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Original U.S. Colt 1851 Navy Fully Engraved Percussion Revolver with Ivory Grips Made in 1856 - Serial No 63816

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.

Recently acquired in a large diverse collection, this particular revolver is clearly rather special. It is fully engraved, and features incredible aged ivory grips, with the right grip showing a lovely engraved image of "Liberty", holding a spear  in her right hand, and the U.S. shield in her left. It features a standard 7 1/2" barrel and matching serial number 63816 on all parts including the barrel, cylinder, frame, trigger guard, grip, barrel wedge, and cylinder axis pin! As is correct, the cylinder axis pin and wedge have shortened number 3816. Serial number records indicate production in 1856.

Top of the barrel still has the full original Colt address marking:


This revolver also still has a nearly complete "Naval Engagement" scene on the cylinder, and the ENGAGED 16 MAY 1843 marking is still visible, as is the COLTS PATENT marking. The COLTS / PATENT / U.S. marking is also still visible on the right side of the frame.

The official Colt archivists tell us that the revolver was made in 1856, but the serial falls within a block of numbers that they have NO SHIPPING or SPECIFICATION information on. This section of the records was somehow lost to history, but we suspect that the revolver was shipped to New York City, possibly to SCHUYLER, HARTLEY & GRAHAM the very prestigious outfitters founded in 1854.

The revolver is beautifully engraved in the very characteristic style of the then premier gun engraver GUSTAV YOUNG, who did work for the SAMUEL COLT COMPANY itself, and also at SCHUYLER, HARTLEY AND GRAHAM. If you google GUSTAV YOUNG and go to photographic images many examples of his very characteristic engraving style on multiple Colt and other revolvers show the exact engraving we have here on this example.

Overall the condition is excellent and the gun is fitted with old Ivory grips that really show the over 160 years of age with multiple age lines that almost look like cracks. One corner of the front portion of the left grip is absent. The right hand panel shows a very attractive rendering of a seated Lady Liberty. The bore shows clear lands and grooves, however also light fouling and areas of oxidation. The revolver cycles correctly, though as with any revolver of this age, it can be finicky, as they were when new.

A cracking revolver now 176 years old that very possibly has a very colorful history. Very rare, engraved Colt 1851 Navy revolver made in 1856 with very old original ivory grips. Ready to display!

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: 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

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