Did Wyatt Earp carry a Buntline Special? | HistoryNet MENU

Did Wyatt Earp carry a Buntline Special?

7/9/2013 • Ask Mr. History, Gear, OK Corral, Wyatt Earp

I’ve been watching the old western, “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” on TV. There was recently an episode where Ned Buntline gave Wyatt the famous Buntline Special.  Did Wyatt really carry the pistol, and before receiving it did he carry two regular sized Colts?

Thank you.

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The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp was largely based on an “official” biography that was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post by Stuart N. Lake in 1930—he was a consultant for the TV show. A rather exhaustive bit of research by gun aficionado Lee A. Silva has led him to the conclusion that Earp was indeed presented with a 10-inch barreled Colt single-action revolver by the pulp novelist Ezra Zane Carroll Judson, aka Ned Buntline, along with Bat Masterson, Bill Tilghman, Charlie Bassett, and Neil Brown in 1876—with the hope that the special gifts might induce some of them to replace the recently departed William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, “Texas Jack” Omohundro and James B. “Wild Bill” Hickock in one of his stage plays. ? ?Tombstone butcher Apollinar Bauer claimed to have seen Earp use the outsize barreled weapon to buffalo Tom McLaury several hours before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881. Local gunslinger “Buckskin” Frank Leslie is known to have ordered one of the long-barreled weapons in January of that same year, possibly inspired by Earp’s piece. While the 10-inch barrel was good for target shooting and busting heads, however, it was not handy in a gunfight requiring a quick draw, and it is most likely that Earp was using revolvers with the usual 7 1/2-inch barrels at the corral. Earp told Lake that in 1901 he gave his “Buntline Special” to Charlie Hoxsie, his partner in running the Dexter saloon in Nome, Alaska, and that Hoxsie subsequently vanished from the scene, along with the gun.




Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
More Questions at Ask Mr. History


4 Responses to Did Wyatt Earp carry a Buntline Special?

  1. […] Did Wyatt Earp carry a Buntline Special? (historynet.com) […]

    • JOSEPH MITCHELL, SR. says:


  2. Trent says:

    In 1976, historian William B. Shillingberg thoroughly debunked the Wyatt Earp Buntline Special myth. His 15,000 word analysis cites 145 references, many from primary source materials. Stuart N. Lake admitted he fabricated all of Earp’s supposed direct quotes in his book, \Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal,\ and that Earp never dictated a word to him, never saw a word Lake wrote about him, and died two years before the book’s publication. The Colt Company itself never referred to its long-barreled models as \Buntline Specials\ until 1957. See http://www.kancoll.org/khq/1976/76_2_shillingberg.htm.

  3. Arthur Burnside says:

    Apparently Guttman isn’t much of a researcher. Testimony at the hearing after the OK Corral shows one witness being specifically asked which gun Wyatt used and he claimed it was a long, older style pistol – 14 to 16 inches long. The 10 inch Buntline Special was 15 inches long. Buntline almost certainly sent 5 specials to those 5 on Earp’s posse who had hunted down a killer. It had nothing to do with Bufffalo Bill and Buntline sent the pistols – he did not present them himself. And a 10 inch Buntline Special (they were actually produced by Colt as revolver-rifles, with a stock and came in lengths of 10,12, and 16 inches). The 10 inch model was, contrary to Guttmann’s claims, easy to handle and draw. The Buntline Special on the Hugh Obrien show was a 16 inch – the wrong size.

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