Frequently Asked Questions about Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley had many guns. On display at The National Annie Oakley Center at Garst Museum is a Winchester 1873 .44-40 caliber factory-made, smooth bore rifle that Annie Owned. Made in 1892, it was given to Annie by buffalo Bill Cody. Both Annie and Buffalo Bill used smooth-bore rifles in the Wild West Show arena shooting at aerial targets. A regular rifle makes the bullet spin as it leaves the gun. A smooth bore does not create the spin when shot. The .44 caliber ammunition cartridge for this gun holds only ¼ ounce of #7 chilled shot. It makes a pattern that holds together for 1 ½ inches wide x 30 yards in length. This ammunition was used because solid shot would endanger the audience that surrounded them. You might also say that this would make it easier to hit a target. Not so, says Dr. Paul Fees. "It is pretty much as difficult to hit a target ball or clay pigeon with this shot as with solid ammunition. It's very small and the pattern is tight. The Annie Oakley display has several examples of .44 caliber ammunition cartridges." "Buffalo Bill and his partner learned their lesson about what ammunition to use in 1883 in Brooklyn when they were told they had broken windows on a greenhouse a block and a half away from the arena.
Glenda Riley wrote the Life and Legacy of Annie Oakley. In this book, Riley says, "Annie stated that she cared only that a gun be of fine quality. She usually preferred plain guns with good wood in the stocks and open sights. Often she used guns produced by Parker Brothers of Meriden, Connecticut, those the Remington Company made after taking over Parker, and those of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. In her view guns, rifles, and pistols came in many styles; saying that any one make was superior to all others would show a very narrow mind and limited knowledge of firearms. Annie believed that the shooter's physique, type of game, and fancy should govern his or her choice of gun. "the best gun is the gun that best fits the shooter."
Riley goes on to say that Annie did not believe in using cheap guns. She did not mean guns that were heavily decorated with engraving or ornamentation, but one that "had qualities of strength, safety, balance, fit and ease of manipulation." In a magazine interview Annie said, "Nobody should trust their lives behind a cheap gun."
Shirl Kasaper's book, Annie Oakley, lists the following makes of guns.Short guns: Lancaster, Cashmore, Francotte, Parker, Purday, Spencer, Scott, L..C .Smith, Ithaca, Cranston, and P. Webley & Sons. Her rifles included Winchester, Stevens, Marlin, Lancaster Hooland, and Remington. Her pistols and revolvers were Smith & Wesson, Stevens, Colt, and Renette.
Did Annie use custom-made guns?
In 1887, British gun maker Charles Lancaster watched Annie shoot with less than expected success at English blue-rock pigeons. The birds "flew like lightning," Frank said. Lancaster had watched Annie in the Wild West and knew her skills. He could see that her guns fit her badly.
So Lancaster built this shotgun especially for her, measured to her shoulder and arms and weighing only six pounds. After she used this one, Annie Oakley specified that all of her rifles and shotguns be built to the same dimensions.
Images courtesy of the Darke County Historial Society