Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Guns of the Wild West by Susan Horsnell

"Unsurprisingly, the American "Wild West" was tamed by nothing other than the gun"

This month I thought I would take a look at some of the guns found in the "Wild West".

First up we have the Deringer Pocket Pistol

An original Philadelphia Deringer made by Henry Deringer. This was the pocket pistol
 used by John Wilkes Booth in the Abraham Lincoln Assassination.

A deringer is generally the smallest usable handgun of a given calibre. They were frequently used by women, because they were easily concealable in a purse, a muff or, in their stockings.
Derringers are not repeating firearms, this would have added significant bulk to the gun, defeating the purpose of easy concealment.
The original cartridge derringers held only a single round, usually a pinfire or rimfire .40 calibre cartridge, with the barrel pivoted sideways on the frame to allow access to the breech for reloading. The famous Remington derringer design doubled the capacity, while maintaining the compact size, by adding a second barrel on top of the first and pivoting the barrels upwards to reload. Each barrel then held one round, and a cam on the hammer alternated between top and bottom barrels. The Remington derringer was .41 short calibre and achieved wide popularity. The .41 Short bullet moved very slowly, at about 425 feet per second. It could be seen in flight, but at very close range, such as at a casino or saloon card table, it could easily kill. The Remington derringer was sold from 1866 to 1935.

Next is the Colt Single Action Army

Commonly known as the "Peacemaker."
Introduced in 1873, no Colt revolver has earned greater fame than the Single Action Army®, The Peacemaker®. In design and performance, in line and form, no more sculptural and practical Colt has ever been created. Movies serve as constant reminders of the role this equalizer played in winning the West.
Large numbers of look-alikes have never been able to replace the real Colt.
Records on the SAA Revolver are a Who's Who of action-oriented Americans of the late 19th and early 20th centuries including Buffalo Bill Cody, Theodore Roosevelt, Judge Roy Bean, Pawnee Bill Lilly, Captain Jack Crawford, Pat Garrett and General George Patton.

How about a gun that won't fit in your pocket or a holster?
The Gatling Gun

A hand-driven machine gun, the Gatling gun was the first firearm to solve the problems of loading, reliability, and the firing of sustained bursts. It was invented by Richard J. Gatling during the American Civil War, and later used in the Spanish-American War, but was supplanted by advanced weaponry soon after. Years later, the technology behind the gun was re-introduced by the U.S. military, and new versions of the gun are still in use today.
The gun is named for its inventor, Richard Jordan Gatling, a physician. Gatling neatly divided his sympathies during the Civil War. While trying to sell machine guns to the Union, he was an active member of the Order of American Knights, a secret group of Confederate sympathizers and saboteurs.
The conservatism of the Union army chief of ordinance and the unreliability of early models of the gun frustrated efforts to sell it to the U.S. Army. But Gatling soon improved on the original six-barrel, .58 caliber version of the gun, which fired 350 rounds a minute, by designing a ten-barrel, .30 caliber model, which fired 400 rounds a minute. The U.S. Army adopted the Gatling gun in 1866, and it remained standard until it was replaced in the early twentieth century by the Maxim single-barrel machine gun.

This one's a rifle -
The Burnside Carbine

In 1857, the Burnside carbine won a competition at West Point against 17 other carbine designs. In spite of this, few of the carbines were immediately ordered by the government, but this changed with the outbreak of the Civil War, when over 55,000 were ordered for use by Union cavalrymen. This made it the third most popular carbine of the Civil War; only the Sharps Carbine and the Spencer Carbine were more widely used. They saw action in all theatres of the war. There were so many in service that many were captured and used by Confederates. A common complaint by users was that the unusually shaped cartridge sometimes became stuck in the breech after firing.
By using ordnance returns and ammunition requisitions, it has been estimated that 43 Union cavalry regiments were using the Burnside carbine during the 1863-1864 period. Additionally, 7 Confederate cavalry units were at least partially armed with the weapon during this same period.
Five different models were produced. Toward the end of the Civil War, production was discontinued when the Burnside Rifle Company was given a contract to make Spencer carbines instead.

There are many more guns which were used. These are only a very small sample.

Until next month.

Stay Safe,

Susan Horsnell - Western Romance Author

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Jacquie Rogers said...

Nice summary. Thanks, Sue!

Chad said...

Terrific Tidbit! Enjoyed this!

D'Ann said...

Great post! Very informative!