January 10, 2011

Questions about Soapy Smith's guns.

Mark Weller sent me the following email.


Just a note to say you have a very informative and interesting site.

I thought I would put my two cents in as it were regarding some of Soapy’s artifacts.

The Colt SAA and the 92 Winchester would make sense to both be Soapy’s especially if the SAA was chambered in 44WCF.

However the Colt 1889 shown in the morgue photo might have been the weapon used by Frank Reid?

(The model 1889 was know as the Navy model regardless if it were 38 or 41 and wasn’t until the model 1892 that is was known as the new Navy/Army model)

Food for thought.

Don’t you just love history?


I believe Mark is referring to the website page, Soapy's Weapons. I sent him the following response.

Hello, Mark.

Yes, I do love history! Thank you for the kind words. I assume you are referring to the website. Be sure to check out the blog (link below) which covers more detail about known stories, as well as announcing brand new information recently discovered. For instance, very soon I will be posting new information on Soap Gang member, John O. "Texas Jack" Vermillion.

Thank you for adding your "two cents." I have always believed that we learn best when more heads are put together and all thoughts are thrown into the mix for discussion and comparison.

Regarding the Colt single action army (armies) on display. You will note that I graded them very low in terms of actually having been Soapy Smith's. It is highly unlikely that any of the ones shown were actually his. Like most famous characters of the old west, guns "once owned by them" come out of the woodwork. The more well known the person is, the more guns there are.

Regarding the Winchester rifle, model 1892, it has clear paperwork provenance and has stayed in the family since August 1898. It was given to the widow by the new Deputy U.S. Marshal.

You are right in regards to the double action shown in the morgue photo, it could be Frank Reid's gun, however, Frank Reid was in the hospital at the time so I have to ask the question, why would Reid's gun be with Soapy in the Morgue? The gun could belong to the photographer or one of the men who might have been in the room at the time. This can be said about every deceased character in the old west in which a photograph was taken where a weapon appears with the deceased. Until ownership paperwork pops up we will never know for certain.

You wrote "The model 1889 was know as the Navy model regardless if it were 38 or 41 and wasn’t until the model 1892 that is was known as the new Navy/Army model" John Culligan, our historical weapons analyst, was the person who shared his immense knowledge of old west armory. Unfortunately he is deceased so I looked up my original research records and found that I had used two post 1892 store catalogs for information. I am certain you know what you are talking about so I promise to look into the facts more thoroughly, but presently I found that the catalogs still list the Navy/Army examples as model 1889s. I will change the information as soon as I find information to the contrary.

I hope you will continue to join us and help uncover the many mysteries we encounter.

Jeff Smith



  1. Back in 1990 I bought The Westminster hotel in Dawson City from the former Mayor,Fabien Salois. He had owned it since 1950 when he took it, along with the neighbouring Occidentsal Hotel, over from his uncle, Curly Salois.Curly had also run it for forty years.

    When I took over a hand gun was included in the sale that Fabien told me that Curly had told him was Soapy's .....

    It is a Smith and Wesson black powder cartridge Russian I am told.

    Duncan Spriggs

    1. Hi, Duncan. Thank you for commenting! Is there any other provenance on the revolver?


Thank you for leaving your comment and/or question on my blog. I always read, and will answer all questions left here. Please know that they are greatly appreciated. -Jeff Smith