What would the old gunfighters carry today?

    Tennessee Jed
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    What would the old gunfighters carry today?

    Post by Tennessee Jed on Tue Oct 28, 2014 11:46 am

    Lately I've been watching some documentaries about some of the legendary gunfighters of the Old West, and a thought that keeps hitting me is "If they were around today, what gun(s) would they carry?"  We have some Old West afficianados here, and I'd love to know what you all think.

    I'll start it off.  Wyatt Earp.  Seems to have been a complete pragmatist.  No-nonsense-get-the-job-done kind of guy, who could and would probably make do with anything.  As I recall, he carried primarily an SAA with a 7.5 inch barrel, but occasionally carried an S&W break-top revolver.  (I'll not get into the quandry of whether he actually owned, much less carried, the Colt Buntline.)  My guess is he'd carry whatever was the best latest but overall accepted and proven technology, so I assume he'd carry something like a Glock 17 or S&W M&P.  Nuthin' fancy, but effective.  

    However, I think Wild Bill would be a completely different story.  Unless I am mistaken, he carried a pair of Colt Navies long after the metallic cartridge was common place.  Read an article once that in his latter days he changed over to a 44 that was converted for cartridge carry, but that was later on in his life.  I read some speculation one time that he probably liked the Navies (which were the ballistic equivalent to a .380 today) because he was an accomplished shot, hit what he aimed at, and preferred familiarity with his weapons.  I think it's harder to guess what he'd carry, but I'd guess that it would be something that was very accurate and had a better trigger than striker fired pistols, and something with a medium sized caliber, like a 9mm.  I'll go on a limb and suggest an old but trustworthy Sig P210, for its better-than-normal trigger, high reliability, and legendary accuracy.

    What do you all think?
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    Re: What would the old gunfighters carry today?

    Post by Devereaux on Tue Oct 28, 2014 10:56 pm

    Good topic, TJ.

    So I think we ought to define a few things first. The Colt SAA (in .45 Colt was the most powerful handgun in the world until the advent of the .357 Magnum, and you could argue that. Nothing else in its class.

    Further, the Smith & Wesson Models 1-3 were the most produced guns in the world. The Europeans stole the patent (flat out) and made hordes of them without S&W getting any benefit. It was a thoroughly modern pistol, and in either .45 Schofield or .44 Russian was a serious handgun.

    Most of the better known gunfighters had S&W's. Jesse James had one, Tilgman had one, Hardin had one - and on and on. But the Colt captured the imagination, and there were a plethora of them because the cavalry carried them and the troopers simply took them when they got out. But the Pinkertons were armed with S&W's with barrels cut to 5" (from the original 7"), and any number of so modified weapons ended up in the West. Then again Bat Masterson special ordered a 4-5/8" barrelled Colt SAA with the front sight cut down to a specific height (his gun has been found and provenenced, including the letter to Colt ordering it).

    The other choice was a practical one. Carbines, that is Winchester rifles, came in .44-40, and so did Colt SAA's so common ammo made that choice practical, and you found a lot of southwest rangers (Texas, Arizona) carried that.

    ?And what did all the little small town sheriffs and marshals carry, when they faced numerous well known and dangerous desperados. A 10 ga side-by-side short barrelled shotgun. THAT piece killed more desperados than anything else in the west.

    Now, to your question of modern gunfighters. I believe they would carry some version of 9mm auto. There might be a variety of choices, but they most likely would be some larger capacity auto. I suspect it would not be a poly gun, as the gunfighters of old liked durability, and polys have some life-span issues, unlike steel guns like Sig. Considering the age and knowledge base, 1911's might also be a choice.

    But they would also have an M4 with 62gr ammo. Most of those guys understood that killing a guy took some work and rifles were better at it than handguns.

    Wild Bill. The Navy 36 has long been considered the ultimate "shooter's gun". It has balance and a smaller grip than follow-on guns, and most who shot it liked it. WB carried them not because he had anything against any of the other guns but because he could shoot it better.

    Buffalo Bill, OTOH, would almost undoubtedly have a BBQ 1911 - ivory, engraved, maybe even gold inlaid.

    ?Wyatt. The 4" M&P (the medium sized one) with an Apex kit. These guys DID like their guns. WE may have been a practical guy, but he was careful about what he carried and practiced at least weekly. And my understanding is that he had a version of the Buntline, but those were not all the same IIRC. Help me out here, CF.

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