It has been written that Bat first served as a Dodge City policeman in 1876 under Wyatt Earp, but if so it was short-lived because Masterson spent most of the early part of the year in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where it is possible he purchased the J.C. Collins gunbelt and holster that was one of several rigs he wore as a lawman. Bat’s interest in Cheyenne, however, was strictly the gaming tables where he made a haul before heading back to Dodge. En route he ran into Wyatt and Morgan Earp in Sidney, Nebraska. They had pulled up stakes in Dodge and Wyatt suggested that if Bat was going back he should run for county sheriff, but no sooner had he arrived than Bill Tilghman and Neal Brown asked Bat if he wanted to take one more run at buffalo hunting. He agreed to team up with them taking his trusty Sharps out of retirement and strapping on his latest Colt six-shooter.
The engraving on the F.lli Pietta Bat Masterson single action is based on the pattern found on the seventh of Masterson’s Colt revolvers. This pattern is not a Colt factory design and was likely done by an engraver in Dodge City.
It was during this hunt that Masterson demonstrated his skills with both a revolver and a rifle to the delight of Tilghman, who was no slouch with a six-gun himself. “I’ve seen Bat shoot at a tin cup thrown in the air, with his six-shooter, at twenty-five cents a shot, and make money at it.” As much as he enjoyed trick shooting Bat took the skills of the shootist seriously and noted in one of his 1907 magazine articles that, “…looking through the sights is a very essential thing to do when shooting at an adversary who is returning your fire.” Masterson’s belief in using the gun’s sights and not shooting from the hip, as he was so often reported to have done, is supported by the first of many written orders for guns sent to Colt’s. In 1879 he requested a custom-tailored, personally inscribed single action, further noting that it be silver plated with Mexican eagles carved in pearl handles and have a front sight slightly higher than normal, his personal preference.
One of Eight
During the course of his career as a lawman and gambler, Bat ordered a total of eight single-action revolvers from Colt’s. The most notable was an order made from Dodge City and written on Opera House Saloon stationary in July 1885 which stated:
Please send Me one of your nickel plated short .45 calibre revolvers. It is for my own use and for that reason I would like to have a little Extra pains taken with it. I am willing to pay Extra for Extra work. Make it very Easy on the trigger and have the front Sight a little higher and thicker than the ordinary pistol of this Kind. Put on a gutta percha handle and send it as soon as possible, have the barrel about the same length that the ejector rod is.
W B Masterson
P.S. Duplicate the above order by sending 2
By then Bat had already served as Under Sheriff of Ford County for Charlie Bassett, replacing him in 1877 after Bassett had served two consecutive terms (under Kansas law a Country Sheriff could not hold office for three consecutive terms). His first act after becoming County Sheriff, not surprisingly, was to appoint Charlie Bassett as Under Sheriff, the two essentially exchanging badges. During his tenure in Dodge City, which was also the County Seat and home to the Ford County Sheriff’s office, Bat appointed many of his old associates as special deputies when situations became thorny. Ford County encompassed some 9,500 square miles, a large portion of southwestern Kansas — a lot of territory into which outlaws could quickly vanish. In their pursuit Bat called upon Wyatt Earp, as well as appointing his younger brother James Masterson and friend Bill Tilghman Deputy Sheriffs. Dodge City also had its own City Marshal, Ed Masterson, and a local police force. Dodge was a tough town and it needed every lawman it had.