What’s one of the best genres of film for gun nerds? Action!
Action movies rightly include films with swords, sorcerers, and samurai…but if you’re a gun nerd in need of guaranteed gunplay featuring slick guns, then it’s all about Westerns.
American Westerns often emphasize the gunfighter.
Sometimes he’s noble, sometimes he’s not. Maybe he’s a hired gun or a troubled drifter.
It doesn’t matter his background because we know, eventually, he’s going to fill his hands with a rifle, revolver, or shotgun.
My dad might be one of the biggest Western film aficionados in the world, and, as a child, Westerns were all I watched. (At one point, we wore out the VHS tape of Tombstone.)
I’ve seen Westerns from the 1940s to the 1970s, musical Westerns, and even the “deconstructed” Westerns of the 1990s.
As I became a budding gun nerd, I began to take notice of some of the more interesting firearms in film and TV.
That’s led me to this list of the nine coolest firearms used in Westerns.
Best Western Movie Guns
1. Tombstone (1993): Buntline Special and Street Howitzer
I love Tombstone, and I think everyone should love some it too.
It’s a fast-paced action Western that emphasizes gunfights and violence — the perfect example of why we love this genre.
As such, it features a variety of interesting firearms. In fact, there were too many to pick just one for this selection.
Our first gun is Wyatt Earp’s Colt Buntline Special.
Reportedly, Wyatt Earp actually carried one. But, like many things surrounding Mr. Earp and the Wild West, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction.
Colt Buntline specials were specially crafted Single Action Army revolvers wearing longer than average barrels.
A Colt SAA cavalry model had a rather long 7.5-inch barrel, but Buntline specials wore 12-inch barrels.
In the film Tombstone, Wyatt, portrayed brilliantly by Kurt Russell, wields the Buntline special to great effect in numerous gunfights.
This includes the famous O.K. Corral shootout.
In the film, this Uberti-made Buntline Special sports a 10-inch barrel. Worth noting, Uberti still occasionally produces some replica Buntline specials.
My second pick from this film is the “street howitzer” Doc Holiday wields at the O.K. Corral gunfight.
In the flick, the gun is a Meteor side-by-side 10-gauge shotgun; however, in real life, Doc carried a Colt Double Barrel 10-gauge.
If you’ve hung around Pew Pew Tactical long enough, you know I’m a shotgun nerd.
And, honestly, if I went to the O.K. Corral gunfight, I’d also carry a 10-gauge side-by-side.
It’s a powerhouse that dispersed shot quite widely, especially before the advent of modern chokes, wadding, and filling material.
This brutal weapon would make it easy to catch running targets and deliver a hefty payload of lead on the fly.
Plus, double-barrel shotguns are undoubtedly cool. Make it sawn-off in 10-gauge, call it a street howitzer, and I fall in love.
2. Unforgiven (1992): Spencer 1860 Carbine
Unforgiven was Clint Eastwood getting back in the saddle — both in the film as Mr. Munny and as the Western star he was.
The film was one of those “deconstructions” of Westerns. While that sounds pretentious, it was amazing.
There are lots of guns worth noting and some fun scenes of an out-of-practice gunslinger missing his shots over and over.
However, one gun that stood out was the Spencer 1860 Saddle Ring Carbine. Wielded by Ned, aka Morgan Freeman, he was reportedly a sharp shot in his outlaw past.
However, Ned lost the taste for killing in old age, and the rifle is passed off to his associate William Munny. Munny wields the carbine to gun down a superior force.
It’s a perfect example of how a combination of proper weapon selection, positioning, and planning can overcome a force larger in numbers.
The Spencer 1860 Saddle Ring Carbine feeds from a removable tubular magazine in the stock and works via a traditional lever action design.
Unlike other famed lever actions, the Spencer carbine required the shooter to manually cock the hammer even after working the lever.
It’s an early lever-action rifle created in 1860 and used in the Civil War.
The removable tubular magazine made the rifle rather unique, although it wasn’t any kind of common practice to carry spare magazines for rapid reloads.
This early lever gun is striking in its design, and certainly stands out in the film.
3. 3:10 To Yuma (2007): Colt Model 1855
3:10 to Yuma’s 2007 remake stands as one of the few times a remake is better than the original.
Although, to be fair, is it a remake when both films are based on an Elmore Leonard novel?
Anyway, the 2007 variant stars Russell Crowe as an Old West outlaw and Christian Bale as the good guy.
While these men may be the stars of the movie, the gun I’ve selected found its way into the hands of disposable bad guy Campos.
Campos wields the Colt Model 1855 with a cartridge conversion, which took the Colt revolver design and turned it into a rifle.
The Colt New Model Revolving rifle wears the distinction of being the first repeating rifle adopted by the U.S. Military, although use was quickly discontinued.
These rifles had a habit of chain firing like many repeating percussion firearms.
Campos’ cartridge conversion fixes that issue, providing a cool repeating rifle that captures the eye.
He uses the rifle with a very long optic…an odd choice for a marksman’s weapon, for sure. It would essentially be the same as using a PCC as a DMR these days.
However, I can’t help but love the style of the gun.
I’m hoping to get one of those Heritage revolving rifles one day and hope I’m half as cool as Campos and his Colt 1855.
4. Shane (1953): Colt Single Action Army
The single-action army had to make the list, right?
In a way, it already did as a Buntline special; however, Shane features a standard Single Action Army Cavalry Model.
I could give this pick to almost any Western ever made.
However, Shane gets it because it’s not only a wonderful movie but features a quote most gun owners can associate with.
A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel, or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.
The titular character Shane carries a Colt Single Army Cavalry model with a 7.5-inch barrel, a stainless finish, and ivory grips.
Shane, a skilled gunslinger with a mysterious past, wanders into town, seemingly seeking peace.
Yet, peace doesn’t come, and he pulls his firearm once more in defense of a homesteader and her son. He wields the gun expertly and guns down many a foe, but does so with reluctance and only because his hand is forced.
The big Single Action Army certainly steals the show as the star. It’s huge, unmistakable, and captures the camera brilliantly.
5. Bone Tomahawk (2015): Schofield Revolver
Bone Tomahawk combines the Western genre with thriller and even horror elements of modern dramas.
It’s a fun flick that’s somewhat disturbing and certainly not for the kiddos.
Kurt Russell stars as a local sheriff, and one to be reckoned with.
His sidearm of choice is the Smith and Wesson Schofield Model 3, wielding two Schofields at different times — a compact model during his town duties and a full-size model on the trail.
(Though he prefers the full-sized model with a 5-inch barrel.)
The choice makes sense.
Around town, the lighter gun is convenient. In the field, the larger gun gives more oomph to the round, a longer sight radius, and less recoil due to its heavier weight.
Schofields are all sorts of cool.
Unlike other revolvers, you didn’t have to eject the empty cases one round at a time. Users open the top of the gun and an automatic ejector empties it for you.
Open it fast, and you can send empty cases flying.
Reloads are fast, or fast for the time.
In short, it was an outstanding firearm and a thoroughly modern option for a lawman on the frontier.
When facing down cannibalistic madmen, you want that quick reload the Schofield offers.
Interestingly enough, Wyatt Earp reportedly used a Schofield Model 3 at the O.K. Corral shootout, and as noted, Kurt Russell played Earp in Tombstone.
6. The Wild Bunch (1969): Winchester 1897
If you haven’t seen The Wild Bunch, pause right now, and go watch it.
Okay, now that you’re back, let’s talk about the death of the Old West, society’s outright rejection of violent men, and the Winchester Model 1897 shotgun.
The Wild Bunch isn’t your typical post-Civil War Western. It takes place in 1913.
As such, we see a mix of the classic cowboy gun with the 1911 and pump-action shotgun.
Good guys and bad guys (although everyone is a bad guy really) use the Winchester 1897 “slide” action shotgun.
The hero walk at the end of the film has three of our four outlaws wielding the world’s first successful pump-action shotgun.
John Moses Browning designed the Winchester 1897 off the less successful 1893.
This opened the world up to the slide action shotguns and gave shotguns a repeating option beyond the bulky lever guns and low-capacity double barrels.
The Wild Bunch makes good use of these guns in many gunfights.
Being able to fire up to six 12-gauge shells in rapid action made the 1897 a brutally effective weapon for the time.
Both the lack of a disconnector and the hammer-fired design also bestowed it with a rapid-fire rate and a light trigger pull.
This movie helped make me a shotgun nerd, so I couldn’t leave it out.
Plus, it’s one of the best movies ever made, even outside of the Western genre.
7. The Magnificent Seven (1960): Winchester 1892
The Magnificent Seven story hails from a samurai film, and both should be seen if you are a Western fan.
The 2016 remake wasn’t bad, but if you ask me to choose between a Yul Brynner and Steve Mcqueen film versus everybody else…I’m going with the former.
In the film, we see the titular seven stand up for a poor Mexican village for meager pay.
The seven men join for various reasons, some finding the pay enough to escape their situations, and some just for fun.
Regardless, we see the gunmen arm up, with half taking the famed Winchester Model 1892 lever-action rifle.
Yul Brynner wields one throughout the film. The Model 1892 is the lever gun most people picture when you say “lever-action rifle.”
Winchester’s Model 1892 was another John Moses Browning design, and Winchester produced over a million of the guns.
In The Magnificent Seven, the Model 1892 serves as what’s essentially the AR-15 of the western world.
It gives the heroes a rifle they can down bad guy after bad guy with before they eventually turn to the cowboy’s famed six-gun.
Most Westerns show the revolver as some sort of ultra-powerful and accurate weapon. You’ll see heroes mowing down bad guys armed with long guns with nothing more than their Colts.
However, in real life, the rifle will always be a superior weapon to the revolver.
It offers better range, more power, and a higher capacity.
Not to mention, it makes sense that any gunfighter worth his salt would choose a rifle over a revolver.
The Winchester Model 1892’s legacy fills both film and real-world use.
The weapon was superbly popular in the Old West and the even older East. It served many a lawman, rancher, hunter, and even a cowboy or two.
Have you tried the Winchester Model 1892? If so, rate it below!
8. No Country For Old Men (2007): Remington 11-87
The film No Country For Old Men takes place in 1980. You may be saying, “Travis, that’s not a Western!”
But you’d be wrong…it’s definitely a Western.
It may not take place in the Old West, but it’s a Western nonetheless.
The film has all the classic tropes — gunfights, mysterious men, a western setting, and plenty of cool guns.
One weapon that stands out?
The suppressed Remington 11-87 Semi-Automatic Shotgun.
Wielded by villain Anton Chigurh, the 11-87 wields a massive custom suppressor that, yes, pulls the Hollywood trope of making the weapon near silent.
You don’t want to get on this bad guy’s bad side either.
We do see the movie portray the spread of buckshot somewhat rationally and show the superiority of a semi-auto shotgun for close combat.
Actor Javier Bardem handles the weapon well too. He even establishes a good weld and aims!
Blasting away with both eyes opened, how shows off both good gun handling, raw viciousness, and intelligence to defeat his enemies.
There is no happy ending here, but it’s a film worth watching.
No Country For Old Men is arguably the best Neo Western out there.
Westerns are uniquely American. At one time, they were extremely popular and found a way to nearly reprogram the historical perspective of society.
Westerns are intrinsically linked to firearms, and the firearms in Westerns are often equal to their human costars.
Most of us know the history of the Old West, for better or worse, through films and television.
Famous Western Movie Guns: Best From the Wild West is written by Travis Pike for www.pewpewtactical.com