Texas Gun History

Celebrating its first auction event in Texas this December, Rock Island Auction Company proudly offers a historic selection of legacy guns with deep ties to the Lone Star State.

Paterson-and-Walker-two-Texas-guns-for-sale-this-DecemeberThe Colt Paterson and the Colt Walker provided the firepower needed to defend the early Texas frontier. Both guns are available this December.

Firearms are an undeniable part of the Texas story, protecting the region from hostile thieves and Comanche raids, winning the territory’s independence, and bringing order to frontier cow towns and oil boomtowns as the state expanded into an economic powerhouse. From legendary guns like Samuel Walker’s revolvers, Davy Crocket’s “Ol’ Betsy” rifle, and Frank Hamer’s iconic Single Action Army revolvers, the history of Texas has been tied to the history of the gun.

Frank-Hamer-Colt-SAAAn Austin, Texas shipped factory engraved antique black powder Colt Frontier Six Shooter documented as an early service revolver belonging to legendary Texas Ranger Frank Hamer. Available this December.

Rock Island Auction Company’s December 8 – 10 Premier Firearms Auction, the inaugural event for the company’s new state-of-the-art facility at 3600 Harwood Rd., Bedford, Texas, offers gun lovers from around the world the opportunity to examine arms from every era of the Lone Star State’s rich and diverse history. We’ll explore some of the highlights below.

guns-of-Texas-Lawman-Jess-SweetenA selection of personal firearms from the collection of legendary Texas lawman Jess Sweeten. Available this December.

Get guns in your inbox! Sign-up for our weekly emails.

The Texas Paterson

“Come and Take It,” a phrase made famous by 300 defiant Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. and again by Col. John McIntosh during the American Revolution as the British laid siege to Fort Morris in Georgia, became both a flag and a rallying cry for Texians in 1835 when residents of Gonzales refused to return a cannon to Mexican soldiers.

The Texas Revolution was won with steel and gunpowder, and the fledging new republic looked for any firepower advantage it could to defend itself. Texas had not received Mexican recognition of its independence and expanded the Texas Rangers to patrol its southern border as well as guard its vast frontier. In 1839, the Rangers found an ideal weapon in the Paterson revolver, a recent invention from Samuel Colt.

Texas-Colt-PatersonA rare cased Colt No. 5 Holster Model “Texas Paterson” percussion revolver. With only around 1,000 manufactured, No. 5 Patersons in any condition are rarely encountered, and this early production No. 5 remains in high condition and is complete with a case, matching spare cylinder, and loading tools. From The Greg Lampe Collection. Available this December.

The Texas Rangers had been defending the region since 1823, when Stephen F. Austin founded the group to guard his colony against “errant thieves united with Indians.” By 1840, Rangers like the famed John “Jack” Coffee Hays were putting their newly acquired Paterson revolvers to the test. Colt’s revolver proved an ideal weapon for mounted combat and offered a decisive advantage in numerous engagements, allowing the vastly outnumbered Rangers to hold their own against the Comanche at the Battle of Bandera Pass and the Battle of Walker’s Creek.

Samuel Colt sold Paterson rifles and shotguns to the government of Texas as well. According to prominent Colt collector Robert Pershing, the Paterson rifle below was likely shipped to Texas on October 8, 1839, and “was issued to a soldier in the Texas Army and was kept by him when discharged. He started a cattle operation in South Eastern Texas, utilizing Galveston as a port for shipping his livestock.”

Second-Model-Ring-Lever-Paterson-rifleA Second Model Ring Lever Paterson rifle, one of only 500 produced from 1838 to 1841. This exact rifle’s extensive Texas history is discussed on pages 199 to 201 of “The Paterson Colt Book” by R.L. Wilson. Available this December.

Samuel Colt came to call the Paterson No. 5 Holster Model, the largest of all Paterson handguns, “The Texas Arm,” and present-day collectors generally refer to it as the Texas Model or Texas Paterson. Samuel Walker, another legendary Texas Ranger, put the No. 5 Holster Model to good use during his battles with the Comanche. Walker’s experiences with the revolver would influence the Paterson’s successor and lead to one of the most defining guns in Texas history.

The Colt Walker and the Mexican-American War

The Republic of Texas was forged by the gun and preserved by the gun, and black powder and steel would continue to play a pivotal role in the future of the region when Texas was admitted into the United States on December 29, 1845. War between the U.S. and Mexico broke out four months later when America claimed the land between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River.

C-Company-No-12-Colt-Model-1847-WalkerThe Colt Walker, the signature gun of the Texas Rangers during the late stages of the Mexican-American War. This historic C Company No. 12 Colt Model 1847 Walker is available this December.

The Rangers played a key role in the Mexican-American War, earning the nickname “los diablos Tejanos,” or “Texas Devils” for their fierce fighting. Samuel Walker gained particular notoriety for his heroics, leading the charge at the Battle of Monterey. Walker accepted the commission of captain with the newly formed U.S. Regiment of Mounted Riflemen and was dispatched to Washington D.C. in October of 1846 to recruit for the cause.

Samuel Colt seized the opportunity to meet with Walker, hoping for a military contact. Captain Walker praised the Paterson revolver, noting, “With improvements I think they can be rendered the most perfect weapon in the world for light mounted troops…The people throughout Texas are anxious to procure your pistols & I doubt not you would find sale for a large number at this time.”

C-Company-No-12-Colt-Model-1847-Walker-2This C Company No. 12 Colt Walker revolver was included in the famous Texas Gun Collectors Association “Parade of Walkers” display to celebrate the TGC’s 50th anniversary in 2003. The revolver includes its holster, flask, tools, a Parade of Walkers Certificate, and additional documentation. Available this December.

The .44 caliber Colt Walker revolver added an additional round to the .36 caliber, five-shot Paterson and incorporated a loading lever. Designed to be holstered on the saddle, the massive Walker was an absolute powerhouse, weighing in at more than 4 1/2 pounds and sporting a 9 inch barrel.

The first 394 Walker revolvers were issued in October of 1847 to the 1st Regiment, Texas Mounted Volunteers commanded by Colonel Jack Hays. Captain Walker, who’d returned west to join General Winfield Scott during his invasion of Mexico, led four cavalry companies at the Battle of Huamantla. Walker was shot and killed while armed with two of the powerful new revolvers that bore his name.

Texas Guns in the Civil War

Samuel Colt’s revolvers proved their worth on the battlefields of Texas, and Colt included engraved combat scenes from the Texas-Mexican Wars and the Comanche Wars on his subsequent revolver iterations such as the Dragoon, the 1851 Navy, the 1860 Army, and the 1861 Navy. A scene from the Battle of Campeche is displayed on the latter three models, depicting the victory of the Texas Navy over their Mexican rivals.

Texans were particularly fond of the Colt Model 1851 Navy, as journalist and social critic Frederick Law Olmsted observed during an extended tour of the Southwest in 1856. “There are probably in Texas about as many [Navy] revolvers as male adults, and I doubt if there are one hundred in the state of any other make.”

Elmer-Keith-1851-ColtThis Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver belonged to Confederate Major R. E. Stratton of the 1st Texas Regiment before being purchased by legendary handloader and firearms writer Elmer Keith. Available this December.

When the Civil War broke out, most Texan volunteers were required to furnish their own armaments. For example, Benjamin Franklin Terry’s Eighth Texas Cavalry, better known as Terry’s Texas Rangers, asked each member to equip themselves with a shotgun or carbine, a Colt revolver, a Bowie knife, saddle, bridle, and blanket. Horses were provided.

Unlike the industrialized North, the Confederacy had fewer factories, a scarce iron supply, and a decentralized manufacturing base. As a result, southern states like Texas faced a critical shortage of firearms and artillery throughout the War. J.H. Dance & Brothers of Columbia, Texas, was one of the few arms producers in the South to manufacture revolvers, modeling their .44 caliber wheelguns after the Colt Dragoon.

Confederate-Dance---Brothers-Percussion-RevolverA Confederate Dance & Brothers percussion revolver, attributed to a Private Bell of the 23rd Brigade of Texas Cavalry, sold for $199,750 in RIAC’s May 2021 Premier Auction.

In the tense months leading up to the Civil War, Southern States sought to stock up on as many arms as possible. The example pictured below is an extremely rare early production Colt Model 1860 Fluted Army revolver originally included as part of a shipment of 750 to Kittredge & Folsom of New Orleans, Louisiana on April 9th, 1861. Noted historian Charles W. Pate indicates this grouping of revolvers was purchased under the direction of Texas Ranger and Civil War Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch for the State of Texas.

Texas-Confederate-Fluted-Colt-1860-ArmyA documented Confederate Texas-issued fluted cylinder Colt Model 1860 Army revolver with its factory letter, a Charles Pate letter, and a period holster. Available this December.

Pate states that the revolvers “arrived in New Orleans on 16 April and were supplied to the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles, commanded by the famous former Texas Ranger John S. (“Rip”) Ford. A soldier in Ford’s regiment recorded in his diary on 1 June 1861, ‘A train of wagons arrive from San Antonio loaded with arms, cooking utensils & etc., they are immediately issued to the company; each man has a Mississippi rifle and a Colt’s six.’ The presence of these Model 1860 revolvers in the 2nd Texas is confirmed in the service records of some of the regiment’s members.”

The Single Action Army and The Lone Star State

After the Civil War, the revolver platform continued to forge its legacy on the Texas frontier with the Single Action Army. Colt’s most famous sixgun provided Rangers and lawmen with the firepower to combat cattle rustlers, horse thieves, smugglers, and bank robbers, but often the outlaws they faced were equally well-armed.

One such outlaw was Braxton “Brack” Cornett, co-leader of the Bill Whitley Gang in the 1880s. Also known as the Brack Cornett Gang or the Cornett-Whitley Gang, the daring desperados robbed a bank and a series of trains in 1887 and 1888, including the Great Flatonia Train Robbery, dubbed by the New York Times as “the most daring train robbery that ever occurred in Texas.” Brack Cornett was killed in February of 1888 by Texas Ranger Alfred Alee in Frio.

Texas-Desperado-Brack-CornettHartley & Graham Soft shipped engraved antique black powder frame Colt Single Action Army attributed to Texas desperado Brack Cornett of the Cornett-Whitley Gang, with a notarized letter from Edward F. Cornett, one of Brack’s descendants. Available this December.

The Colt SAA revolver’s popularity in Texas continued into the 20th century. The documented factory engraved example below with a factory steer head carved grip lists as having shipped to A.J. Anderson, a legendary wholesaler in Fort Worth, Texas. As reported by the “History of Texas: Fort Worth and the Texas Northwest Edition,” the A.J. Anderson Company was “one of the oldest commercial concerns in Fort Worth.” A range of Old West characters did business with Anderson, with everyone from outlaw Sam Bass to lawman Longhair Jim Courtright purchasing firearms from the store.

Fort-Worth-Texas-Shipped-Factory-Engraved-Antique-Colt-Black-Powder-Frame-Single-Action-Army-Revolver-with-Desirable-Factory-Relief-Carved-Steer-Head-Grips-1A Fort Worth shipped, factory engraved, antique Colt black powder frame SAA revolver with factory steer head carved grips, one of the rarest special order features to appear in Colt’s factory ledgers. Includes a factory letter. Available this December.

Another famous Fort Worth gun supplier, Wolf & Klar had a history of equipping the cattlemen, police officers, and ruffians of the region. On the outskirts of “Hell’s Half Acre,” Wolf & Klar also supplied hardware and jewelry and became known for its aftermarket nickel-plated, engraved Colts and Smith & Wesson revolvers.

By the 1920s, oil money was flowing into the Fort Worth area, which had been easing away from its Wild West reputation and was increasingly seen as a gateway to the Texas oilfields. The nickel-plated Colt SAA revolver pictured below was shipped to Wolf & Klar on September 29, 1926.

Documented-Texas-Shipped-Nickel-Plated-Pre-War-Colt-Single-Action-Army-Revolver-with-Factory-LetterA documented nickel plated pre-war Colt Single Action Army revolver shipped to Wolf & Klar in Fort Worth, Texas in 1926. Available this December.

Though Fort Worth had grown beyond its “Cowtown” roots, both the cowboy and the wheelgun continued to define the city’s culture. The stunning Colt SAA revolver pictured below was awarded to Burel Mulkey, known as the “Banty Cowboy,” as a gift from Louisiana Governor R.W. Leche for Mulkey’s victory in the Fort Worth Rodeo in March 1937, an event that celebrated the anniversary of the Texas Centennial.

Burel Mulkey was one of the best saddle bronc riders to ever do the dance, and in 1937, during the Texas Centennial, he won “Outstanding Contestant” in the Ft. Worth Rodeo. His prize for being names best all-around cowboy? He was made the governor’s colonel aide de campe, and was presented this masterpiece Colt SAA by Louisiana Governor R. W. Leche. Available this December.

In the early 1980s, gunmaker Bill Grover continued the legacy of the wheelgun in the Lone Star State by founding Texas Longhorn Arms in Richmond, Texas. Though the company would struggle financially and eventually close up shop in 1998, their revolvers are widely praised for their quality. The flattop target style revolver pictured below was designed by Grover as an attempt to improve on Colt’s classic SAA. The gun mirrors Colt’s SAA frame so that the loading gate and ejector housing are on the left side of the revolver. The unfluted cylinder also operates in a counterclockwise fashion allowing for loading and unloading without removing the revolver from the shooter’s dominant hand.

Texas-Longhorn-Arms-Inc-One-of-One-Thousand-Single-Action-Flat-Top-Target-RevolverA Texas Longhorn Arms Inc. One of One Thousand Single Action Flat Top Target revolver. Available this December.

Heavy-Hitting Revolvers of the Texas Lawmen

The revolver remained one of the Banner State’s preeminent platforms in the 20th century, with the double action wheelgun offering a reliable sidearm with an impressive rate of fire. Revolvers chambered in .44 Special became especially popular with Southwest Texas law enforcement looking for more punch, and Smith & Wesson’s .38/44 Heavy Duty model presented an even more potent option.

The gun below was one of 249 Smith & Wesson .38/44 Heavy Duty revolvers received by the Austin Police Department between 1952 and 1964 in order to replace the department’s aging stock of the .38 M&P revolvers. The S&W .38/44 Heavy Duty revolvers would remain in service with the APD until 1968 when they were replaced by the Smith & Wesson Model 27-2 chambered in the powerful .357 Magnum cartridge.

Rare-and-Desirable-Early-Austin-Police-Department-Marked-Smith---WessonA Smith & Wesson .38/44 Heavy Duty revolver, one of an initial shipment of 110 revolvers received by the Austin Police Department on June 3, 1952. Available this December.

The Model 27’s predecessor, the Registered Magnum was the first and finest of the mighty .357 Magnum revolvers and proved an especially fitting gun for Texas police officers, security guards, homeowners, and outlaws looking to increase their firepower. The Registered Magnum’s hefty pricepoint meant many law enforcement agents were forced to privately purchase the model if able.

Houston-Shipped-Registered-MagnumAn outstanding Houston, Texas shipped S&W .357 Registered Magnum with a rare 4 1/2 inch barrel, box, and factory letter. From the Dave Ballantyne Collection. Available this December.

In the years following the Registered Magnum, Smith & Wesson introduced less costly models to chamber the .357 cartridge. The .357 Combat Magnum, later renamed the Model 19, was developed with the assistance of famed author, shooter, and Texas Border Patrol legend Bill Jordan. Jordan conceived of a medium-framed .357 Magnum revolver with a 4 inch barrel as an ideal law enforcement sidearm, and the Texas Department of Public Safety, the umbrella organization overseeing the Texas Rangers, agreed.

Texas-Ranger-Attributed-Department-of-Public-Safety-Marked-Smith---Wesson-Model-19-2A Texas Ranger attributed, Department of Public Safety marked Smith & Wesson Model 19-2 revolver. The backstrap is marked “AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT 6.” Available this December.

The Texas Department of Public Safety marked Smith & Wesson Model 19-2 revolver pictured above was owned by Texas Ranger Weldon Lucas. During his long and storied career, Lucas served as an undercover narcotics agent, a Texas Ranger, and Denton County Sheriff. Lucas also found work as a consultant for the hit TV show “Walker Texas Ranger,” and several of the Rangers in his unit were utilized for small roles throughout the show’s time on air.

The Finest Texas Guns for Sale this December

The legendary connection between Texans and their guns runs deep, and the firearms featured here only scratch the surface when it comes to weapons connected to the Lone Star State offered at Rock Island Auction Company this December.

Documented-Texas-Ranger-Owned-Browning-High-Power-Semi-Automatic-PistolA documented Texas Ranger-owned Browning High-Power pistol with checkered grips inlaid “BP” over a Texas Rangers captain badge for Bob Prince, who worked on the famous Confession Killer case and appeared in the 2019 Netflix miniseries “The Confession Killer.” Available this December.

December’s 8 – 10 Premier Firearms Auction will be the first of many memorable experiences at Rock Island Auction Company’s new venue in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, the most advanced and spectacular brick-and-mortar auction facility in the United States.

This will be the largest firearms auction in Texas history, and RIAC is giving it our famous attention to presentation. We’re creating the finest brick-and-mortar auction venue in America, it’s going to require the largest catalog we’ve ever created, and its remarkable items are going to go toe-to-toe with the finest auctions we’ve ever held.

The three-day auction event is preceded by a Thursday Preview Day on December 7th, where guests will have the opportunity to examine a breathtaking selection of legacy guns, investment-grade arms, and museum-worthy masterworks displayed in RIAC’s recently completed 19,000-square-foot preview hall.

Browning-1919A4-machine-gunManufactured using original USGI parts and a new-made right sideplate, this full function Browning 1919A4 machine gun was produced by Charles E. “Chuck” Hudak’s firearms buisness, Inland Arms Co. of Austin, Texas. Hudak built and registered machine guns in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His initials are stamped on the side plate. Available this December.

Subscribe to the weekly Rock Island Auction newsletter for upcoming gun blogs and gun videos featuring more standouts from December’s sale, and be on the lookout for both the Highlight Portfolio mailer and the online catalog in the weeks ahead. Browse your favorites, make your travel plans, and we’ll see you in December!

Jenks-Breechloading-Flintlock-pic-croppedFind Texas guns and more this December!

Rock Island Auction Company

Leave a Reply