Mid-Month Memo 06: Firearms

Perhaps the most iconic thing in Hollywood westerns, other than the cows themselves, is the six-gun sported by the hero. His fast draw and unerring aim puts paid to rattlers, rustlers and bad guys alike. The western wouldn’t *be* a western without firearms, without the lightning fast draw, and the shoot-out on the streets of a town where dust and tumbleweed swirl in and out of camera shot.

See? Iconic.

Now then, while perhaps many of the writers of Lancer stories are familiar with guns, not everyone is. For those of us in countries where gun carrying isn’t common or legal, all we have to carry us through is what we see on TV and film. And – whisper this softly – Hollywood often gets it wrong, sacrificing history in the cause of action-filled story telling.

That is where Google is our friend. There are many sources describing the common firearms carried in the American west of that golden age of, say, 1865 – 1890, from Wiki to a host of specialist websites focused solely on Western history. One that I’ve found to be very useful is a You Tuber called Ian McCollum who hosts a channel, with more than 2 million followers, called Forgotten Weapons.

Ian is knowledgeable, erudite and engaging. He typically gives a gun’s history, then takes it apart and rebuilds it, all the while explaining how it worked, how and why it was effective, what its good (and even great) points are, what its faults and failures are etc. Even I can watch him and not feel overwhelmed with detail, or so bored my eyes glaze over. He’s very watchable.

Follow this link to see an entire section of 65 videos devoted to guns from the Old West. Whatever gun you have Scott and Johnny carry, pistol or rifle, it is likely to appear here on the list and in 10 – 15 minutes you can learn a great deal about it. Probably far more about it, in fact, than you will ever use in a story, but if it increases your confidence in writing a gunfighting scene or you want to be assured that what you write isn’t complete Hollywood-inspired rubbish, then I’d say that it’s a good investment of your time!


Any other resources people think we should link to?


(Starry Diadem)

2 thoughts on “Mid-Month Memo 06: Firearms

  1. Thanks for all this good information! I read in an account of Texas cattle drives and cowtowns that Hollywood face-to-face gunfights were very rare. Many sheriffs relieved drovers of their guns on arrival. Knife fights, however, were common as were brawls.


    1. I suspect nearly all we think we know of the life in the west is pure Hollywood construct, and the reality – while still exciting by today’s standards – was probably pretty mundane!



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