Weapons You Might Forget – How It Was Back Then, written by Jay Chambers
Weapons You Might Forget – How It Was Back Then https://www.minutemanreview.com/
There are a lot of interesting firearms that have been developed throughout history, but the firearms from the wild west are some of the most beautiful and interesting that have ever been created.
The six shooter is one of the quintessential pieces of Wild West firearms. When we think of any outlaw or lawman, the big iron on their hip is one of the first things that springs to mind.
The first revolver was produced by Samuel Colt in 1836. The Colt Paterson had a cylinder that held 5 cap and ball rounds. Its revolutionary nature wasn’t picked up on by the public at the time, and it didn’t sell well. Some select generals in the American militaries did catch on early though. Later, in 1841, Samuel Colt and his friend, Captain Sam Walker, worked to produce an upgraded version that was known as the Colt Walker. This .44 caliber revolver began to spread the word about the usefulness of revolvers, The Colt Navy, released in 1851, was the ultimate upgrade after Colt’s years spent developing his technology.
Revolvers using metallic cartridges had been produced throughout the 1860s, but the concept really caught on when Smith & Wesson released the Model 3 in 1870. This also started the wave of cartridge conversion revolvers. Colt and Remington began selling kits that could convert older style revolvers to fire modern metallic cartridges. Because there were a plethora of cap and ball revolvers out there, it was easier and cheaper for many to simply buy conversion kits and update their revolvers with the times. These revolvers using metallic cartridges were fairly similar to the revolvers we use today. One of the biggest changes in modern revolvers is the fact that they are double action which allows for a more intuitive way of firing. This wasn’t popularized in the west until the Colt 1889 came out.
Lever Action Rifles
Today, lever action rifles would never be found on a battlefield. The rate of fire and time to reload are light years behind the autoloading rifles of today like the M4 and the AK-47. This would have seemed crazy at one point in time though, as lever action rifles represented a major step up in firepower. The average soldier on a battlefield would have been carrying a single shot rifle that had a lengthy reload time in between every shot. While revolvers and gatling guns had existed, the thought of the average person being able to carry that kind of firepower was unprecedented until lever-action rifles came around.
Similarly to the revolver, the revolutionary nature of lever-action rifles took some time to catch on. Some of the first were produced by Colt in 1837 and 1841. They were percussion based though which severely limited their potential. The first truly useful lever-action rifle was produced by Henry in 1860. It featured .44 rimfire rounds, a great step up from the cap and ball percussion-based rounds of old. They began to gain a following through out the civil war, though they didn’t reach mainstream use until after. The next great development was the Winchester 1866. One of its main innovations was the side loading gate. With the Henry rifle, a tubular magazine was loaded by removing a rod from the top and dropping cartridges inside. The Winchester 1866 could be loaded through a breech in the side that functioned similarly to the underside gate on modern shotguns. It also featured a wooden hand guard. The Henry’s did not have one which meant that users had to hold the barrel. From this time period onwards, lever-action rifles became the norm. The Winchester 1773, 1776, and 1886 all continued innovating and carrying on the legacy set by Colt and Henry.
The lever action rifle was sort of the AR-15 of its time. The firing mechanism and capacity made it a no brainer for people living in the second half of the 19th century. The metallic cartridge was a good adjustment that made these rifles even more potent. It's also hard to deny the beauty of these rifles. There are plenty of sleek and attractive modern rifles, but a lever action rifle with a brass receiver, wood stock, and an octagonal barrel is a piece of art in comparison.
Even as one of the lesser focused on weapons of the time period, the double-barreled shotgun is still an iconic weapon. Dozens of western movies have shown the “coach gun” as the weapon of choice among stagecoach operators. One would drive the stagecoach, and a guard would be at the ready with a double-barreled shotgun to repel any would be robbers. This is even where the term “riding shotgun” comes from. There were many manufacturers and many different styles of double-barreled shotgun in circulation at the time. There isn’t necessarily an iconic brand like there is with rifles and revolvers. The shotgun definitely maintained its relevance though. Today we have many variations like the pump-action and the semi-automatic, but the double-barreled shotgun still remains in use.
There were other iconic guns of the time. The Derringer pistol was a small self-defense weapon that was ideal for townsfolk who didn’t need a big iron dangling from their hip. The Slant Breech Sharps Carbine gained a reputation in the 1850s as being a gun of freedom fighters. It was used by the famous preacher Henry Ward Beecher in his anti-slavery crusades.
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