Sitting Bull’s rifle prevailed at Cowan’s frontier firearms auction

Winchester 1st Model 1876 rifle, believed to have been owned by Sitting Bull, $132,000

Winchester 1st Model 1876 rifle, believed to have been owned by Sitting Bull, $132,000

CINCINNATI – The Frontier Firearms from the Lifetime Collection of Larry Ness sale at Cowan’s Auctions on June 8 achieved more than $929,000. A Winchester 1st Model 1876 rifle believed to have been taken from Sitting Bull’s cabin on the day of his death was the showstopper of the sale, emerging as the top lot of an auction that saw strong engagement throughout.

“We were truly honored that Mr. Ness, a lifelong collector in frontier firearms, trusted us with his lifetime collection,” said CEO of Hindman and Cowan’s Auctions Jay Krehbiel. “This auction, held in our brand new Cincinnati facility, once again reaffirms our continued commitment to the arms, armor and militaria category and the sale of historically significant firearms.”

Bidders eagerly responded to Ness’ carefully curated collection, which he spent five decades assembling and completely captures the development of firearms from the earliest days of western expansion by American settlers to the dawn of the 20th century. Lots from some of the most respected gunsmiths in history were extremely well received.

“Larry has been a customer and friend of Cowan’s for more than 20 years,” said Founder of Cowan’s and Hindman Vice-Chair Wes Cowan. “We were honored to have been entrusted with the sale and ultimate dispersal of his firearms collection used on the American frontier. The success of the sale was a tribute to Larry’s keen eye and discriminating focus.”

Sitting Bull Rifle Takes Top Honors

There was fierce competition for the Winchester 1st Model 1876 rifle, which had extensive documentation suggesting that it was taken from Sitting Bull’s cabin on the day of his death. The rifle emerged as the top lot of the day, selling for $132,000 against an estimate of $40,000-$60,000. The rifle was supposedly recovered from Sitting Bull’s cabin on the day that he was killed during a botched arrest attempt by US Indian Police. The rifle, along with other weapons recovered that same day, were turned in to Standing Rock Reservation Indian Agent Major James McLaughlin.

frontier firearms

Documentation accompanying the rifle said to have been taken from Sitting Bull’s home in 1891

Sitting Bull rose to prominence for his military campaigns against the United States and his steadfast refusal to sign treaties and cede Native lands to the US government. This culminated in one of the most famous battles in American history at the Battle of Little Big Horn, where the 7th Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, attacked Sitting Bull’s camp and was soundly defeated.


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