Original U.S. Civil War Colt M1851 Navy .36cal Revolver Made in 1856 - Shoulder Stock Modified - Matching Serial 59422

Item Description

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 very interesting example features a standard 7 1/2" barrel, and is marked with serial number 59422 on the barrel, frame, cylinder, grip frame, and trigger guard. The barrel wedge and loading rammer are marked with shortened number 9422, while the cylinder arbor pin has had the end adjusted, so only 942 is visible. This makes this a very desirable "ALL MATCHING" example of the M1851 Navy revolver, without any major parts swapped out over the years! Colt records indicate that this revolver was produced in 1856, several years before the start of the Civil War, so it almost certainly saw service during the conflict.

This production time also puts it around the time that some Colt M1851 Navy revolvers were being fitted with the 1st model shoulder stock, which we have seen fitted to revolver serial 56806, also made in 1856. This earlier version of the shoulder stock did require the "four screw" frame or the inlets on the recoil shield of the frame and the bottom of the grip. The 1st model used a threaded hole on the back of the grip strap to attach the shoulder stock. Revolvers outfitted like this also often had long range front and rear sights added, which still can be seen on the top of the barrel of this example, though the sights were removed and the dovetails filled. There was even a small brass lanyard loop fitting or something similar added to the bottom of the grip, now ground almost flush. Definitely some great research potential here!

Unlike most that we see, the "Naval Engagement Scene" on the revolver is still partly present, probably retained at about 40%. The "COLT'S PATENT No." next to the cylinder serial number has however worn away. The top of the barrel still has a partial Colt "Reverse New York" address marking, which was partly removed by the rear sight dovetail and when a sight groove was added to the top of the barrel. What remains reads:


The revolver definitely looks to have seen long service during the war, and was cleaned repeatedly over the years, which has removed almost all of the original finish. It now shows a light gray peppered patina in most areas, with a few spots of light pitting. 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, though there is no "36 CAL" marking on the trigger guard, which is not uncommon.

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 for some reason was reamed out except near the muzzle, and shows no rifling anymore. We are not sure why this is done, possibly some type of adjustment or experiment done at arsenal.

The cap nipples are all intact and clear on the cylinder, though they definitely do show wear from use and hammer strikes. The grip scales are in very good condition, now showing a fairly dark brown color from age and use. There is no major damage we can see however, and there are the trades of inspector cartouches on BOTH sides of the grip. This is definitely a U.S. Military issued example, possibly for experimental use.

This is a very interesting 1851 Navy dating from just before the Civil War, with some great modifications. Ripe for further research, this would make a very nice acquisition for any collection. In very nice service used condition and ready to display!


Year of Manufacture: 1856
Caliber: .36cal
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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