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The Birthday Gun

The Birthday Gun

Photo credit: Michael Ives

This son of a Methodist preacher was only 15 years old when he first had a price placed on his head. Before he went to prison, upwards of 40 men had fallen to his guns, including one he shot through a hotel wall for snoring. Like many on the outlaw trail in the percussion era, he usually carried more than one revolver, as reloading a cap-and-ball handgun under fire was not a quick or easily completed task.

While becoming adept at handling his revolvers, this gunfighter is said to have befriended and backed down Wild Bill Hickok, then marshal of Abilene, Kan., by demonstrating a quick reversing twist of his six-guns when asked to hand them over. But his days of dodging the law were numbered, and a 17-year stint in prison, ended by a pardon from the governor, seemed to have made him a changed man.

After passing the bar, he began practicing law as an attorney in Gonzales, Texas, and later El Paso. Slowly, though, he was drawn back into his old ways. Learn more about this notorious gunslinger and the gun he was given for his birthday here. You’ll find more guns from outlaws and law enforcement at the NRA National Firearms Museum, located in Fairfax, Va.

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