Colt 1860 Army Percussion revolver, cal 44
Civil War Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver #78216, Martially Marked, c. 1862
This is a beautiful Civil War Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver that is martially marked and that was manufactured by Colt in 1862. The predecessor to the Colt Model 1860 Army were the heavy Colt Dragoon Revolvers, which weighed in at over 4 pounds. An improvement in steel making in the late 1850s led to Colt experimenting with a new type of steel called "Silver Spring Steel.” The Book of Colt Firearms, R.Q. Sutherland & R.L. Wilson, Kansas City Publ., 1971, p. 157. Using this new “Silver Spring Steel," Colonel Colt sought to reduce the weight of the Third Model Dragoon Revolver. Colt and his chief engineer, Elisha Root, experimented with machining metal from the Dragoon cylinder, barrel and frame. Although the new steel permitted Colt to reduce the weight with these machining operations, the Dragoon's basic design still resulted in a revolver that was too heavy. Colonel Colt then decided to develop a completely new design. Colt adapted the frame from the Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver, which was a smaller frame (firing a smaller .36 caliber ball) and mated it to a more streamlined .44 caliber barrel with a rebated cylinder. This became the Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver.
As Sutherland and Wilson point out in their landmark book on Colt firearms, the new Colt 1860 Army design was heavily influenced by the older Colt 1851 Navy. The Navy model was very popular with those who carried it and the early Model 1860 prototype revolvers modeled numerous 1851 Navy designs including the smaller grip size, the barrel lug profile and the length of the cylinder and barrel. The new Model 1860 also used the same clockwork as the Model 1851 Navy revolver and the round cylinder retained the same Naval Engagement scene as the Model 1851 Navy. The Model 1860 Army did, however, contain some unique designs that distinguished it from the Model 1851 Navy. The loading lever assembly of the Model 1860 Army was the "creeping" type with cogs that engaged milled recesses in the bottom the barrel, as opposed to the hinged design used on the Model 1851 Navy. This creeping design was the same type used on Colt's early Sidehammer handguns. Some early Model 1860 Army prototypes had the hinged loading lever design but no production models were ever manufactured with that design. While the barrel lug profile was generally similar in appearance to the Model 1851 Navy, the Model 1860 Army lug was more streamlined in appearance and had a more refined and tapered design. Some early Model 1860 Army revolvers had the early, smaller Navy style grip, but a larger grip was ultimately selected because it provided a better hand hold. The round barrel of the 1860 Army not only presented a more streamlined appearance than the Model 1851 Navy with its octagon barrel, but it also made production of the barrels much more efficient.
When the design was ultimately finalized by Colt, it was given the designation “The New Model Army” revolver. The revolver, as finally produced, was a .44 caliber revolver firing 6 rounds from a cylinder through an 8“ long barrel with a weight of approximately 2 pounds, 10 ounces. This streamlined revolver had the firepower and ballistics of the earlier Dragoon pistols, but the light weight of the Model 1851 Navy Revolvers. Colt produced approximately 200,500 Model 1860 Army Revolvers from 1860 until 1873. While the exact numbers are not known, the first 2,230 or so Model 1860 Army Revolvers produced, up to April 1, 1861, had been sent to arms dealers in the southern United States. These early Colt 1860 Army Revolvers had shorter 7 1/2" barrels and fluted cylinders. These early Colt 1860 Army Revolvers are sometimes referred to as the “Texas Model” because a large number of surviving examples wound up in Confederate units from Texas. An additional goo of these early Colt 1860 Army Revolvers with fluted cylinders were purchased by the U.S. Navy in May 1861, and these revolvers were issued to Union ships enforcing the blockade ® of the Confederacy along the Atlantic seaboard and in the Gulf of Mexico.
The United States Army madeits initial order in May 1861 and 127,156 of these Model 1860 Army Revolvers were purchased for the Union Army before the great fire of 1864.
The fire began around 8:15 in the morning on Thursday, February 4, 1864. The Colt plant was in full production when the fire broke out and many of the workers were, in accordance with Colt policy, locked inside of their departments. It was only with considerable effort and much luck that there was not a great loss of life amongst the Colt workforce. When firemen arrived on the scene shortly after the first blast of Colt's steam whistle announcing the fire, they found the main Colt production building fully engulfed in flame. Eventually, the fire would destroy the entirety of the original 1855 Colt factory, measuring 500 feet long by 60 feet wide with a large wing measuring 250 feet long and 60 feet wide, all three stories tall. The fire would also destroy Colt's Main Office, connected to the plant by covered bridge. The damage was immense and completely halted all of Colt's production for the duration of the Civil War. The factory would eventually be rebuilt after the Civil War, but it ended all Colt Model 1860 Army production except for very small batches of weapons that were assembled from components saved from the fire until several years after the war ended.
This particular Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver is serial number 78216, which places it year of manufacture in 1862 and it was probably made in end 1862 since the calendar year ended for Colt in 1862 at approximately serial number 85000. Only about 60,000 Model 1860 Army Revolvers were made in 1862 and virtually all, like this one, were purchased by the United States Government forissue to Union troops.
The Frame on this Colt has the matching serial number "78216" on the bottom. No more original case hardened finish remained, because of an old idiotie polishing, as of for the « COLT PATENT ». The shoulder stock cutouts are present on both sides of the frame. This Frame is the 3-Screw type, which Colt changed from the 4-Screw version around serial number 50,000 (the 4th Screw being designed to help secure the shoulder stock). All three of the original single-slot Frame Screws are present and are unmarred. The Cylinder Pin is original and is also serial number matching with "8216" stamped on the bottom and a serif "C" government inspection stamp on the top. The Cylinder Pin threading is still intact. The Cylinder Stop is present and undamaged andit secures the Cylinder firmly when the Hammer is cocked, during firing (hammer fall) and when the Hammer is at rest.
The original Hammer is present and it also has generally a pewter patina throughout. There is evidence of pinprick pitting underside of the Hammer. The crosshatching on the thumb piece, with seven hash marks originating on each side, is still present and crisply cut. The internal Hand, which advances the Cylinder during cocking, is present and undamaged and it still advances the Cylinder precisely and smoothly. The Main Spring is still strong but was changed for a new model and the internal Sear and trigger release are crisp.
The Grips of one piece Stock is the original Colt 1860 Army black walnut and both sides have the original Ordnance inspection cartouches. Theleft side Grip Panel has the correct boxed with rounded corner cartouche containing the script initials "CSL," which are the initials of C. "Samuel" Leonard, who inspected Colt 1860 Army Revolvers from serial number 43694 to 105928. Article, "Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver Inspection Marks," by Charles Pate, p. 35. The cartouche on the right side is the correct boxed with rounded corner cartouche containing the left-leaning script initials "JT," which are the initials of John Taylor, who inspected Colt Model 1860 Army Revolvers from serial number 11654 to 143846. Mr. Taylor's script initials leaned to the left in early production and his cartouche was later changed to so the letters leaned to the right. Id. The inspection procedure on the Colt 1860 Army Grip was such that there were always two different inspection cartouches on the Grips. On one side was the head. inspector's cartouche and on the other was the assistant or sub-inspector's cartouche. There are normal dings and scratches but no cracks noted. My opinion is that the Stock has the original oil finish and the Grip is not loose on the Frame.
The original Steel Backstrap has the matching serial number "78216" on the bottom along with the shoulder stock clamp recess. On the top of the Backstrap, just under the Hammer, there is much blue remaining. Both original single-slot Backstrap Screws are present and are in very good condition. The Backstrap is now generally a pewter patina from what was originally a blued finish at the time of production.
The original brass Triggerguard is serial number matching with "78216" stamped on the bottom front. There are a few minor dings in the brass and it has a very pleasing, dark mustard patina. Just to the rear of the Trigger Bow is the correct serif "H" inspection stamp. Both original single-slot Triggerguard Rear Screws are present and are in very good condition. The original Trigger is present andit retains approximately 85% of its original finish with wear noted on the edges. The original single-slot Triggerguard Front Screw is present and is in very good condition.
The original rebated Cylinder is in fine condition and is serial number matching with "8216" stamped on the side with a clearly stamped "COLTS PATENT No" and "PAT. SEPT. 10th 1850" as well. The vast majority of the original Naval Engagement scene can be distinguished, which is seldom the case with field used weapons. All six original Nipples are present with corrosion along the edges. All six Nipples have clear and unobstructed channels to their respective cylinder chambers, each of which have moderate pitting but are generally still very clean and still serviceable. The Cylinder has the correct serif "A" and script "D"”. The Script "D" stamp is sometimes referred to as a "o” with a slash through it. The script "D" stamp was apparently used to differentiate that inspector's initials from another inspector whose last name began with "D" and whose stamp was a serif "D" mark.
The original Loading Leveris present and it retains considerable original finish in the Plunger Screw/Teeth area. The original Loading Lever Latch is present andit retains approximately 80% of its original blued finish. The Latch Spring is still strong and the Latch Retaining Pin is still present and is unmarred. The original single-slot Loading Lever Plunger Screw is present and is in excellent condition with the majority ofits original finish remaining. The Loading Lever Plunger has a brown and pewter patina and the bullet seating recessis still remarkably clean with no corrosion. As mentioned previously, the Loading Lever was the “creeping” design and it still works perfectly with no binding of the teeth into the barrel recesses and the the Lever secures tightly when stowed up onto the Barrel.
The original 8" long, round, .44 caliber Barrel is present andis serial number matching with "78216" stamped on the bottom. The Barrel retains considerable original blue finish that is thinning and the balance has a dark pewter patina. The original Barrel Stud on the bottom is present and is secure. The original brass Front Sight is present as brazed on top of the barrel and is secure. Inspector’s initial « S » on side toward the cylinder.
The original single-slot Wedge Screw is present and is in very good condition. The Wedge is the only part on this Revolver that is not serial number matching : it is no serial numbered. The Wedge is often not matching on surviving 1860 Army Revolvers because they were easily lost when the barrel was removed and were easily damaged when the inserted and removed when the binding spring was bent.
The top of the Barrel has the single line address that is still very clearly visible and reads in all serif letters, "-ADDRESS COL. SAML[underlined, smaller "L"] COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA-.The bore of the Barrel is still remarkably shiny on the lands with strong rifling the entire length.
There is darkening and minor pitting along the length in the grooves.
This is a remarkable surviving example of the most extensively used sidearm of the Civil War and it is still solid and tight in every respect. Were it not for the rarity of these Civil War Colts, this Colt 1860 Army could probably still be safely fired today, although their rarity makes that something that I would never recommend.
This Revolver is an important part of both American and martial history and will be a superb addition to anyone’'s collection.
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