Info for my dad


March 6, 2003, 07:56 PM
Where can we find info on this?
I cannot run this with his letter but I will give you the important info.

He bought a Colt 1851 revolver in .38 cal according to the antique store he bought it from it was Mfg in 1861. He cannot find any info on the Colt website. He says the serial # (did they use serial #'s back then?) is 95817, the number is on the trigger assembly. the frame, cylinder and ? barrel frame?. It was also stamped with Colt patent # 1858.

He is quite excited about finally finding one of these and asked for info from me, but I know very little about historical pieces.


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Jim K
March 6, 2003, 11:24 PM
Wilson says that gun was made in 1860, but the difference is not important. Condition is very important to value, and also matching numbers. The caliber was actually called .36, though it is close to the modern .38 caliber.

Obviously that pistol is not all matching, at least the cylinder is not. The "patent number" marking actually means "Colt's Patent, No. xxxx". In other words, the number is not the patent number, but should be the last four digits of the serial number. So the cylinder does not match.

If the other numbers (barrel, frame, grip strap, wedge) match, the gun is still pretty good. It also is important that the cylinder "scene", the rollmarked naval battle scene, be visible and the better it is the more value. I can't judge condition without seeing the gun, but to be honest, most of them went through a war and are pretty well beat. That serial number falls into the range collectors call the Fourth Model, which was the wartime production and the most common.

Original finish was blued barrel and cylinder, with color case-hardened frame and hammer. Grip straps on that series were silver washed brass, but very few have any silver left.

The guns are not rare; they made over 200,000 of them, into the 1870's, and several usually turn up at a gun show of any size. Because they are desireable, there have been many reworked, and some outright fakes, plus thousands of reproductions.

Prices around here range from $1000 for a clunker to $7000 plus for one in 100% condition. A cased set will bring much more.

A word of caution. In the antique gun field, the words of wisdom are "caveat emptor" which translates from the Latin as "if you don't know what you are doing, you will get scr**ed".



March 11, 2003, 05:15 PM
Ok, I laid hand on it today. Every part has the same serial number. It has 1858 stamped on it in at least 2 places. There is not a scene on the cylinder. There is still some silver on the brass but not much. There is some wear on the cylinder "gear" (I am not a revolver guy) Anyways doesnt look too rough.

Jim K
March 11, 2003, 11:24 PM
The serial number should be stamped in four places on the bottom (barrel, frame, trigger guard - all right together - and butt) and on the cylinder (last 4 only). Original wedges should also have the last 4.

The numbering styles should match, as the numbers were all put on at the same time by the same person using hand-held punches. There was a scene on the cylinder if it is a Colt cylinder; these are very shallow and often wear down or are buffed off in rebluing.

The barrel flat corners should be sharp, not rounded, the rammer should work and fit, the gun should work. The Colt barrel markings should be sharp and clear. Wear on the cylinder ratchet is normal. The original blue is a very hard, black color, highly polished. The frame, hammer and rammer are color case hardened, though most seen today are either faded or rusted.

A blued frame indicates a reblue. Good bluing on the rest with little wear could mean a well cared for gun, but more likely indicates one that has been reblued and thus considerably reduced in value.

Any silver at all on the grips is a plus.


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