Grand Canyon State Gets an Official Six-Shooter

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posted on May 4, 2011
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With its new designation as the Arizona State Firearm, the Colt six-shooter has joined the ridge-nosed rattlesnake as state reptile, Apache trout as state fish, turquoise as state gem and bola tie as state neckwear.

Earlier this year, the Browning 1911 pistol—a creation of Ogden native John Moses Browning—was named the Utah state firearm.

The 1873 Colt SAA Revolver—aka Peacemaker—was popular among lawmen and outlaws alike during the formative years of the American West. It was carried by the likes of William (Billy the Kid) Bonney, Sheriff Pat Garrett, Judge Roy Bean, Wyatt Earp and Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.

Perhaps most important, the firearm played a pivotal role in one of Arizona's most notorious—and historic—events, the 30-second-long gunfight on Oct. 26, 1881, at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone. The event pitted members of the Clanton gang and the three Earp brothers, along with John Henry "Doc" Holliday.

Most historians agree that at least two of members of the so-called Cowboy Faction carried Colt SAAs. Autopsy reports for Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton show each was carrying a Colt revolver and the serial numbers of the weapons were recorded for posterity. The Colt Single Action Army Revolver purportedly used by Holliday during the gunfight is today on display at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles.

In the highly fictionalized 1931 book, "Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal," biographer Stuart N. Lake popularized a long-standing myth that Tombstone's sheriff carried a Buntline Special Colt—a customized revolver sporting a 12-inch barrel—on that fateful day in 1881. While subsequent movies and television Westerns perpetuated the falsehood, it is generally believed that Earp carried a .44-caliber Smith & Wesson Model 3 Schofield revolver with an 8-inch barrel when facing the Clantons.

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