Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Three places, actually, with three enduring designs that have stood the test of time in a world where the latest and greatest runs heavily to plastic and hi-cap. All three, with roots that date back well over a hundred years, are still in production by both their original makers and by other companies with their own variations, and still selling well to a market segment that appreciates the history, the tradition, the spirit, and the enduring utility of what they represent and offer.
The first handgun was not invented in America, but Colt’s 1873 Peacemaker certainly was, and with 143 years of backstory behind it that include tales of adventure and exploration here on our shores and on far-away continents abroad, there’s probably no better-known handgun around the globe that crosses borders, boundaries, and cultures, than the famed “cowboy” gun so widely carried in the glory days of the Old West, and so immortalized by the silver screen since The Great Train Robbery in 1903. Still produced by Colt, and widely copied by various foreign makers, the Single Action Army figures prominently on anybody’s list of the Ten All-Time Most Significant Handguns In Firearms Development.
Equally, the first auto-pistol was not an American design, but in 1911 Colt’s new .45 ACP pistol developed for potential military contracts, from the mind of the most prolific
firearms designer who ever lived, John Browning, was the first truly practical big-bore self-loading magazine repeater that offered power, reliability, and rugged durability in a package that was arguably one of the best issued sidearms of its day, and remained in service with our military branches until it was officially phased out in favor of the 9mm Beretta M9
pistol in the late 1980s. Also still made by Colt, and also manufactured by dozens of other companies here and abroad, the 1911 rides on in civilian holsters for concealed carry defense, shows up regularly at weekend ranges and in competition, supports a number of specialized shops as a base gun for full-blown custom projects, and is more popular today than at any other time in its previous 105-year history.
And, last, but far from least, the purely 100% American lever-action rifle, originating in concept with Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson and their early attempts to create a repeating handgun with self-contained “cartridges” in the 1854 Smith & Wesson Lever Pistol. Further development led to Oliver Winchester’s involvement, and when Smith and Wesson finally gave up on the lever-action idea because existing ammunition technology