The Gun that Won the West

 Most cowboys’ didn’t carry one but when they did the 1873 Colt Peacemaker, a .45 caliber single action revolver was the gun of choice. And you could buy it mail order for less than twenty bucks including postage. It didn’t look fancy but was quite reliable; enough so that the U.S. Army adopted the gun. From that time on the gun was usually referred to as the Army Colt. The gun the military purchased came with a seven and one half inch barrel and was much preferred to the civilian mail order model with the shorter five and a half inch barrel. This became the gun of the gunfighters—even if most of the famous gunfighters were only in novels and later on television. This is the gun that won the west. But not all famous gunman of the west carried the .45 Army Colt. Some like Bill Hickok (I really don’t like him) carried a .36 caliber Navy Colt made in 1851. As a matter of fact he carried three, along with an array of other weapons. Dime novelists claimed he often carried several knives and at least one derringer. His Navy Colt’s were a little lighter than the Army version but had the same barrel length. The model came out more than twenty years before the 1873 Peacemaker and fans of the Army Colt liked the larger caliber and claimed it to be more accurate than the Navy. Hickok and many others of the old west did not agree. Hickok’s guns were chrome plated and engraved with his initials. Looked like TV western guns of the 1950s and 60s. Oh, by the way—Wild Bill was killed by a .45 caliber Colt.

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