Original U.S. Civil War Colt M1860 Army Revolver with "US" Surcharge & Mixed Serial Numbers - Possible "Buffalo Soldier" Issue
Original Item: Only One Available. This is a very nice .44 caliber percussion, 6 shot round cylinder, 8" barrel Model 1860 Colt Army revolver. Gun is in very good service used condition and fully functional, with a lovely worn gray patina overall. Action and barrel frame lock up are tight, and the grip is still solidly held in the frame. The gun has a nice worn oxidized finish, showing long service out on the frontier.
The revolver is a post Civil War arsenal refit, surcharged US on the trigger guard, and looks to have been made with parts from three different guns. This type of refit was very common after the war, as attention turned to the western frontier, where attention was turned now that the war was over. Troops still had a need of firearms, and there was no sense wasting good parts that could be refit into one functional revolver.
The barrel and frame are marked with serial number 129281, with shortened number 9281 on the cylinder arbor pin. The trigger guard and grip frame are marked with serial number 135643, and the cylinder has shortened number 0774. There is no way to know when the cylinder was made, but the other serial numbers are all from 1863 production. With this it is pretty clear that revolver serial 129281 suffered severe damage to the grip, and had parts replaced from another revolver that must have suffered another type of damage.
The trigger guard of this revolver is marked with a US surcharge (without periods) on the trigger guard, which is a marking specific to an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 revolvers that were refurbished at either Fort Leavenworth or St. Louis. Of these, many (as much as 25%) were sent to the legendary "Buffalo Soldier" African-American 10th Cavalry Regiment, based at Fort Leavenworth. This information is the result of exhaustive research undertaken for the book The Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver by Charles W. Pate. While there are no specific unit markings or rack numbers, only several troops of the 10th Regiment were known to mark their revolvers. Another "Buffalo Cavalry" regiment, the 9th Cavalry, is also known to have received supplies from St. Louis.
The address marking is still mostly legible on the top of the barrel:
- ADDRESS COL. SAML COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA. -
The COLT'S PATENT marking is still fully visible on the left side of the frame, and unlike most we see, it still has a clear COLT'S PATENT No over PAT. SEPT 10TH 1850 marking on the cylinder. There is even a good amount of the original "Naval Engagement Scene" present on the cylinder, something we do not see very often! Most of these that we see only have traces of the scene left, and many have none left at all!
Overall condition is very good, showing no signs of major refinishing or restoration work outside of the original arsenal refit. Original walnut grips are in good condition, showing moderate wear from use, and there are repairs on both sides of the front toe, as is common. There are no major cracks or other damage visible, and they have a great patina of age.
The pistol is complete, and does cycle well, with good indexing and a firm cylinder lockup. We did not notice any of the usual finicky behavior we often see with these revolvers. The bore is in really great shape, with a bright finish showing clear lands and grooves. There is just a bit of past oxidation, now cleaned away, making this really a fantastic example considering it was from the age of black powder. The barrel - frame connection is wobble free. All 6 cap nipple cones are intact and clear, though they do show some oxidation and powder burn to the exterior.
This is a very nice example of the classic side arm used during the U.S. Civil War, arsenal refit for use on the Western Frontier, ready to display!
Year of Manufacture: 1863
Ammunition Type: Percussion Cap and Ball
Barrel Length: 8 inches
Overall Length: 14 inches
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver
The Colt Army Model 1860 is a muzzle-loaded cap & ball .44-caliber revolver used during the American Civil War made by Colt's Manufacturing Company. It was used as a side arm by cavalry, infantry, artillery troops, and naval forces.
The Colt 1860 Army uses the same size frame as the .36 caliber 1851 Navy revolver. The frame is relieved to allow the use of a rebated cylinder that enables the Army to be chambered in .44 caliber. the barrel on the 1860 Army has a forcing cone that is visibly shorter than that of the 1851 Navy, allowing the Army revolver to have a longer cylinder. Another distinguishing feature of the Colt 1860 Army, first introduced on the Colt 1855 Sidehammer Revolver, is the "creeping" loading lever.
More than 200,000 were manufactured from 1860 through 1873. Colt's biggest customer was the US Government with no less than 129,730 units being purchased and issued to the troops. The weapon was a single-action, six-shot weapon accurate up to 75 to 100 yards, where the fixed sights were typically set when manufactured. The rear sight was a notch in the hammer, only usable when the revolver was fully cocked.
The Colt .44-caliber "Army" Model was the most widely used revolver of the Civil War. It had a six-shot, rotating cylinder, and fired a 0.454-inch-diameter (11.5 mm) round spherical lead ball, or a conical-tipped bullet, typically propelled by a 30-grain charge of black powder, which was ignited by a small copper percussion cap that contained a volatile charge of fulminate of mercury (a substance that explodes upon being subjected to a sharp impact). The percussion cap, when struck by the hammer, ignited the powder charge. When fired, balls had a muzzle velocity of about 900 feet per second (274 meters/second), although this depended on how much powder one loaded it with.
The unfluted cylinder was 'rebated,' meaning that the rear of the cylinder was turned to a smaller diameter than the front. The barrel was rounded and smoothed into the frame, as was the Navy Model. The frame, hammer, and rammer lever were case-hardened, the remainder blued; grips were of one-piece walnut; and the trigger guard and front grip strap were of brass while the backstrap was blued."
A distinguishing feature of the Model 1860 was that its frame had no top strap, or no component running above the cylinder. Instead, its strength came from the lower frame and the massive fixed cylinder pin. This made the gun slimmer and lighter than its main competitor, the Remington Model 1858, but with a possible loss of strength. The fixed cylinder pin also meant that the barrel had to be removed in order to remove the cylinder, unlike the Model 1858, which only required you to remove the cylinder retaining pin.
By April 1861, 2,230 of Colt's earliest production went to dealers south of the Mason-Dixon line. The United States Navy ordered 900 fluted cylinder revolvers in May 1861 later issued to ships enforcing the Atlantic and Gulf blockade. United States Army orders also began in May, and 127,157 had been delivered before a 5 October 1864 fire put Colt's factory out of operation for the duration of hostilities.
Loading is a somewhat lengthy process, with each of the six chambers drilled into the revolving cylinder being loaded from the front, or "muzzle" end. A measured amount of black powder is poured into a chamber. Next a lead ball is placed at the opening of the chamber and seated by firmly pressing it in with the pivoting loading lever which is attached beneath the barrel of the revolver. For sealing each chamber, an over-size 0.454-inch-diameter (11.5 mm) lead ball is trimmed slightly by the rim of the chamber as the rammer forces it inside. Cap and ball shooters also often place a lubricated wad between balls and powder, or, alternatively, pack lard or a commercially-sold bore lubricant at the mouth of each chamber in an attempt to prevent powder in an adjacent chamber from being ignited by when the gun is fired, which is known as a chainfire.
When the Colt Model 1860 was used by 19th century soldiers, they most often loaded the gun using paper cartridges. These cartridges consisted of a pre-measured load of black powder and a ball, wrapped in nitrated paper (paper that had been soaked in potassium nitrate and then dried, to make it more flammable). To load each chamber, one only had to slip the cartridge into the front of the chamber and seat the ball with the loading lever ram. Then a percussion cap was placed onto the raised aperture, called a nipple, at the back end of the chamber.
The Colt 1860 cost approximately $20 per revolver. This was rather expensive during the 1860s, both for the United States Army and private citizens. Colt had been criticized by this high price, and by 1865 the revolver was reduced to $14.50.
The Colt "Army" revolver is to be distinguished from the Colt "Navy" revolver of which there were two models, the octagonal barrel Model 1851 Navy, and the round-barreled Model 1861 Navy, both Navy models being in the smaller .36-caliber.
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