The shotgun used by legendary Old West lawman Wyatt Earp to kill outlaw 'Curly Bill' Brocius will be for sale at Heritage Auctions next month.
The J. Stevens & Co. Double Barrel Percussion Shotgun is described as "one of the great treasures of the Old West," and comes with a remarkable documented history spanning almost 140 years.
The shotgun is now for sale for the first time in more than 35 years, and it will lead an auction of American political and historic artifacts in Dallas on Feb. 22 and 23.
"Heritage Auctions has been privileged over the years to offer some marvelous and important relics and artifacts of the Old West, but surely this Wyatt Earp gun stands head and shoulders above them all," the auction house said.
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Wyatt Earp was a gambler and lawman who served as a deputy marshal in the town of Tombstone, Arizona.
After Earp and his brothers, Virgil and Morgan, killed three outlaws during a shootout at the O.K. Corral in 1881, the Earp brothers were targeted for revenge.
Virgil's arm was shattered by a shotgun blast on Dec. 28, 1881, and Morgan was shot through a door by an unseen assassin on March 18, 1882.
When the cowboys accused of the two shootings escaped prosecution, Earp took the law into his own hands and set off on what became known as the 'Earp Vendetta Ride.'
On March 24, Earp and his posse encountered nine suspects in Morgan Earp's murder in the Whetstone Mountains near Tombstone. Among them was "Arizona's most famous outlaw," 'Curly Bill' Brocius.
Brocius fired at Earp and missed, but when Earp returned fire the outlaw was almost cut in half by a round of buckshot to the stomach.
Earp had borrowed the shotgun from his friend Fred Dodge who continued to use the gun throughout his 40-year career as an undercover Wells Fargo agent before he retired in 1917.
When Dodge died in 1938, the gun was inherited by his son. The shotgun has since passed through the hands of some of many renowned Old West collectors, including Gerald G. Fox, Jim Earle and Greg Martin.
When Martin sold the weapon to the present consignor in 1984, he wrote:
"The Stevens double-barreled shotgun serial number 927 you recently obtained from me represents one of the most important historical treasures I have ever owned … In my opinion the great historical associations, the first-hand accounts, and the impeccable documentation of ownership through the Dodge family make your Stevens shotgun one of the great treasures of the Old West. It is a direct link between Wyatt Earp and an era of American lore that is of incalculable importance."