Gun Used to Kill Billy the Kid Estimated to Go for $2-$3 Million at Auction

Ever wanted to own a literal piece of U.S. history? Well, now's your chance.

On Aug. 27, the revolver that fired the bullet that killed Billy the Kid, one of the Wild West's most iconic outlaws, will be put up for sale by the auction house Bonhams in Los Angeles. Owned by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett, the Colt ended the Kid's life on the night of July 14, 1881, when the two encountered each other at their former employer Pete Maxwell's New Mexico ranch, according to the Colt's lot description. It is expected to fetch between $2 and $3 million.

"The Billy the Kid gun of Pat Garrett is the most important and desirable Western firearm known, as well as one of the most well documented, and has never before appeared at public auction. An American legend made manifest, this iconic piece of history and mythology memorializes both the outlaw spirit and justice, encapsulating the notion of the code of the West," the lot description reads.

Bonhams has peddled Billy the Kid memorabilia on at least one previous occasion. On April 21, 2008, the auction house sold "a historic Colt single action [sic] army revolver" believed to have been owned by the short-lived criminal for $64,350, a figure that included the buyer's premium.

The revolver was accompanied by a notarized document that confirmed its provenance. Specifically, the document stated the Kid, whose real name was Henry McCarty, hid the revolver in a tree and entrusted his close friend Jesus Silva with its location before he was shot dead by Garrett at Maxwell's ranch. Once the news of the Kid's death broke, Siva recovered the revolver and traded it to a man named Milton Brown for a Colt revolving rifle. In the ensuing years, Brown bequeathed the revolver to his son-in-law Maurice Cummins, who in turn bequeathed it to his son Ben Cummins, the author of the document, the Bonhams website states.

Reportedly in "[v]ery good" condition, Garrett's .44-40-caliber revolver has a 7.5-inch barrel and a well-worn walnut grip. It has "never before appeared at public auction," according to the lot description. On Dec. 23, 1880, Garrett acquired it from the Kid's confidant Billy Wilson as Wilson was apprehended along with the Kid himself and several others in Stinking Springs, New Mexico. While the Kid was convicted of murder on April 13, 1881 and sentenced to hang, he managed to escape from prison on April 28 by killing Lincoln County Deputies James West and Bob Olinger. On the run once again, he fled to New Mexico, where fate, and Garrett, caught up with him in mid-July.

Born in 1850, Garrett worked as a cowboy and a buffalo hunter in Texas before moving on to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. While working as a ranch hand on Maxwell's ranch, he met the man who would become known as Billy the Kid. The two became fast friends and often hung out together at local gambling halls. However, their paths diverged after Garrett ran for public office, winning by a landslide, and McCarty continued to terrorize the region.

The auction will include several other items associated with Billy the Kid and the hunt for him, including the double-barreled hammer shotgun the Kid used to kill Olinger, as well as weapons owned by Bat Masterson and Wild Bill Hickock.

A wanted poster for Billy the Kid.
The revolver that Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett used to kill the Kid will be auctioned by Bonhams in August. Notorious Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid's wanted poster. Hulton Archive/Getty Images