Stick Em Up, Pardner!: Guns of the Old West


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

The Old West wasn't won by handshakes and friendly smiles. Those who dared to wander the lawless frontier carried guns, for both food and protection. How much do you know about guns of the Old West?

"Six shooters" are what type of gun?

"Six shooter" is a nickname for revolvers, specifically those that carry six cartridges. Six shooters became increasingly popular in the mid-19th century and in the Old West.


The Colt Single Action Army was often called what?

Colt Single Action Army was one of the West's most iconic guns. It was a six-shot revolver often ominously called "The Peacemaker." If you were at the business end of this weapon, it probably didn't seem very calming.


What was unique about "pepper box" pistols?

Pepper box pistols had multiple barrels, and four- and five-barrel versions were common in the Old West. Their small size and repeating action made them useful in close-quarters brawls.


Sharps rifles were common during the Civil War. What was their reputation?

Sharps rifles were big single-shot guns, and they were renowned for their amazing accuracy, making them prized by Civil War snipers. They later became one of the West's iconic rifles.


What was a "scattergun"?

Scatterguns were shotguns, so named because they "scattered" shot in wide patterns. These common (and affordable) weapons were perfect for hunting and self-defense.


What was a defining trait of derringers, a type of pistol?

Derringers were small palm pistols. The derringer nickname is a generic term, but it was Henry Deringer (with one "R"), a 19th-century gun manufacturer, who first gave rise to the concept with the pistols that bore his name.


A derringer was used in which infamous event?

John Wilkes Booth used a small, easily concealed derringer to murder Abraham Lincoln. The result? More oppressive policies towards Southerners, many of whom subsequently headed for the frontier.


Of the following, what sort of shotgun was most common in the Wild West?

It was the double-barreled shotgun (or side-by-side) that was most common in the Old West. Because on the frontier, two shots were always better than one.


The 1874 Sharps rifle was often called what?

The 1874 Sharps rifle was often called "the buffalo gun." It was offered in models that could shoot huge loads (like .50-110) that were used to take down large animals like bison in the West.


The Winchester rifle is sometimes known as what?

The Winchester rifle (which includes many of the company's rifles) was sometimes called "The Gun That Won the West," in part due to its ubiquity and reliability.


The legendary Henry rifle lacked which feature?

In a twist that would trigger lawsuits galore these days, the Henry rifle had no safety. An accidental blow to the hammer could cause the gun to discharge.


How did the Colt Paterson revolver revolutionize guns of the 19th century?

The Colt Paterson was the first revolver. It wasn't a six-shooter, though -- it only carried five cartridges at a time. It was a common gun in the Old West all the way back in the 1840s.


What kind of gun was the Colt Model 1860?

The Colt Model 1860 was a six-shot percussion revolver. It was used extensively during the Civil War and many copies ended up in the Wild West.


The Colt Model 1860 was a semi-automatic model.

The Model 1860 was a single-action revolver. To shoot, the operator first had to cock the hammer and then pull the trigger. The .44 caliber version was extremely common during the Civil War.


The U.S. Model 1841 Rifle was often called what?

The U.S. Model 1841 Rifle was called the Mississippi Rifle because Jefferson Davis armed his men with the guns during the Mexican–American War of the 1840s. It then proliferated throughout the frontier.


The U.S. Model 1841 Rifle was a flintlock rifle.

This was the first standard U.S. rifle to do away with outdated flintlock systems. Instead, the Mississippi rifle relied on a percussion lock mechanism, which was much more robust, particularly in damp or wet weather.


What was one common nickname for derringers?

Derringers were often called "muff pistols," because they were easy for women to conceal inside a muff. In the 19th century, a muff was an open-ended handwarmer that many women carried in cold weather.


Which company manufactured the famous Henry rifle?

Winchester made the Henry rifle, a famous lever-action rifle that fired .44 caliber rimfire cartridges. The fast lever action made it easy to chamber new rounds, a critical trait in the high-speed, close-range battles in the West.


Which company made a model called the Frontier Six-Shooter?

Colt created a strong reputation by making some of the best guns of the 19th century. It made the Frontier Six-Shooter, a .44-40 caliber revolver that was first manufactured in 1877.


Once the Civil War was over, the company stopped producing Sharps rifles.

The company kept churning out the famed guns. They marketed the rifle specifically to commercial big game hunters who roamed the frontier.


What were "belly guns" like?

Belly guns were small pistols, often customized by the operator to be even smaller. Like derringers or pepper boxes, they were good for extremely close, fast-moving situations.


They were called "belly guns" because their owners often shoved the guns into their waistbands.

No one knows for sure why they were called belly guns. It may have been because they were easy to tuck into a waistband or perhaps it was because the business end often wound up pointed right at an enemy's guts.


What were "Beecher's Bibles"?

"Beecher's Bibles" referred to Sharps rifles. The nickname arose thanks to the abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, who gained fame in the Kansas Territory for his brash (and menacing) anti-slavery actions.


What caliber was the Colt Dragoon revolver?

The Colt Dragoon revolver was a .44 caliber weapon. It was first introduced in 1848 and thousands of them made their way to the Old West in the mid-19th century.


Which company made the famous "Model 3"?

Smith & Wesson made the Model 3, which became the first standard cartridge-firing revolver in the U.S. Army. The gun is so popular with collectors that the company still makes them in limited runs.


Which Old West icon loved the Model 3?

Buffalo Bill loved his Model 3. And so did many other frontier types. The large .44 caliber gun had more than enough stopping power to terrify any normal person.


Why was the Colt 1851 Navy one of the most popular revolvers of the Old West?

The Colt 1851 Navy was reliable and it was lighter than many other revolvers of the day, meaning it was easy to carry in a side holster or waistband. It was a .36 caliber gun that was manufactured until about 1873.


Which famous explorer had the 1866 Winchester Rifle during a major expedition?

John Powell's men carried a few 1866 Winchester rifles during their explorations of the Grand Canyon in the late 1860s. This lever-action rifle was exceedingly popular all through the West, in part due to its substantial .44 caliber cartridge.


"Smoke wagon" referred to what kind of weapon?

A "smoke wagon" could refer to any handgun, but most likely a revolver. Revolvers were invaluable in the restless wildness of the West.


What was special about the 1887 Winchester shotgun?

The 1887 Winchester shotgun had a repeating lever-action construction. It was the first commercially successful repeating shotgun, and for obvious reasons, it was very useful in lawless areas.


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