This is a nice example of an antique Colt 1878 Double Action Revolver in caliber 44-40 also known as the "Frontier Six Shooter". The 44-40 or .44 Winchester Center Fire cartridge was one of the first reloadable calibers on the civilian market by the mid-1870's. The famed Winchester 1873 Rifle was originally only offered in the 44-40 and as the model became famous on Western frontier, the Colt Company decided to get on the 44-40 Train by offering its Model 1873 Single Action Army and its new Colt 1878 Double Action Revolvers in the same caliber. These models traditionally came standard in .45 Colt so the new versions in 44-40 were specially marked "COLT FRONTIER SIX SHOOTER" on the left side of the barrel. In the 1880's, this marking was initially acid etched in the barrel and by around 1889, the marking was applied with a roll die.
This particular example has the roll die marking as it was made in 1893. Serial number is in the 31,000 range. Standard 7-1/2" barrel, nickel plated finish with fire blued appointments, and checkered hard rubber grips. It comes with a factory letter from the Colt Archives verifying the configuration and states it was shipped to the firm "Schoverling, Daly, and Gales" New York, New York in February of 1893. Schoverling, Daly, and Gales was a respected sporting goods store back in the late 19th century with a thriving mail order business to customers in the American west. In 1879, a young customer from Utah wrote SD&G for advice on how to obtain a patent a firearm he had recently invented. To the customer's surprise, the NY-based hardware store was instrumental in helping this young man get his patent. That man turned out to be John Browning and the patent was for the Model 1879 Browning which would later become the Model 1885 Hiwall Rifle after the design was purchased by Winchester Repeating Arms. A few years later, when Browning traveled east for the first time by railroad in 1883/84, he brought with him the prototype for what would become the famous Model 1886 Winchester Lever Action Rifle. However, John and his brother Matt Browning stopped in New York prior to reaching the Winchester factory in New Haven, CT. Given all of their help with his first patent, it was only fitting that Browning showed off his newest invention to his friends at Schoverling Daly and Gales who pronounced it the finest lever action rifle in the world. I've always though it interesting that this NY based hardware store got to see one of the greatest Winchester lever action designs ever before anyone at Winchester ever laid eyes on it.
Getting back to this revolver, it is in NRA Antique Excellent Condition with 94% original nickel remaining overall with the main losses being in the form of some spots of flaking on the right side of the frame and a some loss near the front sight on the barrel. Trigger, rear profiles of the hammer, and screws show portions of their original fire blue. Nice sharp markings throughout which include the Frontier Six Shooter marking on the left side, barrel address, and small rampant Colt in a circle on the lower left corner of the frame. Hammer has sharp checkering as well. The original hard rubber grips have very good checkering and no chips or cracks. Note the little circular pattern in the checkering beneath the grips screw. This is some sort of Colt factory anomaly for the Model 1878 DA in 1893 as I've seen the exact same circle on the left grip of another 1893 vintage 1878 DA about 600 digits higher than this revolver. Interesting variation. The action cycles well in double and singl action modes. The bore has decent lands and grooves and will still spin a .44 cleaning brush but is a bit frosty. No major pits, no rings, etc. Good Overall. Nice example of an Antique Model 1878 complete with factory letter.