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"When did the military pistol holster become commonly used?" Topic


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Nick Stern Supporting Member of TMP21 May 2016 4:05 p.m. PST

I mean the holster with the flap closure. Was it before the ACW? It would appear to coincide with with the use of the revolver. Would an officer of the New Orleans Greys in 1835/36 have used one?

CLDecker21 May 2016 4:23 p.m. PST

Not an expert but I think they developed parallel to the revolver and I've seen plenty of reproduction holsters for modern manufactured BP revolver.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP21 May 2016 6:44 p.m. PST

There were closed flap holsters for the Colt Paterson revolver, although the majority of Colt Paterson holsters were open topped, as far as I can tell.

The Colt Paterson wasn't manufactured until 1836 and, for the time, was extremely expensive. It was also made in small quantities. I can't say it would be impossible for your man from New Orleans to have one, but the actual chance of having one is pretty slim.

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP21 May 2016 9:10 p.m. PST

The Colt Walkers and other large revolvers, even the Patterson, were designed to be carried in pommel holsters attached to one or both sides of the saddle.

It wasn't until the late 1850's that flap holsters became useful. It was because the Colt (and Remington, Whitney,etc) revolvers had become smaller and lighter, using .31, .36, and .44 caliber rounds.

FWIW,reading period letters, diaries, etc makes a compelling case that revolvers in company officer's equipment is vastly overdone by reenactors, and artists, movie makers, etc. This is especially true for artillerymen.

When Henry Hunt took command of the artillery in the AoP, one of his first instructions was to disarm artillerists,removing revolvers and long arms from batteries. Officers and chiefs of pieces were permitted to retain their sidearms, as these were to be used primarily to shoot wounded horses. A handful of rifles or carbines were also left for guard mount and foraging. Hunt's philosophy was simple: The gunner's weapon was the gun. They were to defend their position with their artillery,and it was also up to the brigade commanders to ensure that artillery was never left unsupported.

In the confederacy, it was a rarity for every cavalryman to have a revolver, or even a horse pistol. Most revolvers were issued to single companies within a mounted unit, maybe 2-3, along with sabers. The rest were issued with long arms, or what short arms were available whenever possible.

In confederate infantry, and artillery,revolvers were so rare as to be remarked upon when they were seen on anyone other than an officer.

V/R

EJNashIII21 May 2016 9:32 p.m. PST

Yeah, 36 is pretty early for revolvers. Colt didn't even get his patent until February 25, 1836. Then, the early ones were a bit fragile and required the gun to be nearly fully dissembled to reload and since they didn't have a trigger guard were fairly unsafe to carry in a holster loaded. They were also only 28 caliber which wasn't deemed powerful enough for combat. Not really desirable traits for a battlefield weapon. So, for the most part the early versions saw military service as naval arms. Basically, on shipboard they are kept under lock and key in a locker until needed rather than worn all the time. Naval holsters are almost always open top as they simply don't need to day to day protection of the flap as they are stored away most of the time. The colt's popularity took off after 1839 when the built on loading lever was introduced and the 36 caliber model became more available. The Texas Rangers got them in 1842.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP22 May 2016 8:17 a.m. PST

Yeah, the army rejected the revolver for being too fragile and unsuited for military service. A small number (less than 200 I believe if you want to look it up) were purchased by Texas for their navy, and these ended up later being given to the ranger companies.

rmaker22 May 2016 8:58 a.m. PST

Yeah, the army rejected the revolver for being too fragile and unsuited for military service.

No, the Army wanted to buy revolvers, but Congress wouldn't let them. It was illegal for federal agencies to purchase patent firearms without a specific Congressional authorization.

donlowry22 May 2016 9:14 a.m. PST

The Army never bought the Patterson, nor, I believe, the Walker Colt. IIRC, the first Army revolver was the Colt Dragoon, a slightly down-sized version of the Walker but still pretty large and heavy. So it might well have been relegated to saddle holsters.

Civilians usually went for the "Baby Dragoon," the Colt pocket revolver (several slightly different models, all in .32 caliber) which, as the name implied, were usually carried in a coat pocket. When the first Navy model came out (1851) it was quite popular in gold-rush California, and often carried in an open holster, hammer forward (known as the California rig). I doubt that the Navy used holsters for them.

By the ACW, there was not only the popular Navy model but the new Army model of 1860 and, soon, the new Navy model of 1861, and around 1863 the Pocket Navy and Pocket Police models (both .36 caliber) as well as numerous other brands, such as Remington (in both .44 and .36) and Starr.

Nick Stern Supporting Member of TMP22 May 2016 9:27 a.m. PST

So single shot pistols, either flintlock or percussion cap, were never carried in what we'd call a holster, but always stuck into the waist belt or sash?

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP22 May 2016 9:40 a.m. PST

rmaker: You are correct. The government did not like them and would not purchase them

Flintlock pistols could be carried a number of ways, to include saddle holsters, stuck in a belt or sash, or in a bucket holster. Some flint pistols also had a belt hook on the left side so you could clip it to a belt.

leatherlore.com/holsters.htm

link

link

Trajanus22 May 2016 10:21 a.m. PST

Walkers and Dragoons were a big unit to carry on your waist belt, both in terms of overall size and weight.

Getting them out of a flap holster would have been a tussle if you weren't a big guy.

Both of them were getting on for two pounds heavier than the Colt and Remington Army Models from the Civil War era, not to mention the Navy which was only half their weight.

EJNashIII22 May 2016 12:09 p.m. PST

The flap holster was more about protecting the expensive weapon from rain and dust. I.e, not having to clean the weapon as often. This made allot of sense in the military as any officer who was down to using a pistol was already a goner as that meant his enlisted men's long rifles and bayonets hadn't handled the problem long before the enemy got to him. Now, peace officers, gun slingers and bandits needed quicker use of the pistol, hence the preference for the lack of a flap.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2016 7:46 a.m. PST

In the confederacy, it was a rarity for every cavalryman to have a revolver, or even a horse pistol. Most revolvers were issued to single companies within a mounted unit, maybe 2-3, along with sabers. The rest were issued with long arms, or what short arms were available whenever possible.

Meanwhile among the reenacting community the current joke is
Q."How many Confederate cavalry are there today?"
A. "Divide the number of Le Mat revolvers by four"

jaxenro30 May 2016 12:06 p.m. PST

"since they didn't have a trigger guard were fairly unsafe to carry in a holster loaded"

The trigger folded down on cocking which was fairly common on small single shot percussion pocket pistols (the box lock type) so no they weren't unsafe to carry.

Colt made essentially three sizes of pistols, pocket, belt, and holster (horse) the flap holster was originally a horse or pommel holster and I think had been around since the wheel lock pistol. Look at the pommel holsters of the Napoleonic wars. What was new with the revolver was moving the pommel holster to the belt as belt size revolvers offered more shots than a single shot pistol and became a viable weapon for officers to carry. Over time the revolver replaced the sword as a badge of rank for infantry officers and the smaller size allowed it to be belt carried unlike the Walker and dragoons (RIP Ford aside who had those two belt carried Walkers in the late 1840's)

jaxenro30 May 2016 12:09 p.m. PST

"In the confederacy, it was a rarity for every cavalryman to have a revolver, or even a horse pistol"

Depending. I seem to remember one time they killed I think 5 partisan cavalryman and took something like 30 revolvers from the bodies. Texas cavalry units were known to carry up to four revolvers two on the belt and two on the horse. So it depends on the time and place and availability

jaxenro30 May 2016 12:13 p.m. PST

"The Army never bought the Patterson, nor, I believe, the Walker Colt"

The army purchased 1,000 Walker Colts for the mounted dragoons.

jaxenro30 May 2016 2:49 p.m. PST

"The Army never bought the Patterson"

They also bought a limited amount of Patterson long guns to test in the Seminole war

Bill N30 May 2016 11:01 p.m. PST

"In the confederacy, it was a rarity for every cavalryman to have a revolver, or even a horse pistol"

That statement made me cringe too. I have read several accounts over the years of Confederate mounted troops that had multiple pistols. However I suspect the two positions can be reconciled. What the Confederate government issued to cavalry as a whole may not have reflected what troopers of individual units actually carried, especially when those troopers were operating as raiders.

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP31 May 2016 2:59 a.m. PST

I stand by my statement, and I also dispute that whole "Texas cavalry had ultiple pistols" deal. It just doesn't jibe with historical evidence.

I have read multiple brigade inspection reports from throughout the war years,and from all over the Confederacy. The one thing that stands out is that, absent very specific situations, revolvers never were in sufficient numbers to give every mounted man one, let alone have multiple revolvers per man.

The only time that you read about multiple weapons is usually associated with guerillas and deserters. While there are certainly extant images showing Confederate (or alleged Confederate)cavalry men with extra revolvers stuck in their belts, those images are almost always in studio and upon closer examination, you'll see that those revolvers are the same in each image, indicating that they are photographer's props.

Add to this CS Ordnance Department demands that all extra weapons be turned in for issue to other units, and it becomes obvious that multiple revolvers falls under the "once in a blue moon" category.

I mean, seriously folks! The Confederacy's own records indicate that it never produced enough of it's own to meet supply & demand. Even counting imported handguns, and battlefield captures, the number available simply doesn't permit the continued acceptance of the multiple-gun meme.

In addition, there's the problem of ammunition supply as well. So I stand by my comments.

V/R

donlowry31 May 2016 8:42 a.m. PST

"The Army never bought the Patterson, nor, I believe, the Walker Colt"

The army purchased 1,000 Walker Colts for the mounted dragoons.

OK. News to me. You sure they weren't the Dragoon model?

jaxenro31 May 2016 3:53 p.m. PST

Colt Walker serial numbers include letters which designate Companies A – E, beginning with number 1 in each group. Colt manufactured 1,000 of these martially-marked specimens in 1847. An additional 100 civilian models, without U.S. inspector markings and in serial number range 1,000 – 1,100 were also made. So the army bought the first 1,000 and the final 100 were civilian many of which Colt gave to dignitaries

look here you can see the numbers overlap

tgca.org/Parade_of_Walkers.html

jaxenro31 May 2016 3:56 p.m. PST

"I have read multiple brigade inspection reports from throughout the war years,and from all over the Confederacy. The one thing that stands out is that, absent very specific situations, revolvers never were in sufficient numbers to give every mounted man one, let alone have multiple revolvers per man."

As I said, depending. In many areas and theaters you are definitely correct in others maybe not.

jaxenro01 Jun 2016 5:14 a.m. PST

I got my Walker copy out to clean it last night (Uberti 36 caliber) and the thing is a beast I really couldn't imagine using a belt holster you probably did need a horse to carry it around or a shoulder holster like they make today.

donlowry01 Jun 2016 4:39 p.m. PST

I stand corrected. (or sit.) The government bought 1,000 Walkers, and 100 others were made for civilian sales and or presentations. They were manufactured at Eli Whitney's facilities at Whitneyville CT. The success of the Walker enabled Colt to set up his own facilities in his home town, Hartford CT, where he manufactured 240 of the Dragoon model.

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP01 Jun 2016 4:52 p.m. PST

FWIW, the Ordnance Manual indicates that the Walker was meant to be used with a pommel holster. A single one mounted on the right side of the saddle.

For anyone like jaxenro & myself who has ever owned one, you will understand completely why a belt holster was out of the question. The Walker was a HEAVY revolver, and large, and there was simpky no way that it could be easily and comfortably carried on a belt, especially when the weight of the 1840 Dragoon sabre was added to it. Add on the weight of a fully-loaded cartridge box, a cap box, and a carbine & sling, and the Dragoon, less the weight of his haversack and canteen (6-7lbs)was still looking at a good 30lbs of weapons and belting.

So the revolver and it's ammunition stay on the saddle, mercifully. grin

jaxenro01 Jun 2016 5:55 p.m. PST

Like I said mine is a 36 caliber I had the barrel and cylinder sleeved (sort of an early magnum as it holds a lot more powder than a 1851 even if some of it blows out the barrel un burned) so I took a heavy gun and added another 1/2 pound of steel to it it is a monster to carry but a blast to shoot. With all that weight recoil is non existent and if the bullet don't do the job it almost works as a flame thrower. I carry mine to the range in my truck :)

Ryan T05 Jun 2016 8:16 p.m. PST

The records show that at least in the West the cavalry was not all equipped with pistols.

The following is drawn from a seris of post by Ken Knopp and Troy Groves on the Authentic Campaigner (Cavalry Discussion) Forum from 2005.

August 1863 inspection of Chalmer's Cavalry (two brigades of 1,247 "effective" men).

87% of effective men were armed with long arms
34% Infantry weapons (57/58. & .54 Rifle Muskets; 69. Smoothbore Musket )
26% Shot Guns
27% Sharp's Carbines (The remainder of long arms were Hall's & Colt carbines)
31% of effective men had pistols, 15% of these single shot "horse pistols".

The January 1864 "Year End Inspection Report" details the weapons carried by the cavalry commands in the West. Sources indicate that there were between 10,000 to 11,600 total cavalrymen or about 10,800 effectives. Some of these commands had recently been consolidated under S.D. Lee and N.B Forrest, but each one is noted separately in this report including those under Forrest, "Sul" Ross, Chalmers, Richardson, Ferguson, Greer, Wirt Adams and Cosby.

11,890 total long arms or 110% of effective men. Extras were most likely with the dismounted and sick.
93% Infantry arms (57/58. Rifle Muskets; 54. Rifle Muskets; 69. Musket)
4% Shot Guns
13% Carbines (Sharps, Burnside, Maynard, Halls)
18% Effective men had pistols (Colt Army, Colt Navy, Single shot US Holster pistols, Kerr, Lafaucheaux)

This next return is for Forrest Cavalry Corps and is dated May 26, 1864, and gives a combined strength of 8,952 effectives plus artillery and his escort (about 65 men). The report includes his artillery and the divisions of Chalmers and Buford as well as Gholston's Brigade of Mississippi State Troops

45.6% Infantry arms (4,086 Austrian, Mississippi, .69 Muskets and assorted others)
14.8% Carbines (1,327 Sharps, Maynard, Burnside, Halls)
21.8% Effective men had pistols (36. Colt Navy; 44. Colt Army, French Lafaucheaux, Horse pistols)
2 % Sabers (Mostly in Chalmer's Division)

After Brice's Crossroads the resulting capture of Federal arms augmented supply to a great degree. The inspection report of Rucker's Brigade of Chalmer's Division, dated July 3, 1864, indicates what arms were typically found throughout Forrest's Cavalry.

1,072 effective men from three regiments of Tennessee and Mississippi cavalry
61% Infantry arms ( 653 Austrians, 69. Muskets, Enfield, Mississippi, and assorted others)
34% Carbines (365 Sharps, Maynard, Burnside)
43% Effective men with pistols (461 36. Colt Navy; 44. Colt Army, French Lafachuaux)
3 % (36) Sabers (Mostly in Chalmer's Division)

This is from the July 31, 1864 report of Wheeler's Cavalry from the Army of Tennessee

6,734 effective men
102% (6,886) of effective men were armed with long arms
84% Infantry weapons. (5,777 Enfield, Austrian, Mississippi, .69 Muskets, and assorted others)
16% Carbines (1,109 Sharps, Burnside, .57 Maynard, Smith, Merrill and Union)
50% Pistols (3,391 .36 Navy, .44 Army and Kerr)
19% Sabers (1,302) Wheeler is known to have designated companies armed with sabers

The April 1, 1863 Report for Wharton's Brigade of Wheeler's Cavalry provides one exception to the general lack of pistols in Western cavalry. The 8th Texas Cavalry possessed 405 pistols and just 245 long arms. The other three regiments in the brigade, the 3rd Confederate Cavalry, 14th Alabama Cavalry, & 2nd Georgia Cavalry only had 63 pistols between them and 40 of those .54 caliber "holster pistols".

EJNashIII06 Jun 2016 3:56 p.m. PST

and it would make sense not to be too heavily equipped with pistols. Their effective range is short and CW era pistols are not the easiest things to load.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP04 Jul 2021 10:18 p.m. PST

The Single Action Revolver Holster


link

Armand

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP05 Jul 2021 1:20 p.m. PST

He has a gift for raising the dead.

I thank him for that as this is a thread I would never have read.

I hesitate to mention what happened to the last chap who managed that, at the hands of the Romans (OK you might argue that they did not actually sentence Him, the locals did).

Nice recall though here Tango

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP05 Jul 2021 4:21 p.m. PST

(smile)

Armand

42flanker07 Jul 2021 12:07 p.m. PST

Let's be clesr. Crucifixion was a Roman penalty for rebellion.

And not one of those Roman soldiers was armed with a pistol. Go figyure.

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