There are now more than three hundred million guns in the United States of America alone. At the end of World War II in 1945, the Soviet army was shelling Berlin with 43,000 artillery pieces. So whatever your opinion on how they should be regulated in America, guns have been a gigantic part of human history and sometimes gigantic in general. But since they’re made to be cheap with interchangeable parts, they are almost by design boring and kind of “samey”.
Still, some guns have fascinating stories connected to them that make them historical centerpieces. Some guns were objects of affection for familiar figures in history. Most of all, some guns were so unique and ambitious that they basically became pieces of art. Deadly, deadly art.
Already one of the most famous frontier figures from American history before he was killed at the Alamo Siege, Davy Crockett was in a great position to make any name he gave to his personal possessions famous. In 1803, at the age of 17 he settled on naming his first firearm, a .48 caliber flintlock rifle, “Betsy” after his favorite sister. It was such a deluxe model by the standards of the time that it cost him about three months’ salary. Apparently deciding to brand his guns, Crockett reused that name for the rest of his life. When the Tennessee State Assembly gave him the gift of a .40 caliber flintlock rifle in 1822 for his services to the state, he named that one “Old Betsy.” Later, the Whig Society of Pennsylvania gave him another and he called that one “Pretty Betsy.” This third one is locked away by one of Crockett’s descendants, so it’s not even known for sure what type it is.
This nickname became so pervasive among gun owners that it became something of a cliche. Even at least one artillery piece decades after Crockett died was named Betsy, during the 1900 Chinese Boxer Rebellion. At least one gun magazine writer was known to lament that he wished he never saw another gun with that name.