Original U.S. Colt Single Action Army .38-40 Revolver made in 1891 with Wells Fargo marking & Factory Letter

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This reeks of ROMANCE! A big model COLT 1873 Single Action Army Revolver in .38-40 caliber with original full length 7 1/2" barrel! It bears serial number 143147, which is ALL MATCHING, built in 1891 with Assembly Number 257 on loading gate. AND BEST OF ALL, it is actually marked on the bottom of the grip frame W.F.& CO for WELLS FARGO!

In fine used condition the hard rubber Colt logo grips so beautifully worn to almost to be unrecognizable. The metal finish still showing original color in very tight perfect working order to delight any Western Americana Collector. It is in full working Order and Condition, showing a gorgeous patina of age.

The markings on the top of the barrel are still clearly legible:


The left side of the frame has a clear Colt "Prancing Pony" Logo, and do the left of this are the patent numbers, all clearly legible:

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

The frame, grip, and trigger guard all bear the serial number clearly, so this pistol has definitely not been refinished at any time. The left side of the Barrel is marked 38 W.C.F., indicating chambering for the very popular Winchester .38-40 cartridge.  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. This also means that technically, this revolver may be considered by some to be a "Frontier" model, as the .38-40 was also considered "Frontier market."

Mechanically, the action is smooth, with a good cylinder lock up, and crisp dry fire. The action has all four clicks, and we have not noticed any of the usual finicky behavior of old revolvers. Really a great action on this example. The ejector door swings open easily, and the ejector itself works flawlessly. The bore clear, but it does show significant wear. This was not a revolver that spent its entire life in a holster.

As a real BONUS this revolver comes with its Office of the Colt Historian letterhead, confirming that serial number 143147 was made and shipped on October 2nd 1891 to:-

Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Mfg. Company
San Francisco Agency

San Francisco, California

It comes as no surprise that in 1891 WELLS FARGO COMPANY was based in San Francisco. While we cannot prove that it was ordered specifically for Wells Fargo, the letter indicates that 3 revolvers of the same configuration were in the shipment, so it is possible.

Pistols such as this are extremely difficult to find today at any reasonable price. A Historic Colt 1873 Single Action Army Revolver, complete with COLT LETTER ready to Display!

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.


Year of Manufacture: 1891
Caliber: .38-40 Winchester Center Fire
Ammunition Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 7 1/2  inches

Overall Length: 13 inches
Action: Single Action
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver

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