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Colt D.A. 41

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by MrBill120, Dec 29, 2007.

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  1. MrBill120

    MrBill120 Member

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    My father has an old Colt D.A. 41. The gun's original owner (a relative's uncle) was a Deputy U.S. Marshall in Oklahoma Territory.
    The last copyright year was 1897. The gun had supposedly seen some action back in its day. The barrell is pitted, and the timing is off.

    Would something like this have any value? He's thought about having a couple of the local antique dealers take a look at it.

    Also, what finish would this have been? It wasn't blued, he checked under the grips...was it bare metal or could it have been a worn off nickel plate??

    Thanks for any (and all input) in advance!
     

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  2. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    It's a Colt Model 1892 New Army revolver. The serial number is most likely stamped on the butt, in 2 rows. Otherwise it would be on the frame behind the crane. You'll have to swing out the cylinder to see it.

    Once you locate the serial number you can find the year it was made, by going to: www.proofhouse.com

    The finish is gone, but it could have been blued or nickel plated.

    The gun itself is probably worth around $300.00, but if you could document the story concerning ownership the value would likely double or more.
     
  3. MrBill120

    MrBill120 Member

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    Old Fluff- Thanks for the link.
    The serial # matches up with the year 1899. My father received the Colt somewhere around 1974. He still has the note (and the envelope it was mailed in-the envelope has a 10cent stamp on it!) that his uncle mailed him around the time he sent the gun . The gun was owned by my father's uncle's Uncle....The note states that he (Uncle's Uncle) was a Dep. U.S. Marshall in Oklahoma Territory and then he went on to become a Judge.
     
  4. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    MrBill120

    Maybe catch a few episodes of "Antique Roadshow"; there you'll see how even an ordinary looking item can escalate quickly in value by having the right documentation to establish it's provenance. If Colt can provide you with a factory letter as to when and where it was sold, and if you could do some background research from your end, in regards to any family history like who owned it and what they did with it, then you could definitely add to it's value from a collector's standpoint.
     
  5. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    A Colt letter is expensive (around $100) and a gamble. At the time in question Colt did sell revolvers directly to certain lawman and military officers with a "professional discount." However there is a good chance that the letter would simply show it going to a distributor or hardware store. It would document the original finish, barrel length, caliber and stocks among other things.

    On the other hand, not too many deputy marshals ended up becoming judges. There is a clue... :scrutiny: ;)
     
  6. Jim K

    Jim K Member

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    It is almost a distinction without a difference, but I think that is the New Army Model of 1894 (the civilian designation, as .41 was never used by the military). I wonder if that '97 patent date is correct. I can't find that any of those guns had that date; the latest was '01, the next previous was '95. The early guns of the so-called Model 1894 did not have the 1895 patent date.

    In any case it is the civilian version of the Army Model 1892 and its successors. As the military guns were updated, Colt applied the same changes to its civilian models. Even after the Army guns were updated, the Navy continued to buy the older (1889) model and Colt, incredibly, continued to produce both types for the civilian market as the New Navy and the New Army. Even after Colt ended the distinction in 1895 by making all the guns the same, it continued to advertise and sell using both names, the only distinction now being the grips. (The New Navy had the large word COLT, the New Army had a small "COLT" and the "pony", as does the one pictured.)

    Perhaps someone can do better, as that model series is without doubt the most confusing to the collector as any in Colt's history.

    Ammo note: The military guns were made in .38 (what we call .38 Long Colt), the civilian models in .38 and .41. Note that the .41 Colt is not the same as the much newer .41 Magnum, and .41 Magnum loads should not be used in the old revolvers. (The .41 Magnum cartridge itself is much too big to fit the old .41 Colt chamber, but people have become confused and used .41 Magnum loads, resulting in destruction of an old gun.)

    Jim
     
  7. guy sajer

    guy sajer Member

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    I would think an internet search might turn up some history on the judge . Couldn't be too many judges in the OK Territory at that time .? Probably an interesting life !

    This one's a late gun from 1907 .

    [​IMG]
     
  8. MrBill120

    MrBill120 Member

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    Well I did an interent search on him...found him listed as a Deputy U.S. Marshall. Nothing as a judge...or could he have been a justice of the peace..

    Spoke w/ my father about the gun earlier...he said the finish under the grips looks just like the rest of the gun...we wonder if when the finish wore off if he removed the rest up it on purpose...
     
  9. guy sajer

    guy sajer Member

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    It does sound like the finish removal might have been "helped" along . I've seen quite a few antique firearms in the last 30 yrs . Even with heavy use there is usually small amts of finish still showing in the protected areas . Under the grips , corners like where the barrel meets the frame , inside the cylinder crane , etc . If you really want to find out you might carefully remove the side plate . The underneath side will have finish unless chemically removed . It's a careful job though .
    Maybe try this . When you cock the hammer try shining a light down in the frame . Might get a look that way .

    Finish or not it's a great piece of family history . Glad it ended up with a relative that will keep it safe . :)
     
  10. Daniel Gunsmith

    Daniel Gunsmith Member

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    I know this is nine months after the last post, sorry.
    The pitting on the Bbl, yoke and frame might indicate that it had excessive rust at one time, rather than over a long period of corrossion. The finish may have been removed when someone polished the rust off. Also, any rust-releasing agent will damage bluing, particularly the older rust-bluing that was likely your firearms finish. It would not rate a high percent in the bluebook, but no one can put a price on a family heirloom with that kind of history!
     
  11. Daniel Gunsmith

    Daniel Gunsmith Member

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    Which reminds me- I had a customer bring me a similar pistol- a .41 1877 Thunder, owned by a Marshall, with two kill notches in the grip. Its fantastic- great condition and everything works flawlessly- what he wants from me is contemporary ammo. I saw the picture above and got extremely jealous- anyone know where I can find a box of era .41 Colt
     
  12. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    No, but since we're posting pics here's my .41 New Army and Navy (apparently, from what I've leared here at THR)
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Shade00

    Shade00 Member

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    Daniel Gunsmith: I would suggest advising your customer to not fire that revolver. The Thunderer (and Lightning) are notoriously prone to breaking, and it will be extremely difficult to locate parts AND to work on them. A good-condition Thunderer, if it has the original finish and maybe a Colt letter, would be worth quite a bit. If it is in working order, then it's worth even more.
     
  14. guy sajer

    guy sajer Member

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    Good advice and I'll add that there's a good chance the Thunderer in question was most likely not proofed for smokeless powder loads . Be careful .
     
  15. 44and45

    44and45 Member In Memoriam

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    Back in 1977 I took the family on vacation to Montana Glacier Park, we stopped in Salmon Idaho at a restaurant sport shop. I was looking for some .41 Colt ammo for my gun which I bought for $50.00 back then.

    The owner of the sport shop didn't have any .41 ammo, but said wait just a minute as he got on the phone. He came back and told how to get to this house up a small hilly street.

    Elmer Keith answered the door and shook my hand, introduced me to his wife, and we chatted for an hour. I wish I had my copy of his Sixgun book for him to autograph.

    He had some .41 Colt ammo, but wouldn't part with it. Back then it was just as hard for him to acquire it, as it was for me.

    After that trip I sold the gun which was in as good a shape as Guy Sajer fine looking piece. Wish I still had it today.

    Jim
     
  16. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    There is a smidgen of blue showing on the left rear of the trigger in the OP. Which means the gun was blued, Colt blued or plated the whole gun, unlike S&W. The gun was probably rusty and "cleaned up" with Naval Jelly or similar.

    Dollar value is low. Collect as many stories about the Marshall as possible to make it a nice heirloom piece.
     
  17. Johnny Guest

    Johnny Guest Moderator Emeritus

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    Ammo won't come cheap!

    The last new-manufacture .41 Colt ammo I saw was priced at $60 a box, and that was about four years ago. Winchester did a limited run sometime prior to that.

    I'll bet there'll be a box or two t almost any large gun show, but you must need to be prepared to pay the price. I suggest tht, if you put in n order with your dealer, you tell him tht you don't want to pay over X dollars a box, and whether or not you'll settle for partial box of ammo, or for some loose cartridges.

    If I had an heirloom revolver and wanted to say I'd fired it some, I'd probably be willing to pay $75 -- $80 for a box. Clean, loose ammo will probably bring $2 each.

    A hint: Don't order it and then try to bet down the dealer's price. He'll have his money tied up in it, and deserves a certain mark up. If you go to a gun show and hunt it up yourself, then, sure, a bit of bargaining is in order.

    If you want to shoot the old revovler much, you might put out the word you'd like to locate a custom loader. It'll still be expensive, but not so dear as buying any quantity of new factory loads. Check the prices on brass, bullets, and loading dies before you try to handload it yourself, though.

    Seems I found that RCBS dies and shell holder for the .41 LC were over $100, and the brass was around 50 cents each. Oh, and, you CANNOT use .41 magnum bullets - - It'll be a custom order, even for the bullets.

    Good luck to you.
    Johnny
     
  18. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Warning!

    Unless it is custom loaded, all current .41 Long Colt ammunition is loaded with smokeless powder.

    COLT SPECIFICALLY WARNED (With an end-label on the box) THAT MODEL 1877 .41 and .38 REVOLVERS SHOULD NEVER BE FIRED WITH CARTRIDGES LOADED WITH SMOKELESS POWDER!

    These revolvers are commonly (and incorrectly) called "Lightning's" or "Thunder's") and like the Single Action Army load throught a gate on the right side of the frame, rather then have the cylinder swing out.

    Regardless of age or date of manufacture, the chamber walls in these old guns are too thin, and the material too weak, to stand the pressures caused by smokeless powder.

    In addition, the points made by Shade00 in an earlier post are well taken. Should you break any part you will find that repairs are very expensive, and sometimes impossible.
     
  19. Johnny Guest

    Johnny Guest Moderator Emeritus

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    Arghhh!

    Fuff, I was totally unaware of that. I'm accustomed to traditional-style, new-manufacture ammunition for vintage arms being loaded down so that it's safe to shoot in the old arms. The only .41 Colt revolvers I've ever fired were Colt SAAs and, I believe, an old Army Special.

    I should have made it clear that my remarks about obtaining "new" ammo and firing a family heirloom piece apply ONLY to the Model 1892, topic of the original post. Even then, I'd shoot only the mildest possible ammo.

    As always, your cautionary remarks are directly on point. :p

    Best
    Johnny
     
  20. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Apparently few people are aware of the possible danger of firing smokeless powder loads in Colt model 1877 D.A. revolvers. I posted warnings on 3 threads last week.

    Why won't reduced smokeless loads be safe, if they are loaded to the same or less pressure generated by a black powder charge? Because the smokeless powder burns faster and the pressure goes up quicker, putting more strain on the cylinder.

    The cylinder walls are very thin by modern standards, the materials they used were not near as strong as that used now, some had seams in the low-carbon steel bar stock the cylinders were made from, and they were not heat treated. Last but not least, they were not proof fired for anything but black powder.

    The .38 Long Colt ammunition being currently loaded is intended to be used in Colt Single Action and open top/cartridge conversion replicas that are popular with cowboy action shooters, and in those guns they are more then safe.

    As a rule-of-thumb it is unwise to shoot any gun made during the 19th century with smokeless powder cartridges. This may be seen as overkill, but these firearms are without exception, antiques - and part of our history. To foolishly destroy one should be a crime. Those that feel that they MUST shoot everything that they own, and that without exception ALL guns are made to be shot, regardless of age or condition, should stick to those being currently manufactured, or those made during the recent past.
     
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