Cowboy Guns for Self Defense?

In the mid-1870s, The Illustrated Police News published this image depicting Whiskey Bar, California, placer miner Erastus Bradley saving his wife from a knife-wielding attacker. Bradley shot the assailant in the head with his pistol, and a jury ruled it as “justifiable homicide.” Revolvers we think of as cowboy guns protected life and property nearly 150 years ago, and if that’s all you have at hand when trouble arises, they’ll work today.
– Courtesy Phil Spangenberger Collection –

There’s no reason you can’t use your Old West replica firearm to protect home and family.

Replica Old West metallic cartridge firearms are made to enjoy in exciting endeavors like Cowboy Action Shooting, Cowboy Mounted Shooting, Wild West reenactments and other fun events. Although these 19th-century replicas were made for leisure shooting, hunting or competitive events, there’s no reason these same guns can’t be used to protect life and property. They can be more than just sporting arms or wall-hangers.

While not your first choice if you have a modern gun available, it could be a costly mistake to think of a fancily engraved, or otherwise embellished replica cowboy six-gun or longarm as simply a showpiece. If a life-threatening emergency arises, one of these powerful, vintage-type firearms like this Cimarron .45 Colt, “Original” finished and engraved 1873 Single Action are viable for home or personal protection.
– Courtesy Cimarron Firearms –

Whether plain-Jane models or fancily embellished guns, cowboy guns are work-ing replicas of those frontier-era metallic cartridge firearms that have served in combat, sometimes under the most adverse conditions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that these replicas should be your first choice when it comes to defense, but if at a time of need you don’t have access to a modern-designed firearm, don’t overlook a replica. There’s no question that if you are in a situation where reloading is required, you’d be best off with a modern handgun, such as a semi-auto pistol, a double-action revolver or a long gun that can deliver several rounds in rapid succession. The ability to quickly reload via a magazine or a speed loader, rather than the one-at-a-time method of re-stoking the gun is all-important. Replicas do have the advantage of being chambered to take commercially available, modern factory smokeless ammunition, and they pack plenty of power for self-defense purposes.

This Uberti USA Outlaws & Lawmen series, .38 Special, metallic cartridge replica “Wild Bill,” 1851 Navy Colt Richards-Mason conversion would serve you well in the event of a home invasion—if no modern arms were available.
– Courtesy Uberti USA –

Another reason not to overlook such arms if they’re all you have is that your guns may have been fine-tuned, some with short-stroke actions, and they can perform like the finest modern arms available. Many gun owners involved in the Cowboy Action sports have become proficient with their old-time smoke wagons, like the 1873 peacemaker-styled six-guns, frontier-era lever-action rifles, and exposed hammer or hammerless scatterguns. Thanks to the success of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) and the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association (CMSA), sports where most of the shooting is accomplished at short, combat-style distances, many competitors have become crack shots and excellent point shooters. Women, senior citizens and others who’ve become involved in these sports, have become expert in the use of these vintage-style guns, handling them with the ease, proficiency and the accuracy of professionals.

Long guns designed for Cowboy Action or Cowboy Mounted Shooting competitions can also be used as home-protection firearms. Repeaters like (top) Taylor’s & Company’s “Runnin’ Comanchero” 1873 Lever-Action Rifle, in .45 Colt, or (bottom) Chiappa Firearms’ 12-gauge, 1887 Lever-Action Shotgun, as well as any replica (not shown) double-barreled scattergun’s levering or cocking sounds can make any intruder think twice about proceeding.
– Rifle photo courtesy Taylor’s & Company, shotgun photo courtesy Chiappa Firearms –

If trouble arises during these times of civil unrest in many cities, it’s best to be prepared to defend your loved ones and your property. If you know how to use your cowboy guns safely and effectively, and have no modern firearms options, they could be the one thing that keep you from falling victim to danger. Cowboy guns for self-defense? You bet!

Phil Spangenberger has written for Guns & Ammo, appears on the History Channel and other documentary networks, produces Wild West shows, is a Hollywood gun coach and character actor, and is True West’s Firearms Editor.

Related Posts

  • cowboy

    To the Arizona cowboy, language has always meant imaginative mangling. Something isn’t just loud, it’s…

  • tiocowboy

    Juan Salinas (1901-95) was the first notable professional hispanic rodeo participant and eventual inductee into…

  • tiocowboy

    Juan Salinas (1901-95) was the first notable professional hispanic rodeo participant and eventual inductee into…