Gun that killed Billy the Kid fetches US$6 million at auction

The Colt single-action revolver (above) was owned by sheriff Pat Garrett, who shot Billy the Kid in 1881. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The pistol used to kill the notorious outlaw Billy the Kid in the days of the American Wild West has been auctioned for US$6.03 million (S$8.1 million), a world record for a firearm.

The Colt single-action revolver owned by sheriff Pat Garrett had been estimated at US$2-3 million and saw "lively bidding" on the phone, online and in the room in Friday's sale, the auction house Bonhams said.

"It stands as a relic of one of the most important and well-known stories of the Wild West," Bonhams said.

It said the gun was in "very good" condition with "well worn grips."

Garrett used the .44-calibre gun to shoot Billy the Kid - who was born Henry McCarty but also went by William Bonney - in the chest on July 14, 1881, in New Mexico.

The gunfighter died at the age of 21.

The previous record for a firearm was US$1.98 million, set by Christie's in 2002 for a pair of flintlock saddle pistols carried by George Washington during the Revolutionary War, Bonhams said. They were gifts from his friend and ally the Marquis de Lafayette.

The sale on Friday was the highlight of an auction of Old West firearms, manuscripts, photos and other memorabilia amassed by Texas-based collectors and college professors Jim and Theresa Earle.

Also sold was a Whitney double-barrel hammer shotgun that Billy the Kid took from a sheriff's deputy and used to kill him as he escaped from jail in April 1881.

It fetched nearly US$980,000 at Friday's auction, well above estimates of US$200,000 to US$300,000.

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