Western Trips

Western Trips

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Texas Ranger Firearms and the Wild West

It's often been said that the Winchester rifle won the West. It's also been said often that whichever make of rifle used during wild west battles or gunfights, the firearm was usually referred to as a Winchester. The fact of course is that a great many different firearms were used by settlers and lawmen throughout the west. Along with the Winchester brand were the Sharps, the Colts, the Smith and Wessons, the Remingtons and others.

texas ranger museum waco texas
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum

There are excellent collections of authentic western rifles on display at museums throughout the U.S. If your travels take you to Texas you'll want to make a stop at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, about 100 miles south of Dallas and about 100 miles north of Austin. Here you will find one of the best firearm collections found anywhere with colorful histories attached to many of the exhibits.

The Texas Rangers used a variety of weapons during their storied past. The Texas Rangers were sometimes the only protection settlers had against raiding Indians, outlaws and cattle rustlers. Their founding goes all the way back to 1823 when Stephen F. Austin suggested that "rangers" be formed as a group to protect settlers.

colt 45 revolver 1881
1881 Colt .45 Caliber SAA Revolver
The Colt .45 Caliber Revolver 1881

About 37,000 Colt revolvers were sold to the U.S. Army between 1873 and 1893. revolvers that were sold to the army have the markings U.S. Civilian models were referred to as "civilian single action army" or "SAA" revolvers.

This 1881 Colt revolver held six cartridges in a revolving cylinder. While the Colt .45 Caliber Model P "Peacemaker" has been manufactured with several different size barrels since 1873, the gun's general appearance hasn't changed much.

In 1837 the new Colt revolvers produced by Samuel Colt had a ready market in Texas. The Texas Rangers ordered 180 of the .36 caliber five shot holster models of the Paterson Colt Revolver. The Rangers had a difficult time while battling the Comanches with single shot firearms. The Indians knew well the time it took to reload single shot weapons and timed their charges accordingly and with great effectiveness. When the Rangers showed up on the frontier with Colt revolvers the outcome changed dramatically. The west in general and the Texas frontier in particular were natural proving grounds for Sam Colt's revolutionary side arms.

colt walker revolver
Colt Walker Repeating Pistol
The Colt Walker

Shown here is the Colt Walker Repeating Pistol. This is a single action revolver holding six cartridges. The gun was developed in the 1840's in a collaboration with a Texas Ranger by the name of Samuel Hamilton Walker and Samuel Colt.

The Colt Walker used black powder and was the highest selling black powder revolver of all time. This was a heavy firearm weighing 4 1/2 pounds unloaded and used .44 caliber cartridges.The firearm was 15 3/4 inches long. This pistol had great power and the frame needed to be much stronger than anything before.

The Colt Walker came about at the time that Texas was fighting in the Mexican-American War and the need for such a powerful hand held black powder weapon was great. Texas ended up ordering 1,000 of the Walker Colt's and used them extensively during the war.

smith and wesson russian model
1871 Smith and Wesson Russian Model 3
Smith and Wesson .44 Caliber Model 3 1871-1874

This popular frontier firearm was manufactured in several varieties, the one featured here is the "Russian Model". The revolver took it's name because it was used by the Russian Empire military. Over 40,000 of these models were ordered by the Russians in 1871. Eventually the Russian Empire ordered about 130,000 of these Smith and Wesson Model 3's. This large order from the Russian Empire helped make Smith and Wesson a major and permanent world wide firearms manufacturer. Per the requests of the Russians, three different models were built, the one shown here is of the 1st series.

This revolver is a six shot single action weapon. One of the characteristics of the Smith and Wesson that appealed to the Russians was the firearm's tip-up open design to refill chambers. Also the larger caliber had great appeal to the Russians.

Below are links to additional Western Trips articles you may enjoy...

Flintlock Firearms of the American West

Colt Handguns 

The Sharps Rifle and Christian Sharps

colt prewar smokeless revolver
Colt Prewar Smokeless Revolver
1899-1940 Colt Prewar Model .41 Caliber

The Colt Prewar Model .41 Caliber Revolver was the Single Action Army smokeless model as opposed to the older black powder model. The smokeless models used a spring-loaded button through the side of the frame whereas the black powder models had a screw in the front of the frame.

While the series date begins in 1899 the production of the smokeless models began in 1900. Smokeless powder differs from black powder as the former emits, after combustion, gases and the latter sold particles. Smokeless powder is not necessarily smokeless. The smoke is negligible with small arms and very noticeable with heavy arms. Smokeless powder was invented in France in the 1880's at the request of French military commanders who had difficulty giving battlefield orders through thick smoke.

A good book on the subject of Colt Revolvers is Colt's Single Action Army Revolver : Pre War and Post War Model by Dan Wilkerson.

Another very interesting venue if your travels take you to the Sacramento California area is the California State Military Museum. The museum is located in Old Town Sacramento and isa part of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Museum Systems. Here you will find a very large collection of firearms from the 1800's to the present. The California State Military Museum houses over 33,000 artifacts and includes a library and archive collection.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Peter for this informative post. It is nice ot know about these all guns. I like Colt .45 Caliber Revolver 1881.


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