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Presidential Pistols

Presidential Pistols

From battle-used pistols to presentation-grade masterpieces, here's a look at some of the sidearms used by—or, in some tragic cases used on—our past Presidents.

GEORGE WASHINGTON Steel-Mounted Saddle Pistols

Marquis de Lafayette, a young French soldier who volunteered to fight for the United States, gave Washington this pair of saddle pistols with barrels made of Damascus steel. Washington reportedly carried these sidearms at Valley Forge, Monmouth, Yorktown and during the Whiskey Rebellion as president. Washington maintained possession of the pistols until his death in 1799. Andrew Jackson owned them for a spell, until bequeathing them back to the Lafayette family.

Image courtesy of Christies


One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Jefferson has many quotes that resonate strongly with the Right to Bear Arms crowd, including, "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. - 1764" Truer words couldn't have been spoken.

This flintlock pocket pistol reportedly belonged to our nation's third president. There are many reproductions of Jefferson dueling pistols available in the marketplace today.


What to get the man that probably has everything? How 'bout a pair of pistols reportedly crafted from meteorite iron found in the Campo del Cielo crater in Argentina. At least that was the story given to James Madison when he was presented with this pair of fully functioning pistols by South American general Ignacio Alvarez. His words were accepted as fact until nearly 200 years later when science took a closer look and determined the pistols weren't made from meteoric iron. After Madison's passing, James Monroe took possession of the guns.

Image courtesy of


"Old Hickory" dueled it out with more than one opponent with pistols, including an incident in which he was dueling Charles Dickinson. Dickinson shot first, hitting Jackson in the chest. Jackson then took aim and pulled the trigger only to be greeted with a misfire, which according to dueling rules counts as a shot. Jackson pulled the hammer back anyway, pulled the trigger, and killed Dickinson with his second effort. Jackson lived 19 years with the lead ball in his chest.

Andrew Jackson also helped Colt Firearms get noticed after giving his stamp of approval to the newly designed revolver.

The above percussion pistol was reportedly owned by Jackson and was made circa 1830.

MARTIN VAN BUREN - Senate Pistols

When Martin Van Buren presided over the senate as Vice President, he wore a pair of pistols for security measures. Do you think a V.P. could get away with that today?

RUTHERFORD B. HAYES - Smith & Wesson .32 Caliber Revolver

Our 19th President carried a Smith & Wesson .32 Caliber revolver during the civil war. The original gun is in the Hayes Museum in Fremont, OH.

ZACHARY TAYLOR - Colt Walker Pistol

Was this one of the first Government bailouts? Samuel Colt was near broke when General Zachary Taylor, who would later become the 12th President, sent Captain Sam Walker back from the Texas frontier with a manufacturing order of a 1,000 pistols. Colt and Walker collaborated on a new model and the Colt Walker Pistol was born.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN ASSASSINATION - .44 Caliber Philadelphia Derringer

Sadly, when one thinks of a pistol and our nation's 16th president, the single-shot .44 caliber Philadelphia Derringer that John Wilkes Booth used to assassinate the man is what comes to mind. "Sic semper tyrannis"

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

ULYSSES S. GRANT - .36 Caliber Colt Navy

While leading the Union Army, Grant is reported to have kept a .36 caliber Colt Navy, like this reproduction above, as his sidearm.

JAMES A. GARFIELD - .44 Webley British Bulldog Revolver

The second U.S. president to be assassinated, James A. Garfield died eleven weeks after being shot with a .44 Webley British Bulldog revolver by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2, 1881.


Certainly not a pistol, but cool nevertheless, this Colt 8-gauge was owned by our 22nd president, Grover Cleveland. The engraved double barrel is believed to be the only eight gauge in existence.

Image courtesy of the National Firearm Museum

WILLIAM MCKINLEY - Iver Johnson .32 caliber Safety Automatic revolver

Our nation's third president to be assassinated, William McKinley was shot twice by Leon Frank Czolgosz with an Iver Johnson .32 caliber Safety Automatic revolver (similar to the one pictured here) on September 5, 1901. One round grazed his shoulder, but the second went through his pancreas, stomach and kidney, eventually lodging in his back. McKinley would die eight days later.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT - Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3

"This revolver is attributed by Smith & Wesson factory records to future U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. He most likely took delivery of this gun just prior to training his Rough Riders at San Antonio, Texas. -- National Firearm Museum

Image courtesy of the National Firearm Museum

THEODORE ROOSEVELT - Fabrique Nationale Model 1900 Semi Automatic Pistol

Teddy Roosevelt's nightstand gun while in the Whitehouse? If family tradition is accurate, It might have been this handsome Fabrique Nationale Model 1900 Semi Automatic Pistol.

Image courtesy of the National Firearm Museum

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT - S&W .38 Special Revolver

The First Lady of firearms? Teddy's cousin-in-law, Eleanor was very handy with a sidearm. She often carried a S&W .38 Special Revolver.

Image courtesy Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

HARRY S. TRUMAN - Colt M1911 and Colt Officers Model .22 LR

Harry S. Truman was presented this Colt M1911 and Colt Officers Model .22 LR in 1947 by Colt President Graham H. Anthony.

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER - U.S. Colt Model 1911A1 Semi Automatic Pistol

"This pistol was given by General Dwight D. Eisenhower to Admiral Sir A. B. Cunningham, R.N., during the November 1942 Allied invasion of North Africa. -- National Firearms Museum

(Inset) While serving as the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, Eisenhower's preferred sidearm was a Colt Detective Special.

Image courtesy of the National Firearm Museum

JOHN F. KENNEDY - New Frontier Colt

With a serial number of PT-109, Colt manufactured this custom New Frontier Colt for President John F. Kennedy. The 35th president never received his revolver as a result of his tragic assassination in 1963.

Image courtesy of the National Firearm Museum


In their December 21, 1970 meeting, Elvis Presley gave Nixon a commemorative World War II Colt .45...and requested to be made "Federal Agent at Large" in the war against drugs.

RICHARD M. NIXON - Colt Presentation Single-Action Army

Colt crafted this elegant Presentation grade single-action army for Nixon in 1972. It was never presented though as a result of the Watergate Scandal. The serial number is RMN No. 1

Image Courtesy the Autry Museum

RONALD REAGAN - Colt Presentation Single-Action Army

Manufactured in 1984 with the serial number RR-1, this elegant Colt Single-Action Army was crafted for our nation's 40th president. Like Nixon's Single-Action Army, the presentation of this revolver never happened.

Image Courtesy the Autry Museum

GERALD R. FORD - Colt .45 Semi-Auto

Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme used this Colt .45 semi-auto in an assassination attempt on Gerald R. Ford on September 5, 1975.

GEORGE W. BUSH - Saddam Huessin's Gun

Mission accomplished! Saddam Huessin was found with this Glock 9MM 18C while he was tucked away in a spider hole. The gun will be displayed at the 43rd President's library and museum at Southern Methodist University, which opens in 2013.

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