Do you know which gun officially won the West? If so, can you tell me what it is? The “Gun that Won the West” has been an ongoing debate for over a century.  Some argue it was the up-close and personal double barrel shotgun while others point to the repeating actions of Winchester rifles. While hundreds of manufacturers claim to have produced the “Gun that Won the West,” the taming of the western frontier cannot be attributed to a single firearm. Rather, it was a range of guns and the people who used them. Let’s have a look at 10 of the most influential guns that helped shape the west!


Colt Paterson Antique Percussion Revolver

1.  Colt Paterson Revolver
Patented by Samuel Colt in 1836, the Colt Paterson revolver got its name from being produced in Paterson, NJ. It was the first repeating firearm that consisted of a revolving cylinder with multiple chambers that aligned to a stationary barrel. Simply put, it revolutionized the way handguns were designed.  The Texas Rangers found these weapons especially useful against the Comanche tribes in the 1840’s.


1851 Colt Navy Percussion Revolver

2. 1851 Colt Navy Revolver
Named for the Republic of Texas Navy, this cap and ball revolver fired six rounds and was a popular sidearm for both the North and the South throughout the Civil War. It was lighter than the earlier Baby Dragoon and was a suitable size for carrying in a belt holster. Notable names who carried the 1851 Colt Navy revolver include Col. Robert E Lee, Wild Bill Hickok and the Pinkertons.

Model 1852 Sharps Carbine

3. 1852 Sharps Carbine 
Used by the U.S. Military to supply its soldiers serving on the frontier, the 1852 Sharps Carbine percussion rifle was a favorite throughout the 1850’s boarder wars and was adopted by government mail contractors and stage lines operating in the Southwest. The Sharps Sporting models of this rifle were quite popular among early buffalo hunters as well.


Colt Army Model 1860 Revolver

4. Model 1860 Colt Army
This single-action, .44 caliber six-shooter was the primary revolver used by Union Army troops throughout the Civil War. It was accurate from 75 to 100 yards, packed a lot of power and was easier to handle than the Colt Dragoon.  With its popularity, the Colt Army Model 1860 not only found itself in the hands of the army but also robbers of the time such as the James brothers and the Younger Gang.


Sharps Pepperbox Derringer

5. Derringer Pocket Pistol  
Available in a variety of caliber and sizes, the derringer pocket pistol is a general term for pocket pistols in the smallest caliber made by a particular manufacturer.  These little handguns had a huge impact on the West. Whether you were a Gold miner, a riverboat gambler or respectable citizen, you carried a derringer for personal protection.


Winchester Model 1886 Lever Action Rifle


6. Model 1866 Winchester Rifle
Whether in full-rifle or carbine form, over 170,000 of these .44 caliber Model 1866 Winchester lever-actions were released into the West. Famous for its rugged construction and lever-action “repeating rifle” mechanism that allowed the user to fire multiple shots before having to reload, this rifle quickly gained popularity among sheriffs, cowboys and Native Americans.

Springfield Allin Conversion Rifle

7. Model 1866 Springfield Allin Conversion Rifle 
Converted from 1863 Springfield percussion rifles to breechloaders, the 1866 Springfield Allin Conversion was a powerful single-shot rifle that could fire metallic cartridges. Its success paved the way for later trapdoor rifles such as the 1873 Springfield.  Following the Civil War, many of these rifles were used by hide hunters to take down buffalo.


Winchester Model 1873 Lever Action Rifle

8. Model 1873 Winchester Rifle 
The Winchester Model 1873 lever-action rifle is one of the most successful Winchester rifles of its day. With its iron frame and streamlined design the 1873 was known for being easy to operate and care for. It quickly became the go-to rifle of Texas Rangers, ranchers and robbers.


Winchester Model 1876 Lever Action Rifle

9. Model 1876 Winchester Rifle
Designed as a big game hunting rifle, the Winchester Model 1876 lever-action rifle was chambered in a variety of heavy hitting calibers such as the .40-60, .45-60, .45-75 Centennial and the .50-95. It was Theodore Roosevelt's favorite rifle and was also issued to Canada's North West Mounted Police in the form of a full-stocked carbine. The Winchester 1876 in .50-95 chambering was the only repeating rifle known to have been in widespread use by professional buffalo hunters.

Winchester Model 1886 Lever Action Rifle

10. Model 1886 Winchester Rifle 
Improving on the Winchester Model 1876, the Winchester Model 1886 featured a stronger locking-block action and was the first lever action rifle made by Winchester to be chambered in .45-70 Government. Used primarily by hunters and ranchers, the 1886 helped put the nail in the coffin on single-shot rifles of the day.

Are you interested in purchasing any of the antique western firearms listed in this post? Click here to view our current inventory of antique firearms and accessories.

By Seth Hamman,

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