Virgil’s Six Gun

 

Content courtesy of True West Magazine – check out the original post here http://www.truewestmagazine.com/virgils-sixgun/

 

Virgil’s Sixgun At the Old West’s best-known gunfight, Virgil Earp may have used this state-of-the-art sixgun.

Virgil Earp
Virgil Earp

Although the infamous Gunfight Near the OK Corral is arguably the best known and most written about shootout in the Old West, little is known about exactly which guns were used by the combatants. The only firearms that can be identified with any certainty are the two 7½-inch barreled, .44-40 Colt Single Action Army revolvers used by Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury. These Frontier Six-Shooters were retrieved at the site, right after the fight and were recorded. Identification of any other firearms, such as Wyatt Earp’s sixgun, the shotgun used by Doc Holliday, or the Winchester rifle fired by Tom McLaury, is strictly speculative. There is one gun however, at least in this firearms student’s mind, as well as that of a number of OK Corral aficionados, that quite probably saw action during this legendary fracas. That weapon is Virgil Earp’s sixgun.

Virgil was known to have preferred, and often carried, a Smith & Wesson (S&W) New Model No. 3 revolver, in .44 S&W Russian caliber. It is quite likely that it was this same shooting iron that he had tucked in his waistband when he, as Tombstone’s chief of police and a deputy U.S. marshal, confronted the “cowboys,” and moments later fired during the gunfight.

Although there were several variations of the New Model No. 3 produced—including the Target, Turkish and the Frontier models—based on production dates of the various versions, it would have been the standard model Single Action that Virgil owned at the time of the OK Corral fight. Introduced in 1878, S&W’s New Model No. 3 represented the last of the company’s No. 3 series, and marked the pinnacle of their top-break single-action design. Also referred to in S&W’s 1883 catalog as the “Army Model,” the sixgun retained much of the basic profile of the earlier American, Russian and Schofield revolvers, but with a less-pronounced hump (sometimes called the “knuckle”) at the rear top of the back strap of the grip, along with a redesigned, rounded butt shape (considered by many as the most comfortable large-frame single-action grip style ever produced). While it continued the use of the earlier S&W-style, circular or “bow type” trigger guard, the distinctive hooked or spurred trigger guard, as found on the Second and Third Model Russians, was offered as an option. Another factory offering was an optional attachable shoulder stock.

Although no one knows with any certainty which gun Virgil Earp (above) carried during the infamous Gunfight Near the OK Corral on October 26, 1881, he likely relied on his S&W New Model No. 3, single-action revolver in .44 Russian caliber. Chambered for a number of cartridges, it was eventually offered in more calibers than any other S&W top-break model, including .44 Henry rimfire, .32-40, .320, .38 S&W, .44 S&W American, .45 Schofield, .45 Webley, .450 revolver and more. – Courtesy Rock Island Auction Co. –
Although no one knows with any certainty which gun Virgil Earp (above) carried during the infamous Gunfight Near the OK Corral on October 26, 1881, he likely relied on his S&W New Model No. 3, single-action revolver in .44 Russian caliber. Chambered for a number of cartridges, it was eventually offered in more calibers than any other S&W top-break model, including .44 Henry rimfire, .32-44, .320, .38 S&W, .44 S&W American, .45 Schofield, .45 Webley, .450 revolver and more.
– Courtesy Rock Island Auction Co. –

Internally however, the new Model No. 3 incorporated a number of improved parts, such as a rebounding hammer with a manual half-cock notch (standard on all New Models except those with factory target sights), an improved cartridge extractor mechanism, a shorter barrel extractor housing, and a better cylinder retention mode, which omitted the need for a separate cylinder catch and retaining screw.

This state-of-the-art automatic cartridge ejector (when opened fully) S&W featured the traditional fluted cylinder, and factory finish was either blued or nickel-plated. Barrel lengths varied from a short 3½ inches up to 8 inches, with the 6½-inch barrel being standard. Weighing in at around 2 pounds, 8 ounces with the 6½-inch tube, grips of checkered hard rubber with the S&W monogram logo, or walnut, were standard. With a total of 35,796 standard model No. 3 Single Actions manufactured up until 1912, all of the New Model No. 3’s frames were turned out by 1898, which qualifies them as antiques. However, back when Virgil faced the cowboys that blustery day of October 26, 1881, if he was packing his S&W New Model No. 3, he would have been confident in the knowledge that he was facing danger with one of the most advanced six-shooters of the day!

New Photo of Doc?

Thanks to True West Magazine for this content – check out the original article and more of their great stories at http://www.truewestmagazine.com/new-doc-photo-discovery/

New Doc Photo Discovery? A museum in Silver City believes Doc Holliday can be seen in a local historical photograph.

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Look closely at the street scene from Silver City, New Mexico. Notice the skinny cat standing by the third stagecoach window, right hand in pocket, left hand on lapel. Could that man be John Henry “Doc” Holliday?

He does not appear to be throwing up blood, drunk, cranky or ready to draw down, but the man in the photo certainly resembles the revered gunfighter who participated in the 1881 Gunfight Behind the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.

We know the Earp party, including our favorite tubercular dentist, spent the night in Silver City, New Mexico, on April 15, 1882, while fleeing Arizona after Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Ride. A Wells Fargo historian confirmed that the man sitting atop the coach, holding an envelope, is the Wells Fargo agent in Silver City, G.M. Huffaker. Some historians believe that Wells Fargo was helping Earp evade the law.

The Silver City Museum, which owns this image, sent the photo to us to investigate. A notation in the museum’s collection stated the picture was taken “sometime between May 1881 and September 1882.”

We donned our Pinkerton hats and began poking around.

Old West photo collector Robert G. McCubbin took a look and dumped cold water on the Holliday possibility. Comparing it with the full-length shot of Holliday taken in Prescott, Arizona, he says the mustache doesn’t match and the chin is more pointed in the Prescott photo. He concludes the stagecoach group “could be anyone of that period,” adding that Holliday probably would not have allowed himself to be photographed while on the run.

Gary Roberts, Holliday’s biographer, says, “…while, for historical reasons, I would like this to be a photo of the vendetta posse, I have to conclude that there is insufficient evidence to confirm that it is.”

What about the purported date for this photo? The stagecoach rests in front of the Meredith-Ailman building. Was that bank around in mid-April 1882?

Yes, the bank was around, but the building looked different then. Susan Berry, retired director of the Silver City Museum, helpfully plowed through old newspapers and found evidence that she believes places the photo after April 1882.

 The New Southwest reported that a street lamp was placed in front of a building two doors north of the Meredith-Ailman building in early July 1882. The far right side of the picture shows the street lamp, which wouldn’t have been there in April.

The same newspaper reported, on July 29, the installation of large gilt letters above the doorways on the new iron front of the Meredith-Ailman building. Those gilt letters are present in this photo.

The photo, Berry concludes, was taken no earlier than late July 1882. It probably was shot before November 14, when the bank re-opened, and it was taken before May 11, 1883, when the Higbee building (next door to the bank and hidden by a tree) got a second story.

Although this is a fantastic period photo, our skinny guy is not our famous gunfighter with his posse. Such results can break the hearts of the most stalwart of latter-day Pinkertons. But we won’t give up. Only two confirmed adult photos of Holliday exist and those are not enough for a man of such legend.

We want more and vow to keep looking. If you’re out there, Doc, hold fast. We’ll find you.

Tucson-based Leo W. Banks drinks a toast to Doc Holliday whenever he visits the Palace Saloon in Prescott, Arizona.

The signed photograph of Doc Holliday, taken in Prescott, Arizona, in 1879, is one of four authenticated photographs of the famous dentist. The others show him when he was 20, graduating from dental school, when he was about one or two years old and the last when he was a baby in his mother’s arms. Unfortunately, the below photo will not be added to the list. The man (see close-up, far left) is not our revered gunfighter. – Courtesy Silver City Museum –
The signed photograph of Doc Holliday, taken in Prescott, Arizona, in 1879, is one of four authenticated photographs of the famous dentist. The others show him when he was 20, graduating from dental school, when he was about one or two years old and the last when he was a baby in his mother’s arms. Unfortunately, the below photo will not be added to the list. The man (see close-up, far left) is not our revered gunfighter.
– Courtesy Silver City Museum –