Gene Autry National Center to Display The Colt Revolver in the American West

Doc Holliday's Single Action Army Model Revolver.
Doc Holliday's Single Action Army Model Revolver. John “Doc” Holliday used this revolver in many of his western escapades, including the gun fight at the O.K. Corral.

Over 100 of the finest examples of the Colt revolver in the country go on display Grand reopening of Greg Martin Gallery on July 23, 2011, in conjunction with Day of the Cowboy and Cowgirl at the Autry. The exhibition will be ongoing.

Los Angeles, CA (May 25, 2011) — The Autry National Center announces the grand reopening of the Greg Martin Colt Gallery on July 23, 2011, featuring The Colt Revolver in the American West, an exhibition that explores the history of Samuel Colt’s revolutionary revolver in the American West. The opening also coincides with the celebration of Day of the Cowboy and Cowgirl at the Autry.

“I am pleased to showcase the Autry’s spectacular collection of Colt firearms in a manner that provides a narrative for the scope and monumental impact of guns in the American West,” said Daniel Finley, Autry President and CEO. “In this ongoing installation, we hope visitors are fascinated by the history and importance of an object that brought violence as well as peace to an entire region.”

Model 1862 Police and Pocket Navy Conversion Revolver.
Model 1862 Police and Pocket Navy Conversion Revolver. Unlike most beautifully-engrave revolvers with “Tiffany” style grips, this revolver actually saw use on the American frontier.

Drawn solely from the Autry’s renowned collection, the exhibition provides an interesting look at one of the most popular and visible symbols of the American West and looks at the impact the Colt revolver had on the American frontier and the contemporary West.

The firearms include pieces of historical significance, opulently engraved specimens, and extremely rare models. A significant number of art and other artifacts, ranging from letters to fine china, will also be on display. A special section will be devoted to the Colt Single Action Army Model Revolver, “the handgun that won the West.”

“Simply put, the Single Action Army is the most successful and recognizable revolver of all time,” said Jeffrey Richardson, Associate Curator of Western History and Popular Culture, “and it is forever identified with the history and settlement of the American West.”

The exhibition begins with a history of the revolver and the difficulty gunsmiths and inventors had making an efficient revolving firearm capable of firing more than one shot without having to be reloaded. In 1831, sixteen-year-old Samuel Colt ultimately came up with a design that would transform the firearm industry and the American West.

Samuel Colt’s attempts to mass-produce his revolver and the ultimate keys to his success are the focus of the second part of the gallery. The next section of the exhibition is devoted to the Colt Single Action Army Model Revolver. The Single Action Army was popular with Western pioneers, miners, peace officers, gunslingers, outlaws, and cowboys. The use of the revolver by Western entertainers solidified its status as a veritable symbol of the region. The exhibition culminates with a look at the Colt revolver in the modern West, as it continued to be the weapon of choice for Western law enforcement officers, hunters, and target shooters throughout the twentieth century.

Cutaway Model 1855 Sidehammer Revolver.
Cutaway Model 1855 Sidehammer Revolver. Cutaway, or skeleton arms, were designed to demonstrate the mechanics and special features found on Colt revolvers.

Highlights include:

  • The first Single Action Army ever made, an original Buntline Special, and the only Single Action Army ever manufactured in .44 magnum caliber
  • The revolver Doc Holliday used at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
  • An entertainers’ section, featuring guns belonging to such Western actors as Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Ken Maynard, Gene Autry, Clayton Moore, and Leo Carrillo
  • Presentation revolvers made by the Colt Company for five presidents, including the gun that was being made for President John F. Kennedy at the time of his assassination
  • An opulently engraved pair of revolvers with Western iconography, and gold-inlaid images from the works of noted Western artists such as George Caleb Bingham, Albert Bierstadt, and Frank E. Schoonover
  • The first modern revolvers designed by Tiffany & Co.

All objects in the exhibition are from the permanent collection of the Autry, which houses one of the finest Colt revolver collections in the country. Many of the artifacts were generously donated to the museum by Autry members and supporters, and some were featured in the widely successful traveling exhibition Pistols: Dazzling Firearms.

About the Autry National Center

Gene Autry's Revolver.
Gene Autry's Revolver. Jackie Autry commissioned Tiffany & Co. to make this one-of-a-kind Modern Third Model Dragoon for Gene Autry's 81st birthday.

The Autry National Center, formed in 2003 by the merger of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage with the Southwest Museum of the American Indian and the Women of the West Museum, is an intercultural history center dedicated to exploring and sharing the stories, experiences, and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West. Located in Griffith Park, the Autry’s collection of over 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts, which includes the collection of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, is one of the largest and most significant in the United States. The Autry Institute includes two research libraries: the Braun Research Library and the Autry Library. Exhibitions, public programs, K–12 educational services, and publications are designed to examine the contemporary human condition through the lens of the historical Western experience and explore critical issues in society.

Weekday hours of operation for the Autry National Center’s museum at its Griffith Park location are Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Autry Store’s weekday hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and the Autry Cafe is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday hours for the museum and the store are 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The museum, the store, and the cafe are closed on Mondays. The libraries are open to researchers by appointment.

Museum admission is $10 for adults, $6 for students and seniors 60+, $4 for children ages 3–12, and free for Autry members, veterans, and children age 2 and under. Admission is free on the second Tuesday of every month.


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  1. Fortunately, I live a couple of miles down the road from the Autry Museum of Western History. While I have yet to visit the new display, I had seen most of the guns that are likely on display when the museum displayed “Engraved Firearms” a couple of years ago. I agree that there is none better as a collection as well as historic arms such as Doc Holiday’s and William Hickock’s. Also, there may be the New Frontier Colts engraved for the presidents: Kennedy, Johnson, and Reagan. Sadly, Kennedy was assassinated before he could receive his. There are many of the TV and movie western firearms, not only Gene’s, but Hoot Gibsons. The rest of the museum has guns on display from Roy Rogers, the Cisco Kid, the Lone Ranger,including apparel, and even John Wayne’s gun belt that he used in most of his later movies. Real western heros’ firearms include those of Annie Oakley and Teddy Roosevelt to name just a few. However, the most stunning collection that the museum has to offer are saddles. There revolving displays are fascinating. Past ones have included Jewish Cowboys, western art (for sale), Women in the West, Black Cowboys, “Tourquoise and Totems,” the latter being the work of modern artists of the Navaho and NW Coastal Indians, e.g. silver bracelets with figures from totem poles. These bracelets and a wide variety of books and memorabilia of the west are for sale in the gift shop. If you plan a trip, include the Roy Rogers Museum, east of LA and Melody Ranch north of LA the latter is where many of the early westerns were made. Each of these is a day trip away. There are many things that will interest children as the museum is age appropriate. Check the Autry Museum website and learn about their special displays, as well as pow wows where Indian people demonstrate traditional dance and costume.
    Lastly, for the serious researcher, the museum has an excellent archive of books and materials on the early west. One only needs to call ahead to speak with the archivist for access and an explanation of the specific of interest for the reseracher.


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