Gun Used to Kill Billy the Kid Goes to Auction For an Insane Price

by Josh Lanier

If you want to own a piece of Wild West history, you better be prepared to pay a hefty price. The gun used to kill Billy the Kid is now up for auction, but it comes with an astronomical price tag.

Billy the Kid, whose real name is Henry McCarty, was one of the most notorious outlaws in Wild West history. He robbed banks and trains and was quick to kill — authorities said he murdered eight people overall. However, after killing two prison guards to escape a jail cell in 1881, Billy the Kid fled to friend Pete Maxwell’s house to hide in New Mexico. Unfortunately for him, Sheriff Pat Garrett and some of his deputies knew about this friend and paid a visit.

As the story goes, according to, Billy the kid was looking for a late-night snack when he walked in on Sheriff Garrett questioning Maxwell. Both lawman and outlaw drew their pistols. Garrett fired two shots, killing the 21-year-old killer.

Now, 140 years later, Garrett’s single-action, 7.5-inch barrel revolver is up for auction. And experts expect it will fetch between $2 million and $3 million, Bonhams auction house in Los Angeles said. The auction house said the gun is “the most iconic treasure of early Western history,” according to the Daily Mail.

You can see a photo of the gun here.

Garrett’s revolver passed to his widow after this death in the early 20th century. But collectors Jim and Theresa Earle eventually purchased the gun as part of their Western collection.

Garrett Said He Got Lucky Killing Billy the Kid

In 1882, Sheriff Garrett wrote an autobiography titled: The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, Noted Desperado of the Southwest, Whose Deeds of Daring and Blood Made His Name a Terror in New Mexico, Arizona, and Northern Mexico. In it, he goes into detail about that night at Pat Maxwell’s house and how things could have gone differently.

According to, Garrett and two deputies stumbled upon Billy the Kid’s camp outside of Maxwell’s ranch, though they didn’t know it. When Billy got up to go inside to carve a piece of meat for a late-night snack, Garrett snuck into the house where Maxwell was sleeping. Garrett said he woke him up and demanded to know if Billy the Kid had been around recently. Maxwell admitted that he had.

That’s when Billy the Kid realized he wasn’t the only person awake in the house. Though the inky black of night gave Garrett some cover, the two men were so close that they were nearly touching. Billy raised his pistol to Garrett’s chest and demanded to know who was there. Sheriff Garrett drew his pistol and fired two rounds. One round hit Billy in the chest.

“He never spoke,” Garrett wrote, according to “A struggle or two, a little strangling sound as he gasped for breath, and The Kid was with his many victims.”

When they examined Billy the Kid’s gun after the shooting, he had a round chambered and the hammer cocked back. For some reason, he’d hesitated to fire.

“It was the first time, during all his life of peril, that he ever lost his presence of mind, or failed to shoot first,” Garrett wrote.