Elvis Presley sat atop rock and roll’s throne as unofficial “King” for decades, although he was more proficient at handling a firearm than a royal scepter. He owned guns throughout most of his life and, while serving in the U.S. Army, earned sharpshooter badges for his skill behind an M1 rifle and M1911. He collected firearms and kept one by his side for self-defense, although there’s little doubt the highly embellished Smith & Wesson Model 53 revolver he owned—which went for $199,750 during a Rock Island Auction sale on Aug. 26—was not his first choice for carry.
Appraisers assigned the handgun a value of between $60,000 and $90,000 long before bidding began. The historic .22 Mag. was accompanied by paperwork that provides irrefutable proof of its original owner.
Elvis purchased the gun in 1974, only two years before the United States was going to celebrate its bicentennial. In 1976, the “King” shipped the gun back to the Smith & Wesson factory, requesting its artisans make it into a masterpiece befitting freedom’s 200th anniversary.
Master engraver Russell Smith was assigned the honor. He drafted a pair of designs in pencil drawings—clearly labeled as work for Elvis—that were part of the gun’s sale last month. The final design on the receiver features a gold-engraved American Eagle and flag on one side with the words “The Spring of 76” below. A minuteman, also in gold, stands proudly on the other side. The package also includes a matching .22 LR cylinder to complement the look perfectly.
The gun also wears the floral scrollwork Smith is known for, as well ash gold inlaid bands at the muzzle and breech. The rear sight is adjustable and has a gold outline. The front sight is a gold bead, and the kit comes complete in a walnut presentation case. Appraisers estimate more than 99 percent of its original, bright factory-blue finish remains on the gun.
Handwritten notes, job cards and receipts accompanying the gun all list the “King” as the owner. Also included is a Smith & Wesson company newsletter prominently featuring the firearm on the cover as “Elvis Presley’s Bicentennial Model 53 done by Russ Smith.”
The only drawback is the fact that Elvis probably didn’t have much time to shoot it. The revolver was delivered on Nov. 16, 1976. Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977.