View Full Version : 1875, How much did guns & Bullets cost

February 22, 2012, 02:07 PM
Lets say one is standing in St Louis in 1875, Gateway to the west Riverboats bringing all sorts of goods from around the world.

What would the various Guns and ammo cost at this time.. I realize that there are many other factors here, Supply demand.. Shopping at the only gun store in town vs big Wal-outfitters-mart box store of its day... But I guess I am looking for generalized prices..

Mucho Thanks

February 22, 2012, 07:00 PM
I'm not real sure, but if I'm not mistaking I believe a shot of whiskey costs the same amount as one cartridge. Cowboys in saloons would trade one cartridge for one shot of whiskey. Thats where the term "shot" of whiskey comes from.

February 22, 2012, 07:45 PM
I have the cost of almost all rifles pistols and ammo I will post more soon when I have it all worked out for now Remington 1877 cataloge
Double derringer cost $8 to $17.30c Pearl engraved and plated. $1.50c for 100 rounds. (rim fire 41 short) Can't find my specs 45-70 Gov seems to read about $30 per 1000 rounds. 44-40 costs about $19 per 1000 rounds more (with accuracy) tomorrow.

February 22, 2012, 08:17 PM
The prices really don't tell us much unless we also know what people got paid in those days.
So you could get a double derringer for $8.00? Is that a week's pay, a month's pay for the average Joe back then?

When you look at affordability, I suspect that guns and ammo were pretty expensive back in those days.

February 22, 2012, 08:40 PM
I saw a lot of old Hollywood westerns. When someone was shot either Matt Dillon or someone said--"Over a ten cent bullet!" That was expensive back then but that too was Hollywood talking.

February 22, 2012, 09:00 PM
There are a couple of Inflation calculators on line that one can use to also help


This is just one of many.. For example that 8 dollar Double derringer would cost about 160 dollars today.. not that this is exact or scientific.. But it does help a little

February 22, 2012, 09:21 PM
You have to take into account a top cowhand made 25-30 dollars a month and found(food and a bed).Most town jobs didn't pay that much.

Willie Sutton
February 22, 2012, 09:37 PM
One very interesting resource, albeit on that is a bit of an anachronism for the "exact" period you cite, are the reproductions of the old Sears catalogs that are available here and there. I've seen reproduction 1897 and 1906 catalogs. Each has very complete ammunition and accessory descriptions and prices, and has a large number of guns available. As this was at the end of the transition from BP to Smokeless, there is a strange mix of new and old... including Luger pistols right next to muzzle loading muskets in the 1906 one. Most of the late 1800's guns were still being offered at this time, as well as what we now recognize as the beginning of the modern gun era.

Highly recommended for hours of entertainment, and not just in the gun section.
Every farm apparently needed a pound of cocaine... for $2.00 :eek:



February 22, 2012, 09:47 PM
I'd have done my best to get ahold of one of them $13 Colt Single Action Army revolvers:


February 22, 2012, 10:31 PM
Many thanks Beagle333,

That little article has so much information its hard to take in at one time.. I think one of the big shocker for me is you paid more for the octagon barrel Winchester 73 then the round barrel.. It makes sense, I just assumed that the Hex barrels was an older method of production.. I did not know it was a premium ..

Just as a side note that "low" end Winchester 73 at 40 dollars is almost 900 dollars in todays money.. ha ha Just about what a Medium AR might cost you today.. The more things change the more they stay the same..

Stephanie B
February 23, 2012, 09:21 AM
So you could get a double derringer for $8.00? Is that a week's pay, a month's pay for the average Joe back then?

I believe that there was a lengthy depression in the latter part of the 19th Century. If I remember correctly, in the 1890s, wages for what we'd now call blue-collar workers were running about $1.70 a day. Some trades in the big cities made close to $4 a day. Women working in the textile industries were paid under a dollar a day.

Lots more data here (http://www.nber.org/chapters/c2496.pdf).

Doc Hoy
February 23, 2012, 09:30 AM
...and I know that timeframe is not what we are talking about,....

I bought a Mosin Nagant 7.62 for 17.95 from the Swear and Sendback catalog. Shipped right to my door along with fifty rounds of ammunition.

This was the "sporterized version" which meant that they hacked the front of the stock off. I should have gotten the original. You can buy them now at gunshows for about a hundred bucks.

February 23, 2012, 10:20 AM
When I was a teenager and I first started dove hunting in the late '60s, 12 gauge shotgun shells could be bought for about $2.75 or thereabout for a box of 25.
I ran that through the inflation calculator and it indicates that similar shotshells should cost $16/box today. They actually cost less than half that, so this commodity is actually more affordable today than back then. It also explains why almost nobody reloads shotshells anymore.
I bought a Lee handloader back then just so I could afford to shoot that shotgun.

A lot of things become more affordable simply because we invent less labor intensive methods of manufacturing them. I imagine that in the 1800's, there was a lot more skilled hand labor involved in gun making than today with modern CNC tools and so forth.

February 23, 2012, 10:30 AM
I bought a Mosin Nagant 7.62 for 17.95 from the Swear and Sendback catalog. Shipped right to my door along with fifty rounds of ammunition.

I didn't know they were importing Mosin's that far back. I remember the first ones I saw were at a gunshow in the late 70's. There was a huge rack of them for 9 bucks apiece. I was there for about three hours and I'm the only one that I saw pick one up and I couldn't put it down fast enough. No way I'd give 100 bucks for one.

February 23, 2012, 11:39 AM
They may not have been Importing MOSIN back then, A Lot of Mosins were made here in the United States and then shipped to RUSSIA. Then when the 1917 revolution broke out American Arms manufacturers were stuck with thousands that were in the pipeline to go to Russia.. The Government stepped in and purchase the guns, to prevent the gun manufactures from losing big bucks. So those Mosins went into US Inventory as a training rifle. The one you purchased may have been an US Surplus rifle.. Or an overrun from the manufacturer..

February 23, 2012, 12:37 PM
Was going to post rifle prices but Beagle333s post makes that a bit unnecessary. $1 a day is a lot of money when you don't have anything to spend it on. To earn that in a town and have rent food/drink and fuel to buy its not much. Assuming you want to head west "Fortune hunting" you could spend years at your day job saving the money.
1. horse $40, 2. Saddle bridal saddle bags blankets about $40 3 .Belt and holster $2-3, 4. Colt 45 $13 5. 1776 45-75 carbine $30-$35 6. 1 mule to carry food and ammo $25-$30 7. Ammo at least $10
In Britaiin 10 days wages before tax would not buy a very good car.

Andy Griffith
February 23, 2012, 05:48 PM
I know the highest paid jobs in the country in the 1860-1870 time frame:

Riverboat (steam) captain: up to $2000 a month, which dropped off to $500 when the railroads got to going good.

Crack express train engineer in the 1870-1880: $200-$400 a month
Fireman to the highest paid engineer: up to $80.00
Brakeman on frieght train: $15.00-$20.00 per week. However, if he messed up and put a flat spot on a wheel, they deducted $15.00 per wheel out of his pay- very hazardous work in the time before air brakes!

February 23, 2012, 07:51 PM
Found your post very interesting (saved to study at leasure)
Remington 1877 catalogue all rim fire price per 1000.
.22 = $6 .22 long = $8 .25 = $8.80 .30 =$11 .30 long = $12.50 .32 short & ex short = $12 .32 long = $13.50 32 ex long = $16.50 .38 short = $17 .38 long = $18 .38 long = $24 .41 =$15 .41 long = $19 .44 short = $22 44 long = $24 .44 Henry = $24 44 ex long = $34 .56-46 & 56-50 =$40 56-52 rifle & 56-56 carbine = $38
45-70 Gov = $37 (I assume 500gr bullet) 45-70 carbine (405gr?) =$35

Rim fire & center fire per 1000 CNMR = Colt new magazine rifle

From colt catalogue 1890 center fire and rim fire price per 1000
.22rf = $5 .22rf long = $6 .30rf = $9 .30rf long = $10.50 .41rf short = $15 .41rf long = $17.50 .32cf Short colt = $11 .32cf (CNMR) = $16 .38 short colt = $13.50

it is late more tomorrow

February 24, 2012, 09:30 AM
Sorry 45-70 rounds are center fire in my last post All those below are center fire Cost per 1000
38-40cf (CNMR) = $19 .41cf short colt = $15 .41cf Long colt = $17.50 .44-40 (CNMR) = $19 .45 colt = $22 all the rest fit the colt new magazine rifle i.e the lightning pump action rifle. .38-56cf = $33 .40-60cf = $33 .45-60cf = $33 .45-85cf = $37 .50-95cf = $40
Winchester 45-75 would probably cost $37 per 1000
It all sort of point to cowboys not riding into town advertising their arrival by shooting six guns in the air.

February 24, 2012, 08:32 PM
I saw a photo of an antique 1/4 pound gunpowder can in some old magazine a while back. The fact that gunpowder was sold in such small quantities makes me think it wasn't cheap.
One reason the Kentucky rifle designs went to smaller calibers than were used in the German Jaegar rifles that they evolved from was because lead and powder were both expensive to a frontier family living on the land, or so I have heard.

February 24, 2012, 08:54 PM
That was possibly 4F priming powder.

February 25, 2012, 11:34 AM
It was not uncommon for early 19th century plainsmen and mountain men to make their own version of BP.
Some of the BP that was available at the time was so good that it stated on the label that no cleaning was necessary until the next use of the firearm.

February 25, 2012, 11:42 AM
Some of the BP that was available at the time was so good that it stated on the label that no cleaning was necessary until the next use of the firearm.

I think that then, just as now, there was a lot of hyperbole in advertising claims.