Whenever a conversation about the Old West starts it inevitably turns to the topic of guns. Many iconic firearms came from the period and huge advances in technology resulted in guns that are still useful today.
Winchester Lever Actions are one of the two, the other being the Colt Single Action Army, most associated guns springing from this this time. While they are both great guns others need to be recognized for their contributions. This post isn’t about those guns, it’s about the other, less popular guns, that made staggering contributions to our settling of a vast lawless land.
The Smith & Wesson Model 3 revolver often referred to as the “top break” because of how its reloaded was truly a revolutionary firearm. There are thousands of theories about why the Army adopted the Colt SAA over the S&W but the Army did buy a number of Model 3s as well. Chambered in all the popular calibers of the day the Model 3 has one huge advantage over the SAA, it’s much faster and easier to reload. To reload you simply “break” open the top of the gun as seen below.
The cartridges eject, hopefully, and you load in six more. The gun had some disadvantages as well, mainly the durability of the frame but I’m in a good mood so I won’t go too in depth.
The Springfield Model 1873 or the “Trapdoor” as it was called was the official Army rifle during most of the late 1800’s. Adopted over Winchester 73 because it was thought that the faster troops could shoot the faster they’d waste ammo the Trapdoor started its service at a marked disadvantage. A single shot rifle or carbine that reloads using a hinged breechblock system or a trapdoor, hence the name, the gun did have its advantages. It’s a pretty accurate gun, the trigger was much better than the Winchester, and with an experienced Trooper handling it he could come close to the rate of fire of a Winchester. Now the gun did have a tendency to jam, but that was an ammunition problem. Overall the gun did its duty, we did settle the West after all.
The Gun That Really Won The West
Oh yes, girls and boys, there it is. The Gatling Gun. First used during the Civil War with devastating effect against the Nepoleonic tactics of the day the Gatling Gun was truly a game changing gun. Capable of a rate of fire not seen before the Gatling Gun gave Army leaders those secrets to winning any battle. Mobility and Force Multiplication. It had better accuracy and was much easier to maneuver through the lawless lands of the West than any cannon of the day. It could be operated by a minimum of two Troopers, although a four man crew is ideal. It’s the gun that could’ve saved Custer at Little Big Horn although I agree with his decision not to take them along. The Gatling Gun is truly the gun that tamed the Wild West. It’s so good Gatling Guns are still widely used today and an argument can be made that there wasn’t a better heavy machine gun produced until World War II.