The Civil War is the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history. It’s estimated that roughly 620,000 soldiers lost their lives over the course of the conflict, and even though roughly half of those fatalities were due to disease, increasingly efficient firearms took a terrible toll. (Compare the war to the other wars in which the most Americans died.)
As technology evolves, strategies and tactics change. One of the most revolutionary changes that occurred during the Civil War was the movement away from flint-based triggers and towards percussion systems, which were much more reliable and would fire even in rainy weather, which their flint counterparts would not. Another was the introduction of breech-loading weapons, which could be reloaded faster than the old-style muzzle-loaders.
Accuracy improved among weapons used in the Civil War compared to previous conflicts, too. Revolutionary War muskets could be lethal up to 175 yards but were really only accurate at a range of about 100 yards. Civil War rifles were accurate for hundreds of yards, with some being deadly at up to 1,000 yards. (These are the 14 guns that helped fight the Revolutionary War.)
To compile a list of 22 guns used in the Civil War, 24/7 Tempo reviewed several sites about the history of the war and the small sidearms used by both sides to fight, including Military Factory and Smithsonian. We included guns widely used by either the Union or Confederate Army or both, as well as less common backup or personal pistols, which were less common. In order to avoid repetition, we selected one specific gun per type. For example, while more than 10 Colt revolvers and pistols were used in the war, we have listed only one here.
The guns of the Civil War were a major part of the evolution in American warfare, they set the tone and technology for future generations of weapons systems, many of which we still use today.
Another interesting aspect about this list is that many of these guns are a collector’s dream. Weapons from the Civil War are highly sought after and incredibly rare, as this era was a stepping stone from black powder and muzzle-loading to repeating rifles with metal shell casings.
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