The Favorite Gun Of The Old West

I always thought that the preferred gun of the old west would be the pistol (6 six shooter) or a rifle. But from what I have been reading, I was wrong. The most influential gun was the shotgun such as the 1889 Remington curl hammered double barrel.
The double barrel shotgun (sometimes called “scattergun” because it was loaded with numerous lead pellets) was the easiest load, easiest to operate and the cheapest to buy. It was very versatile in use. It could be used for putting food on the table by shooting fowl, small game and larger game when loaded with buckshot (large pellets).

If ever in a gunfight in those days, they did not even need to aim to hit the target and the enemy new that.
Everyone respected the damage the shotgun could do at close range with the many lead pellets it sprayed out. Moments before the legendary “Gun Fight At The OK Corral”, Virgil Earp gave his trusted shotgun to Doc Holiday in exchange for Holiday’s cane that he was carrying.

The expression “riding shotgun” was derived in 1919 from the (then called) “stagecoach guards or shotgun messengers” which sat next to the driver of the stagecoach. They were hired to protect the stage from being robbed by bandits when they were carrying valuables such as money or gold in their strong boxes. The guard typically carried a short (or sawed-off) 12- or 10-gauge double-barrelled shotgun, loaded with buckshot. This was a most effective weapon in use against pursuing riders. Such weapons were sometimes referred to as “messenger shotguns” or, more commonly, “coach guns” (a name still used today). To some extent these weapons also carried over to use by private guards in trains with strongboxes or safes, where they were again effective.

The reliable shotgun was also the early settler’s home security as is today.


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