Guns of Deadwood: Accurate or No?

If you’re interested in guns, the Wild West, and a show so accurate it even includes the strong language you’d expect of the era, you’ve probably seen “Deadwood” (the TV show, not the movie). “Deadwood” was and remains a wonderfully executed show that depicted the rough, wild, and often violent nature of the West quite well. The TV show spanned only three seasons, from 2004 to 2006, and it wasn’t until 2019 that the network came out with a follow-up movie.

As you might expect, a lot of guns were used in the TV show, and we’re here to show off some of our top picks. The show was set in the latter part of the 1800s, so we’ll also consider whether or not a specific gun is realistic for the era. Check it out.

Colt Single Action Army, Cavalry Model

In the pilot episode of the show, we see one of many uses of this Colt. (Photo credit:

While the spotting of a Colt SAA (Single Action Army) isn’t exactly unique to a show set in the Wild West, its use in the pilot episode of “Deadwood” is worth mentioning. The show includes numerous historical figures, and one of the first we meet is Calamity Jane, who was a real-life sharpshooter known for being rowdy and rather quick to anger. In the first episode ever, Calamity Jane is seen yelling at people whose stuck wagon has held up an entire wagon train, including a wagon Buffalo Bill Hickock is sitting in.

When Calamity Jane finds herself feeling responsible for a child, we get a decent summary of her personality in a single scene. Upon arriving in town, it’s time to hand the girl over to the town doctor, but she doesn’t only do that. Instead, she draws her Colt SAA, Cavalry Model, and threatens him. If he doesn’t take proper care of the child, he’ll have her to reckon with. And here we get a fantastic glimpse into what the real Calamity Jane was supposedly like: hot-headed, but caring; wild, but soft. She was a tough woman, and her portrayal by Robin Weigert is excellent throughout the show.

Winchester Model 1866 “Yellow Boy”

The Yellowboy
The Winchester Yellow Boy makes quite a few appearances throughout the series. (Photo credit:

The Yellow Boy is seen repeatedly throughout the TV series. In the above image, it’s being held by some of George Hearst’s men (AKA thugs). Historically, Hearst is typically first referenced as a businessman and self-made millionaire, and then as a renowned philanthropist. But in “Deadwood,” he’s a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. He’s not the only historical figure who was depicted in a rather creative way in the show, but he just might be the most diabolically memorable.

It’s entirely plausible a man of Hearst’s standing would have guards armed with Yellow Boys. The Winchester Model 1866 Yellow Boy was a popular lever-action that’s been resurrected a time or two. It was the first rifle ever made by the gun maker, and it continues to remain in production in the form of a variety of variants. Its brass receiver is what gave it the nickname Yellow Boy, and its reliability was likely what drove it to see regular use more than a century ago.

Remington 1875

Bullock aims his Remington
The Remington 1875 is a regular on the set of “Deadwood.” (Photo credit:

Timothy Olyphant’s character, Seth Bullock, uses a Remington 1875 as his main carry weapon. If you’re wondering whether Bullock was a real person, the answer is yes. Seth Bullock was a frontiersman, sheriff, and U.S. Marshal who did indeed reside in Deadwood starting in 1876. He was also credited with creating some level of control over the chaos of the town. In the TV show, his depiction by Olyphant is both well-done and sometimes frustrating as the character of Bullock insists on toeing the line of the law at times when it doesn’t seem to make sense. That even happens in the pilot episode.

The Remington 1875 entered production in the year of its name, so although it’s plausible for Bullock to have had one upon moving to Deadwood in 1876, it’s not quite as likely. Of course, the TV show is set a bit later according to movie critics, so maybe it fits. The 1875 was made chambered in 44 Remington, 44-40 Winchester, and 45 Colt. It was a six-shot revolver designed to compete with the popular Colt SAA (such as the one carried in the show by Calamity Jane).  This is certainly a capable pistol and one a lawman would absolutely carry.

Remington Model 1866 Derringer

derringer in deadwood
Derringers make quite a few appearances with their actual performance being a bit of a mixed bag. (Photo credit:

You see quite a few derringers in the show which makes a lot of sense given the era and the coverage related to prostitutes. Why is this relevant? Because one such prostitute by the name of Maddie proved why you should never draw a gun on an immediate threat with no intention of using it (fast). Guns aren’t great for bluster or to win an argument, and if you’re unwilling to use it, it’s going to get taken away from you. Maddie proves this in season two when she draws her Remington Model 1866 Derringer to defend herself against Francis Wolcott.

We’ve mentioned George Hearst, whose admittedly historically inaccurate portrayal was fascinating and impressively dark. Well, the man used to precede his entrance to the town was Francis Wolcott, and he was far more evil than the portrayal of Hearst himself. Wolcott is presented as a conflicted, twisted character who likes to murder women (Hearst helps him get away with it). When Maddie confronts Wolcott with her derringer, he ends up taking it away from her and cutting her throat, as is his usual serial killer practice. And in case you’re wondering, no, there was no Francis Wolcott in real life.

All that said, the derringer was a common weapon of choice for prostitutes and really any woman needing to hide a gun on her person. They were tiny, deadly at close range, and somewhat inexpensive. The Remington Model 1866 Derringer was in production between 1866 and 1935.

Colt 1851 Navy

wild bill hickock in deadwood
Wild Bill Hickock isn’t just a known character in Deadwood, he’s a historically fascinating one. (Photo credit:

Wild Bill Hickock is an Old West historical figure we all probably know to some degree. In “Deadwood,” his portrayal is reasonably accurate, as are his guns. He’s only in the show for four episodes, which is also realistic because the real-life Hickock was murdered in Deadwood in 1876. Basically, he didn’t live long after arriving there.

In the TV show, Hickock carries a pair of ivory-handled Colt 1851 Navy revolvers. This was dead on, because those were, in fact, Hickock’s favorite guns in reality. His revolvers were .36 caliber and, according to the infamous General Custer, Hickock was never seen without them. He uses them in “Deadwood” to threaten or shoot various characters. These were some of the most accurately depicted guns in the show.

TV show side note: the character the show uses to portray Jack McCall, the man who really murdered Hickock, was the same actor used to portray the aforementioned Francis Wolcott.

What’s your favorite gun from “Deadwood”? Tell us what you think in the comment section.