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Guns of the American West

Guns of the American West

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Guns of the American West

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4/5 (1 valutazione)
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623 pagine
4 ore
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Pubblicato:
Nov 10, 2015
ISBN:
9781510709232
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Libro

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Dennis Adler, award-winning author and photographer, and contributing editor to Guns of the Old West magazine, has woven together enthralling tales of the guns and gunmen who made the Wild West wild. Beginning with the early western expansion and the California Gold Rush, Guns of the American West takes you through the development of America's most legendary handguns, rifles, and shotguns and the roles they played in our nation's history. As the Civil War erupts, the author follows the politics of a country divided and how North and South chose to arm their soldiers. In the aftermath of this great conflagration, Adler takes you step-by-step through the evolution of loose powder cap-and-ball revolvers, rifles, and shotguns to the conversion to self-contained metallic cartridges and the sweeping changes that resulted in firearms design. With a nation intent on its belief in Manifest Destiny, the author follows legendary lawmen, soldiers, and outlaws as America moves west in the 1870s and 1880s.

Skyhorse Publishing is proud to publish a broad range of books for hunters and firearms enthusiasts. We publish books about shotguns, rifles, handguns, target shooting, gun collecting, self-defense, archery, ammunition, knives, gunsmithing, gun repair, and wilderness survival. We publish books on deer hunting, big game hunting, small game hunting, wing shooting, turkey hunting, deer stands, duck blinds, bowhunting, wing shooting, hunting dogs, and more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Times bestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to publishing books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked by other publishers and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Nov 10, 2015
ISBN:
9781510709232
Formato:
Libro

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Guns of the American West - Dennis Adler

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Chapter One

Guns of the Early 1800s

From the Gold Rush to the Civil War 1849-1865

When the American Frontier was being settled in the early 1800s, the revolver was little more than a fanciful idea, an idea that might have changed the course of one battle on the Texas-Mexico border in 1836, had Sam Colt introduced the Paterson revolver before the Alamo fell. By 1844 Texas was to become the strongest adherent of the Colt’s Patent Arms Manufacturing Company of Paterson, New Jersey. Colt’s 5-shot, .36 caliber Paterson Holster Model revolvers would become legendary in the hands of the United States Mounted Rifles led by Capt. Jack Hayes and Samuel H. Walker. The Republic of Texas (Texas did not become a state until 1845) had initially purchased a quantity of Paterson revolvers in 1842 for the territorial Navy, but many of the revolvers found their way into the hands of Hayes and his Texas Rangers. In 1844 the most famous battle involving Paterson revolvers was fought by less than two dozen Rangers led by Hayes and Walker, who engaged an estimated 80 Comanche warriors, killing or wounding half of them before the Indians withdrew. In a letter to Sam Colt, Walker praised the Patersons and voiced his hopes for Colt to build an even better revolver. With the declaration of war between the United States and Mexico in 1846 that hope became a fervent demand.

Building on the success of the 1847 Walker model, Sam Colt had established an arms making empire in Hartford, Connecticut, by the 1850s. A decade later Colt was the largest purveyor of arms to the U.S. government. The Civil War made Sam Colt one of the wealthiest men in the country. As the conflict between North and South continued into 1862, Colt added another revolver to his line, the Police Model, an even more compact version of the 1861 Navy. Chambered in .36 caliber but restricted to only five shots, it was followed by the even more popular Pocket Model of Navy size caliber resembling a compact 1851 Navy. This, however, was a model that Sam Colt would never know. On January 10, 1862, at the age of 47, Samuel Colt died after suffering a brief illness.

Although Sam Colt had been unsuccessful in his first venture as an armsmaker, with his fledgling New Jersey enterprise going into receivership in 1842, five years later his arrangements to build 1,000 Colt Whitneyville-Walker .44 caliber revolvers for Capt. Samuel Walker and the U.S.M.R. (United States Mounted Rifles) to use in the war with Mexico put him on a road to prosperity that would last the rest of his life and make Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, the most successful and influential armsmaker in the United States.

The 1849 would become the most successful percussion revolver ever built. This extraordinary cased example with a 6-inch barrel shows the finest engraving of the period on a pocket model Colt. This early model is a 5-shot pocket pistol like the 1848 Baby Dragoon. Later models (after 1850) could also be purchased with a 6-shot cylinder. The Model 1849 remained in production as a cap-and-ball revolver until 1873 and a substantial number were carried by both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War as a backup or hide-away gun. Note the new Colt’s Patent powder flask now with crossed Dragoons beneath the American eagle, which is now grasping arrows, an olive branch and a shield. The legend E. Pluribus Unum appears below within a banner. (Dr. Joseph A. Murphy collection)

By the beginning of the Gold Rush in 1848-49, there was barely a sodbuster, Argonaut, lawman, soldier, man or woman who had not heard of or laid hands on a Colt revolver. In the early 1850s Sam Colt would have far reaching influence across Europe through his foreign manufacturing and sales (particularly in London), and relationships with heads of state personally established by Colt through his gifts of hand engraved, cased presentation guns.

When gold was discovered in California the territory was a peculiarly lawless place. On the actual discovery date of gold at Sutter’s Mill, California was still technically part of Mexico, under American military occupation as the result of the Mexican-American War. With the signing of the treaty between Mexico and the U.S. on February 2, 1848, California became a part of the United States, but a unique part – it was neither a formal territory nor a state. California was in political limbo, a region under U.S. military control but without the benefit of a civil legislature, executive or judicial body. Local citizens operated under a confusing and changing mixture of Mexican rules, American principles, and personal dictates. And more than a few disputes were settled at the end of a Colt barrel. This was the Wild West.

A favorite sidearm during the days of the California Gold Rush, Colt’s Model 1849 Pocket Revolver was small enough to carry in a coat or pants pocket but powerful enough, chambered in .31 caliber, to command respect. The engraving on this book cased, 6-shot model (they were also fitted with 5-shot cylinders), is of presentation grade. This example with 5-inch barrel is from the Dr. Joseph A. Murphy collection.

Gold turned California into a melting pot. Within a year $30,000 to $50,000 worth of gold in the form of dust and nuggets was coming out of California every day. Boom towns rose and folded, men, women, and families from all over the country, from as far as China, Peru, Chili, and Europe came in search of fortunes. Some found it; others found the end of their lives, often on the wrong end of a claim jumper’s gun. Some never struck it rich and became a part of the towns that sprung up near mining camps. Men who had dreamed of pockets filled with gold became storekeepers, laborers, farmers, or gamblers, those who could ride and knew their way around cattle became cowboys. They were all settlers or drifters of one kind or another. Like breaths of air the nation inhaled and exhaled people and their dreams like wind filling the sails of ships. By the end of the 1850s the nation was about to be tested as never before. The winds that blew now were the winds of war.

What some Colt collectors might consider the Holy Grail of percussion revolvers, the .44 caliber Walker Colts, serial numbers 1009 and 1010, presented by Col. Samuel Colt to Capt. Samuel H. Walker in July 1847. Walker played a significant role in both the design of the gun and in securing the government contract for Colt. Tragically, these are the very revolvers Walker was carrying at the time of his death at the Battle of Humantala on October 9, 1847. (Dr. Joseph A. Murphy collection)

At the start of the American Civil War in 1861 Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company was one of the largest and most successful business concerns in the country, regardless of one’s political leanings, or at least until 11 Southern States seceded from the Union. By that time there was an entire range of Colt revolvers from small-caliber pocket-sized pistols to the mighty .44 caliber Dragoons (successors to the 1847 Walker), and the highly regarded .36 caliber 1851 Navy and .44 caliber 1860 Army, the latter two becoming the principal side arms of the U.S. military throughout the War Between The States.

Among Colt’s most successful contemporaries was E. Remington & Sons in Ilion, New York. After the Colt’s patent expired, Remington introduced the revolutionary 1858 Remington-Beals Army Model revolver.

Sam Colt may have perfected and patented the design for the revolving cylinder pistol, but he wasn’t alone in the American firearms business; he was instead the catalyst for an emerging industry that flourished throughout the early half of the 19th century. Among Colt’s most successful contemporaries was E. Remington & Sons in Ilion, New York. After the Colt’s patent expired, Remington introduced the revolutionary 1858 Remington-Beals Army Model revolver chambered in .44 caliber and the lighter .36 caliber Navy version. The Remington revolvers featured a solid top strap and a fixed (threaded) barrel, providing greater strength and ease of operation compared to Colt’s wedge-pinned barrel and open top design, which by 1858 was now almost 20 years old. One could change out a Remington cylinder in seconds, without having to remove the barrel. The top strap added strength to the frame, and above all, the threaded Remington barrels assured greater accuracy. In the heat of battle, a Colt barrel wedged too tightly could easily bind the cylinder. Colt nevertheless remained the dominant American pistol of the Civil War era, and well into the postwar expansion west in the late 1860s and early 1870s. For more than 35 years the percussion revolver, either manufactured by Colt’s, Remington, or others, both here and abroad, remained the prevailing design.

When the big guns spoke, people on both ends paid attention. After the success of the 1847 Walker, Sam Colt was able to reestablish himself as an armsmaker. The Walker was followed by a series of .44 caliber Dragoon models which found use throughout the 1850s, during the Civil War, and for more than a decade after. Pictured (top to bottom) a Whitneyville-Hartford transitional model which bridged the differences between the Walker and Dragoon design, followed by 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, Models, distinguished by changes in cylinder stop slots (oval to rectangular) between 1st and 2nd models, and by a change to a round triggerguard on 3rd models. Dragoon models generally had 7-1/2 inch length octagonal to round barrels. Though smaller than a Walker, they were a hefty 4 pounds, 2 ounces. (Dr. Joseph A. Murphy collection)

Colt had rebuilt his arms company with the success of the 1847 U.S.M.R. (United States Mounted Rifles) Holster Model revolver, later renamed the Walker after co-designer Capt. Samuel Walker, who was killed in the Mexican War at the Battle of Humantala on October 9, 1847, shortly after receiving his pair of the massive .44 caliber revolvers from Sam Colt. At the time of his death, Walker’s fame was nationwide. His passing was news in every major newspaper in America.

The Walker had nearly been … the most perfect weapon in the World for light mounted troops … except for a few minor refinements which Sam Colt began to make by the summer of 1847. In battle, the Walkers had occasionally been prone to malfunctioning if vibration caused the loading lever to drop from its V-shaped locking pin that pressed into a recess in the top of the loading lever. The fallen lever then forced the plunger into the first open chamber, jamming the action. Colt rectified this on the Whitneyville-Hartford Dragoon by adding a spring loaded retention pin to the end of the lever and a latch under the barrel. Colt also shortened the barrel from 9-inches to 7-1/2 inches and the cylinder from 2-7/16 inches to 2-3/16 inches in length. The net result was a slight decrease in weight from 4 pounds, 9 ounces, to 4 pounds, 2 ounces, an absolutely secure loading lever, and with a 7-1/2 inch barrel, a gun that was easier to draw from a belt holster. It was a better Walker.

Production of the Whitneyville-Hartford Dragoon was short-lived, from the fall of 1847 through the end of the year with the total amounting to no more than 240 examples, with the serial number range continuing from the civilian Walkers through No. 1340. The majority of the guns used the old Walker frames, accounting for the added distance between the shortened cylinder (still left in the white as on the Walker) and the barrel. The grips were also Walker style, although a few later examples transitioned to the square shoulder grip and grip strap design seen on the 1st Model Dragoon in 1848.

As the first models built by Samuel Colt the barrel lug top flat was stamped –ADDRESS SAML COLT NEW-YORK CITY –. Why New York instead of Hartford, Connecticut? New York was recognized as a center of world commerce even in the 1840s, and Colt’s sales offices were located there. According to R.L. Wilson, a handful of Whitneyville-Hartford Models were also built without the barrel address, and additionally were stamped COLTS/PATENT, with the words forming an oval. On some early examples COLTS/PATENT was stamped on the center right of the frame. Later guns had COLTS/PATENT/U.S. stamped on the left side of the frame. All of the Whitneyville-Hartford guns were also marked U.S. on the frame, although this does not mean that every Whitneyville-Hartford Dragoon was for military issue.

As 1848 rolled around the first all-new model emerged from Hartford. Known as the 1st Model Dragoon, it was a continuation of the Whitneyville-Hartford with further improvements. Produced through 1850 and numbering approximately 7,000 examples continuing from the Whitneyville-Hartford serial number range through approximately No. 8000, the 1st Model was visually distinguished by its square shoulder grip and grip strap (where the grip strap meets the frame), and oval cylinder stop slots.

Colt’s patent drawing for the 2nd Model Dragoon. Note the use of rectangular cylinder stop slots introduced with the 2nd Model in 1850.

Sitting atop a framed advertisement for Colt’s Second Model Dragoon c. 1850, are a Second Model and the first pocket pistol built in Hartford, the 1848 Pocket Model, or more popularly, the Baby Dragoon. (Dr. Joseph A. Murphy collection)

Weighing 4 pounds, 2 ounces, and fitted with a 7-1/2 inch barrel (same as the Whitneyville-Hartford Dragoon), the 1st Model Dragoon was an unprecedented success for Colt, not only with the military, but with a growing civilian market hungry for a big, six shot revolver suitable to frontier use. A year later when gold was found in California, the Colt Dragoons would be among the front line weapons in use for one’s self preservation. The most popular, however, would be Sam Colt’s next two revolvers, the 1848 and 1849 Pocket Models.

Following the 1st Model Dragoon, Sam Colt reverted to his penchant for small pocket pistols introducing the Model of 1848. Chambered in .31 caliber, the 5-shot revolvers were offered with a standard octagonal barrel measuring 4-inches in length. The square back frame was a scaled version of the Dragoon which led to the gun’s being nicknamed the Baby Dragoon. The cased example has a 3-inch barrel, the shortest offered. The other examples are fitted with a 5-inch and a 6-inch barrel, which was the longest offered. (Dr. Joseph A. Murphy collection)

Colt had always favored small concealable handguns, and he returned to his Paterson roots with the 1848 Pocket Revolver, or more popularly, the Baby Dragoon. A scaled down version of the First Model Dragoon, the 1848 featured a full octagonal barrel in 3-inch, 4-inch, 5-inch, and 6-inch lengths and, like the first Paterson Pocket Models, without loading lever. Chambered in .31 caliber, the new pocket model harkened back to its New Jersey heritage by being a 5-shot revolver.

The Dragoon miniature bore the same cylinder scene as the 1st Model (although cropped tightly to fit the smaller circumference of the .31 caliber cylinder), a square back triggerguard, round cylinder stop slots (later changed to oval and toward the end of production rectangular, thus keeping pace with changes to the full size Dragoon models) and a cupped cylinder arbor intended to serve as a loading rammer. To say that the 1848 was a success would be an understatement. Between late 1847 and 1850 Colt’s produced more than 15,000 examples (serial numbers 1 to approximately 15,500).

Beginning in 1849 Sam Colt added a loading leaver to his popular Pocket Revolver, creating the Model 1849. This, however, was an entirely new gun, and not the updating of an old model. The 1849 had a new cylinder design with rectangular cylinder stop slots, a round back triggerguard (the first Colt to offer this feature) and a new Stagecoach Holdup roll engraved cylinder scene designed by W. L. Ormsby. (This same scene was used on later models of the Baby Dragoon c. 1849-1850, and would reappear on later Colt Pocket Models, as well as some Roots Pistols, and 1870s era cartridge conversions of Police and Pocket Models of Navy Caliber.)

Beginning in 1847 Samuel Colt brought the percussion pistol into the fullness of its development, Colt’s produced a wide variety of black powder revolvers between 1847 and 1873, which included the massive .44 caliber 1847 Walker (center gun) and, going clockwise, .44 caliber 1st, 2nd and 3rd Model Dragoons, the 5-shot, .36 caliber 1865 Pocket Model of Navy caliber, .31 caliber 1848 Baby Dragoon, .36 caliber 1862 Police, .36 caliber 1861 Navy, .44 caliber 1860 Army with fluted and rebated cylinders, and the .36 caliber 1851 Navy, the latter four becoming the principal sidearms of the Union during the Civil War.

When Sam Colt introduced the Model 1849 he had no idea that this would be the most successful gun of his career. With sales beginning in 1850, this diminutive revolver remained in production through 1873 with sales in America exceeding 325,000 over 23 years, plus an additional 11,000 sold in England. No other American revolver, not even Colt’s 1851 Navy and 1860 Army, would ever outsell the 1849 Pocket Model. Among guns carried into the wilds of California in search of gold in 1849, the Colt 1848 and 1849 Pocket Models were favorites for their small, concealable size, reliability and light weight, just 24 ounces. The 5-shot (and 6-shot beginning in 1861) pistol became the concealed carry gun of choice in the 1850s, during the Civil War, and well into the 1880s. Throughout its production life, and even afterward, there were more variations of the 1849 Pocket Model than any other Colt revolver. We say afterward because the 1849 continued on as a .38 caliber cartridge conversion revolver manufactured by Colt’s until 1880, giving this gun a total production history spanning three decades.

Rubbings of Colt cylinder scenes are important when identifying various models. The scene in the center of the naval battle between Texas and Mexico is one of the most famous and can be found on both the 1851 Navy and 1860 Army. Dragoons used the Indian battle scene (top) while a variety of Pocket Pistols bore the popular stagecoach holdup scene. Roll dies were used to impress the images on the cylinders. (Courtesy R.L. Wilson)

In 1850 Sam Colt introduced the gun that would become the most famous six shooter of the early American West, the .36 caliber Belt Pistol, more popularly known today as the 1851 Navy. With the medium frame, .36 caliber Navy Model, Colt had finally produced the perfect gun, small enough to be carried in comfort, yet powerful enough to get the job done. Both the U.S. military and civilian market was once again standing at Samuel Colt’s doorstep saying more please. There were two basic versions of the elegant octagonal barreled repeater, one with a square back triggerguard and another with a round triggerguard. The gun’s name was not derived from its use by the Navy (although it was used by both the U.S. Navy and Army), but rather from its Ormsby engraved cylinder scene depicting the famous May 16, 1843 battle at sea between Texas and Mexico.

By 1860 Samuel Colt had been supplying 1851 Navy models to the U.S. government for nearly a decade, as well as fulfilling the last requisitions for 3rd Model Dragoons like the example shown. They were also manufactured with a removable shoulder stock to convert into a Carbine Pistol using a specially designed frame with cutouts in the base of the recoil shield and large 4th screws at the back of the frame to engage the yoke of the shoulder stock. A channel cut into the base of buttstrap, corresponding to a latch at the bottom of the yoke, was used to lock the stock to the frame.

Dragoons with shoulder stocks were generally fitted with a folding rear sight on top of the barrel lug. Accuracy with the stock attached was greatly enhanced and point of aim was more accurate than with the pistol’s hammer notch rear and bead front sight.

The Colt 1851 Navy models rank second only to the 1849 Pocket Model in total production during the 19lh century. It was designed by Samuel Colt to be an intermediate-sized pistol, positioned between the mammoth .44 caliber Dragoons, which followed the Walker model in 1848, 1850, and 1851, and the compact, 5-shot .31 caliber Pocket model.

The long and the short of it. The 1851 Navy was produced in a number of variations, one of which came with a 12-inch barrel. The two examples pictured were built sometime around the start of the Civil War. Conversely, 1851 Navy owners, particularly soldiers, occasionally had the barrels of their 1851 Navy and 1860 Army models cut down to only two- or three-inches in length to carry as a backup pistol. This example, originally factory engraved by Gustave Young or his shop in the Germanic Scrollwork pattern with punch dot background, had the barrel professionally shortened to 3-1/2 inches and the loading lever and catch cut and mounted to match. This is a late 3rd Model version with small oval triggerguard. Factory records show that gun was originally engraved and fitted with ivory grips. (photos courtesy Greg Martin Auctions and Rock Island Auction Co., respectively)

Patented in September 1850, the first examples of the Belt Model were being produced by early fall. As R.L. Wilson notes in The Book of Colt Firearms, the Navy was the ’38’ caliber of its day, and quickly outshone the Dragoon arms in commercial sales. By 1855 the Navy Model had also been adopted by the U.S. government, which ultimately purchased 35,000 guns. Total production, which continued through 1873, amounted to more than 255,000 guns, plus another 40,000 manufactured in London during the brief period from 1853 to 1857 when Colt maintained a factory in England.

Not forgetting the need for large caliber firepower, by 1855 Colt’s Third Model Dragoon (put into production the same year as the 1851 Navy) was the best selling large caliber revolver in America. The Third Model was a continuation of its predecessor but easily distinguished by having an oval triggerguard. All of the improvements from the Second Model were carried over, including the flat mainspring, notched roller bearing hammer, and cylinder locking pins. They were also produced as a Pistol Carbine with a detachable shoulder stock.

This pair of beautifully engraved Sidehammer Pistols exhibits some of the finest engraving on this model Colt revolver. The ivory gripped No. 7 Model, serial No. 12076 I.E., was factory engraved and presented by Colt to James McClatchie, a longtime employee of the company, and Samuel Colt’s timekeeper. He worked for Colt’s from 1853 through 1864, two years after Sam Colt’s death. One of the finest Root Sidehammer pistols known, the cost of this beautifully engraved gun was $28.88. The second example is a No. 2 Root Pistol known as the Charter Oak Model 1855 Sidehammer. No. 5886, it is from a series of guns presented to Colt’s wholesalers or jobbers in 1856. The name comes from the wood used to make the grips, the famed Charter Oak, which had been toppled by a storm. (Dr. Joseph A. Murphy collection)

One of the rarest of all Root Sidehammer models, this No. 2 (or Model 2) bears elegant scrollwork by Gustave Young, and is silver plated with a matching silver plated powder flask.

Production of the Third Model continued through 1861 with total production over a 10 year period reaching 10,500 of which approximately 4,330 were Ordnance issue. Of that number 946 were supplied with detachable shoulder stocks. As noted by R.L. Wilson in The Book of Colt Firearms, Government issued Pistol Carbines were in pairs, with only an issue of a single matching detachable shoulder stock. These have become the rarest and most desirable sets of Third Model Dragoons. Still weighing 4 pounds, 2 ounces, the Third Model Dragoon marked the end of Colt’s large frame, 1847 Walker derived revolvers. The .44 caliber mantle would be passed to a new generation of smaller, lighter Colts in 1860.

With the expiration of the Colt’s patent in 1857 the floodgates of industry were flung wide open. Here comes everybody. Armsmakers sprang up throughout the New England states, many in Connecticut, some right in Colt’s own backyard in New Haven, others in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in New York, at the Springfield Armory (Springfield Arms Co. and Warner Patent revolvers), and at the historic Whitney Arms Co. founded in the late 18th century by Eli Whitney. It was Eli Whitney, Jr. who had helped Sam Colt produce the 1847 Walker for the United States Mounted Rifles, and the transitional Whitneyville-Hartford Dragoons. Immediately after the expiration of the Colt’s patent, Whitney built a copy of the 1851 Navy and followed that with his own design for a solid frame percussion revolver in 1858.

Many upstart manufactures produced only a few hundred examples before failing, others prospered over time (helped no doubt by the Civil War and the demand for sidearms) but history is littered with the names of forgotten or little remembered makes, footnotes in firearms history books.

There were seven variations of the 1855 Root Sidehammer pistol incorporating numerous design changes and improvements. Pictured are three variations (right to left) a pair of No.5A Models with fluted cylinders and 4-inch round barrels, a rare No.6 with round barrel and round cylinder, and No. 4 with 3-inch octagon barrel, fluted cylinder and ivory grips. (Dennis Levett collection)

As one of America’s earliest and most established family-owned arms makers, E. Remington & Sons raised the bar for large .44 caliber handgun design with the introduction of the 1858 Remington-Beals Army model, an immediate and successful rival to the Colt revolvers and their comparatively out-dated designs. Colt’s needed a lighter weight .44 caliber revolver that would not only rival the Remington, but assure the continued patronage of the Ordnance Department. By 1860 it appeared that the Union was on the verge of a social division over the issues of slavery, and more importantly, the separation of industry between the Northern and Southern states, a political imbroglio that had been festering for nearly a decade.

How Wild Bill Got His Reputation

Films have a way of embellishing historic figures, of making them larger than life, but even in the time of Wild Bill Hickok, newspaper reporters and dime novelists did much the same. Historians of the Old West have been tackling the facts and the fictions of men like Wild Bill for more than a century. James Butler Hickok, however, had a history so rich in character, so daring in deeds, and so well documented by those who knew him, that no one, not even Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday, is more highly regarded as being the personification of a Wild West gunfighter.

Whether on foot or on horseback he was one of the most perfect types of physical manhood I ever saw, wrote friend and Civil War compatriot George Armstrong Custer. Of his courage there could be no question. His skill in the use of the rifle and the pistol was unerring. His deportment was entirely free from all bluster and bravado. He never spoke of himself unless requested to do so. His conversation never bordered on the vulgar or blasphemous. His influence among the frontiersmen was unbounded; his word was law; and many are the personal quarrels and disturbances which he had checked among his comrades by the single announcement that ‘this has gone far enough,’ if need be, followed by the ominous warning that, if persisted in, the quarreler ‘must settle with me… .’ Wild Bill always carried two handsome ivory-handled revolvers of large size. He was never seen without them. I have a personal knowledge of at least half a dozen men whom he has at various times killed, others have been seriously wounded-yet he always escaped unhurt in every encounter. Custer’s account, which appeared in his 1874 book My Life on the Plains, no doubt contributed to Hickok’s reputation and legend. Ironically, two years later both would be dead.

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