May 28, 2020

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Fact / Fiction Billy The Kid

Fact / Fiction: Was Billy The Kid was left handed?

Fact / Fiction Billy The Kid

Thanks to a Winchester rifle, we know Billy the Kid wasn’t left-handed.

A famous tintype photograph of Billy the Kid shows him with a gun belt on his left side. For years, the portrait fueled assumptions that the outlaw, born William Bonney, was left-handed. However, most tintype cameras produced a negative image that appeared positive once it was developed, meaning the end result was the reverse of reality. There’s another reason we know the picture was a mirror image and that Billy the Kid was thus a righty: he poses with his Winchester Model 1873 lever-action rifle. The weapon appears to feature a loading gate on the left side, but Winchester only made 1873s that load on the right.

He was just 21 years old at the time of his death.

After his escape from death row, the Kid spent several months hiding out on the frontier and taking refuge with sympathetic locals in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. He neglected to keep a low profile, however, and it wasn’t long before Sheriff Pat Garrett and two deputies rode into town. On the night of July 14, 1881, Garrett went to the home of rancher Peter Maxwell to question him about the outlaw’s whereabouts. No sooner had he woken Maxwell than the Kid also approached the house, having stopped nearby to get beef for a late dinner. When he noticed the silhouette of one of Garrett’s deputies on the porch, the Kid drew his pistol and backed toward the door, shouting, “Who’s that?” in Spanish. As he entered Maxwell’s darkened bedroom, he spotted the shadowy outline of Garrett and once again asked, “Who’s that?” Upon recognizing the Kid’s voice, Sheriff Garrett drew his six-shooter and fired off two rounds in his direction. One bullet struck the 21-year-old near his heart, killing him instantly.

The only known surviving photo of billy the kid
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