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Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver --Early 3rd Mod w/ Special Target Features--

This is quite an interesting Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver with some unusual features. From casual observation, this is just a standard Colt percussion belt revolver in .36 caliber with 7-1/2" barrel, and a 3rd model small rounded trigger guard. It's got a nice low serial number in the 18,000 range that was made in 1852. When we acquired this, we began to notice this was not just any '51 Navy. Not everything showed up at one but the first thing we realized was that it has special factory target sights. Basically, instead of the standard upright pin or needle style front sight, this is a nice German silver blade that's secured by ornate steel base neatly dovetailed into the barrel...looks like a miniature Rocky Mountain front sight you'd find on a rifle. You'll see these from time to time on the '51 Navy including presentation guns. There is an Engraved Presentation Model 1851 Navy with this same front sight pictured on pg. 112 of "Samuel Colt Presents" by R.L. Wilson. That particular gun is quite a bit fancier than this one. It's in the 6,400 range and was given to Texan, Mexican War commander, and future Confederate soldier (McCulloch's Rangers), Ben McCulloch in approx. 1851. The rear sight, located on the top of the hammer also has a deeper V-cut than you normally find on an 1851 Navy with a ornate scalloped aperture. See photo.

There is one more thing that we stumbled upon completely by accident that makes this gun unique. When we removed the grips to check for a serial number, we discovered a very simple but clever device that has been on this gun probably since it was new. There is a small screw threaded through the back of the hammer which appears to function as a set trigger. By turning the screw, it reduces the length of the full cock notch giving the trigger a shorter ledge or travel distance to release the hammer. I suppose theoretically speaking, if this screw were fully extended, it would completely disengage the full cock notch to where the hammer could be fanned without having to touch the trigger. Something like that might have come in handy for a gunfighter persona like Wild Bill Hickok, but more than likely, given the fancy sights, this small device was intended for reducing trigger pull for target shooting...rather than for quick-draw work in a gunfight. See photos.

Overall Condition, NRA Antique Very Good. This gun appears to have been carried a lot in a leather holster. However, it was used by someone who knew how to handle it with care and took time to clean the bore. The numbers are all 100% all matching right down to little stuff like the arbor pin, wedge, and even hand-inked inside the original walnut grips (hard to read but there...see photo). All the markings are sharp and legible which includes a perfect New York barrel address and tiny "COLT'S PATENT" on the left side of the frame. Strong traces of original silver plate are located in the protected areas of the trigger guard (10-15%) and back strap (3%). The case colors on the frame have faded and worn to a mottled silvery gray mixing with patina. Barrel has turned to a gray/med. brown patina with slight traces of original blue in protected areas. The inside of the barrel edge has 35% original blue. The cylinder still has 85-90% of its original scene intact depicting the battle between the Texas Navy and Mexico. In fact, you can still read Colt's die maker's name, W.L. Ormsby (in tiny letters) located just below the serial number and "COLT'S PATENT" mark. Mr. Waterman Lilly Ormsby was an engraver skilled in steel-plate work whose shop was located in New York. See pg. 43 of The Story of Colt's Revolver for more on Ormsby. Back of the cylinder still has remnants of its original safety pins on the lugs between the nipples but appear to be quiet worn and mashed. These are usually completely worn off so these are a bit above average for a 159 year old Colt. All six chambers still have their original Colt percussion nipples with no chips or corrosion. Good screws throughout and Excellent markings. See photo of barrel address. Grips are in very good condition with 20% original varnish remaining. The walnut shows plenty of wear but solid with good tight wood-to-metal fit. No chips, cracks, or repairs. Very good mechanics. Wedge locks barrel tightly to the frame with zero wobble or play. Bore is Very Good+ with nice strong lands and grooves. No rings or bulges. All in all, this is one of the better early production 1851 Navies we've had in years as they're difficult to find without problems. This one has everything collectors strive to find on an early Colt: matching numbers, a good cylinder scene, decent unsanded grips, good solid mechanics, and a pleasing overall look with a bit of original finish hiding in the corners. But what really makes this gun special (in my opinion) are the sights and the set trigger. If this gun could talk, we're sure it would have one heck of an interesting story to tell!

Item# 1317




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