Saloon customers certainly did carry guns. That was perfectly normal, and would probably be a little bit intimidating to anybody who wasn’t used to it. They also drew them and sometimes fired them, but they didn’t necessarily mean any harm by that. Horace Greeley, who was one of the calmest historians of the Western saloon, observed of its customers that they had a “careless way, when drunk, of firing revolvers, sometimes at each other, and other times quite miscellaneously.”
There’s probably more truth to this than might meet the casual eye. Take this description of a Cowtown saloon where people, just for fun, would shoot the lights:
The “Klondyke”… was the village hot spot and had larger mirrors and bigger hanging kerosene lamps to amuse the cowhands when they got frisky enough to use their guns playfully. The man who owned the Klondyke bought his hanging lamps in large quantities and bought lamp chimneys by the barrel.
Guns were everywhere in the Wild West in a way that would be mind-boggling to us, but conversely if you somehow brought an 1860s cowpoke to a London pub in 2017, his mind would be just as boggled by our casual use of smartphones. Guns were undoubtedly used for murder when murder was called for; but they could just as easily be used to shoot lamps or anything that anybody chose as a target. This frightened and excited the tourists, which is probably why people liked to pull guns on tourists and make them drink or dance or whatever it happened to be. Guns did, though, mean that when a fight broke out it was final. This probably made for fewer fights. One cowhand put it beautifully:
I never got into a fight when I was drinking, only when I was sober and knew what I was doing. Because I was always so happy when I was drinking. I loved everybody and everybody seemed to love me.
Forsyth, Mark. “The Wild West Saloon.” A Short History of Drunkenness. Three Rivers Press, 2017. 197-98. Print.