Historians, fans and keyboard warriors will forever debate whether Wild Bill Hickok really held pocket aces and eights – a “dead man’s hand” – when he was assassinated by Jack McCall on August 2, 1876. But there’s one thing no one denies about this infamous incident : Wild Bill had a gun on his hip.
Now this gun is up for auction. Rock Island Auction will be accepting bids for Hickok’s famous Smith & Wesson Model No. 2 military revolver, which he allegedly carried at the time of his death. They predict the winning bid will be between $150,000 and $350,000 and the auction will take place between August 26 and August 28, 2022.
Considering its age (and original owner), the weapon appears to be in very good condition.
It is chambered in 32 Rimfire, a now defunct cartridge used in revolvers and rifles in the 19e and 20e centuries. Hickok owned a Model No. 2, and Rock Island includes with the gun excerpts from numerous gun historians and authors who say he was carrying one when he died.
The steel has retained over 50% of its original bluing with strong case colors on the hammer and a smooth gray-brown patina on the scale, according to the lot description. He also notes that the wear on the 6-inch barrel is consistent with being carried as a personal handgun. Grips are “very fine” with light wear, minor scratches and attractive grain.
The revolver features a German silver blade fixed front sight, integral notch front sight, and smooth six-shot cylinder marked with S&W patent dates 1855, 1859, and 1860 around the center.
Hickok owned as many as 50 firearms in his lifetime, according to Ed McGivern, but there’s reason to believe that this particular #2 model was hidden somewhere on his person during that fateful poker game in Deadwood, NY. South Dakota.
The most crucial piece of evidence is found on pages 302 and 303 of Ed McGivern’s book, “Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting”. McGivern was a famously talented revolver shooter in the 1930s, and he visited Deadwood in 1932.
He learned that one of Hickok’s pistols, “a Smith & Wesson”, was in the possession of a woman named Hazel Willoth. Hazel Willoth’s husband, Emil, received the gun from Seth Bullock, who was Lawrence County’s first sheriff and the man likely responsible for investigating Hickok’s death.
“The Willoth pistol is fairly generally established to be one of Wild Bill’s pistols, and all reports seem to support such a claim convincingly,” McGivern says.
The revolver is accompanied by a 2013 affidavit signed by Leona H. Arder of St. Charles, Illinois. In her affidavit, she explains that she knew JoAnn Willoth (Emil Willoth’s granddaughter) personally, and she saw JoAnn give the gun to Arder’s father, Leo Zymetzke. According to Arder, JoAnn gave the gun to Zymetzke because she was an only child with no children and therefore had no immediate family.
Arder’s grandson, Eric Hoppe, attempted to auction the revolver in 2013. However, even though the highest bidder offered $220,000, it did not reach Arder’s private reserve price and the deal failed. Rick Henley, Rock Island’s executive director of acquisitions, told MeatEater that the weapon sold privately at some point after the auction.
You can find more details on the weapon’s provenance on the Rock Island auction page.
Rock Island also sells a Buffalo Bill presentation revolver, which should cost between $40,000 and $60,000. The “Improved New Model Navy” Remington revolver bears the inscription “F. North, from Buffalo Bill” on the back strap and comes with documentation from the descendants of Frank North.
North served in the United States Cavalry with William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, and they later became friends and business partners. The silver revolver features numerous scrollwork, floral and geometric engraving patterns and ivory grips.
Several of Charles Gordon’s firearms are also auctioned. Gordon was a wealthy Scottish landowner in the late 19e and early 20e centuries. He amassed an infamous collection of guns from some of England’s finest gun makers. But he never fired any of them, and many were equipped with outdated technology like flint locks and percussion caps.
He spent more than 10,000 pounds – a small fortune – buying nearly 300 guns during a gun-buying spree between 1868 and 1906, according to Holt’s Auctioneers. He spent so much money on guns that he nearly bankrupted his estate. His stepsisters eventually petitioned a court to take control of his affairs and they sold his guns for pennies on the dollar.
Rock Island Auction is selling three of Gordon’s guns in August: a pair of percussion travel pistols ($11,000-$16,000), an 8-caliber double-barrel percussion duck ($25,000-$35,000) and a 4-gauge double-barreled duck shotgun ($12,000 to $18,000). ).