Original U.S. Civil War Colt M1851 Navy .36cal Percussion Revolver with Cylinder Scene made in 1863 - Serial 166651
Original Item: Only One Available. The Colt Navy Model 1851 Percussion Revolver in .36 caliber was widely used by both sides in the U.S. Civil War. The Colt Revolving Belt Pistol of Naval Caliber (i.e., .36 cal), later known as the Colt 1851 Navy or Navy Revolver, is a cap and ball revolver that was designed by Samuel Colt between 1847 and 1850. Colt first called this Revolver Ranger model, but the designation Navy quickly took over. It remained in production until 1873, when revolvers using fixed metallic cartridges came into widespread use.
This lovely example features a standard 7 1/2" barrel is marked with serial number 166651 on the barrel, frame, grip frame, and trigger guard. The cylinder and cylinder arbor pin are both stamped with shortened number 6651, while the barrel wedge is an unmarked arsenal replacement. We would consider this a "Mostly Matching" example, with no major parts swapped out. Colt records indicate that this revolver was produced in 1863, right in the middle of the Civil War, so it almost certainly saw service during the conflict.
Unlike almost all that we see, the "Naval Engagement Scene" is still well retained at over 60%! Also, the COLT'S PATENT No. next to the cylinder serial is still clearly visible. We usually see these with only the serial number remaining on the cylinder, so this is a real treat! The top of the barrel still has the full Colt "New York" address marking:
- ADDRESS COL. SAML COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA -
The revolver looks to have seen only light service during the war, and then was cleaned repeatedly over the years, which has removed most of the original finish. leaving a very nice bright steel patina. It does not look to have been refinished at any point, and the markings are still crisp. The COLTS PATENT marking is still visible on the left side of the frame, and there is also the 36CAL marking still present on the left side of the trigger guard.
The revolver cycles correctly, with good indexing and cylinder lock up, and the mainspring is strong. We did not notice any of the usual finicky behavior we often see on revolvers of this age. The bore is in very good condition, still showing a bright finish with crisp lands and grooves on over 90% of the interior. There are some areas of oxidation and fouling, but they are scattered, with some near the cylinder where the powder exposure was greater.
The cap nipples are all intact and clear on the cylinder, though they definitely do show wear from use and hammer strikes. Interestingly, at some point the safety pins on the rear face of the cylinder were replaced, so the revolver can have the hammer properly stowed for travel. The grip scales are in very good condition, with a lovely grain and color, as well as traces of the original varnished finish. They do show wear, with a bit missing on the corners from wear, as usually seen.
This is a very nice '49 Pocket dating from the Civil War with a majority of the cylinder scene still intact, a very nice acquisition for any collection. In wonderful condition and ready to display!
Year of Manufacture: 1863
Ammunition Type: Cap and Ball
Barrel Length: 7 1/2 inches
Overall Length: 13 inches
Action: Single Action
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver
History of the 1851 Navy Colt Pistol:
The .36 caliber Navy revolver was much lighter than the contemporary Colt Dragoon Revolvers developed from the .44 Walker Colt revolvers of 1847, which, given their size and weight, were generally carried in saddle holsters. It is an enlarged version of the .31 caliber Colt Pocket Percussion Revolvers, that evolved from the earlier Baby Dragoon, and, like them, is a mechanically improved and simplified descendant of the 1836 Paterson revolver. As the factory designation implied, the Navy revolver was suitably sized for carrying in a belt holster. It became very popular in North America at the time of Western expansion. Colt's aggressive promotions distributed the Navy and his other revolvers across Europe, Asia, and Africa. As with many other Colt revolvers, it has a six-round cylinder.
The cylinder of this revolver is engraved with a scene of the victory of the Second Texas Navy at the Battle of Campeche on May 16, 1843. The Texas Navy had purchased the earlier Colt Paterson Revolver, but this was Colt's first major success in the gun trade; the naval theme of the engraved cylinder of the Colt 1851 Navy revolver was Colt's gesture of appreciation. The engraving was provided by Waterman Ormsby. Despite the "Navy" designation, the revolver was chiefly purchased by civilians and military land forces.
The .36 caliber (.375-.380 inch) round lead ball weighs 80 grains and, at a velocity of 1,000 feet per second, is comparable to the modern .380 pistol cartridge in power. Loads consist of loose powder and ball or bullet, metallic foil cartridges (early), and combustible paper cartridges (Civil War era), all combinations being ignited by a fulminate percussion cap applied to the nipples at the rear of the chamber.
Famous "Navy" users included Wild Bill Hickok, John Henry "Doc" Holliday, Richard Francis Burton, Ned Kelly, Bully Hayes, Richard H. Barter, Robert E. Lee, Nathan B. Forrest, John O'Neill, Frank Gardiner, Quantrill's Raiders, John Coffee "Jack" Hays, "Bigfoot" Wallace, Ben McCulloch, Addison Gillespie, John "Rip" Ford, "Sul" Ross and most Texas Rangers prior to the Civil War and (fictionally) Rooster Cogburn. Use continued long after more modern cartridge revolvers were introduced.
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