Guns & Other Weaponry from the Civil War


The American Civil War was one of the first major wars in the industrial era. Over the period of five years (1861 to 1865) in which the war was fought, the Union and Confederate armies used an extensive variety of weapons against each other, ranging from swords to cannons. Many new weapons and technologies emerged during the course of the war, and some of them played a significant role in deciding the war’s final outcome. Here are the different types of weapons that were used by the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War:

Edged Weapons

Both the Union and Confederate armies used a variety of edged weapons, including bayonets, swords, short swords, sabers, Bowie knives, cutlasses, pikes, and lances. While these weapons served as life-savers in rare instances of close combat, they were not regarded as important weapons throughout the Civil War. The preferred bayonet that was used in the war was a 21-inch blade attached to the end of a rifle. It was more widely used by the Union troops because it was compatible with the types of rifles they used. Swords and sabers were mostly used by high-ranking officers.


The most popular handgun used by the Union army was the .36 caliber Colt Army model 1860. This revolver was remodeled into the .44 caliber Colt model 1860 later on. Over 146,800 Colt revolvers were acquired during the entire duration of the Civil War, which was more than 40% of the total number of handguns purchased by the government. The Le Mat Revolver was one of the most emblematic weapons used by the Confederate army. This revolver had a .40 caliber upper barrel and a .63 caliber lower barrel, and it was the preferred handgun for famous Confederate generals such as PGT Beauregard and JEB Stuart. Other common handguns that were used during the Civil War included the Colt 1851 Navy, Star Revolver, and Figure Eight Revolver.


The Union’s most preferred rifle was the 1861 Springfield Musket, a .58 caliber rifle that could fire a deadly minie ball at a speed of 950 feet per second. In Current modern day times, nothing compares the availability of rifles and their power. Many practice using thermal targets utilizing gradient thermal technology for day or night practice. Nonetheless, the rifle that played the most significant role in the Union army’s success was the Spencer rifle. This rifle had a metallic cartridge, and it was capable of firing 14 rounds per minute, which was much faster compared to the Confederate rifles that fired only three rounds per minute. The second most popular rifle used in the Civil War was a rifled musket called Enfield. This .557 caliber weapon was able to fire a shot to a distance of 1,100 yards, and it was the most popular rifle used by the Confederate army. The Confederate army also used the Whitworth rifle, a highly accurate rifle that was used by a sharpshooter to kill Union general John Sedgwick. Some of the other rifles that were used during the war included the Brunswick, Burnside, Colt Revolving, and Henry.


The artillery piece that was most favored during the Civil War was the Napoleon “gun-howitzer”. This muzzle-loading, smoothbore 12-pounder artillery piece was favored by both the Union and Confederate armies. Rifled guns, such as the 10-pdr Parrott and 3-inch Ordnance, and rifled cannons, such as the Whitworth and Armstrong cannons also saw significant use. One of the deadliest weapons that emerged during the war was the Gatling gun. This rapid-fire artillery piece was used by the Union army, and it later inspired the development of the machine gun.

Here are links to more information about Civil War weapons:

  • Weapons of the Civil War: Information about the different weapons that were used during the American Civil War, including small arms, artillery, and edged weapons.
  • Examples of Civil War Weapons: This web page contains descriptions and images of many Civil War weapons.
  • Small Arms of the Civil War: A document that provides an overview of small arms used by infantries and cavalries during the Civil War.
  • Civil War Handguns: Detailed information on many different Civil War handguns.
  • Guns of the Civil War: Articles describing various guns that were used in Civil War combat.
  • Spencer Repeater: Find out how the Spencer Repeating Rifle influenced the outcome of the Civil War.
  • Minie Balls: An interesting article about the Minie Ball, a type of ammunition that was widely used during the Civil War.
  • Civil War Artillery: A discussion on the use of artillery in the Civil War.
  • Gatling Gun: Important facts about the Gatling Gun, one of the most important weapon innovations that emerged during the Civil War.
  • Civil War Weapon Innovations: Learn about the various weapons that were invented during the Civil War.