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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
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