Original U.S. Colt 1851 Navy .36cal Percussion Revolver - Modified with Mixed Serial Numbers and .44 Marking

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 particular example is what many would term an "odd duck," and is really quite interesting. It features components from two different 1851 Navy revolvers, and has some interesting modifications, as well as a marking we cannot make heads nor tails of. The barrel, which was originally fully octagonal, has had the last 4 inches rounded, and a new sight installed. It is marked with serial number 69978, indicating that it was manufactured originally in 1857.

The frame, grip frame, trigger guard, and cylinder are marked with a much later serial number, 204943, which is from 1868, several years after the Civil War ended. Few Colt revolvers have serial numbers this high, so it is undeniably a Colt 1851 Navy. However, for some reason there is also a .44CAL marking on the trigger guard. Normally Colt Army and Navy revolvers don't have any type of Caliber marking, at least not Civil War issue ones. The best we can figure, this revolver must have had a marking put on it mistakenly, as it is undoubtedly in .36 cal. The Trigger guard matches the serial numbers for the rest of the frame, so we have no other explanation.

Top of the barrel still has part the original Colt markings visible:


Guns with "Mixed Numbers" are always looked down upon by Collectors, however with the modifications and markings, we feel this is definitely worth further research and consideration. Condition is as shown, and the action is currently non-functional. We decided that an interesting piece such as this should be left as found, ready to hang on the wall.

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.


Year of Manufacture: 1857 (barrel) and 1868 (everything else)
Caliber: .36cal
Ammunition Type: Cap and Ball
Barrel Length: 6 1/2 inches
Overall Length: 13 inches
Action: Single Action
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver

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