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Wyatt Earp-Buntline Special

Curley Cole, SASS #56849

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Me and my pop were visitin my Uncle Roy and the subject came up as to weather Wyatt and the other lawdogs ever had the Buntlines. He used to work for the LA Times and spent a good amount of time in the Archives....but most of his reasoning was from Luke Short...he said so.....


I have read a blurb from Lee Silva's book and it appears that he also concludes the Buntlines were in fact the real deal, and not the Reel deal...


So, what do ya think? Do ya have any documentation to support one way or the other....


I honestly would like to know.


then I might have to go back and tell Uncle Roy he was right about the Buntline.....and maybe about the first chapeter of the Bible...haven't got that far yet...


lets hear what ya all think..


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Still conjecture whether Wyatt Earp et al actually received Buntline Specials from Ned Buntline and Colt.

However it is a matter of record that Colt did build several 10" and 12" SAA revolvers , some with detachable stocks and folding rifle sights, and were displayed at

the 1876 Colt firearms display at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.



Wyatt may not have had a Buntline, but I have a few!:D


The moniker Colt Buntline Special came about as the name for Colt's long barelled SAA's primarily by myth and popular history re the Earps.


Also, Ned Buntline( E C Z Judson) was a notorious liar and fact altering reporter and writer of pulp fiction and was partially responsible for building Buffalo Bill into a legend in his own time.


For more on this subject, see here:



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For what it's worth, I have a 2nd Gen SAA that originally shipped with a 12" barrel. I discovered this fact when I had it lettered a few years ago. It was shipped in January, I believe, I don't have the letter handy, of 1973 with a 12 inch barrel. Less than a year later it was back at the Colt factory and shipped to a new address. When I bought it around 2004 it had a 7 1/2" barrel. The letter does not state exactly what was done when the it went back to the factory, I assume the barrel was either cut or replaced at that time.

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I seriously doubt any lawdawg who valued his skin would have used a pistol with a barrel that long.

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I seriously doubt any lawdawg who valued his skin would have used a pistol with a barrel that long.



I agree

However, my Buntlines are surprisingly easy to draw from leather and not substanitally slower(not talking about fast draw or competition)...not much good in confined areas perhaps, but extremely accurate..can't miss at SASS disttances either!Most accurate Colt SAA's I own.


It is also pretty intimidating to look down those 12" 45 colt barrels, i would imagine!

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I seriously doubt any lawdawg who valued his skin would have used a pistol with a barrel that long.
Bob, I have shot with a police Captain for 10 years now. Triple Nickels has had the same revolvers all these years: a Schofield and a Buntline in a Dennis Yoder, may he Rest in Peace, fine, fine rig and is usually in the the top 3 of the Duelist category
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IF Buntline ever gave Earp such a gun, dont you think there would have been

at least ONE photo of the presentation?

Buntline loved publicity, no way he wouldnt have had all sorts of photos.

Where is any mention of such a gun in the newspapers of the time?

these gunslingers liked short barreled Colts for the same reason we do.

A few years back I wanted to have a revolver as much like Earp as possible.

I couldnt even find any evidence of the correct barrel length.

No one can prove a negative. That is simple logic.

The challenge is to YOU to prove that the Buntline Special was really owned

by Wyatt Earp.

Happy hunting.



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That is an excellent point and one I have kinda held most of my life. IF Ned gave a BS (no pun intended) to these five lawdogs, You would think at least one of them would have survived to current times. I find that very interesting.


I would like to see more discussion of the various positions of this issue. It ain't terribly important, but very interesting. To say the least...


keep em comming



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My vote is nay. I think the first time anybody ever heard the term Buntline Special was in Stuart Lake's book. Having said that, Lake wrote several letters trying to run down the truth. So either he believed it was true, or he did a good job running out the fake.


To my knowledge none of the other alleged recipients ever mentioned it. We don't even know if Wyatt really mentioned it. We only have Lake's word for that. Bat Masterson spent the second half of his life as a writer. He wasn't secretive about his adventures out west. I think he would have said something about it if he had gotten one.


Nasty Newt

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For the Defense


Mrs. Addie Borland


was sworn and testified for the defense as follows. I live on Fremont street. A dress-maker by occupation. I live immediately opposite Fly’s house. I saw five men opposite Fly’s house on the afternoon of October 26, leaning against the small house holding a horse, the man with the horse standing outside. I supposed them to be cowboys. I saw four men coming down the street toward them. A man with a long coat walked up to the man with the horse and put a pistol to his stomach, and then the man with the long coat stepped back about three feet. I was sitting in my house at the window when I saw this. Then shooting commenced in a very few seconds after this. I don’t know which party fired first; it was impossible to tell. I was looking at both parties, but no one in particular. I did not know the man with the long coat at the time of the shooting. (Witness points to Doc Holliday as the man with the long coat on.)

Q. Did you notice what kind of weapon he had in his hand? A. It was a very large pistol, dark bronze.

Q. Was it or was it not a nickel-plated pistol? A. It was not a nickel-plated pistol.

Q. Did you see, at the time of the approach of the party on Fremont, any of the cowboys throw up their hands? A. I did not.

Q. Did you hear any conversation or exclamation between the two parties after they met and before the firing commenced? A. I did not, for my door was closed. I continued to look at the parties until the firing commenced, when I got up and went in my back room. The first thing the cowboys did when the other party approached them was to raise up and come out to meet them from the side of the house. I cannot tell how many shots were fired before I left the window. By the time I left the window it looked as if all were shooting. I saw no parties fall by the time I left the window.

Now, it is generally supposed that Doc had the nickel-plated pistol per Johnny Behan's testimony:



For the Prosecution


Sheriff John H. Behan


Was sworn for the prosecution and testified as follows: About 2:30 I was in the barber’s shop and heard of trouble between the Clantons and Earps. I went over to Hafford’s corner. I asked Virgil Earp, the marshal, what was the excitement. He said there was a lot of ----- in town looking for a fight. He mentioned no names. I said to Earp, “You had better disarm the crowd.” He said he would not, but would give them a chance to make a fight. I said, “It is your duty as a peace officer to disarm the parties.” I meant any parties connected with the cow-boys who had arms. Morgan Earp and Holliday were the ones I was talking to at the intersection of Allen and Fourth. Virgil Earp had a shotgun. I saw no arms on the others. I then went down Fourth street to the corner of Fremont and crossed to the opposite side of Fourth street and saw Frank McLowry holding a horse and in conversation with somebody. I told McLowry I would have to disarm him; that there was likely to be some trouble in town and I proposed to disarm everybody that had an arm. He said he would not give up his gun; that he didn’t intend to have any trouble. I insisted. About that time I saw Ike Clanton and Tom McLowry down the street below Fly’s building. I said to Frank, “Come with me.” We went to where Ike Clanton and Tom McLowry were standing. I said to them, “Boys, you must give up your arms.” Billy Clanton and William Claiborne, alias Billy the Kid, were also there. Frank McLowry demurred. Ike Clanton told us he was unarmed. I put my arm around his waist and found he was not armed. Tom McLowry pulled his coat open and showed he was not armed. I saw five standing there and asked how many there were of their party. They said four. Claiborne said he was not one of them; that he was there wanting them to leave town. I said, “Boys, you must go up to the sheriff’s office, lay aside your arms, and stay till I get back.” I told them I was going to disarm the other party. At that time I saw Earps and Holliday coming down the south side of Fremont street. They came by the post-office and Bauer’s shop. I mean Morg Earp and Doc Holliday. I said to the Clanton party, “I see them coming down; wait here; I will go up and stop them.” I walked twenty-two or twenty-three steps up street and met them as they were coming out from under the awning of Bauer’s shop, and told them not to go any further, that I was there for the purpose of disarming the Clanton party. They did not heed me. I said, “Go back; I am not going to allow any trouble if I can help it.” They brushed past me, and I turned and went with them or followed them, expostulating. When they arrived within a few feet of the Clantons and McLowrys, I heard one of them say, I think it was Wyatt Earp, “You s—s of b----s, you have been looking for a fight, and now you can have it.” About this time a voice said, “Throw up your hands.” During this time pistols were pointed. I saw a nickel-plated pistol in particular. It was in the hands of the Earp party, I think Doc Holliday. It was pointed, I think, at Billy Clanton. I am not certain that Holliday had it. When order was given to “throw up your hands,” I heard Billy Clanton say, “Don’t shoot me; I don’t want to fight.” At the same time, Tom McLowry threw open his coat and said, “I have nothing,” or “I am not armed,” or words to that effect, making the same remark and gesture he had previously made to me. I don’t remember the position of Billy Clanton’s hands. My attention was directed on the nickel-plated pistol for a couple of seconds. The nickel-plated pistol was the first fired, and almost instantaneously came two shots right together. Two first shots could not have been from the same pistol; they were too close together. The nickel-plated pistol was fired by the second man from the right. After the first two or three shots were fired very rapidly, the firing was general. The first two shots were fired by the Earp party. I thought the next three shots came from the same side, but was not certain. It is only my impression. After the words “throw up your hands,” immediately the nickel-plated pistol went off. I saw Frank McLowry with one hand to his belly and with his right hand shooting toward Morgan Earp. As he started across the street, I heard a couple of shots from the direction in which Frank McLowry went. I looked and saw him running and a shot was fired and he fell over on his head. I heard Morg Earp say, “I got him,” There may have been a couple of shots afterward, but that was the end of the fight. I did not see the effect of the two first shots that were fired; the only parties I saw fall were Frank McLowry and Morgan Earp. I saw no effects from the next three shots. The first man I thought was hit was Frank McLowry. I saw him staggering and bewildered shortly after the first five shots. I never saw any arms in the hands of anybody of the McLowry party except Frank McLowry and Billy Clanton. I saw Frank McLowry on the sidewalk a few feet from the line of the front of the lot. I think that eight or ten shots had been fired before I saw arms in the hands of any of the McLowry or Clanton party. Frank McLowry was the first man in whose hands I saw a pistol. After the first few shots, Ike Clanton broke and ran. I saw him at the back corner of Fly’s house running into the back building.

When Ike Clanton broke and ran I did not know where he went. I found him afterward in Emanuel’s building on Tough Nut street. I saw a shot-gun with Holliday before the fight commenced, as they were coming down the street. He had it under his coat. I did not see the gun go off, and if I heard the report I did not distinguish it from a pistol. I afterward examined Billy Clanton, before he died, as he was lying in the street. After he was taken in the house all I heard him say was to go away and let him die. I saw him when he was lying on the sidewalk, and saw him when he shot Morgan Earp. A number were in the room when Billy Clanton was carried in. Dr. Gilberson said it was no use to give him anything. I left before Billy Clanton died. He was gasping when I left. Tom McLowry’s body was in the same room.


The order of shooters is still controversial but it is believed Virgil was on the left with Wyatt to his right, Morgan next and Doc on the far right. That would give Morgan the nickel-plated gun (according to Behan) and perhaps Wyatt with the large bronze gun. Doc had a shotgun so there is no reason to believe he would have led off with a pistol, nickel-plated or otherwise, because he wasn't healthy or large and holding the shotgun in one hand would have been difficult. The point is that Mrs. Borland saw a very large gun and it wasn't in Doc's hand (shotgun) and it wasn't the nickel-plated gun that Morgan probably had. Probably Wyatt's. There you go, all cleared up.

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A little more reading on the Special, does it convince ya one way or the other?






"Your wife just called. She said not to get excited. There is plenty of time for you to get home and get cleaned up." I was working the night shift in a factory, going to college in the day time, and we were expecting our first child. I, of course, did get excited as I hurried home. "Relax. There is plenty of time. Take a shower, sit down and watch Wyatt Earp, and it will probably be time to go."


Hugh O'Brian rapped a couple of malcontents of Dodge City along side the head with his 12" barreled Colt Single Action Army .45 Buntline Special that night and I was the happy father of a beautiful baby girl. To this day, the Buntline Special always brings back pleasant memories of those tough but rewarding days.


That was 1960 and the Buntline Special was just one of many out of the ordinary run of six-shooters used by various heroes of the small screen. In this day of mindless sitcoms, it is hard to realize that in the 1950's and '60's, the Western ruled the airwaves. Every night of the week, ABC, CBS, and NBC competed for viewers with horse opera after horse opera.


Wyatt Earp wasn't the only one to use a Buntline Special. John Payne as Vint Bonner in The Restless Gun carried a normal 4 3/4" Civilian or Gunfighter Model Colt Single Action Army .45 in a typical fast draw holster that was so popular in Westerns of that time. His .45, however, was quite special. When a long range weapon was needed, Vint simply unscrewed the short barrel, reached into his saddle bags, took out a long barrel, replaced the short barrel, added a shoulder stock, and he had a Buntline Special. He did all of this in the field, with no tools, and often while under fire.


In the early episodes of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Hugh O'Brian used what was made to appear like a homemade holster for his Buntline Special. It hung on the right side drop loop of his double set of Arvo Ojala Fast Draw holsters. The barrel protruded well below the bottom of the holster proper which carried a long shank resulting in the barrel of the .45 Colt being well below the knees of Wyatt. Later an Arvo Ojala holster would take the place of the home-made rig. It would have a longer drop on it than the normal Hollywood Fast Draw holsters with the result still being the Buntline Special hanging well down the leg of Hugh O'Brian as Wyatt.


Hugh O'Brian's portrayal of Wyatt Earp was patterned after the Wyatt Earp from Stuart Lake's 1931 biography Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshall. In fact, Lake served as consultant on the T.V. series. Lake spent a lot of time with Earp prior to the old lawman's death in Los Angeles in 1929. Lake writes of Earp and the Buntline Special:


"Meanwhile, the fame of Wyatt Earp was spreading beyond the ken of those for whom he solved problems of law and order and the word of his prowess brought Ned Buntline (E. Z. C. Judson) to Dodge. Buntline's prolific pen furnished lurid tales of life on the plains for consumption by any effete world that dwelt east of the Mississippi River and which, in the seventies, demanded that its portraits of Western characters be done in bloody red. Buntline's outstanding literary achievements had been to make William Cody, a buffalo-hunter, into the renowned 'Buffalo Bill', and from the exploits of Wyatt Earp and his associates he now obtained material for hundreds of frontier yarns, few, authentic, but many of the bases of fables still current as facts.


Buntline was so grateful to the Dodge City peace officers for the color they supplied that he set about arming them as befitted their accomplishments. He sent to the Colt's factory for five special forty-five caliber six-guns of regulation single-action style, but with barrels four inches longer than standard--a foot in length--making them eighteen inches over all. Each gun had a demountable walnut rifle stock, with a thumbscrew arrangement to fit the weapon for a shoulder-piece in long range shooting. A buckskin thong slung the stock to belt or saddle-horn when not in use. The walnut butt of each gun had the word 'Ned' carved deeply in the wood and each weapon was accompanied by a hand-tooled holster modeled for the weapon. The author gave a 'Buntline Special'-- as he called the guns -- to Wyatt Earp, Charlie Bassett, Bat Masterson, Bill Tilghman, and Neal Brown."


The 'standard' barrel length referred to would be 7 1/2", the original length of the Colt Single Action Army when it appeared in 1873, just three years prior to the Buntline appearing. Forty years ago, as a teenager with quick moves and reflexes (at least quicker than now), I spent a lot of time practicing a fast draw with a pair of 7 1/2" Colt Single Action Army .45's. It is possible, as I did, to get very fast with these long-barrel sixguns, however, I was using Hollywood style Fast Draw holsters with drop loops on the belt and a long shank on the holster to get the gun low for easier drawing.


Earp would not have had such an outfit only having access to holsters of the period. Namely relatively high riding Mexican style holsters that threaded on the cartridge belt. He is quoted by Lake as saying: "There was a lot of talk in Dodge about the specials slowing us down on the draw. Bat and Bill Tilghman cut off the lengths of the barrels to make them standard length, but Bassett, Brown, and I kept ours as they came. Mine was my favorite over any other gun. I could jerk it as fast as I could my old one and I carried it at my right hip throughout my career as marshal. With it I did most of my six-gun work I had to do. My second gun, which I carried at my left hip, was the standard Colt's frontier model forty-five caliber, single-action six-shooter with the seven-and-one-half-inch barrel, the gun we called 'the Peacemaker'."


Five years later we find Wyatt Earp in Tombstone at the O.K. Corral. Did he have his Buntline Special in the streets of Arizona? Of the five major motion picture made incorporating this event with Wyatt being portrayed by Henry Fonda, Burt Lancaster, James Garner, Kurt Russell, and Kevin Costner, none show the Buntline Special being used by Earp at the fabled shootout. In the movie TOMBSTONE, Kurt Russell uses a long-barreled sixgun, but the inscription on the grip as he retrieves it from its special case reads that it has been presented to Wyatt Earp by the grateful citizens of Dodge. It also appears to be a 10" rather than a 12" barreled sixgun. Note also that Wyatt starts his "Time of Reckoning" carrying the "Buntline" in a crossdraw mode and ends it with the long barreled sixgun carried on the strong-side. What does Lake say about it?:


"Fast as the two rustlers were getting into action from a start with guns half-drawn, Wyatt Earp was deadlier. Frank McLowery's bullet tore through the skirt of Wyatt's coat on the right, Billy Clanton's ripped the marshal's sleeve, but before either could fire again, Wyatt's Buntline Special roared; the slug struck Frank McLowery squarely in the abdomen, just above his belt buckle."


Lake is not the only one to write of Earp and his Buntline Special. Noted arms collector John S. du Mont adds more information in an article in the April 1955 issue of The American Rifleman.


In 1876, the Centennial Year, an exposition was held in Philadelphia and one of the exhibitors was the Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company. Ned Buntline was there covering the event for the New York Weekly. The display featured long barreled Colt Single Action Army pistols first produced in 1876. Of this du Mont says: "While Ned Buntline would like us to believe that he was the originator of these guns, it is apparent that his first sight of them was at the Colt exhibit. It is well to bear in mind that Buntline was not always a believer in the strict factual truth where a good story was concerned."


Also according to du Mont: "Wyatt Earp's Buntline Special continued to be his pet side arm right through his lifetime. He even wore it while referring the Sharkey-Fitzsimmons boxing match in San Francisco, December 2, 1896, and was fined $50 for doing so!"


What happened to Earp's Buntline Special? Somewhere along the line I recall reading that Earp carried his Buntline Special on the front seat of his Model T in later years. Supposedly it was loaned to a friend delivering mail in Nome Alaska and was thrown overboard during a storm to lighten the mail carriers small whaleboat. That means it now lies at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean!


Did Ned Buntline actually present five Buntline Specials to Earp, Masterson, Bassett, Brown, and Tilghman? Probably not. Did Wyatt Earp really use his Buntline throughout his career as a lawman? Possibly.


In the 1870's Colt cataloged standard barrel lengths, however, offered lengths longer than 7 1/2" at $1.00 per inch. Much valuable information is given in A Study of the Colt Single Action Army by Graham, Kopec, and Moore (Taylor Publishing, 1976). This excellent book also pictures two original long-barreled Colt Single Actions, Buntline Specials, with a 12" and a 16" specimen with folding rear sights in their flat top straps. Skeleton stocks are also pictured.


That latter aspect of the Buntline Specials is quite interesting. These stocks were steel and simply formed the outline of a shoulder stock. During the days of the percussion sixguns, the stocks were walnut. Stuart Lake says that Buntlines presented to the five Dodge City peace officers were walnut instead of the proper steel skeleton stocks that were provided with the long barreled Colt Single Action Army sixguns.


In trying to trace Buntline Specials through factory records we run into the problem of just what is a Buntline Special. Does any length of 10" or 12" or more constitute a Buntline, or does a Buntline have to have the folding rear sight to be classified as a Buntline Special?


According to Graham factory records show several shipments of long barreled revolvers without the folding rear sight. When it comes to revolvers with the flat top straps and folding rear sights, Graham pins down the serial number range to that of 28,800 to 28,830, a total of 31 revolvers with only 18 recorded in the factory records. Of these, four are not listed by barrel length, 10 are 16" sixguns, one is a 12", and three are 10" barreled specimens. Three others have been found with what is considered to be 16" barrels. All of the sixguns save three are in .45 Colt chambering. The exceptions are all .44-40's. As one can see we already have a problem with Stuart Lake's having Buntline present five identical long barreled sixguns to the peace officers of Dodge City as there are not five 12" Buntlines found in this serial number range let alone five being shipped in 1876.


The first sixguns to leave the factory in the above noted serial number range occurred in 1876 which jibes with the Ned Buntline-Wyatt Earp timing. Four 16" examples left the Colt factory in December of 1877 and five more came forth in March of 1778. All of these went to B. Kittredge and Co. The first recorded 10" and 12" examples left the factory in 1878, and the last recorded long barreled sixgun, a 16" 'carbine' exited the Hartford plant in 1884.


There is no factory record of five long barreled sixguns going to Ned Buntline in 1876. Does that prove the Buntline Specials were never presented to the five peace officers in Dodge City by Buntline? No. It simply proves that there is no written proof that this occurred. Even today with all our modern computers, as anyone who has ever had to deal with red tape or bureaucracy can attest, records are not always complete. Serial numbers often get mixed up, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. As an example of this, witness the fact that the last serial number assigned to the pre-War Colt Single Actions, those prior to 1941, did not leave the Colt factory until 1972! More than 30 years late as well as 16 years after the advent of the post-War Second Generation Single Actions.


Could Buntline have ordered five sixguns with extra long barrels without the rear sight feature? Could he have ordered these guns through a distributor? Could they have been shipped without being recorded as to their barrel length? All of this is possible.


Did Wyatt Earp have a long barreled sixgun at the O.K. Corral, or even in Tombstone? Earp arrived in Tombstone in December of 1879. Graham records the following letter to the Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company dated January 14th, 1881: "Gentlemen I want a pistol as follows. Colts Frontier Model to take Winchester Cartridges 44 Cal.. the revolver to have a twelve (12) inch barrel, browned, superior finished throughout with carved ivory handle, also send scabbard or belt with everything complete for carrying & cleaning the Pistol answer soon as convenient, stating price and when I can have Pistol by Wells Fargo & Cos. and oblige." What makes this letter significant is that it is signed by Capt N.F. Leslie, known in history as Buckskin Frank Leslie, Box 28, Tombstone Arizona Territory. Did Buckskin see Wyatt's Buntline and want one of his own?


Lake records Earp as saying he could jerk the Buntline Special as fast as his original .45. Speed, of course, is relative. Earp did not have to be fast by today's standards only faster than his peers. In 1957, still a teenager, I bought a "Buntline Special". It was not original of course, simply a pre-War Colt Single Action re-barreled with a 12" barrel. I practiced fast draw with that sixgun using the type of holster that would have been available to Wyatt. I am about the same height as Wyatt Earp, but I found to be able to jerk that sixgun fast, I had to drop my right leg forward and point the knee to the floor to be able to get the long barrel out of the leather. Can you visualize a gunfighter going through such acrobatics? One thing I did learn from this is that if I was going to a gunfight, I would much prefer the short barreled sixgun over the Buntline Special. The 4 3/4" Single Action is probably the fastest from leather for most sixgunners; the 7 1/2" model balances best for me for shooting. The 12" Buntline Special is the hardest to draw and also the worst for shooting off-hand.


Would a savvy lawman actually carry a long-barreled sixgun such as this one and then proclaim that it didn't slow him down at all? Try to visualize Wyatt Earp walking around Dodge City or Tombstone carrying a 7 1/2" .45 on the left hip and a 12" .45 on the right hip. Now try to get an image of him actually drawing the long barreled sixgun. Go a little further and try to visualize Earp sitting at a card table so armed.


Wyatt Earp did indeed go armed when he refereed the Sharkey -Fitzsimmons fight. He entered the ring, took off his coat, and there was his sixgun. The Los Angeles Times reported on December 11, 1896 that Earp was fined the minimum amount of $50 for the infraction. Earp said he carried his sixgun for protection as some from his Arizona days had vowed to kill him and he also worked the race track and was out late at night. Now I can certainly see carrying a single action sixgun concealed under a coat for protection. But a sixgun with a 12" barrel?


In another movie concerning Wyatt Earp, Sunset, James Garner as the aging lawman plays the part of the consultant on a Tom Mix movie about Wyatt Earp. He is often asked; "Is that really the way it happened?" to which he always replied: "Just like that, give or take a lie or two." Perhaps this was the closest to the truth of all Wyatt Earp movies and T.V. shows.


Colt never did refer to their long barreled sixguns of the period as Buntline Specials. Their Single Actions were never officially dubbed Peacemakers either. It was simply the Model P. In 1957 they did tie into the legend of the long barrels with the introduction of the Second Generation Buntline Specials. Instead of the standard barrel marking of "COLT SINGLE ACTION ARMY .45" on the left side of the barrel, all of these modern long barreled .45's are marked "COLT BUNTLINE SPECIAL .45". They are in the same serial number range as other Single Action Army Models however, the early Buntline Specials are numbered on the barrel in front of the cylinder pin also. According to Don Wilkerson's The Post-War Colt Single-Action Army, 1650 Buntlines were produced in 1958, while a total of 4000 blued and 65 nickeled specimens were manufactured totally from 1957 until the last one left the factory in 1974. All Second Generation Buntlines, save one, a 16" model, are 12" barreled .45's. According to George Garton, author of Colt's SAA Post-War Models, 72 Second Generation New Frontier 12" Buntlines were produced, as well as three additional nickel plated but engraved standard Buntline Specials.


It is interesting to note that Buntline Special #15349SA was presented by Colt to a Las Vegas Police Officer in 1959. The officer's name was Walter R. Earp, Jr., a grand nephew of Wyatt Earp. It is also interesting to note the presence of the Buntline Special in the Third Edition of The Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading. The test gun for the reloading data on the .45 Colt is a Bat Masterson/Bill Tilghman style of Buntline Special. The barrel has been cut to 4 3/4"!


The early sales success of the Buntline Special by Colt apparently influenced Ruger. In 1957, two consecutive serial numbered Ruger .44 Flat Tops, #5000 and #5001, were produced with 15" barrels. In 1959, Ruger began producing 10" "Buntline Special" type Flat Top .44 and .357 Magnums with about 1000 of each being manufactured before the end of the Flat Tops in 1963. The Old Model Ruger Blackhawks, produced from 1963 to 1973 were never cataloged with 10" barrels. However, Ruger New Model .44 Magnums are routinely produced in both blue and stainless versions with 10 1/2" barrels. They have been very popular with silhouetters and hunters.


In 1974, Colt stopped production of the Second Generation of Colt Single Action Army sixguns only to return in 1976 with the Third Generation. The latter are marked by a different hammer profile, the lack of a full length cylinder bushing, and a re-designed cylinder ratchet and hand. For some reason known only to Colt, they changed the threads on the barrels cutting off the supply of barrels for all those Colts manufactured from 1873 to 1974 that might be in need of new barrels.


During the first phase of the Third Generation Colts, both Single Action Army and New Frontier Models were available as Buntlines. Today, both the Buntline Special and the New Frontier seem to be a thing of the past with only standard Colt Single Action Army Models being produced in both blue and nickel versions in 4 3/4" and 5 1/2" barrel lengths and in calibers of .38-40, .44-40, and .45 Colt. We keep hearing rumors of 7 1/2" barrels again but I have not seen any.


Buntline Specials may no longer be produced by Colt but they are available. United States Patent Firearms, which occupies the old Colt Armory, is offering Buntline Special replicas. USPFA sixguns are made of Italian parts assembled in this country and beautifully finished.


The Buntline Special is not a very practical sixgun in its 12" barreled Colt Single Action Army .45 version. It is however a piece of history and a lot of fun to shoot. How much a piece of history remains a mystery. It seems that quite often Old West chroniclers subscribed to the credo "When truth differs from the legend, print the legend."

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