Photo Gallery: 10 Incredible Guns of Elmer Keith

Photo Gallery: 10 Incredible Guns of Elmer Keith

See the incredible guns of Elmer Keith that are up for auction at James D. Julia.

What Are Some Of The Guns Of Elmer Keith For Sale:

Anybody who knows their way around the business end of a sixshooter knows the name Elmer Keith.

The crusty old cuss was one of the most prolific gun writers of the 20th Century, not to mention firearms innovator. It is because of Keith, in part, we have the .44 and .357 Magnums today. This fails to mention his custom handloads and cast bullets, of which he was also well known for developing.

In addition to writing about and working with firearms, Keith was also an inexhaustible gun collector. And now fans of firearms and the Keith himself, have a shot at owning a piece of his collection.

James D. Julia, Inc., a Maine-based auction house, is putting Elmer Keith’s collection on the block at its March 11-12 and 15-16 events. And it appears the sale has some incredible opportunities to own this unique man’s unique guns. Here are 10 that caught our eye.

“The Last-Word – Old No. 5″


Custom designed by Keith and Harold Croft, the Colt Single-Action Army .44 Special gained fame in a 1929 article in the American Rifleman titled “The Last Word” where Keith detailed the specifics about the ornate handgun. Expected sale price: $30,000-50,000.

Jim Corbett’s W.J. Jeffery .450/.400 3” Nitro Express


Anyone who has read Jim Corbett’s exploits hunting tigers in India mind will be set reeling by this rifle. This boxlock double rifle was detailed in his book Man-Eaters of Kumaon, where he hunted the deadly feline for the Indian government. One was purported to have killed some 400 people. Expected sale price: $75,000-150,000.

Elmer Keith’s Personal Sidearm and Holster


As the title suggests, this is no ordinary Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum. Yessir, this is the piece of iron that hung off the old cuss' side, originally shipped to the Idaho Hardware Co., Boise, ID., in 1958. The Model 29 features beautiful ivory grips, engraved with a longhorn steer’s head. And the handgun appears well used, note the wear on the barrel from repeated un- and re-holstering. Expected sale price: $7,000-10,000.

First Ithaca NID 10-gauge Magnum of Col. Charles Askins


There is so much history in this gun it is almost frightening. In addition to being owned by two of the 20th Century’s foremost gun writers – Askins and Keith – the shotgun also is the collaboration of two gun industry giants. Spencer Olin of Winchester-Western Cartridge Company developed the 3 ½-inch loads and had Lou Smith of Ithaca build the monstrous scattergun to chamber it. This is the very first one to roll off the line. Expected sale price: $15,000-25,000.

Consecutively Numbered Smith & Wesson Model 57 Revolvers


Keith and the Smith & Wesson had a long history together and these guns are a testament to their collaboration. The .41 Magnums look to be gifts from the company to Keith, perhaps in celebration for his help in developing that caliber. The double-action revolvers are beautiful in and of themselves, but are made truly unique with Keith’s signature in raised script on the ivory grips. The frames and triggers also have his name engraved upon them. Expected sale price: $10,000-20,000

Hoffman Arms Custom Springfield Rifle


Hoffman Arms Company built renown as one of the top precision bolt-action rifle makers in pre-World War II America. For many collectors that’s enough to set them on the path to putting one in their gun safe. The one for auction from Keith’s collection takes this pedigree to the next level. The .400 Whelen chamber rifle has “No 1. Hoffman Arms Co, Cleveland, Ohio,” engraved across the top of the barrel, making the unique rifle one of a kind. Expected sale price: $10,000-20,000.

Colt Model 1905 Pistol with Original Holster


Keith is better known for his affinity for revolvers, but that doesn’t mean the man didn’t appreciate a good semi-automatic pistol. This specimen from the Keith collection is rare and important, with the .45 ACP being a step in the path to the famed 1911 pistol. There were only around 6,000 of the model made between 1905 and 1911. Expected sale price: $10,000-15,000.

Gold Inlaid W.J. Jeffery .500 Nitro Express


Of all the dangerous game guns, there are few as legendary as the .500 Nitro Express. This Jeffery sidelock double rifle is as spectacular as the caliber. The rifle has exquisite gold inlay, on one side depicting grazing elephants, the other a tiger pouncing on a Sambar stag. The trigger guard has a gold leopard stalking a gazelle. The toe of the rifle boast a gold oval, engraved in English and Sanskrit around what is believed to be the crest of the Raja of Miraj Junior State. The English reads “Chief of the Miraj Junior.” Expected sale price: $50,000-80,000.

Custom Colt Single Action Army Revolver with Bridgeport Style Belt Rig


This is another sidearm that is easy to insinuate Keith had an affinity for, give the wear on the finish. The Colt .45 was originally a U.S. Cavalry gun, but was customized with a blue finish, adjustable rear sights and ivory grips. The engravings on the grips are of particular interest; one side boasts Keith’s initials, the other the Masonic compass and square, as the owner was a well known Mason. Expected sale price: $3,000-5,000.

Sharps Model 1874


This converted .45-120 Sharps might be the bell of the ball for Keith fans, given it’s personal history with its owner. The heavy buffalo rifle was used by Keith to harvest his first bison. Really, little more to be said about a historic rifle with a historic owner and a historic event of which it took part. Expected sale price: $8,000-13,000.


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Elwood Shelton is the Digital Editor for Gun Digest. He lives in Colorado and has provided coverage on a vast spectrum of topics for GD for more than a decade. Before that, he was an award-winning sports and outdoors reporter for a number of newspapers across the Rocky Mountains. His experience has consisted of covering the spread of chronic wasting disease into the Western Slope of Colorado to the state’s ranching for wildlife programs. His passion for shooting began at a young age, fostered on pheasant hunts with his father. Since then, he has become an accomplished handloader, long-range shooter and avid hunter—particularly mule deer and any low-down, dirty varmint that comes into his crosshairs. He is a regular contributor to Gun Digest Magazine and has contributed to various books on guns and shooting, most recently Lever-Actions: A Tribute to the All-American Rifle.


  1. as a young man who just left college in 1964, I drove my chevy pickup to salmon Idaho. With awkwardness I called Elmer Keith to ask if I could meet him. He invited me to his home and we sat in his kitchen and talked. I had justenough money to buy one autographed book for girl friends dad – Elmer was verykind to me. Eventually I went back to college starting my life’s work inwilderness medicine with my company wilderness medicine outfitters [] Last year I rturned to Idaho techin a widerness medcine classand was pleased to have one of Elmers relatives and her husband both fine people in class!

  2. I met Elmer several times at NRA Conventions. The first time I saw this big 10-gallon hat coming down the aisle. with a cigar sticking out from under a slightly bulbous nose. I knew right away it hard to be Elmer Keith. He was friendly in an outgoing way, and we talked briefly, finding we had a lot in common.
    After that I wrote him several times, and he always responded. I don’t know where the man found thd the time, but he always answered, apologizing for “My old typewriter doesn’t spell very well”
    My wife was kidnapped and murdered in 1977. He wrote back that “Hè would never rest until he got a shot at that rapist murder” . Well if I had done that, my two little girls would have had no parent. Elmer was a prince. Bob Dangler


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