In Old West mythology, a ‘Buntline Special’ is an absurdly long barreled Colt Peacemaker. These are associated with roguish historical figures Wyatt Earp, a lawman of sorts, and Ned Buntline, a 19th century dime-novel author.
These long barreled revolvers are a bit whimsical and ahistoric. Colt did build a few in the latter 1800’s, but probably none at all circulated on the frontier. The presence of these guns in Earp’s various exaggerated biographical treatments is solidly understood to be a detail fabricated for dramatic effect.
No matter. Real or not, the Earp Buntline provokes the imagination of cowboy shooters and reenactors. Buntline replicas have by now been popular for some decades. Great Western was the first company to offer one. In 1955 The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp started a 6 year run on ABC television. Great Western built a 12 inch Frontier model, and it looked much like the one carried on the show by actor Hugh O’Brian. Colt reintroduced the Peacemaker itself in 1956 and brought out a Buntline version of it at the same time. There have been several makers since, particularly Uberti, who does a run every several years.
Serial Ranges: In GW serial data they are seen with some consistency after 12000, which seems to coincide roughly with the 1955 Earp TV show. There are some earlier serialed examples, but these do have the appearance of being sporadic ‘one offs’ built prior to the GW Buntline being a cataloged item.
Calibers: Generally .357 and .45 Colt. No calibers were expressly excluded, though a compelling .44 Magnum version has not been observed. In old collector notes there is mention of at least one Great Western .22 Hornet Buntline.
Barrels: Cataloged at various points as 12 or 12 ½ inches. I’ve not yet made an effort to discern that both lengths exist in reality.
Finishes: Blue, Blue/CCH, Nickel
Grips: Plastic faux stag or upgraded wood, stag, or ivory.
Overall production: Low, perhaps a couple hundred maximum over 1955 – 1962. They are among the most sought after Great Westerns.
Variants \ Oddities: Some Great Western Buntlines that are circulating probably left the factory as Frontier models. They were converted in the aftermarket, albeit with correctly rollmarked Buntline barrels purchased via mail order from GWA. Buntlines like these will obviously not have numbers matching barrels. I also observe a tendency for barrel installation to be deficient on these, with a greater frequency for amateurs having put on the new barrel without fitting the thread shank shoulder. In these cases there will be a discernible gap between the barrel and the frame.