The Background Author Stephen Hunter is a “gun guy” who has written several great novels that co-star some fantastic firearms. Hunter’s 1993 book "Point of Impact" (adapted to the motion picture “Shooter” in 2007) is the first of his novels featuring fictional USMC Scout-Sniper Bob Lee Swagger as the main character. In the book, Hunter describes a special set of pre-1964 Winchester Model 70 rifles called “The Ten Black Kings.” These custom rifles were said to have had American Black Walnut stocks so dark that they appeared black. These extremely rare rifles were given to VIPs by Winchester and never offered for sale. The rifles also play a prominent role in Hunter’s novel, "The Third Bullet."
The Big Question Do the “Ten Black Kings” exist or are they a figment of Mr. Hunter’s imagination? If these rifles were real, they would be the “Holy Grail” of Model 70s- wouldn’t I have heard of them?
The Expert Deferral Do an Internet search on this topic and you’ll come up with more questions than answers. I reached-out to the experts at the Winchester Collectors Association figuring that if anyone knew about the “Ten Black Kings” it would be them. After a polling of their collectors, they couldn’t find a soul who’d heard of these rifles. I’m no Winchester expert, so there’s a chance that I wouldn’t know about them, but these are the people who know the serial numbers of every Rifleman’s Rifle out there- if they were unaware of these rifles, it stands to reason that they were never made.
The Double-Check Finally, just so we didn’t put out bad information, Jeff and I consulted with our friend Phil Schreier, Senior Curator of the National Firearms Museum and co-host of the “Guns & Gold” television show. Phil confirmed what I strongly suspected: that the “Ten Black Kings” were never made; they don’t exist. In fact, Phil informed us that in one of Hunter’s books one of the “Kings” was on display in the National Firearms Museum. Trust me, if anyone knows what’s in that museum, it’s Phil.
The Ruling As much as I wish it were true so that I could spend my life trying to find one for my own gun safe, the “Ten Black Kings” are pure fiction. My hat is off to Stephen Hunter for his excellent books, and creating “guns of legend” out of thin air. Maybe Winchester will make them now?