Gun that killed Billy the Kid sells for $6 million

The gun used by Sheriff Pat Garrett to kill Billy the Kid on July 14th, 1881, sold at auction Friday for $6,030,313. In brisk bidding from around the world, the Colt .44 revolver blew past the pre-sale estimate of $2-3 million to set a new auction sale record for a firearm.

The six million dollar gun was actually on Billy’s side at first. It belonged to Billy Wilson, one of the Kid’s gang, when Pat Garrett captured the surviving members of the gang at Stinking Springs on December 23rd, 1880. Garrett confiscated Wilson’s Colt and his Winchester rifle and used them in the line of duty. Billy the Kid was brought to trial and sentenced to death on April 13th. Fifteen days later, he escaped from Lincoln County courthouse jail killing two deputies on his way out. Garrett tracked Billy the Kid to the Pete Maxwell ranch in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, and shot him to death.

The Winchester rifle Garrett took from Wilson was also part of this auction, as were two of the weapons Kid stole during his escape from the Lincoln County Courthouse: the shotgun he took from Deputy Bob Olinger and then used to kill him, and a Winchester 73 he stole from the open armory on his way out the door.

Another famed weapon belonging to an icon of the West was also sold at this auction: Wild Bill Hickok’s trusty Springfield Trapdoor rifle that was buried with him in Deadwood after his murder by the coward Jack McCall in 1876. It is the only firearm thoroughly authenticated as having belonged to James Butler Hickok. His name (“J.B. Hickock”) is carved on the left side of the stock, his monogram (“JB”) on the right.

Deadwood’s expansion collided with Wild Bill’s resting place in 1879. The town’s first cemetery, Ingleside Cemetery, was cleared of its dead and became the Ingleside neighborhood. All the exhumed remains were moved to the new Mount Moriah Cemetery. Hickok’s body was moved by four men, including Bill’s old friend Charlie Utter and the rifle was not reburied. Soon thereafter it was in the possession of one John Bradley of Spearfish, South Dakota, who used it for years. It stayed in the family until 1993 when it was sold to Jim Earle.

The pre-sale estimate for Wild Bill’s rifle was  $150,000-$250,000. It sold for $475,312 more than double the high end of the estimate.

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