F.lli Pietta

Weapon test New 12-inch Single Action Revolvers – 1 of 2

Single Action 12-inch Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp would have liked this weapon. F.lli Pietta’s Buntline is the first reproduction of the 12-inch model. The Italian gunsmith has done an exemplary job making a revolver with a standard factory tuned action. This was a very rare weapon in the 1870s, and it would have been difficult to come across a cowboy carrying a Colt with a 12-inch barrel. In any case, anyone who came across Wyatt Earp in the late 1870s would have found him armed with a 10-inch Buntline. (Chisholm’s Trail Leather holster).

In the John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart classic, The Man Who Killed Liberty Valance, publisher Maxwell Scott has the most memorable line in the film: “This is the West, Sir. where if legend becomes fact, legend wins.” As astute as this observation might have seemed in John Ford’s 1962 Western, when it comes to writer Ned Buntline and the long-barreled Colts he apparently would have made and given to the famous sheriff’s Western, the “legend” has become a reality.

The Myth of Earp’s Buntline.

Wyatt Earp is probably the most famous Western personality, if we exclude Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok. No other trio in real life had so many stories written about him or films made about their lives, and each time they were told the stories got darker and darker: randomness of poetic license.

With no record of any agreement between Buntline and Colt to make the first 16-inch models, introduced in 1876, nor any evidence of Colt purchasing guns from famous sheriffs such as Earp, Charlie Bassett, Bat Masterson, Neal Brown, and Bill Tilghman, nor any confirmation that these men ever carried or owned these types of weapons, the Buntline story becomes nothing more than a tall tale.

Considering that Buntline built his early literary reputation on his writings about Buffalo Bill Cody, it seems strange that Buntline never mentioned that he had presented one to Cody, which would have been the most logical choice.

This makes us say that there is no doubt that Colt built the guns that were first shown at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. The original guns are rare beyond any measure of comparison, only 28 are marked as produced in the 1870s with the first shipment of four being shipped to B. Kittredge & Co. of Cincinnati in December 1877. Which automatically nullifies Buntline’s claim to have presented arms to Earp and the others in 1876.

There is, however, some truth in this, which is that Buntline advertising, whether it made them or not, actually prompted Colt to build the “Buntline” model in the 20th century, first in the second-generation line from 1957 to 1975, in both standard and target variants, the last of which was produced from 1962 to 1967; the Wyatt Earp Buntline in 1964; and within the third-generation SAA “New Model” line, the Ned Buntline model introduced in 1979.

Currently the Buntline Special is back in production as part of a commemorative set of two Wyatt Earp/Hugh O’Brian special weapons.

To be able to holster Pietta’s house Buntline, Alan and Donna Soellner of Chisholm’s Trail Leather added two inches to the standard Tombstone rig that was based on the holster worn by Kurt Russell in the film. The design has a drop loop sewn together and a skirt that is not visible.

In his 1976 book, Wyatt Earp & the Myth of the “Buntline Special,” author William B. Shillingberg takes the Buntline story whenever possible to disapprove of any connection between the long-barreled Colt and the sheriff to whom Ned Buntline said he presented it. “It is accepted by many as historical fact that relentlessly liked Wyatt Earp’s real life,” Shillingberg wrote.

“We have been told over and over again that writer Ned Buntline gave these weapons to Earp and four other valiant Dodge City officers in the summer of 1876. Talented journalist Stuart N. Lake, who understood the value of dramatic elements, first published this story [nel 1931] and since then countless people have told it in turn. Dare to question the authenticity of the tale in some quarters and you will be greeted with exclamations of disbelief and shown passage after passage of Lake’s controversial book, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, as an antidote to your madness.”

To add further credibility to the Buntline story, Stuart Lake was the historical consultant on the television show Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp with Hugh O’Brian, which eventually made the Buntline iconic in Old West fiction. The only factual truth is that Wyatt Earp actually owned a Colt Single Action with a 10-inch barrel, one of several variations made to the barrel length by Colt after 1876. Earp never named another long-barreled Colt, and none were found among his possessions at the time of his death in 1929.

In any case, in Lake’s book, Wyatt is quoted, “There was a lot of talk in Dodge City about the special slowdown special that hindered us from drawing (the weapon). Bat and Bill Tilghman cut off a piece of the rods to make them a standard length, but Bassett, Brown and I kept them as they were. Of all of them, mine was my favorite. I could shoot like I could with the old one, and I wore it on my right hip for the duration of my career as a marshal. With it I did most of the work I had to do. My second weapon, which I carried on my left hip, was the classic Colt .45-caliber frontier model, a single-action six-shooter with a seven-and-a-half-inch barrel, the weapon we called the ‘Peacemaker.’

Pietta’s latest Buntlines come out with two new finishes, in polished nickel and with castle and dog in an excellent antique blue with gradient colors. The weapons have the same out-of-the-box action as the rest of the current line of single-action Pietta.

For over 130 years the stories of Wyatt Earp, Ned Buntline, and the Buntline Special revolver have been an inexhaustible source for books, movies, and other stories that cannot be counted. In 1976 author and researcher William B. Shillingberg presented his case to dispel the Buntline myth in a small but detailed 64-page book that analyzes, proves or disproves, all of Ned Buntline and Stuart Lake’s claims about Earp and his guns.

As it turned out, Lake invented much of what was in his book, and Wyatt Earp died two years before it was published. There is no factual evidence to testify that Ned Butline actually met Wyatt Earp, and if he did, it was not in 1876. One thing is certain: both Buntline Special champions were authors looking for a way to make Wyatt Earp more important than he was in real life. And they seem to have succeeded, although Earp certainly did not need them.

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