Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Making of Guns of Ponderosa -- Part VIII

Let's talk about guns.

In fiction, Sam Colt's revolvers play a larger role than any other handgun. Clair Huffaker's Guns of Thunder Mountain featured Civil War era Joslyn side-hammer revolvers, but Colt's were by far the most popular. Louis L'Amour used a 12-shot revolver to save one protagonist's life, unfortunately I don't remember its name. Some gunnys used Remingtons and some Smith and Wessons, but Colt reigned supreme.

In Guns of Ponderosa, Dan Brady, the young deputy, uses Dragoon Colt, so I thought I'd talk about that type of revolver. Actually, the first Dragoon Colt was responsible for keeping Sam Colt in business.

War started with Mexico in January 1846. General Zachary Taylor's troops were armed with flintlock muskets and Model 1841 .54 caliber caplocks known as Mississippi or Jaeger rifles. Their pistols were caplock single-shot horse pistols and a few Paterson Colts. Mounted troops soon realized they needed more firepower, and a young captain named Samuel Walker, a former Texas Ranger, was sent north to negotiate with Sam Colt for a heavy repeating handgun similar to the Paterson. The result was the 1847 Whitneyville-Walker Dragoon in .45 caliber.

The 4-pound monsters reached American troops late in the war with Mexico, unfortunately after Captain Walker had died in the battle for Huamantla. These big pistols were carried by US Mounted Dragoon troops for the rest of the war, and the order for the pistols from the War Department put Sam Colt firmly in the repeating arms business.

Another smaller Colt Dragoon pistol was produced from 1848, but the one Dan Brady carried was a converted Whitneyville-Walker Dragoon from the War with Mexico.

This photo is from Age of the Gunfighter by Joseph G. Rosa and published by the University of Oklahoma Press. The top pistol is a Whitneyville-Walker Colt. The pistol directly beneath it is an 1948 Dragoon Colt. The partially visible pistol is an Model 1860 Army Colt, and the pistol fitted with a stock is a Third Model Dragoon .44. The guns are the property of the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum.

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