The Colt Peacemaker: The Gun That Won the West
If you spend any time researching the Colt Peacemaker, you will find that everywhere you look – – in books, on websites, in encyclopedias – – a colon and an unofficial title usually follows the name . . . “The Colt Peacemaker: The Gun that Won the West” It’s a subtitle that is well deserved, for the “king” of the revolvers in the royal gun family!
Years before the production of the Colt Peacemaker, Samuel Colt himself said, “The good people in this world are very far from being satisfied with each other and my arms are the best peacemaker.” Ironically, Samuel Colt died a decade before the gun was actually designed.
The Colt Peacemaker is only one name for this popular revolver. You might also know it as the Colt Single Action Army Revolver, the M1873, the Colt .45, or simply as the Model P. This gun first hit the market in 1873, and was available by mail order from the Colt Firearms Manufacturing Co. for the sum of $17. (NOTE TO SELF: If I’m ever given a time machine, dial back to to the year 1873 and buy revolvers, many revolvers.)
The Colt Peacemaker was the U.S. Army’s standard issue service revolver until 1892. It was used extensively in the Spanish-American War, as well as in World War I. It was favored by some pretty impressive American heroes. . . “Buffalo Bill” Cody, General George Patton, Wyatt Earp and Theodore Roosevelt. But, as you may have already have suspected, the “good guys” weren’t the only ones to use the Colt .45! Outlaws, such as Jesse James and Billy the Kid, used the gun with great , shall we say, enthusiasm?!
So. . .why was this gun in particular everyone’s favorite? Strangely, there wasn’t anything terribly unique about the Colt Peacemaker. It was not a huge leap forward in technology, since its single action design dated back decades. However, where it set itself apart from other guns was this: It was completely reliable and robust, able to take lots of heavy abuse and keep on working.
The Colt Peacemaker was featured in virtually every old television and movie Western. Gary Cooper carried a Peacemaker in the movie, High Noon. While you would be hard-pressed to find many Westerns that didn’t feature the Colt .45, here’s your oddball trivia for the day: In the 1950 movie, Colt .45 starring Randolph Scott, Colt .44s were used!
There was also a television Western by the name of Colt .45, which aired from 1957-1960. Presumably, that show used the appropriate revolver!
Production of the Colt Peacemaker ended in 1941, with the start of World War II, when munitions factories focused on producing greater volume, larger caliber arms. This was not a permanent hiatus, however, because production of “Second Generation” Peacemakers began again in 1956 and lasted until 1974. “Third Generation” production began in 1976 and continued until 1981. Was that the end of the road for the Colt Single Action? Hardly. The company once again started to manufacture them, and they are still available today.
Confession: This firearm is such a part of Western history and Hollywood’s portrayal of cowboys that I realized I have imagined it as being in hands that never held it. I could have sworn Woody from “Toy Story” was equipped with a Colt Peacemaker. Um, he wasn’t. It seems that when Woody said, “Reach for the sky,” he was really equipped with an empty holster and his index finger. All I can say is that if it were politically correct, Pixar Studios would have given Woody a Colt!
Happy Trails, y’all!