Official State Guns

 

As Betsy Marston noted  in Heard Around the West recently, Utah lawmakers are considering  an Official State Gun: the .45-caliber M1911 semi-automatic pistol, designed a century ago for the U.S. Army and still in use by some American military personnel. It's also a popular pistol for target-shooting and concealed-carry. 

The Utah connection is that the gun's designer was John Moses Browning, an Ogden gunsmith. No matter how you feel about guns, it's clear that Browning was a genius with firearms, as he invented many successful weapons and cartridges, including the Winchester lever-action rifle that is almost as much an icon of the Old West as the Colt revolver. 

The M1911, designed by John Browning, is Utah's state gun. Image courtesy Flickr user miso beno.

So it's understandable that Utah would want to honor one of its more illustrious citizens in the centennial year of one of his best-known inventions. Even so, Utah Rep. Carl Wimmer sounded rather fulsome when he called the M1911 a device that "has defended American values and the traditions of this country for 100 years."
 
Other Western states can't claim a prolific inventor like Browning, but given that gun culture is strong out here, states might want to declare their own official guns.
 
And if they did, what would they pick? The gun that "won the West," as much as any single firearm did, was the Sharps .45-90 used by buffalo hunters. By wiping out the vast herds, they destroyed the sustenance of many Native American tribes, thus enabling settlement.
 
The Sharps of yore was manufactured in Vermont, but modern replicas  come from Montana -- which had its share of bison to be wiped out -- so the Sharps looks logical for the Treasure State.
 
As for New Mexico, it was the territory of Billy the Kid, who recently wasn't pardoned by out-going Gov. Bill Richardson. There are places that offer non-functioning replicas  of a revolver the Kid supposedly toted, but let's face it: by most accounts, Billy the Kid was a murderous sociopath.
 
Honor instead the man who brought him down, Sheriff Pat Garrett, with the gun he used, a Colt .44 single-action revolver with a 7.5-inch barrel. (This information is hard to find on-line, but my wife and I used to write Westerns, and I found this information in a reference book we used often then, Firearms of the American West, 1866-1894, by Louis A. Garavagli and Charles G. Worman.)
 
Wyoming's most famous gun battle was the Johnson County War of 1892. However, there were so many guns involved that it's impossible to pick just one, so anything that was on the market about 120 years ago ought to be eligible for Official Cowboy State Gun status.
 
For my own Colorado, I'll go with the Colt-Browning M1895 gas-operated machine gun, used to shoot down striking miners at Ludlow in 1914. Designation as the Official State Firearm would remind us how Colorado has often dealt with organized labor.
 
Until quite recently anyway, the most famous gun use in Arizona's history was the 1881 Shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone. There were many kinds of firearms in use on that bloody day, but Doc Holliday's sawed-off double-barreled 10-gauge Meteor Belgium shotgun  might be the most prominent.
 
And since, outside of antiques, sawed-off shotguns are seriously illegal in the United States, it might be a good choice these days -- an Official State Gun that no one can own.

Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for the content.

Ed Quillen is a freelance writer in Salida, Colo.

 

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Restore Hetch Hetchy, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks experienced development professional to identify and engage individuals and institutions who are inspired to help underwrite...
  • PUBLIC LANDS COUNSEL
    The successful candidate will be the organization's lead counsel on public lands issues, including reviewing federal administrative actions and proposed policy and helping to shape...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
    Solar Energy International (SEI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit education organization with a mission to provide industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy to empower...
  • TRAINING MANAGER
    This is a full-time position based out of our Paonia office. This position is responsible for organizing all of Solar Energy International's renewable energy trainings....
  • RANCH HAND & HOUSING OPPORTUNITY IN DURANGO, CO
    Remodeled home with the opportunity to work off part of rent. Renter(s) must be available to help with lifting, irrigation & outdoor chores, 15-40 hrs...
  • INDIGENOUS LANDSCAPES AND COMMUNITIES DIRECTOR
    YOUR POSITION WITH TNC The Indigenous Landscapes & Communities Program is part of the North America Region's Conservation Collaboration team. The Conservation Collaboration team works...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...