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Most of us who shoot much reload our ammunition. Some out of economic nessesity but I think a lot of us for the satisfaction it brings as well. My question: did working cowboys reload? I've read of trappers and traders "running ball" for their front stuffers and of buf hunters reloading their big bore single shots-because they shot so much. But what of working cowmen? Also how much did they really shoot? Did they shot recreationally as we do? Or just out nessesity to get a prarie hen for dinner, or to get rid of a varmint. or to put a sick animal down. Maybe some of you hombes are better read on this and can help out.

Buckshot Liam
 

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I can't credit sources, but most "real" cowboys, from what I've read:
were so poor that, if they had a gun at all, it would be an older percussion model, or even a sawed-off single shot shotgun. Large corporate ranches sometimes issued company-owned guns on as needed basis. Cowboys might not afford a whole box of ammo, and as evidenced by old rigs, might carry but one reload. Did they shoot a lot? Stories abound of cowboys who, when finally having to shoot, found their gun rusted up or the rounds in it dead. :wink:
 

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shorty has done much more research than me--but-- i'm athinkin they most likely grew up hunting-for food-and were well advanced in their profeciency with at least a long gun. now i'm 62--my grandfather was born in '76--he didn't reload but was very profecient with both a long gun and a handgun and in the maintainance(don criticise my spelling cause it won't do no good cause i can't) of these weapons-and he loved to hunt.
blessings
 

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All those Colts and Rmington revolvers went some where and there wasn't that many folks out west in the old days. So I would think a lot of them had guns. Don't know about the cowboys though. I have read where some saved up their casing and traded them back in when they bought ammo in town. Maybe the general store owners did a good share of reloading. There are a few old handheld loaders and old bullet moulds around yet at gun shows.

I do know an old Nebraska City Marshall that found his gun rusted up one day. Carried it in his back pocket for years. He put two guys in hand cuffs up against the squad car. He found he couldn't uncock his revolver so he just fired it up in the air. Both crooks dropped right to their knees!

Hud
 

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For anyone really interested in this question, I recommend you find a copy of The University of Oklahoma Press book The Cowboy: Six-Shooters, Songs, and Sex , by Charles W. Harris and Buck Rainey. It is a "tell it like it really was" book that dispells some of the cowboy myths we all grew up with, while substantiating others. Botton line regarding the current question apppears to be "It Depends". Many of the cowboys who participated in the Civil War were undoubtedly proficient with their firearms and weren't timid about using them. Many more, however, especially the youngsters, packed because it was expected. Most in the latter category were not as proficient with their weapons as they thought they were, especially when they were drinking. Few in the latter category paid much attention to weapon maintenance or shooting practice.

From other reading I have done regarding cowboys, I think you would have had to look pretty hard to find very many who reloaded for their cartridge firearms. If they weren't chasing dogies, they were chasing loose women and drinking cheap whiskey.
 

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Reloading?

As an aside, another poster indicated that cap and ball revolvers were probably pretty common among cowboys, they were also pretty common among crooks. Forgive me that I cannot recall the date, but John Wesley Hardin was captured with a loaded Colt's 1860 Army on a train well after cartridge arms were common on the frontier. I seem to recall 1876 as the date, but without my reference books at home I cannot be sure.

Dan C
 

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You're absolutely right, Dan.

From Hardin's The Life of John Wesley Hardin, As Written by Himself it was 23 July 1877. He writes: ".....He said to Armstrong and others standing by, 'Have you taken his pistol?' They replied no that I had no gun. Jack Duncan said, 'That's too thin,' and ran his hand between my over and undershirt, pulling out a .44 Colt's cap-and-ball six-shooter, remarking to the others, 'What did I tell you?' "
 

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i recall reading somewhere that the colt revolving rifles,though prone to misfire where sold of for surplus at 45 cents each. easily affordable for a 40-a-month cowhand
 

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well--excuse me--but the thought just came over me and i cannot resist--ifn you go by the westerns i saw in the age just after talkies they didn't reload----ever! :wink:
blessings
 

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I remember one Saturday morning feature in which the hero ran out of ammo for his .44, and found a .45 round that he was able to pound into the cylinder and turn out the lights of the bad guy. Even at the tender age of 10 or so I knew that had to be a stretch. Ah, to be young again.
 

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Interesting question, which raises a number of questions in my mind. First "What is a working Cowboy." Is that an individual who lived in a small bunk house, or cabin on a ranch as a seasonel employee. Are individuals who own small ranchs and worked other ranchs included. Does this included families who individually owned a number of small ranchs who gathered their folks to work the cattle and the land.

I have been around a few ranchs that have been in families since the early 1850's and seen some evidence of reloading. The museum had a bunch of old firearms on loan from early settler families. Some of these included bullet molds, and tong type reloading tools. Many of these were associated with early homesteads. Now these homesteaders(small ranchers) ran cows on the homestead, and during the summer they ran them on the open range.

I rather doubt the part time cowboy had the room for reloading. Having spent a few summers in a fire crew barracks I find it unlikely. Reloading had to wait untill I returned home. The ones who had living quarters in a small home or cabin with a sense they would be there were more likely to get into reloading.

I dropped an e-mail to a friend on one of the early ranches. See if I get an answer on the subject.
 

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The answer is that there are some old reloading tools around the ranch.
 

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Since reloading tools have been around almost as long as cartridge guns, then we would have to assume that someone was buying them and using them. The question is who? Whether the cowboy sat around the campfire at night pouring lead into the mold on his 1881 Marlin loading tool, or his old Ideal mold, is uncertain. I think most were too tired to do anything but fall asleep.
Now there may be those during the same time frame who were hunters, or trappers, and because of their profession needed to be away from town for extended lengths of time. This would make more sense that they were the ones buying and using reloading tools in the post civil war era west.
 

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My Grandpa, we called him Popo, told me how they reloaded shotgun shells when he was a kid, (about 1910). His Dad got their first cartridge shotgun, as he called it. They could not get any slugs. So they took a drill bit that fit the barrel of the shotgun, and they would drill several holes in a oak board. Then they would open up a bunch of shells, pour out the shot, melt it down, and pour the lead into the wood molds, add some extra as required. Split the mould and out fell the bullets. Then they would load them back into the paper shells they took the shot out of.

They used these on pigs, wolves, and deer although he did think it was a little much for deer. They had the 25-20 for that, anything more was overkill as far as he was concernd. It was just more than Popo could fathom that I thought that I needed something with such "momentus" power as the 30-06 to kill a deer. It was just beyond reason.

If he could only see my son Brad with his 300 Ultra Mag.
:bird: :sniper:

Hud
 

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Well letsee. The more things change the more they stay the same. Do many people TODAY reload? Yes and no. As a total quantity, we reloaders are enough to support several manufacturers. However, as a proportion of the gun-owning public we reloaders are probably a minority.

I have a hunch it was the same or similar back then. Your architypical cowboy probably couldn't afford much. Plus, due to economics the shooting public is possibly somewhere behind the available technology. Just like today.

Today, we have a myriad of Ultra-mag this and that - however the .30-30 is still a popular seller as is the .30-06. That's because most gun owners and hunters do not frequent these boards. They buy easily available guns (Walmart) that have easily available ammo (like at gas stations). They don't shoot enough to reload.

Similarly, a cap-n-ball revolver would pose LOTS of advantages over a cartridge shooter back on the frontier.

I'm not saying that shooting wasn't a common past-time. They didn't have golf courses, video games, or race cars. Some shooter probably did burn a lot of powder.

Being familiar with buckskinning - I see how some guys get into researching the fur trade. They dive into inventory lists to get a picture of what was going on. I'm sure some ambitious person could do the same. Track down some purchasing lists for various general stores. Obviuosly what they buy is what they sell.

As with the fur trade, these lists reveal something interesting. Rifle flints show up more frequently than do percussion caps - at least the lists that I've seen. In an era when percussion cap guns were the latest technology, rifle flints still outsold the percussion caps.

Similarly, one could compare quantities of percussion caps vs. metallic cartridges vs. primers to get an idea of the proportions of reloaders and shooters.
 

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black janivac
just read your post--fer some reason, i think i was asleep, i am late. your post was very good. i like your thought pattern.
blessings
 
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