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Old February 8, 2011, 10:07 PM   #26
youngunz4life
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maybe the statistics is a factor when they look at history: like one gun per family or something?

people didn't own as many, and it took longer to acquire but I think many people worked towards the goal of purchasing a firearm with their hard-earned cash(it doesn't have to be hard earned as much now with credit cards as an example // sort of like when our relatives purchased boobtubes or cars). also, there were places and times when people couldn't lawfully carry for whatever reason.
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Old February 8, 2011, 10:32 PM   #27
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Quote:
A cowboy going into town to blow off steam, get drunk and blow a couple months wages is a LOT different than a cowboy working on the range.
Time to restate the original post:
Quote:
In the thread about cowboy guns it has been put forth that few cowboys even owned guns in the 19th century.
They either owned them, or they didn't. If they were coming into town with them, I think it's safe to assume they also had them on the trail. If they had them on the trail, they likely owned them.
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Old February 9, 2011, 01:13 AM   #28
Mike Irwin
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Well, you'll note in my first post in the thread that I postulated that handgun ownership amongst cowboys was probably pretty high, but it wasn't what we typically see in Westerns - large and expensive Colt SAAs, Remingtons, or Smiths.

I suspect that most cowboys who owned handguns actually owned relatively small and inexpensive breaktops and solid frames made by companies like Iver Johnson, S&W, H&R, Forehand, etc.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that for every large frame "cowboy" gun sold to any buyer anywhere there were upwards of 100 of the small revolvers sold.

There were literally dozens of companies producing small, cheap revolvers at this time, and in enormous numbers.

Hell, from 1884 to 1895 Smith & Wesson made over 200,000 .38 Double Action Third Models, and at the same time they were making other versions that didn't have hammers, versions in .32 S&W, and versions in single action, as well.

Just a rough guess (I've got the book with the numbers, I just don't feel like going page to page adding the numbers up right now), but it looks like between about 1875 and 1900 Smith & Wesson alone made over half a million of these guns; Iver Johnson and H&R made even more if their serial numbers are reliable.

On the other hand, from 1873 to 1940, Colt only made about 357,000 Single Action Armies.

Anyway, yeah, I think cowboys owned handguns, probably in substantial numbers. But not exactly what we normally are led to believe they owned.
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Old February 9, 2011, 09:15 AM   #29
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How many of you guys prefer to carry a gun when out in the woods or back country? Why wouldn't a cowboy feel the same?
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Old February 9, 2011, 10:42 AM   #30
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Mike, I think that's a great point! If I put myself in the boots of a poor cowboy, I'd probably feel comfortable with a pistol in my pocket, but I sure wouldn't want to spend a ton of money on one, especially if I had a family to support or whatever other necessities that I didn't really have enough money to buy anyway.

But if I could get a .32 revolver for a couple of bucks, that might not be such a bad deal.

It's all conjecture on my part, but since I'm a pretty cheap guy, if I was a cowpoke back then, I might want a flashy SAA, but I'd have to feed that champagne dream on a soda pop budget. Besides, packing around an expensive hogleg like that just might be an invitation to less salacious types to take an interest in my wallet. No sense advertising, especially if you ain't got nothin'!
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Old February 9, 2011, 11:27 AM   #31
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Hardcase + 1 And....

If the employer had a small armory from which a rifle or shotgun could be withdrawn when the hand was out and about, then the hand himself is releaved of the need to purchase his own.

I realize that the OP spoke of "cowboys" "carrying" firearms and also that I am splitting hairs but you have to admit that the mindset could be really different. I know that my attitude toward any weapon issued to me from the ship's aromory was significantly different from my attitude toward a weapon which I purchased myself. But then I never carried my own handgun, because I thought I was threatened. I just wanted to have it. And I spent a lot of time in the woods. Sometimes I took it, most of the time, I did not, opting for a .22 rifle instead.
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Old February 10, 2011, 09:20 PM   #32
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Just go look at a old mail order catalog from the 1880s. Last winter here one of the horses kicked up a old belgen made pocket gun in .310 tranter. It had 5old factory .32 smith short BP loads in the thing. There is a old fallen down line shack about 1/4 further back out in the woods here from when it was a cattle ranch here.
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Old February 10, 2011, 11:41 PM   #33
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What a great find! I wonder if it fell out of a saddle bag, holster or pocket. Hmmmm.
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Old February 13, 2011, 09:08 AM   #34
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My grand father wagoned to texas from chicago in 1871. He thought he needed a hide out gun so, brought a smith and wesson #2 in 32 rf. Elmer Keith claimed that cowboys wore revolvers to defend themselves against livestock or to shoot the horse if they got tossed and stirrup dragged.
J. Fran Dobie wrote on western and rural themes in the 1950s. He told a story proported to be from a cowboy who had gone on a trail drive. This individual got a revolver for the purpose- apparently it being recommended trail equipment or just something that cowboys thought they should have. The cb indicated he found it an inconvenient thing to wear and when he finally did pull it out to shoot a snake, it had rusted into immobility. seems he was unclear on the concept of gun cleaning.
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Old February 13, 2011, 09:42 AM   #35
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Another thing we sometimes forget about is that many people were smaller back then so a smaller cartridge would kill them more efficiently than it would today. The average height of my father's WW2 generation was 5' 8" tall. In WW1 and the civil war many guys were around 5' 5" tall thereabouts. Women were even smaller getting into the 4' plus range of height. So maybe one reason all those .32's that we kind of think of as pop guns today were in such proliferation, was because people were smaller so the smaller calibers were larger in proportion to their bodies than those same calibers are today to many of our bodies.

I believe the reason many of us are bigger and taller today is because of what we have eaten growing up. Chicken, turkeys, beef, in ours and for the past several generations have all been fed growth hormones to make them plump up for sales. They didn't have those chemicals and hormones in the old days. I believe those growth hormones and chemicals over our lifetimes of eating food with them in it, have had an effect on our modern bodies to make many of us much larger than many of our cowboy ancestors. It HAS to have a cumulative effect on our bodies, I don't care WHAT the FDA says about it being safe. I don't trust the FDA. They collude with big growers and big corporate farming. We are what we eat and we have been eating growth hormones in our food that was fed to the chickens, turkeys, cows etc for several generations now.

So a .22 or .32 would seem like a much larger caliber to their smaller bodies than it does to many of us today. Simply put, cartridge size is relative to body of target size.

Just something that occurred to me that I wanted to share.


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Last edited by Bill Akins; February 13, 2011 at 09:50 AM.
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Old February 13, 2011, 09:48 AM   #36
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My son has an antique .32 rimfire revolver and he thinks that these small caliber guns were little more than "suicide specials".
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Old February 13, 2011, 10:16 AM   #37
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Quote:
Arcticap wrote:
My son has an antique .32 rimfire revolver and he thinks that these small caliber guns were little more than "suicide specials".
Tell him it's only a pipsqueak caliber until someone shoots him with it. Lol.


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"To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target".

Last edited by Bill Akins; February 13, 2011 at 10:22 AM.
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Old February 13, 2011, 03:52 PM   #38
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The suicide specials (that's what they were actually called) are generally thought of as a class to themselves. There's at least one book on the subject.

I've not counted those in my numbers above.

Guns termed suicide specials are almost universally:

1. Spur trigger.

2. Very short barreled - 3" is long.

3. Chambered for rimfire cartridges, most commonly .22 Long or .32, but some were also available in .30, .38, and even .41 (I've never seen one chambered in .41).

4. Have a loading notch, but no loading gate.

5. Rarely have a maker's name.

6. Often have a "brand name" that might be shared among several makers.

Most makers were relative unknowns, but Iver Johnson, Forehand and Wadsworth, even Marlin made suicide specials.

Here's a great page that talks to makers and names used: http://www.gun-data.com/suicide_specials.htm

My personal favorite brand name is Tramp's Terror. Just love the imagery that one suggests.

As far as I know, there are no figures for how many guns like these were produced, but some sources think the numbers were pretty massive, possibly in high hundreds of thousands, or more.

These truly were the bottom of the bottom for both price and quality, but most would fire a cartridge when the trigger was pulled.
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Old February 13, 2011, 09:39 PM   #39
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I guess this qualifies as a slight step above a "suicide special". H&R "The American". This one was made between 1888 and 1897. I've got 50 rounds of BP .38 S&W Short, but I'm not gonna even try.





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Old February 13, 2011, 10:03 PM   #40
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Yep, a bare step above.

True suicide specials are generally held to be spur trigger and single action.
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Old February 14, 2011, 06:50 AM   #41
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Irwin
In those situations when you're working with a rope and a thoroughly ****** off chunk of beef, a handgun in a holster could be a significant liability if the rope got caught behind the holster.
Actually, that handgun close at hand could be a lifesaver for a cowboy with a particularly angry piece of beef on rope (why do I get the mental image of a steak being lassoed...).

Elmer Keith (pbuh) specifically mentions in his autobiography a few episodes of needing to use his sidearm against angry and out of control animals while working cows or horses. He wasn't a cowboy in the traditional sense, but could call those guys his mentors by virtue of being born as that era was winding down.

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Old February 14, 2011, 07:00 AM   #42
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I've worked with cows and trust me if you get an angry piece of beefsteak on a rope you won't have time to think about a gun much less actually try to get it. All you'll be doing is trying to get the Hell out of its way.
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Old February 14, 2011, 07:06 AM   #43
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These are quotes from EK's Autobiography Hell, I Was There!
Quote:
Originally Posted by http://forum.elmerkeithshoot.org/oldforum/web/html/postc8fe.html?id=3752036
On two occasions I had to stop mad cows I had roped. They wound me up and threw my bronc and came for me with sharp horns. On another occasion I had to get out of bed, saddle up a bronc, and go to the rescue of a local butcher who had tried to kill a big Durham ball with a Colt by planting the slugs in the forehead. The beast had put the butcher up a tree and, as it was cold weather, he was fast freezing when the neighbor called. When I rode up close to the tree, the bull charged. A single 265 grain 45-cal. Ideal slug, backed by 40 grains of black powder, in the forehead from my old 5 1/2" Single Action Colt did the trick. The bull stuck his nose in the ground and turned over on his back with all four legs stiff in the air, his tail stretched out toward my bronc, then he relaxed in death.
There are more at the site listed above.

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Old February 14, 2011, 07:44 AM   #44
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Close at hand and on your waist are two different things.

I'd be really curious to know if Keith either had the gun on his hip or if he had it across the saddle.

If he did actively wear a six gun while working cattle in an enclosure (branding and the like) as opposed to open range work (there you would wear a gun), he would be, I think, a very rare exception to the rule.

Most times when cowboys were actively working cattle in an enclosure there were a several assigned to just "guard" to make sure that one of the cattle didn't get out of hand while being worked.

My Great grandfather, the one with the .32 H&R, worked as a ranch hand in the Dakotas from the mid 1890s to about 1910 or so, not long before Keith.

He became a writer in later life, and one of his stories about life in the Dakotas was a description of a bull being worked in an enclosure goring a black cowboy to death before the guard could kill it with his rifle.


As for the story about the bull chasing the butcher up the tree... He knows there's a problem, so of course he's going to go armed. If the bull is mad enough to have someone treed, you're not going to rope it and lead it back to the paddock all quiet like.
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Old February 14, 2011, 07:58 AM   #45
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Hardcase, I see that your no loading gate double action's recoil shield's right side edges captures the cartridges when the hammer is fully back or fully down. But what happens when you cock it if it is slightly angled upward, like as if you were shooting uphill or upward at a coon in a tree, is the cartridge next to the loading slot will either fall out or most likely get jammed trying to fall out of the cylinder. Obviously the only correct way to cock that gun is to always point it downward to cock it and then raise it up.

I mean how much could a simple and inexpensively made lousy loading gate have cost the manufacturer? That is the height of manufacturing frugality. Dangerous too because in the heat of the moment if a mountain lion or bobcat was in a tree about to pounce on you and you forgot to point the revolver downward first to cock it (and thereby capture the cartridges from falling out), you'd be cat food when that cylinder advanced and the round in front of the cutout slot jammed trying to fall out the slot thus jamming the cylinder until you backed the cylinder up to remove the jammed cartridge.
But by that time.....cat food. Lol.

.
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"To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target".
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Old February 14, 2011, 09:54 AM   #46
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Based on what I read and the pictures I've seen, I would say EK wore a gun from the time he got up in the morning till he went to sleep in the evening. Outside of that, I don't have any knowledge.

The bull and tree story wasn't my focus. I just grabbed the entire quote from the site. At that site, there was also an anecdote about his having to shoot an angry bronco while being dragged along the ground by a stirrup. In that case, he definitely had the gun on his hip.

Chris
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Old February 14, 2011, 10:20 AM   #47
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There aren't that many period photographs of cowboys actually working cattle in enclosures given the state of camera equipment and film at the time.

The posed photos that are available, though, generally show most cowboys gunless.

On a cattle drive on the open range I'd suspect it would be a bit different. Cowboys wouldn't be expected to use their ropes nearly as much during a drive as when they were branding or otherwise working cattle, and the possibility of needing a gun would, I think be somewhat higher as per Keith's example of having to kill his horse.


"The bull and tree story wasn't my focus."

Yeah, I thought it was a rather unfocused addition to the discussion at hand.
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Old February 14, 2011, 10:29 AM   #48
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Quote:
Hardcase, I see that your no loading gate double action's recoil shield's right side edges captures the cartridges when the hammer is fully back or fully down. But what happens when you cock it if it is slightly angled upward, like as if you were shooting uphill or upward at a coon in a tree, is the cartridge next to the loading slot will either fall out or most likely get jammed trying to fall out of the cylinder. Obviously the only correct way to cock that gun is to always point it downward to cock it and then raise it up.
Bingo! Yes, if it's pointing too far up and you aren't quick about cocking it, a round will get jammed in the slot. It's a double action gun, so I guess that they figured that you'd be aiming it level when you pulled the trigger.

Now, the nutty thing is that it takes all of about five seconds to pull the cylinder and dump the empties. I don't know why they even bothered with that cartridge slot in the first place - if a guy actually had to reload, there's no way that he'd do it with that slot. He'd just pull the cylinder, dump the empties and drop five new rounds in and put it back together.
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Old February 14, 2011, 12:55 PM   #49
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Who cares if the bullets fall out in that scenario. If you're relying on a .38 S&W against a cougar you'd be cat food any which way! lol

So, I take it that the op question of cowboys owning guns has been settled enough to move on to how they carried what they owned?

Last edited by Model-P; February 15, 2011 at 01:03 PM. Reason: sp
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Old February 14, 2011, 08:23 PM   #50
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"Hard Pan" .32RF Suicide Special

Here's my son's .32RF suicide special that has the name "Hard Pan" on the barrel. The barrel is ~2.75" long and the gun cost $15 at the local Cabela's. According to the suicude special gun-data page it was made by:

Quote:
HOOD FIREARMS COMPANY. Norwich, Ct. Manufactured Firearms from early 1870's to late 1880's .

http://www.gun-data.com/suicide_specials.htm
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Last edited by arcticap; February 15, 2011 at 11:18 AM.
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