A couple of Wheelgun Wednesdays ago, we talked about the President Ulysses S. Grant’s Remington New Model Army revolvers that are consigned to the upcoming May 2022 Rock Island Premier Firearms Auction. Today, we’ll take a look at another amazing lot found in the same auction catalog, an engraved Colt 1851 Navy revolver that is attributed to another legend of American history – James Butler Hickok better known as Wild Bill Hickok.
Rock Island Auction @ TFB:
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Wild Bill Hickok is one of the most iconic figures of the American Old West. Born in 1837, he lived a life full of adventures with triumphs and tragedies alike. Wild bill has been a soldier, scout, lawman, actor, bodyguard, guide, spy, sharpshooter, gambler and a legendary gunfighter who has mastered the art of the handgun to an unparalleled level. Stories of Wild Bill Hickok’s gunfights are breathtaking. Facing Wild Bill in a gunfight was almost a guaranteed loss for his adversaries, no wonder why the only way Jack McCall could kill him is by cowardly shooting Wild Bill in the back of his head. More details of Wild Bill’s life can be read in this lot’s description.
Colt Model 1851 Navy is a 36 caliber 6-shot percussion revolver, one of the most successful early Colt wheelguns that stayed in production until 1873 with about 270,000 units made. This particular revolver is the serial number 204685, manufactured in 1868. It was once displayed at the Cody Firearms Museum with its sibling, another Colt 1851 Navy (serial number 204672) which is identified as Wild Bill’s revolver. This pair of revolvers is described in “Wild Bill Hickok: Gunfighter” book by Joseph G. Rosa, a copy of which is included in the lot.
In many articles of the era, it is reported that Wild Bill Hickok carried a pair of revolvers. Oftentimes ivory grips are mentioned and in some cases like in the Chicago Tribune article from August 1876 reporting about Wild Bill’s death, Colt 1851 Navy is specified. Additionally, there is an 1869 photograph of Wild Bill Hickok with a pair of ivory gripped Colt 1851 Navy revolvers. Wild Bill Hickok possibly owned multiple pairs of revolvers, however, the similarity with the above-mentioned Cody Firearms Museum specimen and other factors indicate that this must be the second revolver in the ivory gripped engraved Colt 1851 Navy pair that belonged to Wild Bill Hickok.
May 2022 Rock Island Premier Firearms Auction will take place from May 13 to May 15. This Colt 1851 Navy revolver is Lot 3116 and it will be auctioned on the last day, May 15. The estimated price range that this wheelgun is expected to be sold at is $140,000 – $225,000.