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Repeating rifles and other guns

June 3, 2013
Posted at 7:08 pm

An anonymous correspondent (see earlier blog about anonymous writers) has asked why Jake and Sue don't have repeating rifles.
No doubt this was prompted by all the western movies where everyone has a Colt revolver and a Winchester rifle.
The short answer is that the Spencer and Henry rifles, the first successful lever-action rifles, came out in 1860 with Winchesters following in 1866. As our story starts at the end of the 1840s (around 1849) they just didn't exist. Jake therefore has a 0.54 muzzle-loading Hawken rifle, a much prized possession. Sue has a similar 'Plains' rifle, but not a Hawken.
The revolvers they both carry are Colt Patersons. These started to reach the west in the early 1840s and were 5-shot revolvers with a hidden trigger that popped out when the gun was cocked. There was no triger guard. Mostly they were only loaded with 4 shots as there was no safe place to rest the hammer when carrying the weapon apart from on an empty cylinder. It will be two years before they can get their hands on an 1851 Navy Colt.