During the 1960s, fans of The Andy Griffith Show started gifting tons of a rather odd present to Don Knotts – single bullets.
Fans of The Andy Griffith Show know Knotts as Barney Fife, the gullible deputy of Mayberry and Sheriff Andy Taylor’s right-hand man. One of the series’ running jokes revolved around Fife’s awkwardness when handling firearms. For the sake of everyone in town, Sheriff Taylor limited his deputy to only one bullet, which Fife kept in his shirt pocket.
Knotts’ comedic timing was perfect each time he reached for his gun and his single bullet. Fife would hilariously become nervous and shake uncontrollably while attempting to load his gun. The show’s audience loved the anxious deputy and knew what to expect each time he pulled his firearm from its holster – if he even got that far.
However, the single bullet bit on the show became so popular that fans started regularly sending lots of ammunition to Knotts.
In Daniel de Visé’s 2015 book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, the author touched on the matter. As a fan favorite of the show, people would line the streets waiting for Knotts’ autograph. Many would gift the show’s deputy a single bullet, which Knotts never knew what to do with.
“‘They would line up along the hotel, three blocks, and wait in line to get an autograph from him,'” actor Dodie Brown told de Visé. “‘They would come up and say, ‘I’m your best fan.’ Every single person would say that. Every policeman would bring him bullets.'”
“Don [Knotts] never knew what to do with the bullets,” de Visé wrote. “Hundreds of them rattled around the drawers of his Century City condo.”
Don Knotts and Andy Griffith Talk Carrying Guns on the Show
In March 1996, The Andy Griffith Show stars Don Knotts and Andy Griffith opened up in a joint interview about carrying guns while on the show.
The pair sat down with host Matt Lauer on The Today Show in a segment about television’s favorite police show’s from past decades. The “Classic Cops” segment welcomed Mayberry’s sheriff and deputy to talk about their experiences on The Andy Griffith Show.
The classic show aired for eight seasons beginning in 1960. It focused on Mayberry, a little town that time had passed by, and its residents. The sheriff and deputy duo never faced many serious crimes in Mayberry. At worst they occasionally dealt with thieves or bank robbers, but there were never any murders in the town. Lauer pointed out that Griffith never even wore a gun with his uniform.
“The real reason I didn’t wear one is I didn’t want that weight on my hip,” Andy Griffith said.
“I didn’t know that,” Don Knotts amusingly responded.
“You didn’t? Hmm,” Griffith jokingly says to Knotts. “Well, we had a joke for his gun.”
As previously mentioned, Barney Fife did carry a gun, but famously only had one bullet. Lauer asked if the deputy ever came close to using his single bullet.
“A few times we used it. Usually to shoot myself in the foot,” Knotts said with a laugh.
Watch Griffith and Knotts’ full 1996 interview below.