Monday, May 24, 2010
What's the truth about the Buntline Special?
The Colt pistol called the Buntline Special was introduced in 1876 -- a .45 caliber SAA with a 12-inch barrel. But the gun didn't gain notoriety until 1931, when Stuart Lake, in his book Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal, wrote that dime novel writer Ned Buntline had commissioned the 12-inch Colts and given them to five frontier marshals whom he respected. The marshals were supposedly Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Neil Brown, Charlie Bassett, and Bill Tilghman.
Colt keeps meticulous records of all guns, serial numbers, and who purchased them. No group of five 12-inch revolvers were sold, and none at all were sold to Ned Buntline, who died in 1886. Furthermore, Buntline never travelled in the west after 1876, the year Wyatt became deputy city marshal of Dodge City, his first job as a lawman.
Movies and TV show Wyatt Earp using a Buntline in the Gunfight at OK Corral. Not so. The gun Wyatt used is on display at thge Wyatt Earp museum in Tombstone, Arizona, and it's not even a Colt. It's an engraved and silver-plated Smith & Wesson American in .44 caliber.
No records exist to prove that any of the other lawmen received Buntlines, either. In fact, Colt's records say that Bat Masterson personally ordered eight Colt's revolvers between 1879 and 1885. None had 12-inch barrels.
Finally, among the famous, Bill Tilghman. George Virgines spoke to Bill's widow, Soe Tilghman, while she was still alive, and she "could not recall her famous husband possessing or mentioning a "Buntline Special" Colt, nor did she ever see such a gun."
Recorded history, not hearsay, indicates that the Buntline Specials were a construct of Stuart Lake's active imagination, as were, it turns out, many of the supposed facts he wrote about Wyatt Earp.