Vintage Saturday: On Guard

Man standing watch at the Emmett Mine in Leadville Colorado during labor disputes
Man standing watch at the Emmett Mine in Leadville Colorado during labor disputes (source: Denver Public Library)

Armed with a Trapdoor Springfield – with fixed spike bayonet – and a long-barreled Colt Single Action Army. Dated 1890s – back when “labor dispute” meant more guns and fewer negotiators than it does today. Click the source link above to see it in higher resolution.


  1. Do you think this could be a posed photograph? Or does the gent pictured simply have a fairly extravagant stance? Something looks a little bit too stoic about him for me to believe its a natural photograph.

    • Indeed. That’s a shot from a massive large-format plate camera, which does not exactly lend itself to candid snap shots 🙂

  2. This trooper seems to have the habit of cross-drawing his Colt with his left hand. Would he happen to have a saber, by chance? And if Mike Gordon is right about the rod-bayonet, the trooper is also unfortunate to have gotten stuff from some idiot who believed that a very thin meat skewer like that could withstand the stresses of dealing with meat that’s still alive and kicking.

    Weapon of choice scenario:

    How to deal with labor disputes… If we’re trying to play peace-keeper between the strikers and the company’s hired strike-breakers, the latter group obviously armed to the teeth with questionably acquired weapons (including a few Colt-Browning MGs), what will you take up to prevent the protest from becoming an all-out war? Remember, we’re not here to kill, but to prevent killing.

    1. Electric Riot Gloves (Zap, you’re it!!!)
    2. Gewehr 98 and/or Steyr M.12 machine pistol
    3. Colt Lightning
    4. Tear gas! Tear gas for EVERYONE!
    5. Hotchkiss machinegun with belt feed
    6. Soap Suds on the pavement
    7. A platoon of Type 94 Tankettes
    8. Or per the usual, screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list.

    This activity is totally voluntary. You are not required to participate if you do not wish to do so. Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

    Thank you,


    • Shut down the factory and outsource labor, then retire to the French Riviera on my megayacht (with a dozen or so ex-SOF types for bodyguards).

      • You should have at least a company strength protecting your traitorous arse if your that unpopular- Particularly, on the European mainland these days.

        • God forbid “Someone might actually do something” that will disturb folks catching rays, thermal cameras, or whatnot aside. Perhaps they’ll all fucking pole vault, and beat you to death with a hundred haddocks- France is famous for it.

      • I agree with Pdb. Did you also tell the factory manager that he’s fired? I’m pretty sure he dipped into your mega-yacht funding to get the weapons (embezzlement, sir, cannot be ignored). And watch out because some of the striking workers joined a private-military-contract company hoping to snipe you in your sleep with artillery or when you step out for fresh air. They’ve even mined the whole Riviera… Darn it all!

        • It’s a Bond-villain megayacht…with nukes and a flying mini-sub! Embezzling factory manager was fed to my pet sharks and I sold his family to an underground medical “research facility” to recoup my losses. I’ll be running for President next! 🙂

          • Most excellent decisions, sir! [salutes] Shall I tighten security at other production facilities while your presidential campaign is underway to prevent the buying and selling of “blackmail materials?”

    • “Those lazy workers are demanding a 12 hours working day.
      Fools ! Don’t they realize their chance to have a job?
      Crush’em, officer ! Make the next learn !”

      • “Those lazy workers are demanding a 12 hours working day.
        Fools ! Don’t they realize their chance to have a job?
        Crush’em, officer ! Make the next learn !”

        in france they found THE DEFINITIVE SOLUTION to labor disputes:


    • Soapsuds, lots of soapsuds. Also itching powder on all the door handles, etc.

      If things get really nasty, a few braziers with glowing charcoal upwind of the “confrontation”. Wait for a breeze, dump about two pounds of red pepper in each one, and make yourself scarce- even further upwind. Cheaper than CN or CS and a lot safer for the “targets” in the long run.



      • Hopefully dropping bee hives on any belligerent crowd (both the strikers and the corporate lackeys) won’t backfire on me. Bees and hornets do break up riots very quickly, since they don’t care which party they sting… The Battle of Tanga serves to illustrate why shooting into hives of African honey bees is a bad idea.

    • “Whose side are you on?” Well, as a descendant of very many generations of coal miners and iron miners, had my genes knit together very many decades ago, I suppose I’d be somewhere on Blair Mtn. with a Swiss Vetterli tube=fed repeater slinging lead at the “gun thugs” and State police… 1890s and the Western Federation of Miners used to try to use dynamite to convince the mine owners that it was far cheaper to accede to labor’s demands than re-open a destroyed mine… “Just sayin'”;)

      In Seattle WA, the trapdoor Springfield was the rifle used by the city police in the WWI-era when it was thought necessary for the cops to carry rifles. Sort of the AR of its day, I suppose.

      In the 1934 waterfront strike, the cops had to find a sturdier truncheon, since the issue hickory stick would break. Of course, given the Great Depression, the strikers were often equipped with baseball bats to have at the scabs.

    • If we “Britain” never reinstated the King, the Americans probably wouldn’t have rebelled. I’ve just ate a piece of butter like it was cheese, merry Christmas!

    • Well there were some Spaniards and Filipinos (by the Phillipine Constabulary in 1902-06 that saw the wrong end of the rifle. In terms of the relatively small loss of life in Indian Wars and the period of Miner unrest in the 1890’s-early 1920s, I would think that the Trapdoor Springfield never did take a lot of lives. Because we were at peace, a lot of the engagements were small but highly publicized, just like the media does today.
      I thought maybe Koreans also but it looks they were fought with primarily 1867 Remington Carbines itn .50/45 with some Plymouth and Springfield Rifled Muskets thrown in. Around 240 Korean soldiers were killed at the Battle of Ganghwa and I believe most would have fallen to the Remingtons. One officer noted problems with the 1869 manufactured cartridges that were stored in cardboard containers while the ammo in the wooden boxes worked perfectly.

  3. Great photo! Although obviously staged it clearly makes the point that defiance of The State means death. As pointed out by Andrew Marcell, during service the Trapdoor Springfield was used to kill far more Americans than any other nationality. While today we might conceive of more effective weapons, the cold steel of a bayonet is still a mighty powerful deterrent.

    In this case (the 1896 Leadville Miner’s Strike) the entire Colorado National Guard was called out by the Governor to guard the silver mines and break the union by “any means necessary”. There was no pretense that they were there as “neutral peacekeepers”. To the contrary, their job at Leadville was to reinforce and provide cover for the mining company’s hired guns (Pinkerton’s etc) who on this occasion did most of the dirty work (killing, beating, arresting, and terrorizing union sympathizers). On other occasions the Colorado National Guard did the dirty work themselves, for the example the 1914 Ludlow Massacre when they attacked a tent city of striking coal miners and their families, killing 26 people including women and children.

  4. Google Books is a wonderful thing. Although I cannot cut and passe which is irritating.

    I gleaned this information from the following:
    Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Meeting of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States
    1897. Columbus Ohio.

    The Colorado NG had four casualties due to firearms in their 170 dayish encampment at Leadville. All recovered, I am guessing the cold weather and 10,000 height was not kind to bacteria. Guard Duty is
    more dangerous than you might think:

    First a private shot himself with a Holstered .32 of the Colt Pattern…..32-20 SAA?
    Second a Sgt. (while serving as Corporal of the Guard. was shot by accident with a Springfield at 250 yards..
    Another private dropped his gun or maybe just slammed it on the ground with the hammer cocked as it
    when upwards under the pectoral muscles and came out near the clavical.

    And the winner is and very appropriate to this picture: another sgt while climbing over a stockade fell on his bayonet whilst attached to his rifle (against standing orders). His wound was also upper body and similar to the private who dropped his gun, went in upwards under the chest muscle and exited near the soldier….ouch. Imagine trying to explain how you stabbed yourself with the bayonet from a Springfield Rifle!

    • Good to know that the guardsmen were only wounded in accidents,not fighting with the striking miners. God bless all the striking miners that lost their lives so we in the future could enjoy better working conditions. To me it seems many today have forgotten their sacrifice.

      • I agree. Very few fell to bullets, far more, including their families, succumbed to horrible working and living conditions to which no good rancher would submit his livestock. Look at what happened at Ludlow in 1913 a Colt 1895 being use to terrorize the miners and their families. I purchased a Vetterli so I could do some living history on the subject one of these days, although their main weapons in the 1890’s right up to the 1920’s were Winchesters, mainly old 1873’s I would think, those guns would not be pristine today, they would be the gnarly ones, being used in conditions that would not foster a fine finish. I noted that when the miners got into that riot in Leadville that spurred NG intervention, it was specifically mentioned their primary weapons were Winchesters and Marlins….
        What I did not realize to right now when I looked up Marlin History was that Burgess was the mind behind, Colt, Whitney, and Marlins challenges to Winchester. I am sure I am the last person in the world to know that.

        • The company’s private security guards were the ones that did the most blood letting. The guardsmen were usually just caught in the middle. I would think that the miners would be well armed with the period lever guns.

  5. Your motorcycle fellow is cocking his wrist, he needs to stand in front of a mirror, straighten up, and extend his right arm fully outwards level with his shoulders so, “Parallel” what? “Parallel” Aye, before sharply bringing his forearm sharply inwards. Sharply so his wrist is aligned with the angle of the forearm, the index finger at no point passes the left handside of the eyebrow. Then hold, count 1 and 2, then sharply bring the arm down to the front so it extends in a manner which is parallel to the body when at it’s maximum extension. No, do it again. And what is that abortion on your head, are you an American. The Beret maybe French, but we don’t wish to emulate them they eat frogs whilst claims we have no cuisine. Your flap, the floppy part pulled to the right wants to be slight and tight, not some Frog snail slapped on your forehead. Your boots aren’t right either, I said I want to see my face in them, that’s your face. Slovenly colonial, just because you’ve got space rockets. What do you mean you don’t like King George?

  6. Guys, I take the Forgotten Weapons thread pretty seriously and I think you should also.
    Ian has been fantastic in providing this material and I think we should be polite enough
    to stay on the subject be it discussing the science of photography, the subject of the picture, and or the history surrounding the picture. This is the kind of stuff that gets serious people off of this
    type of thread. Cherndog, you started it and then Pdb, Doc, and just kept the conversation
    out in left field.
    This is not facebook or Yahoo And guys the labor disputes were a dark spot in American
    History, can you please show a little respect?

    • Oh, and thanks for mentioning how retarded Yahoo gets. I’ve seen plenty of misinformed and misguided people there, including idiots who still think “Japan is an empire and [America] should nuke it again.”

      I thought I was one of the few people who decided not to read commentary over there anymore. At least you’re not alone.

      Thanks, and apologies again for any offenses I may have committed,


  7. Hmm, nobody responded concerning my comment on the soldier’s revolver. It’s not in a position to be quickly drawn by his right hand, so I assumed that he had to cross-draw the gun and either cross-draw another gun or draw a saber with his right hand. Did I mess up on this assumption?

    • I’d expect the revolver to be on his left side, because while reloading the Springfield, he’d probably be holding it by the forearm with his left hand and reloading with his right. So if he were “interrupted” in the process, drawing the pistol with the right hand would just require at most dropping a single rifle round, not dropping the rifle.

      The most likely explanation for this shot is that if the revolver were on the left side “as usual”, the camera wouldn’t have been able to “see” it. It was probably stuck in the right side of the belt just so the photograph could be taken. As JohnK and abacab said above, plate cameras required “posed” shots, and they were trying to achieve a specific result. I.e., making the sentry look like he meant business.



      • He is wearing the civilian holster in military style unless he is a lefty, and of course, armed with a rifle and bayonet, he should not even have a pistol. Makes me wonder if the handgun was private purchase.
        I can hear the photographer instructing him to open up his blanket so we can see the pistol. He is probably responding, OK, but hurry, it’s cold as hell out here.
        Do you see rifle rounds in his belt? I cannot tell.

        • I can’t tell if he has rifle cartridges in that belt, but I thought rifle ammunition was supposed to be stored in pouched bandoliers. I know that holster is placed in the orientation for a cavalryman’s revolver, seeing as tons of guys on horseback were expected to hold sabers in their right hands.

          Let’s consider that the average infantryman (and I assume this man is a regular foot-soldier) is expected to use his rifle as a spear when he is in a linear rank with everyone else. One bayonet vs. the unruly mob will lead to the rifle getting yanked away and the soldier getting clobbered with planks and hammers.

          If the soldier is alone, his best bet is to have a backup weapon or two in case his bayonet-intimidation fails. The only way that rifle can avoid getting snatched in melee is to have the “mob” funneled into a narrow passageway of some kind such that they cannot gang up on the soldier (try watching episode 12 of the anime adaptation of The Three Musketeers for such a setup, where the cardinal’s guards cannot all attack the hero at the same time, leading to them falling like dominoes in a comical fashion).

          Did I flub anything?

          • Well, at that time a lot of people out West carried .45-70 ammunition for the Trapdoor in a Mills belt;


            It’s still a pretty practical way to carry brass-cased rimmed rifle rounds for extended periods of time in the field, because the woven wool doesn’t react chemically with the brass the way the tannic acid in tanned leather does. So, no green crud aka “verdegris” on the cartridges.

            BTW, even in the 1800s, the Mills belt was also made in shotgun-shell sizes; 10 gauge mostly, back then. So it would have been entirely normal for a guard armed with something like a double-barreled Greener or etc. to be wearing one carrying up to 40 or 50 rounds of buckshot and/or “punkin balls”, the musket-style round-ball load that was the predecessor of the modern Foster-type rifled slug load. Not quite as accurate, but at close range (under 50 yards) good enough, and at any range you really didn’t want to get hit by it.



          • Militaries of that era never considered the exceptions for infantry…never. NCO’s and Officers of course were issued handguns for self defense and for encouraging reluctant soldiers. Infantry was supposed to use their rifles.
            Cavalry carried carbines so handguns were standard issue for close in fighting, but the long rifle and bayonet were considered optimal, and hence you sometimes had mounted infantry which would ride to war, but then get off the horses before the battle and fight on foot.
            There has been considerable discussion as to whether the US cavalry that was used as dismounted infantry in Cuba, armed with Krag carbines were allowed to take their handguns. Apparently no photograph or document proves it either way. Technically a carbine equipped soldier should have had a handgun to replace the bayonet, but in the chaos of that campaign, no one knows. Roosevelt purportedly bought his officers 1895 Winchester Carbines and we know the officers would have retained their sidearms.

          • HD;

            The Rough Riders had a large proportion of 1895 Winchester carbines in .30-40 because, as a “volunteer reserve” unit, they were only “qualified” to be issued .45-70 Trapdoor carbines from Army ordnance stores.

            Yes, many Reserve and National Guard units in actual combat in the Spanish-American War went up against 7 x 57 Mauser bolt-action armed Spanish troops with .45-70 single-shots. This was because production of the rather complex Model of 1892 Krag-Jorgenson bolt-action rifle had been low-rate from 1893 to 1898, mainly to save money (which made a parsimonious Congress happy, but no one else). Which meant that Army Ordnance had just about enough in inventory to arm Regular Army units, with very few left over.

            An analogous situation occurred in the English Civil War (1642-48). On paper, the matchlock arquebus was the standard infantry arm of both the Royalist forces and the Parliamentarians, since the “trained bands” had been ordered to turn in the Welsh longbow in favor of the arquebus by Royal decree in 1595. Only three Royal arsenals in all of Britain made the arquebuses.

            In fact, those arsenals had turned out so few arquebuses in the half-century since it had been made the “official” arm, that once the Royalists had seized the armories they could reach, there were just about enough arquebuses left on the Parliamentary side to arm Cromwell’s New Model Army main formations. The rest of the levies had to make do with whatever they could bring from home- which included a lot of crossbows and, yes, Welsh longbows.

            in our own Civil War, many volunteer formations on both sides were using smoothbore flintlock muskets as late as the spring of 1863, again because pre-war production hadn’t resulted in enough percussion rifle-muskets to go around.

            I might add that U.S. cavalry unit on the Western frontier were still using Civil War issue Sharps, Spencer, and even Gallagher and Maynard carbines into the early 1880s due to slow procurement of replacements.

            (Custer’s 7th was issued their Trapdoor Springfields about six weeks before their fatal encounter at Little Big Horn Creek in July 1876. Prior to that, they had mainly been armed with Sharps carbines converted to metallic cartridge.)

            T.R. bought the Winchesters out of his own pocket because he wasn’t about to lead men into a combat situation against bolt-action, high-velocity repeating rifles armed only with black-powder single-shots. The Winchester was a bit more problematic to fire from the prone position than the Krag or Mauser, but it was definitely tactically superior to the Trapdoor.

            His CO, Col. (later Gen.) Leonard Wood could have vetoed it. It’s noteworthy that he didn’t say a word- even to his own superiors.

            As the old saying goes, amateurs study strategy, professionals study logistics. And logistics starts with production and inventory- preferably before the shooting starts.



      • It is also possible that the gentleman was a user of the “High Cavalry Draw”. Developed, as the name suggests, by the cavalrymen who were required to carry their issue revolvers on the right side, butt forward. The right hand, thumb to the rear, is inserted between the butt of the pistol and your body. The pistol is drawn forward and up with the thumb on the hammer. As the muzzle clears the holster the pistol is “whipped” into alignment with the arm and the hammer cocked with the same motion. This can, with a little practice, be done very, very quickly. It is also very, very, unsafe. It pretty much died out in the general period of this photo, making a short comeback during the “Fast Draw” (With blanks or wax bullets,) craze of the 1950s.

          • Very likely. With the “twist draw”, as it’s also known, if your thumb slips as you’re cocking the Colt on the way out, it’s all too easy to put one in your own leg.

            A similar draw can be performed with the weak hand and a Lawrence type spring-clip shoulder holster. The same-side-as-holster hand grasps the pistol normally, and you simply straighten the elbow. This puts the sidearm out in front of you at full extension with the handgun inverted and the back of your hand toward your body. Then you simply rotate the wrist (counterclockwise on the left hand, clockwise on the right) back to its normal position; the sidearm is now upright in the normal firing position.

            It puts a bit of strain on the wrist, but it’s about as fast as the regular shoulder holster “cross-draw”. It can be done with a vertical-draw shoulder holster as well, with an upward motion. I’m not sure you can do it with a horizontal or a Mossad three-way without the muzzle tracking across your torso. (I’ve never used either one.)

            Weak-hand draws need to be practiced with any holster. If the holster doesn’t allow a weak-hand draw, you need a different type of holster.



        • Chad Everett used a pair of colts with this type draw. I think it was in the Last Challenge with .Glenn Ford in 1967.

    • Yes. In the 19th-century U.S. army, the revolver was carried butt-forward, on the right side, but drawn with the right hand, placing the thumb on the top strap. It is not a cross-draw. The hand withdrew the revolver, turned it right side round, and leveled the muzzle, and the thumb then cocked the hammer. It was a cavalry style, used so that the free hand could hold the horse’s reins, but was a popular style of carry throughout the army, and among army vets.

    • Twist draw Cherndog: blade your right hand , turn it until the palm faces away from your body, then slip it down to grip the pistol. Pulling up you turn your hand back to the right and simultaneously thumb back the hammer on the review over and you are ready to fire. Much faster than you might imagine!

  8. Being about 23 days older than dirt, I can remember some of the problems associated with labor/management problems in the first of the 1940s. My father worked in the East Texas Oilfields from 1936 until the ealy 1960s when he “retired” to go into business for himself in East Central Louisiana. When I first remember, he was working for 9 ½ ¢ per hour for as long as the job took and if you complained there were at least 10-12 men lined up ready to take your job … so you worked or your family starved. After the war was over things got better and in the mid-1950s labor unions made an appearance. By then, Dad had been the drilling superintendent on the first Woodbine Sand discovery well drilled at Hawkins, Texas. The problem was that it produced asphaltic oil of about 13° API Gravity, or about like roofing tar. It had to me moved using heated tanker trucks and mixed with lighter oil to keep from plugging the pipe lines when off-loaded. Dad bought a truck and rigged it out with a propane-fired hot-water system and it started hauling oil. His driver hauled a load to the pumping station and the gate was locked and blocked by strikers who refused to allow him to unload. The driver protested explaining that if he did not unload the burners would run out of fuel, the oil would cool and solidify and that he needed to unload immediately. Instead of talking to him, they pulled him from the truck and beat him to death with chains. Then they called Dad to “come collect your garbage” meaning the driver’s body. The problem was resolved when Dad arrived … alone… and the truck was unloaded and his driver was taken to the morgue. No one in Dad’s friends had any idea of the strike and the driver did not try to run the gate, but at the trial the people who murdered him explained that they had decided that they needed to “make an example” of someone, so they killed him. When Dad went into business for himself he paid the highest wages of anyone in this area and treated his workers more like family than employees. But to his death he hated unions and the death of his friend haunted him. So there were misdeeds on both sides at different points in time. Such is Human Nature. Neither side was without transgression but often the companies were the more brutal of the two.

    • Similar things happened in the coal-mining country here in Ohio right into the 1970s. In one strike in 1977, in Hocking and Athens Co. UMW had out-of-state “advisors” in cars “patrolling” the roads looking for “scabs”- meaning, they were basically stopping any car with one or more adult males in it and “rousting” them, often at gunpoint.

      Attempts at prosecution tended to end in the PA being told, “not enough evidence for indictment”. UMW “owned” a few judges back then.

      No, they weren’t considered the “friends of the working man” around here.



      • Eon: The Rough Riders got their Krags before going to Cuba, but I never thought it was worth Roosevelts time to get Winchester 95s and i can now see why he might have purchased them if he was not sure what weapon he could obtain at the time.

  9. mine workers strike in france,1948

    30 000 soldiers deployed in the north region.×453.jpg

    6 deaths
    3 000 condemnations (prison or/and fine) expulsion from their houses ect.
    dissolution of works councils

    • I don’t think so. Back before specialist cartridges like that were around, bayonets were used to intimidate potential rioters and they still do today. Come to think of it, the Boston Massacre was a case where an unruly mob defied the bayonets and threw dirty snowballs at the law enforcement. One protester eventually made it too personal for one of the British Regulars (by throwing a huge rock at him, perhaps), which prompted the latter to pull the trigger in reflex and anger. Did I mess up anything?

  10. Not an enemy of the labor movement here, but even labor-friendly historians admit “there were no “Good-Guys” in the “Leadville” incident.
    I don’t feel like exhaustively researching the matter today (you can easily do so on your own time,) but my recollection on the matter is…the miners opened fire first.
    Yeah, you got it. No “good guys,” on this one.
    Yet another example of corporate/labor stupidity.
    Will they ever learn?

    Ian, most of this thread is gibberish. Is it possible to do a bit of editing?

      • Well, I feel the educated and the wealthy should be judged to a higher standard than those who are born into ignorance, poverty, and misery and therefore are easily exploitable. TR did not coin the term muck-raker but he immortalized it when he said of this era: “the men with the muck rakes are often indispensable to the well being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck…” It was often the excesses of many of the wealthy and powerful which made themselves deserved targets of the muck-rakers. Indeed, the wealthy and powerful often exacted a great price for their contributions to society.
        As Roosevelt indicated, it is often hard to strike a balance, but the historian must take care in not becoming too entrenched in opinion as history often does not always record all the truths.

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