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A reprint from Tombstone Historical

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Bat Masterson used to give 'the gun I tamed Dodge City with' to cub reporters in NY.  Zerelda Samuel filled a rain barrel with old pistols, which she sold from time to time as "Jesse's gun.'  According to Jarvis Garrett, Pat's youngest son, Pat sold 'the gun I used to kill Billy the Kid' several dozen times, but the actual one never left the family.


According to Lee Silva, who knows more about Colts than Colt does, yes, there was a Buntline Special.  Wyatt's had a 10" barrel & he carried it in a special holster.  There's no record of it at Colt because Colt didn't begin to keep records of guns sold outside of shipments to wholesalers until 1909.  When the 'Buntline Special' became popular in the '60s as a result of Hugh O'Brien as Wyatt, at least one of the 2nd Gen 'Buntlines' was barreled, according to Colt's own records, with a barrel from 'earlier production.'  Lee, incidentally, was firearms consultant on Tombstone.  The 'Buntline' Kurt Russell packed was made to Lee's specifications from his research, which is extensive.  The 1st vol of his 3-vol bio of Wyatt has a 100+ page appendix just on the Buntline.  The pistol Russell packed had a 10" barrel & a 4-screw 'black powder' frame, & was specially made up for that film.  Val Kilmer packed a modern SAA copy w/a bird's-head grip because Doc actually packed a Lightning & they probably couldn't find one that still works.


     They mustn't have looked too hard for a functioning Lightning or Thunderer as I used to see them in the early 90's at Great Western for then rather reasonable prices.I have two Lightnings in .38,one with a 3 1/2 barrel and no ejector and the other with a 5 inch barrel and pearl grips.Holliday was reputed to have had his last shooting affray with Allen in Leadville using a .41 calibre but the accounts don't indicate whether it was a Thunderer or not.

Here's my lightening.  Locks up and cycles like new.  Tight as a drum.  Fine bore. I've got the original holster too.  Someone has cut down the front sight. 


    Good looking gun.I have 3 lightnings and am thinking about picking up a friend's 44-40 1878 D.A. Frontier with a 5 1/2 barrel.

Thanks.  I think a 44/40 /78 DA would be a great gun to have.  How well does the one you are thinking about buying work?

I don't shoot my Lightening because I'm afraid I'll break it, but it works like new and has a fine bore.  It'd probably shoot fine. 

Here it is with the leather:

I've never fired a '78 DA in .44 WCF, but I have fired 1 in .45 Colt.  It was a painful experience.  Every bit of the recoil goes into the web between your forefinger & thumb, none into your palm.  Not only does it hurt, the gun bucks to about a 45 degree angle even when in a 2-hand hold.  As a former saber fencer I've got strong wrists, & it bucked on me. In addition, the trigger-pull was a bear.  I didn't have a way to measure it at the time, but I'd estimate the DA pull at a minimum of 15 lbs, maybe more.  This causes the muzzle to wander even with a 2-handed hold.  You really have to concentrate to keep the muzzle on target.  In addition, when you fire it DA, the hammer has to come all the way back to the DA spur on the grip before it trips & falls.  If you grab the gun wrong in the leather, getting the tiniest part of the web between your thumb & forefinger over that spur, not only will you pinch the very bejeezes out of your hand, the gun won't fire because the hammer can't get back to the point where it's tripped.  I fired about 20 rounds out of that thing that day.  I've never fired it again--& that's just half that story!


Interesting tale!

My Lightening has an extremely long trigger pull too.  It is pretty smooth tho and doesn't "stack up" much.  But it's very long.

I'll bet most of these old DA's were shot single action. I seldom shoot a DA revolver, even a new one, DA.  I've got a Smith 25x5 that shoots excellent DA, but few IMO do.

I love shooting old guns.  I hunt with a Model 97 or a 1923 model 12.  I shoot a model 62 .22 and a Beckart  hand ejector .22 Smith.  I shoot a Parker GH damascus.  Love the gun, but it must weigh 12 lbs. I have several old doubles, a Fox, a Lefever a Parker, but my very favorite shotgun is a Remington Model 11 in 20 gauge. 

I fired both a '77 & a 78, both SA & DA, that day.  It's very difficult to fire a '78 SA because, unless you have very large hands, you have to cock it with the non-firing hand.  It's almost impossible to get the thumb of your firing hand up to the hammer.  I have big hands--I stretch a size 12 glove.  While I could cock it one-handed, it was awkward & I couldn't do it rapidly.  My shooting partner at the time has smaller hands & he couldn't cock the thing one-handed.  Neither of us had trouble cocking the '77 one-handed, but that bigger frame made it very difficult, even for me with my big hands, to cock the '78 one-handed.

We loaded the .45 Colt ctgs with abt 35 gr of FFFg & a 255 gr semi-flat-nose almost identical to the original .45 Colt slug but without the hollow base. You can't get a full 40 gr chg in a web-head case & seat a slug.  You could in the old balloon-head cases, but not in a modern case.

We also discovered something.  While you can load either the '77 or the '78 5 beans in the wheel just like you can an SAA--the cylinder free-wheels at half-cock--you can't load 6, then slip the hammer & let it rest on the face of the cylinder between ctg rims like you can with an SAA.   The mechanism won't let you do it.  Trying to force it just might have been 1 of the many reasons the '77s had to go to the gunsmith a lot.

Both the '77 & the '78 we fired that day had extremely long trigger pulls.  There was no slack, no creep, no overtravel.  You started things moving when you started your trigger pull & the hammer didn't drop until the trigger was at the rear of the guard.

The '77 apparently had a hard life.  If you squeezed the trigger properly in SA, the hammer hung up at half-cock.  You almost had to jerk the trigger in SA to get the hammer to fall.  The DA pull on the '77 was pretty smooth, tho, & nowhere near as hard as the '78's. 



Tombstone Historians claim that the infamous "Buntline Special" probably never really existed. How can we stop this nonsense?  (Click on the link)  Wyatt Earp FAQ's


Here is an interesting study... Wyatt Earp's "Bunline Special" by Jeff Morey 


Very interesting!  It was probably a Buntline alright!


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