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Old Colt SAA revolver with history

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by RancidSumo, Jul 20, 2008.

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  1. RancidSumo

    RancidSumo Member

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    My dad recently gave me an old Colt revolver. It was given to my dad's grandfather shortly after the Johnson County Cattle Wars in exchange for a train ticket out of Wyoming. The other in the pair is on the other side of the family. It originally had ivory grips but my grandfather took them off so he could shoot it without worring about them. It is a 38 W.C.F. six shot revolver. Patent date is September 19, 1871. Other markings are under the Pat, it is stamped July 2 72 Jan 19 75. To the right of that there is then Colt horse with the arrows or spears or whatever they are. On the right side of the trigger guard is what looks like an upside down triangle with a V joined with a P inside it. On the right side of the barrel it is stamped 38 W.C.F. and on the top of the barrel it says, COLT'S PT.F.A. MFG. Co. HARTFORD CT. U.S.A. The serial number is also in three places. Anyone have any information on value or anything else about this gun or caliber?

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    Last edited: Jul 20, 2008
  2. RancidSumo

    RancidSumo Member

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    Ok, pics are up. Sorry for the poor quality.
     
  3. woodsltc

    woodsltc Member

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    Lots of knowledgeable people here that can help you. But the guys on the "Colt Forum" may be more experienced in the old SAA Colts.

    Try this link: http://www.coltforum.com/

    Don
     
  4. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

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    Much depends on exactly when the revolver was made.
    Here's a site that will allow you to determine actual year made:

    http://proofhouse.com/colt/

    What determines actual value in Colt Single Actions is condition, year made, barrel length, and caliber, among others.
    If you have any documentation about the Johnson County War concerning THIS specific gun, that will add to the value.

    You can buy a Colt factory Historical Letter that will tell you everything Colt knows about the gun.
    This will include the date it was shipped, the original finish, caliber, barrel length, type of grips, and WHO it was shipped to.
    The letter costs and takes time to get, but this would be an invaluable addition to the gun:

    http://www.coltsmfg.com/cmci/historical.asp

    The "upside down" triangle is a "VP" in a triangle.
    This is Colt's "Verified Proof" stamp indicating the gun passed inspection.

    Your gun is a smokeless frame model as made after 1896.
    Since the Johnson County War was in 1892, the fact that your Colt was made in 1896 may conflict with the family history of it.

    DO NOT "clean up" the gun or alter anything until an expert has seen this gun, evaluated it, and placed a value on it.
    Many guns that WERE worth thousands of dollars were worth hundreds of dollars after someone mistakenly "cleaned it up".

    I'd suggest first checking for the year on the above site, then contacting Colt for a factory letter.
    After that, contact the Colt Collector's Association and ask about finding an expert to give you a true appraisal.
     
  5. RancidSumo

    RancidSumo Member

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    I just talked with some family and my understanding of the story was slightly off. The gun was aquired sometime in the ten years following the JCCW by my great granfather, Gustave States.

    What would you consider the condition to be? The only problem other then the obvious lack of finish is scratches on the front sight. The finish is slightly better then it appears in the pics because the light made it look more "shiny" then it actually is. The color in the second pic just above the trigger is about the color of the entire gun other then some areas of the barrel.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2008
  6. RancidSumo

    RancidSumo Member

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    Would shooting it once or twice with some mild handloads be alright or should I just put that idea out of my head now?
     
  7. XavierBreath

    XavierBreath Member

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    I can't do better than that. You have been given a gift of significant family and historical value, as well as one of (I suspect) significant monetary value. I am far from being a SAA expert, or even amatuer, but it appears the gun is 100% correct to my uneducated eye. There is a fair chance the ivory grips shipped from Colt with the gun. A factory letter will state whether or not they did.

    I, too, cannot emphasize enough that nothing should be put on this gun but a light coating of oil. Do not try to clean it up, and whatever you do, don't have it re-blued.

    In addition to the Colt factory letter, you might want to consider having a presentation case made up for it. Google "wooden gun box" and you will get an idea of what is available.

    Old Colts have always had a ready and willing market, but the interest has skyrocketed with the popularity of SASS. Do not entertain any offers until a bonafide expert has appraised your revolver.

    At The Armchair Gunshow, Jim Supica has a reworked 1st Generation, smokeless frame SAA that is going for $2,250. His listing reads:
     
  8. SouthpawShootr

    SouthpawShootr Member

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    Get that Colt letter first. If it's original, I wouldn't shoot it. I suspect it's worth a great deal of money (not to mention the sentimental worth of family heirloom status). Preserve it in the condition it is now in as best you can. Lots of collectors around, so it shouldn't be hard to find a referral to an expert who can appraise your gun, but you'd probably need to have that letter for an accurate appraisal.
     
  9. RancidSumo

    RancidSumo Member

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    Ok, thanks. I won't shoot it now but it is very hard not to. The gun just feels perfect in my hands and points great. Guess I will have to go buy a new single action revolver to shoot. Anyone have any info on the 38 W.C.F.?
     
  10. XavierBreath

    XavierBreath Member

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    Link
     
  11. Beagle-zebub

    Beagle-zebub Member

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    If I were you, I wouldn't sell it for love or money. It's an heirloom not only of your family, but of how long they have been in Wyoming.
     
  12. Packman

    Packman Member

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    Not me, but just my opinion...

    That gun is a family heirloom. Treasure it. If you give it up, you'll never have another like it, even if you get an identical model. In my family, family guns stay in the family. No matter what. A personal history is worth more than any monetary value to me.

    That said, it's your gun. Definitely have it appraised.
     
  13. XavierBreath

    XavierBreath Member

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    TAFFIN TESTS: THE .38-40 (.38WCF)

     
  14. RancidSumo

    RancidSumo Member

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    I have no intention of selling it. I just want to know about it including the value. This gun, just like the many others that have been passed down in my family, will never be sold. Well, I will never sell them anyway.
     
  15. RancidSumo

    RancidSumo Member

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    XavierBreath, that listing on The Armchair Gunshow has been refinished right? If so, would mine be worth more or less?
     
  16. Iggy

    Iggy Member

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    RancidSumo

    If Gustave States was a participant in the JCCW, there are probably records and maybe even pictures of him floating around.
    The Gang that went up to clean out Johnson County weren't bashful while they were in Cheyenne.

    There are probably extensive records of who was there and what they did on the JC war. The State museum and archives in Cheyenne and the library at the University should have a great deal of stuff about that little fracas. Also museums and historical societies in Sheridan and Buffalo may be a good source of info.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2008
  17. Jim March

    Jim March Member

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    Between the original finish and the ivory grips (even better if the ivories are original or at least Colt-sourced of that period), I suspect your gun is worth more.

    Your front sight appears to be mildly customized but it was done tastefully and in a pattern I've not seen an exact match to.
     
  18. XavierBreath

    XavierBreath Member

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    If you have any remnants of the original finish at all, your revolver would be worth more. When you consider that the one Supica is auctioning has had a barrel swap, your revolver could be worth significantly more if you have the original barrel.
     
  19. RancidSumo

    RancidSumo Member

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    The barrel is original I think. It has Colt markings and there is about 50% of the finish left. Other then that the gun is in great shape. It has a 7.5 inch barrel. How can I tell if the grips are original? Would the set be worth more then two random Colt SAAs of the period? They both have ivory grips. I plan on contacting the person who has the other one and seeing if he has any more information about them and their history.
     
  20. Catalina25

    Catalina25 Member

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    RancidSumo, Man good for you. So, did I read that right there is two of these? Matching? TKM
     
  21. TallPine

    TallPine Member

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    Wow, what a treasure! :)

    So does this mean that the 44-40 (and 38-40) basically use the same balloon head brass as the .45 Colt ?
     
  22. RancidSumo

    RancidSumo Member

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    Not sure what TKM means but yes, it is one of a matching pair. The other is on the other side of the family.
     
  23. mtngunr

    mtngunr Member

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    Great heirloom! The hammer looks like a 3rd Gen Hammer in the RH view....also the total lack of case color gives that impression, but it's hard to tell from the photos...

    Barrel marking detail will tell if it's the correct barrel for the vintage.

    Assy number on loading gate and on cylinder frame under top grip strap should match.

    Ejector, tube, grips, basepin, trigger look correct.

    If Doc O'Meara posts here, show him this stuff, as he's written several Colt books....or try the www.sixgunnercommunity.com forum and page him there.

    You will not harm the gun by shooting SAAMI spec .38WCF ammo, and will not increase its value by not shooting....it's already well-used and modified, and the smokeless-proof gun is plenty safe to shoot.

    Even if it's only mostly Colt parts, and broken, it would still be a $1000 gun...all original 1st Gen parts would make it a $2000 min. gun even with sight mod....replacement 1st Gen hammer in nice shape for your manufacture date would be $300-$400 IF your hammer isn't original....but, it's a shooter-grade, was made to be shot, and you need to take it out periodically and shoot it....

    Can't say about the ivories....the insanely expensive Colt letter would let you know what configuration the gun shipped in, including finish, grips, and barrel/caliber.

    Very nice family gun....VERY nice...about the same shape as my 1st Gen .38WCF, but the only story with mine is that it was owned by a WWII Screaming Eagle vet who bought it well used out in Colorado....
     
  24. mtngunr

    mtngunr Member

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    There ain't no balloon head brass in any caliber, and hasn't been since almost Frankford arsenal BP load days....the .45 COLT is a different load than the 38 or 44 WINCHESTER, the Winchester loads originally rifle loads for the 1873, as well as the 32WCF....all cases today are solid head, and have been for almost 100yrs.
     
  25. RancidSumo

    RancidSumo Member

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    ^^ What makes you think it is modified? And there is no way it is third gen.
     
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