AZ’s State Firearm!

But in the late 1800s, it was the gunslingers who made it so.

"No question," said Lee Silva, an author and columnist for Wild West magazine. The Colt "became overwhelmingly the common six-gun of the Old West."

Bob Boze Bell, executive editor of True West magazine in Cave Creek, agreed.

"It was a legendary gun," he said. "It's contentious, though, especially among the people it was used against, which would include my Native American friends. If you talk to a Navajo, they're not fond of that gun."

The Arizona Legislature passed a bill in the just-concluded session that makes the Colt Single Action Army Revolver the official state gun. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the legislation, which was lobbied for by Colt, on Thursday.

Colt guns were ubiquitous in Arizona, outselling every other handgun by 20 to 50 times, said Silva, who has studied the weapons of the Old West for 40 years.

Smith & Wesson had a chance to take Colt's position in the 1860s because it had the corner on a technological advance, Silva said. It owned the patent on the cartridge revolver.

This was a significant advance over the previous cap-and-ball revolver. With the cap and ball, reloading could take several minutes. Each of the six chambers had to be filled with gunpowder, then a gauze pad, then a lead ball and finally topped with a percussion cap.

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