Cowboys with Guns during the Wild Wild West
In the Old West, guns played an important role in the lives of cowboys. There were various kinds of guns that cowboys used. They fell into two categories: hand gun and rifle. The most common handguns were the Derringer and the Colt .45; as for rifles there was the Winchester. Most of the time guns were used for shooting animals for food or calming the cattle. Occasionally, a cowboy might have to use one against Indians or rustlers.
On the trail most cowboys would have guns with them but they would leave them in the chuck wagon. (The chuck wagon was a cart that was usually in the back of the herd that held all of the cowboys goods.) They left the guns in the wagon because the guns were heavy and often times got in the way and could be dangerous while riding a horse. Most cowboys were not very good with guns and even one cowboy shot himself in the foot. The gun did come in handy though, especially when a stampede occurred. The cowboys would ride to the chuck wagon, grab their guns, and continue to the front of the herd where they would shoot three evenly spaced shots over the leader-cattles heads. This would usually stop the stampede.
The Derringer was a small pistol with a large caliber that had two barrels, which were parallel horizontally or vertically. It could be laid in the palm of the hand and made a terrible wound when shot at close range. In some towns along the trail cowboys used Hideouts when they had to turn in their 6-Shooters. A Hideout was a Derringer that was hidden in the boot, a shoulder holster, waistband, or hung by a cord down the sleeve or coat. Cowboys would wear one so that if someone accused them of cheating they would be able to defend themselves.
The Winchester was the term used for a rifle or carbine. This gun was one of the best-selling guns around. Some cowboys said that this gun could shoot for a week and not have to be reloaded. This, of course, was not true but this was said because the Winchester could hold quite a bit of ammunition.
The Colt .45 was also a very common gun in the old west. Weighing two-and-a-half pounds and sporting an eight-inch barrel, it was a revolver that could shoot six bullets without reloading. The Colt was a pistol that was made so that it could use .44 – .40 ammunition. This was so the cowboy would only have to carry one kind of ammunition for his Winchester and Colt.
Guns were very useful to the cowboy in the Old West. The different kinds of guns had their part and played it well. Without the gun, the cowboy would have had a pretty tough time.
Dary, David. Cowboys. www.historychannel.com. Access date: 4/1/2001.
www.winchester-guns.com. Access date: 4/2/2001.
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