Cowboy Guns Perfect for the Old West

In a high-speed, low-drag world, it’s often all about the latest and greatest. This is usually semi-automatic firearms intended for self-defense and home protection. However, sometimes it’s nice to take a step back in time and use a firearm from a more civilized age. 

Cowboy guns are not only fun to shoot, they have utility as well. Single-action revolvers, lever-action rifles, and double-barrel shotguns — they’re time tested and often hit hard with modern calibers and ammunition. In a pinch, they can even be pressed into defensive roles, especially if you spend much of your time outdoors. With that, let’s take a look at some of the best cowboy guns everyone should add to their stable. 

Heritage Barkeep .22 revolver
The short-barrel Barkeep is a handy little piece.


Heritage Rough Rider

Heritage makes an affordable firearm for cowboys big and small. The standard Rough Rider is an inexpensive way to get a feel for the single-action revolver. Offered with .22 LR or .22 WMR cylinders, with several barrel length and finish options, the Rough Rider is a versatile platform. The fit and finish aren’t heirloom grade, but the guns run well in my experience. 

Short-barrel Barkeep versions are handy against pests such as snakes and rodents. Long barrel models work well for plinking and target shooting. There’s a version of the Rough Rider to appeal to every shooter. And with most coming in under $200, why not pick up a few? 

Ruger Vaquero

Many outdoorsmen have turned to the Ruger Vaquero for their Western needs. The Varquero provides a rugged example designed to hold up to real-world use. I’s available in .357 Mag, .44 Mag, .45 ACP, and .45 Colt, in stainless or blued finish, with several barrel lengths. 

Since 1993, the Ruger Vaquero has dominated cowboy action shooting and earned its reputation for durability and reliability. The Vaquero combines that Old West style and feel with modern mechanical enhancements to ensure years of enjoyment. From the XR-3 style steel grip frame to the large crescent shaped ejector rod, the revolver is meant to run. Additionally, the large transfer bar and loading gate interlock provide an unparalleled measure of security against accidental discharge. 

Ruger Vaquero
The Ruger Vaquero is a durable single-action revolver.

Colt SAA

Of course, for the diehard enthusiast, there is no substitute for the real thing. The Colt Single Action Army was the sidearm of the U.S. Army from 1873–1892. The original chambering was .45 Colt, and the pistols were supposed to drop a Native American War Pony at 100 yards. 

The six-shot revolver was later deemed the Model P, or Peacemaker due to its success on the battlefield. Nothing handles and points quite like a finely-tuned single-action revolver. 

Today, original examples have become out of the realm of affordability for most of us. But it seems Colt is still producing modern variations with 4.75-, 5.5-, and 7.5-inch barrels on special order. 

Bond Arms Roughneck 

Every cowpoke needs a good backup. Bond Arms derringers come in a vast number of calibers and configurations for every chore. They’re available in a standard series that feature a high-degree of fit and finish. The Roughneck series was designed to provide the same performance, for those on a budget. 

A spring-loaded, cammed locking lever gives you a tighter barrel-to-frame fit and facilitates faster loading or unloading of the firearm. Additionally, the majority of pistols are compatible with all of the Bond Arms optional interchangeable barrels, allowing you to easily change calibers while using the same frame. 

Bond Arms Texas Defender
Bond Arms makes the finest derringers and some excellent cowboy guns.


Marlin 1894

I have written on my fondness for Marlin lever-actions before. My father hunted with a classic lever action, and the new models manufactured by Ruger are high-quality. The Model 1894 is available chambered in .357 Mag/.38 Spl, or .44 Mag/.44 Spl. The “Classic” version is the clear choice for the cowboy enthusiast with its American Black Walnut stock and forend and blued finish. 

The rifle loads via a side loading gate, allowing shooters to quickly top off the magazine tube when behind cover. The lever action operates smoothly and reliably. The receiver is drilled and tapped from the factory for mounting a scope. Further, these newer Marlins are hand-fit and finished. This results in incredible accuracy and a very attractive rifle. 

Rossi Trapper

Rossi offers a number of lever-action rifles perfect for the aspiring Westerner. For general use and timeless aesthetic, the R95 Trapper is a good choice. The .30-30 Winchester offers adequate power for hunting medium-sized game and modest recoil for fun at the range. 

The Rossi R95 Trapper combines a traditional hardwood stock with blued finish to deliver a rifle suitable for the backwoods or the back forty. An adjustable, rear buckhorn sight, elegant classic wood profile, and exquisitely smooth-cycling action prove that contemporary engineering can pair seamlessly with time-honored craftsmanship and design. 

Rossi R95 Trapper
The Rossi R95 Trapper is an affordable lever-action with classic styling.

Winchester Model 94

Many shooters grew up watching TV heroes of the Old West running a Winchester ’94 lever-action. This would make the perfect companion to a classic Colt SAA revolver. The Winchester 1894 is available in several variations, all of which are superb rifles. The standard carbine is the entry-level offering with a 20-inch, button-rifled barrel and round locking bolt trunnions. It features a Marble Arms front and adjustable rear buckhorn sight, making for excellent accuracy. 

Additionally, I’d like to give a special nod to the Trails End Takedown Model, which combines classic cowboy styling with modern design enhancements to aid in transport. 

Henry Pump .22

Step back to an Old Western shooting gallery with the Henry Pump Action .22. Perfect for small-game hunting and day-long plinking, the rimfire rifle features a 20-inch octagonal barrel. Its tube magazine can hold up to 15 rounds of .22 Long Rifle ammunition, and it can also accept .22 Short and .22 Long. A ⅜-inch dovetail groove on the receiver allows for the easy addition of scope rings and mounts, and the buckhorn rear sight and front sight bead offer a very usable option, should you prefer to stick with irons. The Henry Pump Action Octagon makes an excellent first rifle for young shooters and is a wonderful addition to any gun collection. 

Henry Pump Action Octagon
The Henry Pump Action Octagon is a classic gallery .22.


Chiappa Coach Gun

Any cattleman would be well-armed with a Chiappa Coach Gun. This side-by-side shotgun is chambered in 12 gauge and features 20-inch barrels with 3-inch chambers. It’s outfitted with a beautiful walnut stock and forend that looks as good as it feels. Chiappa designed the SxS with extractors, so it will eject both spent and unspent shells. Additionally, the single selective trigger allows a hassle-free method to toggle between barrels when firing. 

RIA Single-Shot

Rock Island Armory makes an affordable single-shot 20-gauge that would serve any cowperson well. The break-action shotgun is simple, reliable, and durable. The 20 gauge is lighter than the 12 gauge, making for a faster swing, while still delivering a substantial payload. 

RIA 20-gauge break action
A break-action is likely the simplest and most dependable of all cowboy guns.

It features a compact contoured 20-inch, fixed-cylinder bore barrel and bead front sight to get you intuitively on target. The 3-inch chamber can also accept 2¾-inch shells, giving you a wide range of loads to choose from. Additionally, the lightweight polymer stock sports a faux wood grain finish for a timeless look. 

What are your favorite cowboy guns? What do you use them for? Share your thoughts in the Comment section.

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