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Movie Guns; Henry Rifles, Charleville Infantry Muskets, Maynard Percussion Carbines & More

Sam Peckinpah was a director known for his ‘gritty’ movies. It should be noted that many movies substitute weapons mostly because most of the period guns are impossible to obtain, and Hollywood relies on the ignorance of the viewers. Not many can spot the difference between an 1873 Winchester and a 1892 Winchester, they’re both lever actions and that is all that is needed. The 1873 was chambered for what were essentially handgun cartridges, many of which were available in Colt’s 1873 Peacemaker. Hollywood tended to rely on the 1892 Winchester as surrogates for any period western. Many guns are markups, available guns designed to replicate earlier weapons.

Henry Rifles

Major Dundee depicted many of these weapons. Many cap ‘n ball revolvers where converted to cartridges. The 1860 Colt Army was used by both sides and was the mainstay of the Union Forces. It was the ubiquitous sidearm of the war. Subsequently the majority of conversions involved Colts. During this period rimfire cartridges dominate over the centerfire. The 44 Henry was a popular round, because of the Henry Rifle, the 1866 Winchester was a transitional weapon, predominately chambered for in 44 Henry. The Henry was the only generally available repeater around during the Civil war. The 1866 was not around until a year after the war ended. So, unless it’s a Henry it’s Hollywood. Let’s face it, having a cap ‘n ball revolver would not enhance the flow of action sequences, so Hollywood substitutes weapons, that probably were years ahead of the historical time period. We see some model 1892 Winchester modified by removing the front handguard to simulate 1860 Henry’s but with the side gate for loading. The Henry feed through tube magazine, common in 22 rifles.

Charleville Infantry Muskets

Some characters were armed with trapdoors, aka 1873 Springfield a weapon that was not available until after the Civil War, eight years later. Both the rifle and cavalry carbines. There were some modified unknown flintlocks carried by French Guards modified to look like Charleville Muskets. The Charleville was a .69 caliber smooth bore musket, not a rifle and was standard French issue for over a century being introduced in 1717 as the first standardized issue longarm for any military service. It served until 1840. An expert could knock out up to 4 rounds a minute. Typical was 2-3 rounds per minute.

Maynard Percussion Carbine

Most shotguns of the period where muzzle loaders, though the shotshell was introduced in 1860, and used a brass case. No red, green or blue plastic. Paper cases with a brass base were introduced in the 1870’s. So, during the Civil War, you either muzzle stuffed your shotgun or used brass cases. Most muzzle loading shotguns sport external hammers as they depended on the caps for ignition. Hammerless shotguns didn’t really appear until the post war era. The one surprisingly unique gun in the movies is a Maynard Percussion Carbine introduced in 1851. The percussion carbine, manufactured between 1858 to 1859 used the tape primer (basically roll caps like in a toy cap pistol.) Again, used by both belligerents during the civil war and the actual Maynard in the movies. In 1851 the Maynard Rifle was introduced. A single shot, breech loading cartridge break open rifle. About 5,000 found their way into Union hands being issued to the 9th Pennsylvania and 1st Wisconsin cavalry service. They were issued to Marines serving on the USS Saratoga and the Revenue Cutter Service. About 3,000 carbines in .36 and .50 caliber where used by the Confederate forces. Later models, the 1863 and 1865 reached production of about 20,000 units. Well liked the Maynard served throughout the war. Private Toby of the 1st Mississippi infantry stated: (the Maynard) “warranted to shoot twelve times a minute, and carry a ball effectually 1600 yards. Nothing to do with Maynard rifle but load her up, turn her North, and pull the trigger, it twenty of them don’t clean out all Yankeedom, then I’m al liar, that’s all.” Surprising how much history shows up in just one movie.

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