There are myths and there are legends, then there are the few who can become both. Finding a place in history that is both grounded in honest achievements while becoming a larger than life icon is no easy feat, but the American wild west had a unique way of doing exactly this. The story of Wild Bill Hickok is as unbelievable as it is genuine, and it’s one that Heritage Manufacturing has proudly enshrined into their own firearms, paying homage to one of the greatest gunslingers and respectable men of the old west had ever known. He was the man who taught the world to keep their backs to the wall and in doing so, helped to shape a reputation that would stand the test of time. Heritage Manufacturing’s commitment to the story of the old west rings true in every shot with the Rough Rider exclusive Bill Hickcok edition showcasing the legend himself alongside his infamous “Dead Man’s Hand”.
A Sharpshooter and So Much More
Before his legendary status, Wild Bill was born in 1837 in the state of Illinois as James Butler Hickok. Coming from a family with a history in the early Americas, with his great-grandfather having fought in the start of the American Revolution at Lexington and Concord, James Butler Hickok was a fierce frontiersman with a reputation of fairness that often preceded him. His early years saw him doing everything from working on a canal boat to joining an antislavery Free State Army where he was able to hone his skills with a firearm. He even helped to defend a young boy named William Frederick Cody who would grow into the icon known as Buffalo Bill, putting them on a path to eventually reunite years later.
His stories from living on the American frontier were often exaggerated to make perfect entertainment in dime novels and more of the time, but his life was truly one that is difficult to believe by all modern standards. From surviving a near-lethal bear attack to defending himself against four men in 1861 when the outburst of gunfire left only himself standing in what would become known as the McCanles Massacre, Hickcok was the kind of man that myths are made of and he was all too willing to prove it at every turn. The famous moniker “Wild Bill” helped his growing popularity at a time when he served in the Union Army, earning it after chasing off a drunken mob with nothing more than a warning shot and his unforgettably harsh glare.
After his time in the military, Wild Bill Hickok fancied himself as a peace officer and marshall, taking him to places like Abilene, Kansas and the infamous Deadwood, South Dakota. His time as a performer, gambler, and celebrated marksman would carry him to many highs and lows in life, but he never failed to live up to his reputation as a virtuous man of honor and decency. This would ring true up until his final day in Deadwood in 1876 when he uncharacteristically sat with his back to the door during a poker game and was shot dead by a man named Jack McCall. The cards he was holding at the time would become infamous in their own right – two black aces, two black eights, and a mysterious fifth card – now known as the “Dead Man’s Hand.”
A Legacy Born of the Old West
Wild BIll Hickok became so much more than his own wild life, however. His exploits were exaggerated and told all around the nation helping to make him one of the earliest stars born of the wild west. His skills with a gun put him in Buffalo BIll’s worldwide famous show and then in dime novels and even in acting. While he was far from alone in the dramatization of his life, Wild Bill would be one of the most enduring of American legacies. He would find a place in American pop culture that is undeniably unique, being played by actors in Hollywood including Jeff Bridges, Sam Elliott, and many others. And while he may have earned his reputation with his dignity, he made his name well known with his shooting skills.
Alongside the company of famous shooters like Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok survived the old west with his pair of classic ivory handled six shooters that were made specially for him. A few years after his death in 1879, a story in the Daily Leader from Cheyenne, Wyoming said that “A bullet from them never missed its mark. Remarkable stories are told of the dead shootist’s skills with these guns. He could keep two fruit cans rolling, one in front and one behind him, with bullets fired from these firearms.” It was just one of many legends passed down, earned by Wild Bill’s prowess with the revolvers, and it showcases just how memorable he came to be across a nation eager to learn more of the heroes of the old west.
Wild Bill Hickok represents both the best of the west during his days and the long lasting impact that stories born from the time can have on each of us. As a household name, he is one to be respected not only because of his knack for shooting but also because of his upstanding character that continues to inspire today. It’s this very legacy that makes him the ideal icon to be immortalized on the Heritage Rough Rider exclusive six shooter, a firearm that performs every bit as efficiently as the ivory handled revolvers that he made his name on. Heritage’s tradition of carrying on the story of the old west is signified by the most notable figures of the time, and few are as worthy of such reverement as the myth and legend of WIld Bill Hickok.
The Timeless Icon
As a marksman, marshall, serviceman, and a patriot, the qualities that carried Wild Bill’s legacy into today’s world has made him as timeless as any icon. The story of the old west is one that is preserved by those willing to carry on the names, traditions, and ideals it was born of and Heritage Manufacturing is the resounding leader in this important mission. The Rough Rider exclusive Bill Hickok edition revolver captures more than just the proficiency and quality that Wild Bill brought to the old west, it delivers the profound shooting experience that made him the defining icon for generations to come.