The infamous Johnny Ringo’s Colt Single Action Army revolver is up for auction at the Bonhams auction house, and it’s expected to bring in high bids this week. An 1874 Colt, .45-caliber handgun with a 7.25-inch barrel, the gun has a strong provenance tied to the legendary events of old Tombstone, Arizona, following the shootout at the OK Corral.
John Peters Ringo was a standout outlaw often associated with the Cochise County Cowboys, the gang that drew the attention of the Earp brothers along with John “Doc” Holliday. Following the events that lead to the shooting deaths of several Cochise County Cowboy members, Johnny Ringo was found dead with a single shot to the head, holding this revolver.
“Serial no. 222 for 1874, .45 caliber, 7.25-inch barrel with single line address,” reads the auction listing. “Doughnut ejector. US mark on left side of frame (partially defaced), inspectors marks on barrel. Serial number partially visible on frame and trigger guard. Number on cylinder defaced.”
“Condition: Good,” they continue. “Generally no finish with traces of blue on ejector housing balance a brown patina. Toe of left grip missing. Worn grips with no visible inspectors marks. Cylinder possibly replaced. Barrel shortened through wear. A very early martially marked single action.”
While Ringo’s death was ruled a suicide by the presiding Cochise County coroner and sheriff’s office, the revolver appeared unfired with five shots chambered in the cylinder. After his death rumors that he was killed by Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday or “Buckshot” Frank Leslie started to make the rounds.
The documents of the provenance state “Johnny Ringo, found in his hand in Morse Canyon (mentioned by serial number, containing five cartridges, in inquest document, ‘Statement for the information of the Coroner and Sheriff of Cochise County, A.T.,’ 1882); by descent to Mrs. Prigmore; to Allen Erwin (bill of sale, signed by Erwin and by Mrs. Prigmore’s son Donald Wilson, on her behalf); by descent to Francis Huffstadter (signed Power of Attorney, May 2, 1979; sold European and American Firearms, Sotheby Parke Bernet, Los Angeles, 1980, to Jim and Theresa Earle.”
While reports at the time record that Ringo may have been suicidal, and a heavy drinker, when he was found with his horse, he not only had this revolver, he had also taken off his boots and tied them upside-down to keep out any scorpions or other pests.
His death will forever be tied to the “Vendetta Ride,” when the Deputy U.S. Marshall Wyatt Earp sought revenge for the attacks on his brothers Morgan and Virgil Earp, killing Morgan and crippling Virgil. This was in retaliation for the killings at the shootout in the OK Corral.
“A most well-documented gun from one of the West’s most tragic outlaws, often portrayed as an introspective, unpredictable gunslinger quoting Shakespeare, whose death may have been as much of an enigma as his life,” said Bonham.
The events surrounding Ringo’s questionable suicide may never be revealed, but his Colt is expected to bring in upwards of $100,000 at auction. For more information and to bid, visit Bonhams’ online.