Skip to main content Skip to main content

Buntline Specials?

Buntline Specials?
The single-action .45 Colt revolvers and their detachable stocks were real.

One of the more famous stories about detachable shoulder stocks occurs in 1876, when Western dime novelist Ned Buntline presented special Colt revolvers to five of the West's premier lawmen, including Wyatt Earp. The Colts, known today as "Buntline Specials," came with metal shoulder stocks and extra-long barrels and were meant to thank Earp, then a deputy marshal in Dodge City, Kansas, for letting Buntline interview him.

One small problem? Never happened.

The original shoulder stock for a Buntline Special adds $40,000 to the value of the gun. But be warned: Copies are common.

"At no time during the period in which his interview was alleged to have taken place was Buntline even near Dodge City," says Kelly Williams, associate curator at the Frazier Firearms Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.

The single-action .45 Colt revolvers and their detachable stocks were real enough, though probably fewer than 30 of them were ever produced, their barrels between 12 and 16 inches long.


The 29th Edition Blue Book of Gun Values lists a Buntline Special with 90 percent of the original finish as worth $135,000; add on another $40,000 for one with the original shoulder stock. The Frazier is home to such a Buntline, with 16-inch barrel and an all-metal stock made of nickel-plated brass.


"The detachable, skeletal frame stock converts this heavy-barreled pistol into a carbine but does little to improve the weapon's accuracy," Williams notes.

Detachable shoulder stocks arrived on the American shooting scene circa 1850. According to Richard Rattenbury, curator of history at the National Cowboy Museum, "Colt introduced full wooden stocks, with three variant yoke attachments, with the Dragoon model, followed by the 1851 Navy and 1860 Army." Yet the shoulder stocks never gained a wide following in military or civilian circles.

Today, some 19th century shoulder stocks are actually worth as much as the handguns they were built to accessorize. Dan Shideler, editor of Standard Catalog of Firearms, recommends a professional verification of authenticity before buying one.

"All of these stocks have been copied, with some of the most ingenious aging techniques imaginable, so caveat emptor certainly applies," he warns.




GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Popular Videos

Taurus 856 Defender

Taurus 856 Defender

Scott Rupp reviews the Taurus 856 Defender, a fine revolver with a variety of enjoyable features.

KelTec CMR30 22WMR Review - Compact, Versatile & Fun to Shoot

KelTec CMR30 22WMR Review - Compact, Versatile & Fun to Shoot

Designed for lightweight, low recoil accuracy, the CMR30 .22 WMR features a nice, single-action trigger, ambidextrous dual non-reciprocating operating handles, ambidextrous safety and heel catch magazine release. The KelTec CMR30 is a .22 Magnum carbine that holds 30 rounds in each of its two flush-fit magazines. That's a lot of firepower for a 3.8-pound, semi-auto, collapsible truck gun. It comes out of the box as you see it, including Magpul sights and ambidextrous, non-reciprocating dual operating handles. She's a straight blow-back tack driver that delivers a ton of fun.

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Compact Carry Pistols Are Effective With Practice

Small, compact semi-auto pistols are popular with concealed-carry firearm buyers, and these two models – the KelTec PF9 9mm and the Ruger LCP II .22LR – are no exceptions. They are effective for personal protection but only if you put in the time to practice.

See All Videos

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Handguns App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Handguns stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now