Army Troops Marshall Trimble True West Magazine

Were U.S. Army troops allowed to carry their own weapons?

Tim Bumb
Mandan, North Dakota

“American soldiers have had a long tradition of possessing personal weapons, in addition to their issue arms, and those serving during the Indian campaigns were no different. Acquiring commercial guns, especially pistols, and knives seems to have been a fairly common practice,” reported Douglas C. McChristian, in his book, Regular Army O!: Soldiering on the Western Frontier, 1865-1891.

“There was no prohibition,” adds frontier military historian John P. Langellier, “but I have found only officers purchasing weapons and can’t recall an instance of an enlisted man doing so. The reason was, simply at a base pay of $13 a month for a private through $21 for a first sergeant, the cost of the weapon and supplying ammunition, if not in a standard Army caliber, was prohibitive.”

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

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