Original U.S. Colt Frontier Six Shooter .44-40 Revolver made in 1880 with 7 1/2" Barrel & Factory Letter - Serial 56388

Item Description

Original Items: Only One Set Available. This is it! Every young "Old West" fans dream: A real Colt Cowboy Six-shooter! This very nice Colt Frontier Six Shooter SAA (Single Action Army) Revolver has a full length 7 1/2" barrel, with a lovely worn patina on the metalwork and lovely walnut grips.

The revolver's serial number is 56388, which dates production to 1880. It has the serial number on the frame, trigger guard, grip frame, and even 6388 on the cylinder. In 1883, Colt would stop marking the cylinders until 1912, making this a rare treat as a confirmed "ALL MATCHING" revolver. There is also assembly number 1742 marked on the loading gate. It is in full working order and condition, with a great lightly patinated look, sure to delight any "Old West" Americana collector.

The revolver came to us with a printed copy of a Colt Factory letter from the office of the Colt Historian Beverly Jean Haynes. It is dated July 21, 2020, and indicates it is a COLT SINGLE ACTION ARMY REVOLVER in .44/40 caliber, also known as a Frontier Six Shooter. The gun was made with a blued finish, and there is no listing for barrel length, which usually indicates the full length 7 1/2". There is no listing for the stocks, which usually indicates rubber, so the original grips on this revolver have most likely been swapped out. The gun was shipped on May 31,1880 as part of a shipment of 25 similar guns to the Simmons Hardware Company in St. Louis, Missouri. This was a well-known retailer and hardware manufacturer founded in 1874, which at its peak had 6 locations. They often would buy up their suppliers to ensure the best quality merchandise, and purchased the Walden Knife company based in Walden New York. The company actually merged with Winchester Repeating Arms Co. in the early 20th century for a time.

The revolver is in full working Order and Condition, showing a gorgeous worn patina. This has unfortunately partially worn away the original single line Colt address marking on the top of the barrel:


The left side of the frame has the Colt patent dates still mostly legible:

PAT. SEPT. 19. 1871.
*    JULY. 2. --72.
*   JAN. 19. --75

The trigger guard is stamped 44.CF. on the side, indicating the .44-40 WCF caliber. The "Frontier Six Shooter" model was almost identical to the .45 "Long Colt" chambered Single Action Army model, except that it was designed for Winchester .44-40 ammunition, also called .44 W.C.F., which was and is a popular "cowboy" ammunition. While some may question why colt made guns chambered for a competitor's cartridge, having a repeating rifle and revolver that took the same ammunition was a big selling point.

As this revolver was manufactured in 1880, it originally would have had an etched panel that read "Colt Frontier Six Shooter", as the serial number range for such marked revolvers was between 45000 and 65000. Unfortunately wear has completely removed this marking. Revolvers like this were marketed to the civilian frontier market, as the U.S. Cavalry issued the identical model finished in blue.

The revolver presents beautifully, and really has the look of a sidearm that was "really there" in the old west. The mottled gray patina is lovely, showing much use, servicing, and cleaning during its life. There is a bit of light pitting on the right side, probably from contact with a holster. The walnut grips, most likely replaced in the 1890s, are in very good condition, showing light wear from service.

Mechanically, the action is smooth, with a good cylinder lock up, and crisp dry fire. The action has all four clicks, however if cycled to fast the cylinder can over rotate due to wear on the internals. The bore is in very nice condition, with clear lands and grooves and a partly bright finish, showing past light oxidation and fouling. There is a light ring and bulge around the middle of the barrel length, most likely from a stuck bullet. The ejector door swings open easily, and the ejector itself works great. Overall this is a great pistol with loads of patina and history.

Pistols such as this are extremely difficult to find today at any reasonable price. This example is just ideal for any Wild West Collection. A great collector's revolver, ready to display.


Year of Manufacture: 1880
Caliber: .44-40 Winchester
Ammunition Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 7 1/2 inches
Overall Length: 13 inches
Action: Single Action
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver

History of the Colt Single Single Action Army

Bound by the Rollin White patent (#12,648, April 3, 1855) and not wanting to pay a royalty fee to Smith & Wesson, Colt could not begin development of bored-through revolver cylinders for metallic cartridge use until April 4, 1869. For the design, Colt turned to two of its best engineers: William Mason and Charles Brinckerhoff Richards who had developed a number of revolvers and black powder conversions for the company. Their effort was designed for the United States government service revolver trials of 1872 by Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company and adopted as the standard military service revolver. Production began in 1873 with the Single Action Army model 1873, also referred to as the "New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol".

The very first production Single Action Army, serial number 1, thought lost for many years after its production, was found in a barn in Nashua, New Hampshire in the early 1900s. It was chambered in .45 Colt, a centerfire design containing charges of up to 40 grains (2.6 g) of fine-grained black powder and a 255-grain (16.5 g) blunt roundnosed bullet. Relative to period cartridges and most later handgun rounds, it was quite powerful in its full loading.

The Colt Single Action Army revolver, along with the 1870 and 1875 Smith & Wesson Model 3 "Schofield" revolver, replaced the Colt 1860 Army Percussion revolver. The Colt quickly gained favor over the S&W and remained the primary US military sidearm until 1892 when it was replaced by the .38 Long Colt caliber Colt Model 1892, a double-action revolver with swing-out cylinder. By the end of 1874, serial no. 16,000 was reached; 12,500 Colt Single Action Army revolvers chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge had entered service and the remaining revolvers were sold in the civilian market.

The Colt .45 is a famous piece of American history, known as "The Gun That Won the West". The Single Action army is a very popular firearm, even today, and it continues to be produced in various configurations.

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