Originally featured in Points West magazine in Summer 2019
Wild Bill Hickok’s Revolver
James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok’s (1837–1874) pair of ivory-handled revolvers were as legendary as he was. Three years after Jack McCall shot Hickok in the back as he was playing cards in Deadwood, South Dakota, an 1879 story in the Cheyenne, Wyoming, Daily Leader noted that the pistols were made expressly for Hickok. “A bullet from them never missed its mark,” the paper said. “Remarkable stories are told of the dead shootist’s skills with these guns. He could keep two fruit cans rolling, one in front and one behind him, with bullets fired from these firearms.” Contemporaries often said that they could prevail against Hickok in a shooting contest, but he was essentially unbeatable in an actual gunfight due to his calm demeanor and poise.
The Center is fortunate to have one of Hickok’s Colt Navy revolvers in its Buffalo Bill Museum collection. It had been sold to help pay for his burial expenses. It was later purchased for a mere twenty-five cents!
Colt Navy revolver, .36 caliber. Gift of Florence Jenkins and the Donald Becker Family. 1.69.6284.1