“The good people in this world are very far from being satisfied with each other and my arms are the best peacemaker.” ~ Samuel Colt (1852)
It would be impossible to talk about the shaping of the West and the Southwest without mentioning guns. Guns were a daily necessity, not just against people as Samuel Colt’s quote suggests, but against all sorts of natural dangers as well … bears, mountain lions, angry buffalo, snakes and dozens of other creatures all posed threats to travelers and homesteaders, miners and shopkeepers. Guns were also one of the main ways people provided for their tables — butcher shops were few and far between in those early days. No model of weapon was more reliable or as well loved as the Colt Peacemaker.
Although Samuel Colt died before seeing the Colt Peacemaker invented, his quote turned out to be highly accurate. Western movies are a constant reminder of the role “The Equalizer,” also known as the Colt Single Action Army or the Model P. Peacemaker, played in shaping and winning the West. You’d be hard pressed to find a movie where someone doesn’t pull a Colt Peacemaker. Gary Cooper drew a Peacemaker in High Noon, and while historically inaccurate since it was set in 1871 and the Peacemaker wasn’t on the market until 1873, John Wayne sported a pair of handsome Colt Peacemakers in The Shootist.
In fact, the Colt Peacemaker was one of the most popular weapons of the U.S. Calvary (and everyone else for that matter) from its creation and for many years thereafter. It was developed as a powerful, single action revolver with a revolving cylinder and was immediately adopted by the U.S. Calvary (the Calvary model had a 7 ½ inch barrel) and the U.S. Army (with a 5 ½ inch barrel) as its standard military service revolver and remained in use until 1892. During that period, the US Army bought about 37,000 Colts of both models. The company also produced a similar model for civilians.
Strangely, there wasn’t anything terribly unique about the Colt Peacemaker — the gun wasn’t a huge leap forward in technology — however, it was utterly reliable and robust, able to take lots of heavy abuse and keep on working. For 20 years, the Colt Peacemaker helped shape the character of the Southwest, including playing a deciding role in the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War and the Range Wars, to name just a few major events of the day.
From Texas Rangers to the U.S Calvary, from private citizens to pioneers, the Colt Peacemaker allowed people to fire a weapon multiple times without reloading. Sadly, with no gun control laws, almost anyone could get their hands on this reliable weapon, and many innocent people were killed. Still, the Peacemaker also enabled honest, law-abiding citizens to defend themselves against the numerous dangers of settling the West.
On the last day of the 2010-2011 regular legislative session, Arizona Senate Bill 1610 was passed — the Bill adopted the Colt Peacemaker as the official firearm of Arizona. Arizona is only the second state to have an official firearm behind Utah’s recent adoption of the 1911 Semi-Auto pistol of Utah native John Browning fame.