What can you tell me about the eight-gauge shotgun in Streets of Laredo?


I recently read Larry McMurtry’s Streets of Laredo, which frequently mentions an eight-gauge shotgun. What can you tell me about that weapon?

Jeff Blackstone

Dayton, Texas


The eight-gauge shotgun dates back to the blackpowder days. The firearm is obsolete and has not been made in the U.S. since the late 19th century; in fact, gauges bigger than 10 are now illegal.

These blackpowder firearms weren’t that potent; a modern 12 gauge can outperform a vintage eight gauge.

You can still find eight-gauge shotguns in antique stores, museums and in private gun collections. I saw one on the Internet selling for just under $30,000. You’ll occasionally see one on the silver screen—Viggo Mortensen used an eight gauge in the 2008 film Appaloosa.

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian, board president of the Arizona Historical Society and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu