Except for soldiers and lawmen in the Western states and territories after the Civil War, there wasn’t much of a need for most Westerners to stock up on guns, at least as the threat of organized resistance by Native American tribes waned toward the end of the 1870s. Farmers and ranchers, of course, needed guns for hunting. For many, the single-shot, muzzle-loading rifle muskets they brought back from the war were sufficient.
In Western movies, every pioneer, cowboy and saddle tramp carries a Colt, single-action, “Army,” six-shot revolver and, usually, a Winchester repeating rifle. Both guns appeared on the market around 1873. The cost of those guns back in the day varies, according to which source one consults. The Cody Museum in Wyoming puts the average cost at about $18 for either weapon, which would be around $350 in today’s dollars. The problem for people who lived on the frontier in the 1870s is that few had that kind of money. To put that in perspective, it might take a working cowhand a month’s wages to buy a Colt or a Winchester.