Peacemakers Didn’t Win the West Alone

Kathleen Rice Adams header

1873 Colt .45 Single Action Army, the Peacemaker
1873 Colt .45 Single Action Army, the Peacemaker

When you think (or write or read or watch a movie about) the Old West, what’s the first weapon that comes to mind? If Peacemaker isn’t the first, it’s likely near the top of your list. Thanks to western novels and movies, the Peacemaker—formally known as the 1873 Colt .45 Single Action Army—is one of the most famous guns in history, and for good reason. The six-shot revolver was lighter than its predecessors, exceptionally well balanced, and accurate in the hands of someone who knew what he or she was doing. Not to be overlooked among its characteristics: A .45 slug makes a big hole.

Though known as “the gun that won the west,” Peacemakers weren’t alone in helping stalwart individuals tame the wild frontier. Several other sidearms and long guns also played roles. Here are a few of the lesser-known weapons carried by folks on both sides of the law.


1875 Remington Frontier Army
1875 Remington Frontier Army

Remington Frontier Army

In 1875, E. Remington & Sons began manufacturing a single-action revolver meant to compete with Colt’s Peacemaker. Nicknamed the Frontier Army or Improved Army model, Remington’s Model 1875 Single Action Army six-shooter never attained the Peacemaker’s commercial success or legendary status, partly because Colt got the jump on Remington by two years, the U.S. Army already had adopted the Peacemaker as its official sidearm, and many lawmen and outlaws preferred the Colt’s superior balance and lighter weight. Remington’s Frontier Army had its devotees, however, including Frank James.

In Prodigal Gun, heroine Jessie Caine carries an 1858 Remington New Model, which differed from the Model 1875 only in the type of ammunition it chambered. The 1858 was a cap-and-ball pistol, while the 1875 employed metallic cartridges. Both featured a cylinder that could be removed on the go, which made for easy reloading: just pop out the empty and pop in a fully loaded replacement. For that reason, the 1858 model was popular with both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. In fact, Bennett Collier—a Confederate cavalry officer who returns to his family’s Texas ranch at the end of the Civil War—brings a pair home with him. Ben is the hero in “Making Peace,” one of two related stories that compose The Dumont Brand.


1875 Smith & Wessons .45 Schofield (courtesy Bob Adams)
1875 Smith & Wesson .45 Schofield (courtesy Bob Adams)

.45 Schofield

The Smith & Wesson Model 3, which began production in 1875, saw service during the Indian Wars in the Southwest and the Spanish-American War. Favored by Wyatt Earp (who used one during “the gunfight in an alley near the OK Corral”) and Well Fargo road agents, the Model 3 was ordered in quantity for the U.S. military, providing Smith & Wesson modified the 1870 Model 3 according to Major George W. Schofield’s specifications. The contract ended early when the modifications, primarily having to do with the ammunition the revolver chambered, caused confusion and inconvenience in the field. Though heavier than both Colt’s Peacemaker and Remington’s Frontier Army, the Schofield’s range and muzzle velocity were superior to both its competitors. Prodigal Gun’s Col. Boggs, a sheep rancher whose barbed-wire fence touches off a range war, keeps one in a desk drawer.


Winchester Model 1873 carbine (courtesy Bob Adams)
Winchester Model 1873 carbine (courtesy Bob Adams)

Winchester Model 1873

Also called “the gun that won the west,” the Winchester 1873’s carbine model saw extensive use all over the West because of its portability. The shorter barrel length—20 inches as opposed to the rifle version’s 24 inches—made the carbine easier to carry and fire on horseback. The Model 1873’s ammunition also made it popular: The rifle and carbine chambered Colt’s .44-40 cartridge, which meant users of both handguns and rifles needed only one kind of ammunition.

The Winchester Repeating Arms Company developed the first lever-action repeating rifle in 1860. Known as the Henry, the long gun was employed by the Union Army during the Civil War, to the Confederates’ extreme consternation. Rebs called the Henry “that damned Yankee rifle they load on Sunday and shoot all week.”

Calhoun, the titular prodigal gun in Prodigal Gun, carries a Winchester 1873 carbine, as does his comrade, Latimer. For that matter, so does Quinn Barclay, The Second-Best Ranger in Texas.


A couple of days ago, I found out The Dumont Brand has been nominated for a Reward of Novel Excellence, or RONE, Award. The RONEs, given annually by romance magazine InD’tale, are judged in an unusual way: A jury selects nominees, the nominees go to a public vote, and then another jury selects the winners from among the books most popular with the public. I didn’t realize anything I’ve written was eligible, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Because I’m feeling magnanimous after that discovery, I’ll give an e-copy of The Dumont Brand to one of today’s commenters. To be eligible, answer this question: If you had been a denizen of the Wild West, what kind of weapon would you have carried? Revolver, rifle, shotgun? Maybe a derringer? Or perhaps something pointy would have been more your style. (All Petticoats and Pistols sweepstakes rules apply to this giveaway.)


Here’s a bit about the book, in case you’re curious.

The Dumont BrandThe Civil War burned Texas…and fanned the flames of love.

On the eve of the Civil War, family secrets threaten everything a ranching dynasty has built…until one son finds salvation in the wrong woman’s love. In the aftermath of battle, a woman destroyed by betrayal brings peace to his brother’s wounded soul.

The Big Uneasy
To escape the unthinkable with a man about whom she knows too much, New Orleans belle Josephine LaPierre agrees to marry a Texan about whom she knows nothing. Falling in love with his brother was not part of her plan.

Making Peace
After four long years in hell, Confederate cavalry officer Bennett Collier just wants to go home—assuming home still exists. Widowed Jayhawker Maggie Fannin will hold onto her home at any cost…even if she must face down the imposing Rebel soldier who accuses her of squatting.


If you just can’t wait to find out whether you’ve won, you can find The Dumont Brand at these fine e-tailers:

Amazon  •  Barnes & Noble  •  iBooks  •  Kobo  •  Smashwords



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21 thoughts on “Peacemakers Didn’t Win the West Alone”

  1. Con gratulations on the nomination of The Dumont Brand. Best of luck in the voting.

    I would likely carry a colt pistol. It is relatively small and easy to handle, at least smaller than a rifle.

    • Howdy there, Patricia! You’re here early. 🙂

      Did you know Peacemakers came in two barrel lengths. Yep: seven inches and five inches. Most folks relied on the five-inch version because, frankly, seven inches of deadly was not easy to whip out of a holster, the belly-band of trousers, or wherever else one had stowed the gun.

      Thanks for stopping by this morning! 🙂

  2. Congratulations on your nomination! I would have carried a pistol, something small that I could hide in my dress. Or maybe a dagger.

  3. Terrific news about the nomination for The Dumont Brand. Congratulations!!
    Thank you for the interesting article about guns and who used them–real folks as well as fictional ones — especially for Prodigal Gun. 🙂 For my choice of gun, I guess I’d have to go with the balanced and lighter Colt. Second choice would be the Winchester, though. (Please don’t enter me in the contest so someone else gets a shot (!) at getting a book from you.)

    • Thank you, Eliza! I see you’ve joined the Pun Gang. Those owlhoots are nothin’ but trouble. 😉

      I hope you’re enjoying Prodigal Gun. Let me know what you think when you’re finished, if you’ve got time. 🙂

      I’ve always been partial to the Peacemaker, probably because my dad owned a brace. My brother has them now, darn him.

      Thanks for coming by today! It’s always good to see you. 🙂

  4. Congrats my dear YT. You deserve it, plenty.
    As to what I would have carried, I guess it would have been a revolver plus a hidden derringer. You never know, sometimes you need more than one weapon.
    And don’t count me in, you’ve already gifted me with The Dumont Brand before (still on my TBR List – I’ll get to it, don’t you worry. 🙂 )

  5. Congrats!! Oh man, tough choice. I love my rifles – I’d be the one hidden in the bushes on a hill and be backup for a cowboy. 😉 Of course, back then I’d most likely be wearing a dress, so something small to hide in a pocket would be handy. Great post!

    • Thanks, Susan! Glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

      If you’re going to back up a cowboy, I hope he’s a hunky one and believes in rewarding a lady for a job well done. 😉

      Thanks for coming by!

  6. Hi Kathleen! Great information on guns! I would have carried a derringer. The others are too bulky and heavy. A blade? That’s kind of messy, but it is silent…There are advantages to both.

    Congratulations again on the nomination for the RONE award! Keep us informed when the public voting starts!

    • I’ll keep everyone informed, Kathryn, I assure you. 😀

      I’ve never seen a derringer in person. Have you? I keep hoping to run into one at a museum or something someday, but so far no luck. Hmph.

      Thanks for stopping by, filly sister!

  7. Hi Kathleen, first all, congratulations upon your nomination! So thrilled for you! xoxo nd “excellent” is the proper word to use for your book. May the goodness continue. xo

    As much as I despite guns in modern day life, I adore learning about them from the Wild West era. Although the southern Griswold didn’t survive long, I find its history fascinating. And anybody in northern California should definitely visit the Winchester House of Mystery!

    I got some first-hand experience with a Peacemaker at a gun range in Bandera TX on a publisher retreat. It was great fun and I was horrified to find I’d laid four out of six kill shots into my green-man poster. Yup, my first tie. I wanted to bring it home and frame it for my writing room but thought the TSA might not appreciate it LOL.

    Best of luck with the RONE, my friend! Rooting and voting for ya. xoxoxo

    • Thank you, sweet lady. You always make me feel so good. 🙂

      I am by no stretch of the imagination a gun fan. My dad, who grew up in the backwoods of Kentucky, kept the guns he and his father hunted with when Daddy was a boy and a brace of antique Colt .45s. He made sure all of us kids could shoot, but more than that, he made sure all of us held a powerful respect for human life. (I’ve never shot anything but targets, BTW.)

      I’ve always wanted to visit the Winchester House. It must be fascinating! The history of the house is sad, but the house itself is a legacy I hope survives for a long, long time to come.

      BIG HUGS!!!!

  8. Congrats on your nomination. I guess I would have to go with the rifle because that is the only thing I have ever shot before. Although it might be nice to keep a little derringer hiden somewhere just for safty.

    • Thanks, Quilt Lady! You know, Tracy Garrett is the gun expert ’round these parts. She’d know for sure, but unless I’m mis-remembering, rifles actually were the go-to firearm back in the day. Handguns get more attention in fiction, but they weren’t very effective except at close range.

      I like the idea of keeping a derringer for safety. Good idea! 🙂

  9. Hi Kathleen! I loved your post–I think I would probably have been a Winchester repeater rifle kind of girl “back in the day”–I’ve always figured I’d be better off with a rifle than a pistol for some reason. And I love how those repeaters look, too. Loved the different pics of all these weapons!

  10. Congrats, Kathleen! You deserve the nomination.

    Meanwhile, I’m probably too late to enter, and I’m not sure I could hit any part of a barn….but I’m going with a Winchester.

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