'Most Iconic Treasure of Early Western History' for Sale

Pat Garrett shot Billy the Kid with revolver that is now going up for auction
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2021 3:29 AM CDT
Gun That Killed Billy the Kid Expected to Sell for More Than $3M
One of the only known photos of Billy the Kid.   (Public domain)

The firearm that ended one of the most famous chapters in the history of the Wild West is expected to sell for millions of dollars at an auction in Los Angeles next month. Sheriff Pat Garrett used the single action Colt revolver to shoot Billy the Kid in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, 140 years ago. The 21-year-old outlaw had been on the run for more than two months after killing two sheriff's deputies while escaping from jail. Garrett took the Colt from a member of the Kid's gang after arresting him. "It was in the hands of both the lawman and the outlaw at various times," Catherine Williamson at Bonhams auction house tells NPR. Bonhams describes the weapon as "the most iconic treasure of early Western history." The starting bid will be $2 million, but Williamson expects it to fetch more than $3 million.

Garrett shot the Kid, whose real name was Henry McCarty, after he entered a darkened room of a home on July 14, 1881, but some historians don't believe McCarty was armed, as Garrett said. "If Billy the Kid had had a gun that night in Fort Sumner, there would have been another dead Lincoln County Sheriff,” Paul Hutton, professor of history at the University of New Mexico, tells the Albuquerque Journal. "If he had had a gun, he’d got Garrett.” For many years, there were rumors that Garrett had actually let McCarty, his former friend, escape. The Aug. 27 auction will also include the double-barreled shotgun McCarty used in his escape from jail and the Springfield rifle that was buried alongside Wild Bill Hickok in 1876, reports Reuters. (In 2010, New Mexico's governor decided against pardoning Billy the Kid.)

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