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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
According to this article from 1993 Jack McCall used a Colt SAA to kill Wild Bill Hickock in Deadwood in 1876, the same summer as the Custer massacre a few hundred miles west. The article states the serial number was 2079. But, when I look at the list of SAA used by famous folks found on this site I see those in that serial number range were being used by the US Army. I question how a pistol that should have been in a military armory at that time made its way into the hands of Jack McCall. According to what is on the list SAA 2099 was in NY. "This Cavalry revolver was assigned to the NY Militia. It was inspected by Orville W. Ainsworth, the first Principal Sub-Inspector assigned to Colt by the War Department." Is it plausible or probable that Jack McCall had SAA 2079? It seems that would make him a receiver of stolen federal property along with being a murderer.
Are there definitive lists showing where this revolver was supposed to be?

https://www.upi.com/Archives/1993/10/03/UPI-Spot-NewsFeature-Colt-45-that-killed-Wild-Bill-Hickok-to-be-sold-at-auction/4086749620800/
 

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I'd like to see the provenance and it better be good! The riverboat captain noted the serial number of McCalls SAA? IF this happened, suppose 2079 was observed on the cylinder? Not for nothing but why would an arm so connected to the American west be offered at auction in the UK?
 

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The story about the guy being shot in the wrist is very suspicious, I doubt anyone being shot wants to know the serial number of the gun, but at least they did not say McCall used a Buntline.
 

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I'm pretty sure I have a book around here somewhere that shows the SAA supposedly used by McCall and serial number. Whether it's the same as the one mentioned or not I don't know. I looked a little while this morning and can't locate it, but I'll keep looking.

I just read that article and I'm more than a little skeptical. He has a Jesse James Navy? Zeralda sold bushel baskets full of "real" Jesse guns. The Winchester story is just as dubious to me.
 

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In the dark recesses of my memory I seem to recall reading that Jack McCall used a Smith & Wesson Model 1 tip up in .22 caliber. But I have been known to be mistaken.
 

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In the dark recesses of my memory I seem to recall reading that Jack McCall used a Smith & Wesson Model 1 tip up in .22 caliber. But I have been known to be mistaken.
But would a .22 penetrate his head and then into another guy's wrist? But a gun like that seems more likely to me. I think I've read the guy shot Hickok with a "Colt .45" but felt it was a term being used generically. Would a dipsheet loser like Jack McCall have a state of the art new fangled gun like a SAA? Soldiers could have sold their guns and said they lost them, I guess. It's been said Hickock switched to conversions towards the end but in Deadwood he apparently shot his percussion guns every morning then reloaded them.
 

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I think you would have better odds of buying Pancho Villa's Colt on the streets of Tijuana from some guy offering his sister along with it to sweeten deal. As Rick said...anything of any historical importance better have some super provenance to back it up.

The actual gun used to kill Wild Bill is probably lost to history...either it no longer exists or it sits in someone's bedroom drawer and the owner has no idea of its history.
 

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About the only irrefutable provenience would be a report filed by the law enforcement agency stating the serial number of the gun. An example would be, dead outlaw's recovered property included a colt pistol serial number 12345. Another form of provenience would be a will leaving a gun to another including it's serial number. Most other forms are subject to a bit speculation at the least.
 

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... I question how a pistol that should have been in a military armory at that time made its way into the hands of...

I am curious about this as well.

From my understanding, these revolvers were highly sought after and many of them were stolen from the military and sold on the black market. I'm sure more knowledgable people can (and hopefully will) confirm or refute this.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I have read a few of the newspapers of the day and all they have to say is that a revolver or pistol was used, depending on the publication it was in.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
The plot thickens. I just found a newspaper from December 5th, 1876 that goes into detail about the trial of Jack McCall. The pistol is described as a Sharps Improved Revolver, 18 inches in length, with a piece of buckskin sewn around the stock.Elsewhere in the article it was said that the pistol was charged with powder and lead, leading me to believe it was a cap and ball revolver. In another account the witness claimed the revolver was Navy in size, and that the small ball did its dirty work and then penetrated into Capt. Massie's left wrist where it stayed until the day he died in 1910. Flayderman's guide is pretty thorough and I don't see any mention of a Navy-sized revolver made by Sharps. The only Sharps revolver I can find is a .25 caliber six-shooter that would be no more than 9" long and looks nothing like a Navy.

Jack McCall.jpg
 

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According to this article from 1993 Jack McCall used a Colt SAA to kill Wild Bill Hickock in Deadwood in 1876, the same summer as the Custer massacre a few hundred miles west. The article states the serial number was 2079. But, when I look at the list of SAA used by famous folks found on this site I see those in that serial number range were being used by the US Army. I question how a pistol that should have been in a military armory at that time made its way into the hands of Jack McCall. According to what is on the list SAA 2099 was in NY. "This Cavalry revolver was assigned to the NY Militia. It was inspected by Orville W. Ainsworth, the first Principal Sub-Inspector assigned to Colt by the War Department." Is it plausible or probable that Jack McCall had SAA 2079? It seems that would make him a receiver of stolen federal property along with being a murderer.
Are there definitive lists showing where this revolver was supposed to be?

https://www.upi.com/Archives/1993/10/03/UPI-Spot-NewsFeature-Colt-45-that-killed-Wild-Bill-Hickok-to-be-sold-at-auction/4086749620800/
About 10%-20% of Colt SAA production went to civilian markets 1873-76. So #2079 may have been a civilian gun.

But also the military lost many Colt SAA's to theft. An example of that is the frantic order placed by Capt Keys from Fort Davis for about 60 Colt SAA's in 1880. Phil Sheridan took a tour of all western forts about every two years, and Keys did not want to be caught with so many missing guns from his post. I have seen one of these Keys guns -- it was U.S. marked with normal inspection by HN (H. Nettleton).
 

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Odds are it was not a Colt SAA revolver that killed Wild Bill Hickok. I seem to remember reading somewhere it was a Percussion revolver, but not sure how credible the source was. A Smith & Wesson No 2 Army might have been a logical choice as well (cartridge revolver, easily concealable, and fairly common)...
 

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The top Wild Bill researcher was Englishman Joseph G. Rosa.
He did several books on Hickok and his very deep research is used as the standard reference on him.

There was a recent book about Hickok, "Wild Bill" by Tom Clavin, who found a lot of original data on Wild Bill buried undiscovered even by the relentless Rosa in old newspaper archives and city-county records from that time.

Both stated that Wild Bill was shot with a Colt Single Action Army, and of the 6 rounds in the gun only ONE would fire and that's the one that killed Wild Bill.
This was still early days for cartridge firearms, and the ammunition of the day was not as reliable as later. This higher possibility of bad ammo is probably why Will Bill still used his muzzle loading Navy revolvers. He trusted them, and took extreme care in loading and maintaining them.
This was a case of extreme bad luck, that the one good cartridge in the Colt was the one that fired.
Had the hammer dropped on one of the other 5 history would be very different, and McCall would likely be a foot note as another man killed by the famous Wild Bill.

If the gun in question is in England, it's very possible that Rosa tracked it down it and took it home, but the article says otherwise.

The fact that the river boat captain wrote down the serial number is quite probable.
Remember, that Wild Bill was a very famous man and everything about him was of interest. If a man was hit by the bullet that killed such a famous man it would be entirely probable that he'd record details about the gun and the shooting.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
The top Wild Bill researcher was Englishman Joseph G. Rosa.
He did several books on Hickok and his very deep research is used as the standard reference on him.

There was a recent book about Hickok, "Wild Bill" by Tom Clavin, who found a lot of original data on Wild Bill buried undiscovered even by the relentless Rosa in old newspaper archives and city-county records from that time.

Both stated that Wild Bill was shot with a Colt Single Action Army, and of the 6 rounds in the gun only ONE would fire and that's the one that killed Wild Bill.
This was still early days for cartridge firearms, and the ammunition of the day was not as reliable as later. This higher possibility of bad ammo is probably why Will Bill still used his muzzle loading Navy revolvers. He trusted them, and took extreme care in loading and maintaining them.
This was a case of extreme bad luck, that the one good cartridge in the Colt was the one that fired.
Had the hammer dropped on one of the other 5 history would be very different, and McCall would likely be a foot note as another man killed by the famous Wild Bill.

If the gun in question is in England, it's very possible that Rosa tracked it down it and took it home, but the article says otherwise.

The fact that the river boat captain wrote down the serial number is quite probable.
Remember, that Wild Bill was a very famous man and everything about him was of interest. If a man was hit by the bullet that killed such a famous man it would be entirely probable that he'd record details about the gun and the shooting.
I just ordered the Clavin book. Thanks.

Interesting. Does he say how he came to that conclusion? I know the eyewitnesses seemed to have varying accounts and I have not been able to find an 18" long Sharps revolver in any publication.
 

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I'm not up much on the facts regarding Hickock's murder, the bullet penetrated his skull completely and lodged in the wrist of another player at the card table ?
That would certainly rule out the use of a top break S&W .22 rimfire. It had to be something with considerably more power.

I would be curious how whoever claimed that 5 of the six rounds in McCall's gun were defective came to that conclusion. I mean obviously test firing the gun would reveal that but it seems odd that it would occur to anyone to do that at the time. Unless the cartridges showed signs of corrosion or something amiss that would cause someone to decide to fire the rounds.
Deadwood didn't have a forensics expert who would have examined the gun in a lab, test fired it and tagged the bullet and gun as evidence for a future trial I am sure.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I'm not up much on the facts regarding Hickock's murder, the bullet penetrated his skull completely and lodged in the wrist of another player at the card table ?
That would certainly rule out the use of a top break S&W .22 rimfire. It had to be something with considerably more power.

I would be curious how whoever claimed that 5 of the six rounds in McCall's gun were defective came to that conclusion. I mean obviously test firing the gun would reveal that but it seems odd that it would occur to anyone to do that at the time. Unless the cartridges showed signs of corrosion or something amiss that would cause someone to decide to fire the rounds.
Deadwood didn't have a forensics expert who would have examined the gun in a lab, test fired it and tagged the bullet and gun as evidence for a future trial I am sure.
In the accounts that I posted one of the witnesses claim that after shooting Wild Bill, McCall turned the revolver on him and pulled the trigger but the round failed to fire. I could not find anything saying that all of the rest of the rounds failed to fire. I am sure somewhere there is a more detailed testimony.
 
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