The Wild West and Self-Defense

Back in the day, when it was common and unregulated to openly carry a firearm there where many situations that led to their use for good and bad. American frontiersman Daniel Boone sought to protect the small Kentucky town of Boonesborough, where his daughter was among the wounded, from the unprovoked attack of a hiding sniper.

As recounted by historian Stewart Edward White, a mixed force of 400 Shawnee, Cherokee and mercenary French Canadians beset the town and set up a sniper to terrorize the 135 residents with shots to men, women, children and cattle. Boone, a skilled marksman, took matters into his own hands and ascended the fort’s tower patiently waiting for the sniper’s next shot. Boone zoned in on the white plume from the sniper’s rifle and set up his flintlock for the target.

Basic technology in conjunction with the daily habit of hunting and self-protection with his weapon was all he needed to take down the threat. No special ammunition. No telescopic sight. Just the mechanisms of his Kentucky long rifle: flint for spark, a half-inch lead ball and spiral grooves in the bore. His shot was victorious, striking the enemy sniper in the head from his location of over 200 yards away.

Life in the 19th century

Life in the 19th century saw many changes in the ways of gun technology. The American Revolution heavily relied on the accuracy of the rifling (the spiral grooves in the bore that stabilized the bullet) and skilled use in the application of the muzzle-loaded long rifle (also known as a flintlock) as a reliable defense against British front-line officers and a vital weapon to gaining a victory at the Battle of Saratoga. Leading into the 1830’s, the percussion cap ignition system was created and became superior over the flintlock system of the muzzle-loaders. In just another 20 years of research and development, the rifle construction changed dramatically as the modern breech-loading rifle proved to be a quicker and safer alternative.

This was the first cartridge design of many innovations to the modern cartridge and marked the end of the muzzle-loading era that grew to be tedious and time-consuming.

By the late nineteenth century, the innovations in firearms were energized by the militaries in many countries and fuelled the common practice of the regular citizen acquiring small arms for protection from threatening wildlife and people alike. The impact of this wide spread use of firearms was significant to the American West where the consumer-grade firearms were spread across land, especially in sparsely populated western towns. American manufacturers, such as Winchester and Colt, were the main suppliers to the civilian townsfolk, ranchers and cowboys.

These common citizens played a big part in taming the Western prairies, specifically the ones that were bold and brazen in the face of a threat. Although these ‘small arms’ would only hold 6-10 rounds, reloading was significantly quicker than just a few decades before and would continue to develop into incomparable automation and stability.