Canadian Revolvers – Wild West Edition

Canadian Revolvers – Wild West Edition

[schema type=”product” name=”Canadian Revolvers – Wild West Edition” manfu=”RSAF Enfield, Colt’s Manufacturing Company, Winchester Repeating Arms Company” model=”Enfield MK II, M1878, Adams .450, The Winchester Model 1876″ ]

Few people connect Canada and Canadian history with the Wild West moniker. But it is no less apt way to describe the Canadian frontier than the territory of present United States. It too was a wilderness teeming with natives.

Law And Order With English Weaponry

The biggest problem of the period were the smugglers who kept crossing the Canadian-American border and established trading posts. There they traded the natives guns and bad liquor in exchange for furs.  The most notorious of these posts was the Fort Whoop-Up in south-western Alberta. It was a real hive of scum and villainy. The government eventually decided to get rid of the Fort it considered an eyesore and a direct affront to the rule of law.  This is how the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) was formed. Eventually they became the current Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

North-West Mounted Police

They were modeled after the Royal Irish Constabulary that consisted mainly of mounted men. Canadian Governor General Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood stated that although the unit was a police force, the men should wear red uniforms and have all characteristics of a military force. The red color was not chosen by accident. It was done to clearly set them apart from blue uniforms of the US army that was not popular with the natives. The intent was to establish fair relations with the natives, a practice that was upheld by the NWMP. They made sure every contract between the Canadian government and the natives was fulfilled consistently and fairly. They helped establish a basis for a long lasting cooperation and peace.

As the model for the unit came from Britain, the weapons had to have the same origin. First official revolver was the Adams Mk II with .450 rounds. The first shipment of 300 pieces was ordered in 1874 and arrived to Fort Dufferin in July of 1875, just as they were to march towards Alberta. This is why a defect was discovered only during the march. Due to bad packaging, extractors were bent during travel. The “Adams” company corrected the problem on their next model, Mk III, where the extractor was placed at the axis of the cylinder. Since then, Canada has ordered 330 revolvers, at the cost of 2 pounds and 19 shillings per piece. Revolvers arrived to Ottawa in October of that year where they were found to be in good working order and could be used as service weapons.

adams mkII

The revolvers had a 6 inch barrels and a two part frame. To bottom part with a handle was connected with the top with several screws. That was typical for the Adams revolvers ever since John Adams’ patent.

NWMP men carried this revolver on their left in a brown holster, with the handle facing forward. They also had belts with pockets .450 Boxer and .577 Snider ammunition. Snider Carbines were the primary long gun of the mounted police and they used them until 1883, when they got the Winchester M1876 carbines. Adams revolvers were used for another ten years, since they’ve proven their reliability in bad weather and difficult terrain.

Winchester M1876 carbines

Mk III Adams was used until 1883, when it was replaced by Enfield Mk II with .476 rounds. Boxer .450 was powerful enough to kill an injured horse and wound an opponent but it was pretty much useless when faced with a grizzly bear. Encounters with grizzlies could be pretty common in Canadian wilderness and mounted police needed a sidearm that could deal with that threat. New Enfield Mk II was more powerful but it had problems of its own. It was very complicated, unwieldy and too heavy. The British army replaced it with Webley Mk I in 1887, while the mounties were stuck with their Enfields until 1900 when they adopted Colt New Service in .455/.45 Colt caliber.


The North-West Rebellion

In the 1880s territorial disputes between Métis peoples, the plains Indians and the settlers came to a head. Due to unresponsiveness and stubbornness of the Canadian government, disagreements became open rebellion under the leadership of a formerly exiled Canadian politician Louis Riel. Four militia squads were formed amid the rising tension: Rocky Mountains Rangers, Alberta Mounted Rifles, Calgary’s Home Guard and Steele’s Scouts. The Mounted Police was to have no official part in the fighting, even though some of them served as scouts due to their familiarity with the land.

spencer rifle

The Canadian militia was woefully under-equipped for the conflict, they used completely inadequate and almost antiquated weapons. Their primary armaments consisted of Spencer rifles and M1851 Navy Colt revolvers – yes, cap and ball revolver! Mounted police and militia volunteers clashed with the rebels at the Duck Lake o 26th of March 1885 and suffered a grievous defeat. Fifty six NWMP men and forty six volunteers died that day. This sent Canadian ministry of defense into a panic mode, they started feverishly looking for a more modern weaponry. They turned to the New York wholesaler “Hartley & Graham” that were previously contracted by the Canadian government to provide 525 double action Colts M1878. These revolvers were never claimed however and most were already sold. The government made another order, this time for 1,000 revolvers at 13$ per piece. The first batch of 690 revolvers was delivered within a few days. Acquisition of modern weaponry was the turning point in the uprising. Two weeks after new revolvers were delivered a crucial battle of Batoche was waged and the Métis people were soundly beaten. Riel surrendered a few days later, was tried for high treason and was executed later that year.

1851 navy colt

Modern Weapons

After the rebellion was crushed, militia regiments were disbanded. Of course the militia members were supposed to return the Colts they received. However, some militia men attempted to evade that and keep the weapons for themselves. The most famous example was the 9th Quebec battalion that failed to produce a single revolver.

The military career of these colts did not end with the rebellion. They were used again, but this time in South Africa where Canada joined the Commonwealth forces in the Boear War, waged from 1899 to 1901. The Canadians sent a contingent of special forces consisting of soldiers of Royal Canadian Regiment and Royal Canadian Mounted Rifles. Another contingent was sent later, this time armed with even more modern weapons – Colt New Service revolvers.

July 20, 2014
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