Pat Garrett’s Thunderer

posted on December 27, 2016
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Michael Ives

This feature appears in the January ‘17 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.  

Like many Western figures, Pat Garrett’s (right) story involves twists and turns, skirting both sides of the law. Though he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as collector of customs in El Paso, Texas, and served as sheriff of Lincoln County, N.M., Garrett had also been wanted in Texas for the death of a buffalo hunter. But it was in his pursuit and shooting of William Bonney (aka Billy the Kid) that Garrett would leave an enduring historical mark, one which was cemented in 1882 after he wrote a book that contradicted many other publications of the day, which portrayed Bonney as a folk hero.

His gold-washed Colt Thunderer double-action revolver with silver grip panels was manufactured in 1902, just after he was appointed customs collector. However, after being involved in several ill-advised incidents, including passing off a notorious saloon owner as a prominent rancher during a Roosevelt photograph session, Garrett was stripped of his position in 1906. This engraved .41-cal. Colt is currently on loan to the NRA from Arnold Duke, Fox Cave, Ruidoso, N.M., and can be seen daily in our Springfield, Mo., galleries.

The NRA National Firearms Museum at NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va.; the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Mo.; and the Frank Brownell Museum of the Southwest at the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, N.M.; each have fine selections of historic arms on display. Admission to each is free, and donations are gratefully accepted. For more information, visit nramuseums.com, phone (703) 267-1600 or email [email protected].

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