Original U.S. Colt Single Action Army .38-40 Revolver made in 1897 with 5 1/2" Barrel & Factory Letter - Serial 172314

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is every School boy's dream! A real Cowboy six gun! This Colt SAA (Single Action Army) Revolver has a "gunfighter friendly" original 5 1/2" barrel and lovely worn Colt hard rubber grips, bearing both the Colt "Pony" and the Federal Eagle.

The revolver's serial number is 172314, which dates production to 1897. It has the serial number on the frame, trigger guard, and grip frame, making this an "ALL MATCHING" example. 1883 was the last year that serial numbers would be stamped on the cylinder until 1912, so the lack of the serial number there is correct. There is also assembly number 667 marked on the loading gate. It is in full working order and condition, showing a gorgeous worn patina of age, sure to delight any "Old West" Americana collector.

The revolver came to us with a Colt Factory letter from the office of the Colt Historian, dated July 21, 2003. It shows that the revolver was shipped with a blued finish and rubber grips, and is still in the original configuration. The gun was shipped on August 16, 1897, and was the only gun of this configuration in the shipment. It was purchased by a J. H. Knight and delivered to J. S. Dunlay in Houston, Texas. We have not been able to find any more information regarding where this was delivered, and leave it as an excellent research opportunity.

The original single line Colt address marking on the top of the barrel is still fully legible:


The left side of the frame has the Colt patent dates all clearly legible:

PAT. SEPT. 19. 1871.
JULY. 2.72. JAN. 19.75

These are the correct later pattern markings, and to the right is the correct Colt "Prancing Pony" logo on the frame. The markings are all relatively clear, so this revolver does not look to have been refurbished at any time, which would have worn down the markings during refinishing. The left side of the barrel is clearly marked 38 W.C.F., indicating that the revolver is chambered for .38-40 Winchester Center Fire. This was a very popular cartridge for revolvers used on the frontier. 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.

The original finish on the revolver has worn to a lovely bright steel patina, with just a few areas of light peppering. The grips look to be original, and have a great worn look, with the "Prancing Pony" at the top still visible. Mechanically, the action has all four clicks, and cycles correctly. As with many revolvers of this age however, it can be a bit finicky, and sometimes the cylinder needs to be moved by hand. The bore is in good condition, with clear lands and grooves with a partly bright finish. There is some overall oxidation and fouling from use. The ejector door swings open easily, and the ejector itself works great. Overall this is a great pistol!

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: 1897
Caliber: .38-40 Winchester
Ammunition Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 5 1/2 inches
Overall Length: 11 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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