Original U.S. Civil War Frontier Modified Colt M1860 Army .44cal Percussion Revolver made in 1862 - Serial 69164

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is a very interesting "Frontier Modified" Model 1860 Colt Army revolver, said to have been found in Kansas. It is still in the standard .44 caliber percussion, with a 6 shot round cylinder, however the barrel was cut down to jus over 5 1/2" long, with the front sight removed. This shorter "gunfighter length" allowed it to be more quickly drawn from the holster, especially without a front sight. The revolver was also most likely nickel plated at the time of this modification, and the hammer was modified as well with a steel rod installed to hit the percussion caps. Additionally, but bottom of the wooden grip has had a channel made to act as a "lanyard loop", using the grip frame as the "loop".

This is typical of what the first frontier pioneers were armed with, and this example was clearly used to great effect before the introduction of the COLT model 1873 line of Cartridge Revolvers. This was the best gunsmithing the west had to offer just following the Civil War!

The revolver is in great "frontier worn" condition and mostly functional, with a lot of the nickel plated finish still retained. It was definitely buffed own and cleaned before being plated, which pretty much removed the address markings on top of the barrel. Action and barrel frame lock up are tight, and the grip is still solidly held in the frame. The COLT'S PATENT marking is still fully visible on the left side of the frame, however the cylinder markings have been completely removed.

The frame, trigger guard, grip frame all bear matching serial number 69164, denoting year of manufacture as 1862. The barrel is non-matching, and looks to have serial number 30746, though we are not sure about the first number. The barrel wedge is in very tight, so we were not able to remove it to inspect the cylinder arbor pin for a serial number, but we would suspect it has worn off due to the amount of wear on other parts of the revolver. The original walnut grips are unmarked, and have the previously discussed modification to the bottom.

The pistol is complete and does function, however there is a lot of slop in the action, particularly around the cylinder, which can more back and forth at least 1mm due to wear. The ratchet seems to be worn, and the action needs to be cycled by hand on one of the chambers, as there seems to a lot of resistance to rotation from the cylinder. In the other positions it cycles great, with good indexing and a firm lockup.

This is a very nice interesting frontier modified example of the classic side arm used during the U.S. Civil War, ready to display!


Year of Manufacture: 1862
Caliber: .44cal
Ammunition Type: Percussion Cap and Ball
Barrel Length: 5 1/2 inches
Overall Length: 11 1/2 inches
Action: Single
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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