpoke today sporting a Peacemaker in the holster somewhere. The Old West/Old West style lever guns by Marlin, Henry and Winchester still seem to be as popular as ever even with hunters and non-cowpokes. I met a young air force fellow of Asian decent from New York City in 2017 who told me he wanted a Winchester lever in .30-30 of all things as a fun gun to shoot at the range. He told me his family was of strong Democrat and gun control mentality as well. Perhaps, getting a "fun cowboy gun" might have (gladly for us pro-gunners) put gun rights and American firearms traditions in a new light for him. In his mind, an "old-fashioned" or "innocent-looking" gun (as commonly seen in cowboy pictures) might seem as 'intimidating" or as "scary" as a modern "black" rifle or pistol. He claimed to me that "only police officers" could own handguns in New York City. If these "cool cowboy guns" can convert American anti-gunners, then god bless them!
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