Wild Bill Hickok’s revolver may earn $500K in antique gun auction

SAN FRANCISCO—In its Nov. 18 armor and gun auction, Bonhams is offering a Smith & Wesson No. 2 revolver owned by Wild Bill Hickok that was on him when he was murdered by Jack McCall in Deadwood in 1876.

Bill Hickok revolver

A historic Smith & Wesson No. 2 Old Model Army revolver owned by Wild Bill Hickok and carried by him when he was slain by the coward Jack McCall in Deadwood. Serial no. 29963 for 1864, .32 Rimfire. 6 inch barrel. Blued finish. Varnished rosewood grips. 
Together with an extensive provenance file. Photo courtesy of Bonhams.

Wild Bill Hickok (James Butler Hickok), 1837-1876, is one of the most iconic figures of the Old West. As a lawman, gunfighter and scout, his reputation as possibly the finest shot with a handgun was known far and wide. On Aug. 2, 1876, while playing poker at the Number 10 Saloon in Deadwood, holding the infamous ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ of aces and eights, he was murdered by Jack McCall. Seth Bullock had arrived in Deadwood the previous day and was made sheriff shortly thereafter. As was common at the time, it is quite likely that the deceased Hickok’s effects were held by the sheriff’s office.

The revolver being offered by Bonhams (estimated at $300,000-$500,000) is a fascinating historic piece in .32 rimfire, with a 6-inch barrel, blued finish and varnished rosewood grips, and serial no. 29963. It is on offer with an extensive file of documents backing its provenance, including photocopied reference works stating it is well known that Hickok was carrying a Smith & Wesson No. 2 when he was killed; a photocopy of pertinent pages from Ed McGivern’s book “Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting,” in which McGivern details his visit to Deadwood in 1932 to research Wild Bill’s guns, at which time he saw this gun and notes “The Willoth gun is quite generally established as being one of Wild Bill’s guns, and all reports seem to support such claim convincingly”; and photocopies of various documents about how the gun was passed down through the Willoth family of Deadwood to the present owner’s father.

This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine

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Also included in the November sale, Bonhams Arms & Armor Department is offering the collection of the late Clark R. Hoffman, comprising nearly 100 examples of British military pistols, spanning the 18th and 19th centuries. With many rarely seen types represented, it is sure to garnish a lot of interest. The collection also includes an interesting group of 16th and 17th century armor and helmets.

For more information on the Nov. 18 Antique Arms & Armor and Modern Sporting Guns Auction, or to view or purchase an illustrated auction catalog, visit www.bonhams.com/auctions/21020/.

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