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This comes up on occasion, what is the best guess as to what handguns Custer carried during his last fight? It really doesn’t matter I guess but it gets asked often.

Mike Franklin
Poteet, Texas

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I do believe that Custer carried two Bulldog self-cocking, white-handled English pistols.
Both George & Tom Custer owned pairs of double-action Webley Royal Irish Constabulary model revolvers chambered for .450 Eley. Tom's, which were blue steel with wooden grips, are still extant. George's, which were nickel-plated & had ivory grips, haven't been seen since LBH. It's a fair bet, then, that LTC Custer was packing his Webley RICs at LBH. He was also, apparently, packing a Remington carbine or rifle in an odd caliber, because those who recovered the bodies reported finding 'odd' shell casings, which surviving officers of the 7th identified as having been fired from Custer's weapon.

For the record, there probably wasn't a single Henry rifle in the battle. There were only about 13,000 Henrys ever made, the last ones in 1866, ten years before the battle. By Dec. 1875 Winchester had produced over 112,000 Winchester M1866s, which had the same action and double-ended firing pin as the Henry. If you pick up a .44 rimfire shell that has 2 firing pin dents diametrically opposite each other, it is impossible to tell whether it was fired from a Henry or a Winchester '66. Considering the fact that the Henry had been out of production for 10 years by the time LBH occurred and there weren't all that many of them to begin with, together with the fact that well over 100,000 Winchester '66s had been produced & sold on the civilian market in the ensuing 10 years, the mathematical odds that the Indian weapons that fired .44 rimfire ctgs & left the twin firing pin dents in the cases are heavily in favor of the weapons being Winchester '66s.
I guess short of the Great Grandson of some NDN combatant coming forward with a 'battle trophy' it's all just a hunch. As for Custer's rifle, he was greatly amored of the Remington Rolling Block. Off the top of my head I can't remember the caiber but it wasn't .45/70.
At the 'Wounded Knee' uprising in the 1990s a number of packages, placed in the monument there when it was erected early in the last century, were removed by the insurgents. It wouldn't surprise me if Custer's RIC pistols were in one of the removed packages. The monument was supposed to be opened in '98, on the centennial of the massacre, & its contents displayed. Apparently that never happened.
When you get my age all the dates sorta run together.
Custer was considered a national hero and was presented with several firearms, mainly so that companies could market their products. But, as far as what he actually carried is still largely unknown. Of all the photographs that I have seen of Custer, I can't find any that show his pistol.

Troops often purchased their own weapons, this is especially true of officers who could better afford them. It is still argued by historians, regarding what General Custer himself actually carried at Little Big Horn. But going by the numbers of what was bought for the cavalry, my bet would be that General Custer would have carried the faster shooting S&W Model 3. One of these was found by surveyers at the Battle of Little Bighorn location, in 1883.

It is reported that General Custer used a .50 calibre sporting version of the Spencer Rifle in the 1867 Kansas Campaign. In about 1872 Custer had a 1866 .50-70 Trapdoor Springfield modified to a sporting version, by reducing the fore-end to half length, and fitting a double set trigger mechanism within a special trigger guard with a long rearward scroll.

I know that if I where a general, I would definitely want the fastest shooting pistol with the fastest reload time. Of the pistols in the arsenal, that would have been the Model 3. That being said, Custer's troops where grossly short on made weapons, such as repeating rifles and instead used the slower shooting Springfield rifles.
Schofields had production numbers, but not serial numbers. One has to take into account that the Schofield was made for the military and few made it to the civilian market until the 1870s. The Schofields that made it to the civilian market where reconditioned and then sent to various dealers. The largest single purchase of these "re purposed" revolvers was to Wells Fargo.

From what I have found, some 16,000 model 3s entered military service. During the "broken arrow" period, there where some 20,000 - 25,000 cavalry troops, so it is not unreasonable to think that the schofield saw duty at the battle.

While an innovative weapon, S&W made a serious mistake in their cambering, opting to chamber issued weapons in .45 Schofield rather than the more powerful .45 Colt, which ultimately led to it's downfall and eventual total replacement in 1898.

While it is possible, there is absolutely no treason to think that the Schofield revolver recovered from the battle site belonged to Custer.

It looks like he was "expectin' a prolonged gunfight in 1876."
one thing for sure Chuck Johnes and I know where Custers sword from the Little Big Horn ended up. pmpazen
According to one of the surviving officers w/Benteen, "Nobody carried the saber." EM were armed w/2 revolvers & a Springfield carbine.

As far as the Schofield S&W goes, about 8,000 total were bought by the army. Fewer than 700 were sold on the civilian market. Following MAJ George Schofield's suicide in Arizona, the army dumped its Schofields on the surplus mkt & S&W ceased production of the weapon. The Schofield round was shorter than the .45 Colt round because the frame used for the Schofield, which was the same basic frame used for the S&W #3, wasn't long enough to accommodate the .45 Colt round. All military issue revolver ammo was Schofield, not Colt, & all GI Colts were sighted for the Schofield round.

Custer prided himself on being 'different.' There's one photo of his office that shows a pair of bright-plated, white-gripped S&W #2s w/6" barrels. It is positively known that both he & his brother Tom owned pairs of Webley RIC DAs in .450 Eley. Tom's are still around but George's aren't. That would certainly indicate George's disappeared somewhere along the line. The most likely place they would have disappeared is off his body at LBH.
Custer prided himself on being 'different.' The 3 major producers of revolvers for the Union between 1861 & 1866 were Colt (#1), Remington (#2), & Starr (#3). However, Custer, as a 2LT, is known to have packed a Colt Root's Patent sidehammer .36, not an 1851 Navy (very common weapon carried by officers), an 1860 Army (issue) an 1859 Remington (navy .36 caliber was very popular w/officers) or a Starr DA or, after 1862, SA on a DA frame. The Root's Patent weapon had a stud trigger--no triggerguard--& had to be about the worst choice for a horseman there could have been.

Incidentally, at the time an officer was not limited to the issue sidearm. He could purchase & carry any weapon he wanted to. This was still true as late as the 1916 Punitive Expedition into Mexico. 1LT George Smith Patton, Jr., was packing a nickel-plated, ivory-gripped Colt SAA in .45 Colt then. He later had a special cylinder made for it so he could shoot the .45 ACP round in it.


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