Famed Outlaw and Gunfighter John Wesley Hardin claimed to have killed 42 men from 1868 to 1877. He even was reported to have been firing bullets through a bedroom wall and ceiling of a Hotel, simply to stop the snoring of a stranger in the next room. He killed that stranger as Abilene Marshal "Wild Bill" Hickok rushed to the scene, as Hardin successfully escaped.
In August of 1895, El Paso lawman, John Selman Jr., arrested John Wesley Hardin's friend, the widow M'Rose (or Mroz), for "brandishing a gun in public." Hardin confronted Selman, and the two men had a verbal dispute. On being told of the argument, John's 56-year-old father, John Selman Sr., a constable, approached Hardin on the afternoon of August 19, 1895, and the two men exchanged words. Later that night, Hardin went to the Acme Saloon, where he began playing dice. Shortly before midnight Selman Sr. walked in, saw Hardin with his back to him, and shot him in the back of the head, killing him instantly. As Hardin's body lay on the floor, Selman reportedly fired three more shots into Hardin.
From the book "Famous Firearms of the Old West: From Wild Bill Hickok's Colt Revolvers to Geronimos Winchester, Twelve Guns that Shaped our History" The Outlaw John Wesley Hardin frequently carried both the "Lightning" and the "Thunderer" versions of the Colt 1877 revolver.
Court records show that John Wesly Hardin was carrying a Colt Lightning Model 1877, serial number 84304 and an Elgin watch, serial number 4069110, when he was shot and killed on August 19th, 1895. Per the article "Hardin’s Hardware: The Texas shootist loved his Colts and Smith & Wessons." True West Magazine: 07/01/2006, The Colt Lightning Model 1877, and another Colt 1877 revolver, known as a "Thunderer," in .41 caliber, owned and used by Hardin to rob the Gem Saloon, was sold at auction. Selling price for the two handguns were $168,000 for the Colt Lightning, and $100,000 for the Colt Thunderer. The Colt "Thunderer" can be seen at this link: Old West Gun Collectors.
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A couple of corrections. Wes Hardin did not shoot a sleeping man. A sleeping man was shot--but by Joshua 'Brown' Bowen, Hardin's brother-in-law. The incident took place in Gonzales County, Texas, not in Kansas. When Wes was captured by Sgt. John Armstrong of the Texas rangers in 1874, his in-laws tried to get him to confess to the 'snoring man' murder to save his brother-in-law's life. He refused. His in-laws then began to claim Wes, not Brown, shot the sleeping man. They also tried to get Wes's wife, Jane, to divorce him & to change his 3 children's name from Hardin to Bowen. When she refused they disowned her & their grandchildren. She lived on the charity of Wes's close friend, Fred Duderstadt, on his ranch in Gonzales County until she died in a tragic fire just months before Wes was pardoned & released from prison.
Joshua Bowen was captured, tried, convicted of the 'snoring man' murder, & hanged in Gonzales County, in the old Gonzales County jail's execution chamber. A replica of the gallows from which he was hanged is in that chamber today. The jail is a museum now.
Wes carried both a .38 & a .41 M1877 DA Colt in shoulder holsters made for him by El Paso Saddlery. They still have the patterns for the holsters they made for Wes. According to his El Paso landlady, he practiced constantly with the guns, pulling and dry-firing them in his rooms. She said they 'Sounded like a rattle machine' (typewriter) when he was practicing with them.
Wes was not shot in the head. What appears to be a head wound in the death photo is where he struck his head on the bar when he fell. He was shot twice, in the upper left back. The coroner's jury report says "Had he been shot from in front we would call it excellent marksmanship. As he was shot from behind, we must call it excellent judgement." Less than a week later George Scarbrough killed John Selman, Sr.
Apparently Hardin, Scarbrough, Selman, & at least 1 other person set up Martin M'roz to be killed on the report that he was carrying something on the order of $6000 on his person. He was shot on a bridge coming from Juarez to El Paso. Selman was not present at the actual shooting but was supposedly entitled to a cut of the money. Either M'roz was not carrying the money when he was shot or Selman was cut out of his share. He went after the other 3 men. Hardin was 1st. Scarbrough, realizing Selman would go after him next, shot Selman before he had the chance.
The would-be pants thievery is mentioned in Hardin's autobiography.
For more details on Charles Couger and his death, check out Leon Metz's fine biography on Hardin called THE DARK ANGEL OF TEXAS, I believe.
My machine is a dinosaur. I have no way to post a picture. The pistol is on display at our county museum here, along with an original copy of Hardin's autobiography. It was originally published here in Seguin by the direct ancestor of the Seguin Gazette, our sort-of-daily newspaper--Tuesday thru Friday, then a Sunday edition.
There are actually two errors in Leon Metz's biography of Hardin, JOHN WESLEY HARDIN, DARK ANGEL OF TEXAS. One is a picture caption. He captioned it 'Texas State Police officers.' It's actually a photo of troopers from either the 9th or 10th Cav together with a black infantryman from either the 24th or 25th Inf. The other is attributing Jane Bowen Hardin's deat to tuberculosis. Jane died in a fire in the house Wes's friend, Fred Duderstadt, built for her and the children on his ranch after her folks disowned them. Tragically, she died only a few months before Wes was pardoned and released from prison. This was confirmed to me by the late Ernst Duderstadt, Fred's nephew. He heard the story from his Uncle Fred many times.
Just for the reecord, Colt did not appy the name Frontier to the .44-40 SAA, nor did it apply the names Lightning & Thunderer to the .38 & .41 M1877 DAs. Those names were applied by Hartley & Graham of NY, one of the largest wholesalers of Colt products in the 19th & early 20th centuries. All .44-40 SAAs & M1877 DAs with the 'name' barrel markings--& all M1878 DAs in .44-40 (barrel marking 'New Frontier')--were originally wholesaled by Hartley & Graham. H&G apparently had Colt apply the marks to guns it ordered, but not to guns going to other wholesalers. H&G probably trademarked the names. In the event H&G's records exist somewhere they could be valuable in tracing a specific weapon. If they do, they'll be in an archive somewhere in NY.
The 'name' marks are found on the left side of the barrel, all in caps. The one on the .44-40 DA I saw read COLT'S NEW FRONTIER SIX-SHOOTER. It was a 5.5" barrel, so the mark took up most of the left side of the barrel.
A few years back I made the mistake of actually trying to shoot a Colt 1878 DA in .45 Colt cal. It's not something you want to do more than once.
I used modern web-head cases loaded with 33.5 gr of 3F (I couldn't get a full 40-gr chg into modern cases & still seat slugs) & 255 gr semi-flat-noses. The DA trigger-pull on that thing was unlike any DA I'd ever fired before. There's no slack or overtravel. However, the trigger is incredibly stiff. I had no way to weigh it at the time, but I'd estimate the pull at between 18 & 20 lbs. In rapid fire, even if you have strong wrists & big hands, the muzzle 'wanders' because of the effort needed to pull the trigger. In addition, the bird's-head grip is so poorly designed that all the recoil hits the web between your thumb & trigger finger. None of it goes into the palm. This causes the muzzle to 'buck' to abt 45 degs with each shot. Besides, each shot hurts your hand, slamming that DA spur into the web.
When you fire the weapon, the hammer has to come all the way back to the DA spur before it trips. If you grab the weapon wrong, with even the tiniest fold of skin atop that spur, 2 bad things happen. 1st, you pinch the very devil out of the web between thumb & forefinger. 2nd, the thing won't fire because the hammer can't reach the point at which it trips.
In addition, tho there are 6 chambers in the cylinder, it's a 5-shooter. On the Colt SA you can raise the hammer slightly off half-cock, roll the cylinder to a point where a flute instead of a chamber is under the top strap, & then pull the trigger & lower the hammer so the firing pin is between 2 ctg rims. Not as safe as keeping 5 beans in the wheel, but if you're expecting things to get smoky in a hurry it's a marginally safe way to pack. You can't do that with the DA. The cylinder free-wheels only at half-cock. You can't slip it like you can the SA. It's no wonder the thing wasn't very popular.
Well double actions are now a lot easier than those first generation d.a. cartridge guns.I've a nice old 44 1878 Colt -at some point a good gunsmith breathed just right on the innards and the pull is actually pretty good.I fired one made in 1902 that was unaltered inside and the pull was stiffer but not anywhere near the horror story you described.Perhaps Colt improved this issue in later production.
I had, at one time, a Starr DA & it had a better DA trigger than the Colt 1878. The 'big trigger-guard' 1878s that some folks call 'Alaskan models' were actually produced on contract for the Manila police in the Philippines. That big guard was to give room for an extra-long trigger, which gave the Filipino police, who were not big guys, extra leverage to handle that strong trigger.
Part of the problem with them, I think, was that everything operated off the trigger, including the cylinder-stop mechanism. The New Service--I carried one for 16 years on duty, both a 1917 in .45 ACP & a civilian model in .45 Colt--was a far superior weapon. It was also superior to the S&W counterpart because it had a thicker barrel. I've seen a dozen or more S&W M1917s with cracked barrels. The M1917, both Colt & S&W, was bored .446 but designed to shoot a .452 jacketed slug. Some guy gets an S&W 1917 & tries to climb the velocity ladder to the max. He winds up wilth a hairline crack in the top of the barrel right at the frame. The Colt's thicker barrel will take the pressure but if you push it up too much it'll get meat on both ends. That's from personal experience.