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Question for the old west guys.

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by melbar, Jul 1, 2012.

  1. melbar

    melbar New Member

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    Hi, I'm writing a story that takes place circa 1880 in the American Southwest and was looking for some suggestions for period accurate firearms.

    Firstly, I need suggestions for a revolver and a rifle that a woman might gravitate towards. Perhaps firearms that are a little smaller than average, but still are reliable quality weapons.

    Secondly, suggestions for a revolver and rifle that a rancher may have used during that time. Someone who doesn't use them that often and is not looking for anything flashy or expensive.

    Thanks in advance, looking around here everyone seems to be friendly and helpful, so I'm anxious to see your suggestions.
  2. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    It would help to know more about your woman. Is she a town girl, that just wants to carry a gun in her reticule? Smith and Wesson made some fine little 5-shot 32s and 38s that would be great for that. Or is she more the ranch girl, that wants to be armed in case of Indians/banditos/mountain lions, but does not want the full-size Army 45 Colt?

    One of Louis L Amour's heroines went into the gun store to buy a gun and the guy tried to sell her a derringer, 'cause it was small and dainty, just what a small dainty woman needed, 'cause she was not big enough to handle a "man's gun" (damn, that sounds familiar). She told him she wanted a Navy Colt, 36 caliber. When he expressed doubt that she could handle such a powerful weapon, she said, "My late husband was an Army officer, and he taught me how to shoot". Okay, no problem then, I got a matched pair here, lady, and she said, "I'll take 'em both".

    If you are thinking recoil, the Colt Single Action Army was available in 32/20, which is just about the same power as the 30 M1 Carbine. The Winchester 73 rifle was also available in that caliber. The full-size rifle would be heavy, but it came as a saddle ring carbine, with a 20" round barrel, and that was much lighter and easier to handle.

    In 1878 Colt came out with a double action revolver, in 38 Long Colt caliber. About 2/3 as powerful as a 38 Special. That's another possibility. It was, officially, just the 1878 Double Action, but everybody calls it the Lightning.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2012
  3. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    Rancher, don't use it much, not looking for anything flashy or expensive? Surplus civil war guns were quite cheap. In 1873 Colt brought out its Single Action Army, in 45 caliber fixed cartridge ammo. That initially sold for about 20 bucks, which was 2/3 of a month's pay for a working cowhand. But you could get an 1860 Army cap-n-ball war surplus gun for about 4 or 5. People were still using cap-n-ball, on up to the 20th Century, simply because it was cheaper. After the war the Army had a butt-load of muzzle loaders, and fixed ammo was the coming thing. They came up with a way to convert these muzzle loaders. They were chambered for 50/70 Government. In 1873 they redesigned the gun, and lowered the caliber to 45/70, and started phasing out the older guns. They issued them to civilian and Indian scouts. They sold them as surplus. Nothing wrong with them, except they were the wrong caliber. So I could easily see a rancher carrying an 1860 Colt 44 caliber cap-n-ball revolver and a 50/70 Trapdoor.
  4. Twicepop

    Twicepop Well-Known Member

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    Circa 1880 southwestern USA, the most probable candidates for use by anyone at that time would be the Winchester Model 1873 rifle and the Colt Single Action Army revolver in either 44-40 WCF or 38-40 WCF calibers. Neither one of these are overly large weapons, and most anyone of medium stature for either gender should have no problems handling them. These, I feel are the most likely options, both guns take the same ammunition, are simple to operate, are vey reliable. Anyone having these guns would be as well armed as anyone for the time, and most hunting situations also.


    those who beat their guns into plowshares, will plow for those who didn't
  5. armedandsafe

    armedandsafe Guest

    The 32-20 was a very popular "lady's" cartridge. The fact that matching pistols and rifles were available was plus for non-urban women.

    This is a nice write up on the cartridge and the guns that used it.

    http://www.leverguns.com/articles/paco/3220wcf.htm

    Pops
  6. gun runner

    gun runner Former Guest

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    search for Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday revolvers. Doc used a Colt .41 single action. They still make that type of ammunition but they also make a Colt .44 Mag which I believe still can be bought as a single action where the ammo is plentiful. Alot of lever action rifles were used.

    Those are for the old western guys. I dont know anything for a lady to carry though
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2012
  7. melbar

    melbar New Member

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    Wow. Thanks everyone. You've given me a lot to go on, thanks for the help!
  8. 45nut

    45nut Active Member

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    In 1880 one had a ton of choices for revolver & rifle. Smith & Wesson and Iver Johnson made a lot of small 5 shot revolvers as well as Colt pocket revolvers, 1851 Navy and 1860 Army & Navy revolvers that had been converted to cartridges and or left as cap & ball revolvers.

    As for rifles, there are Ballard rifles, Marlin rifles, Winchester & Colt rifles and Spencers, Henry Rifles, Colt Revolving Rifles, and Springfield Trapdoor rifles too.

    The idea of the matched pistol / rifle using the same ammo was attractive to some, but the majority of Colt revolvers were manufactured in .45 Colt. So it is a bit of the western myth that all cowboys / plainsmen / frontiersmen carried the Colt / Winchester combo. A .44 Rimfire rifle / revolver combo was common before the advent of the 44-40 due to the Henry Rifle & Winchester 1866 and conversion revolvers.

    Some numbers:
    1 .45 Colt 158,884 or 46%
    2. 44-40 71,392 or 21% - 1878
    3. 38-40 50,520 or 14% 1884
    4. 32-20 43,284 or 11% 1884
    5. .41 Colt 19,676 or 5% 1885
  9. ozo

    ozo Well-Known Member

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    muff guns.....gotta love 'em.....:cool:
  10. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    45nut, I'm sure that most of the SAAs were 45, since it was the Army caliber.

    But if you take away all the guns sold to the Army, and just look at civilian guns, how do the numbers compare?
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