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1861 Production Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver

1861 Production Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver

  • Product Code: FHG-2199-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

Next to the Model 1873 Colt Single Action Army revolver, there is probably no Colt revolver that is more iconic than the Colt “Belt Model”, better known to collectors as the Model 1851 Navy percussion revolver. The revolver was introduced by the famous Colt Patent Arms Manufacturing Company in 1850 and remained in production through 1873, when Colt’s new self-contained cartridge revolvers finely made the gun obsolete. During its production life, Colt produced 215,348 of the legendary handguns in Hartford, CT, not counting those produced in London), with some 175,000 or so being produced prior to the end of the American Civil War. 


The percussion revolver was .36 caliber, with a 7 ½” octagonal barrel and a six-shot cylinder. The action utilized Colt’s tried and true single action lock work. As with most Colt designs of the period, the revolver was made in two primary sections. A removable wedge secured the barrel and loading lever assembly to the cylinder arbor, which was screwed into the handgun’s frame. Many fighting men of the era considered the “Navy” to be the perfect combination of size, weight, firepower and overall ergonomics. The advocates for the pistol ranged from pistoleros like “Wild Bill” Hickok, to Confederate cavalry commanders J.E.B. Stuart and Nathan Bedford Forrest. It is interesting to note that most Confederate made revolvers were essentially copies of the Colt “Navy” (and not the more powerful .44 Army) and even those that were not direct Colt clones tended to retain the .36 caliber chambering. Thousands of these revolvers were used by both US and CS soldiers during the Civil War. Not only those guns that were purchased on US government contracts saw the battlefield, but also many acquired on the open market both before and during the war saw service. Many commercial guns ended up in the hands of combatants on both sides during the course of the war.


This is a solid example of a 4th model Colt M-1851 Navy percussion revolver in about GOOD condition. The gun is a typical Fourth Model revolver with the large brass trigger guard, thick loading lever latch and large percussion capping cutout. The revolver is clearly rolls stamped on the top of the barrel:




The gun is serial numbered 115111 with the correct Colt numbering dies of that era, placing production in late 1861, not long after the outbreak of the American Civil War. The serial numbers match throughout, with two exceptions. The cylinder arbor is numbered 2263 and appears to be a period replacement. The barrel wedge is a somewhat crude, unnumbered replacement. The balance of the gun matches as it should with even the grip being numbered 15111 in pencil in the backstrap cut out. As it typical of Colt numbering from this era, the number is often abbreviated to five or four numbers on some of the parts, while the balance show the full six-digit serial number. The revolver is clearly marked on the lower left side of the frame: COLT’S / PATENT, and with a small 4 factory inspection mark on the rear left web of the triggerguard. 


The gun is in GOOD condition, retains no original finish and shows moderate wear. The gun has a mostly plum brown patina on the barrel and cylinder and more mottled bluish-brown patina on the frame. The brass triggerguard and backstrap retain none of their silver plating and have been cleaned at some point in time. They now have a medium golden color that is starting to tone down. The barrel surface is mostly smooth and free of any serious pitting, but there is some lightly scattered pinpricking present on the metal and some oxidized freckling and light pitting present on the face of the muzzle. The cylinder shows light to moderate pitting and most of the naval engagement cylinder scene is worn away with only about 10% remaining visible. The late production cylinder does not include the Ormsby signature line as found on some high condition guns produced in the previous decade. The legend that dates the scene at the front edge of the cylinder is worn away as well. All of the cones (nipples) in the cylinder are original with the exception of one that appears to be a more recent replacement. This cone shows some chemical aging. All of the cones show use and vary in condition from good to near very good. There is also moderate surface oxidation visible in their recesses, along with some moderate pinpricking and light pitting on the face of the cylinder from firing and use. The safety pins on the rear face of the cylinder are in all beaten, battered and gone, leaving only the circular remnants of their original location visible. The action of the revolver is in very good condition and the gun functions correctly. The pistol times, indexes and locks up as it should. All of the screws appear to be original, with the exception of the hammer screw, which appears to be a very old, period of use replacement.  The screws all show age and wear and show light to moderate slot-wear. The bore of the revolver is in about GOOD condition as well. It is dark and evenly oxidized with scattered light to moderate pitting along its length. It does, however, retain strong rifling. The original brass post front sight is in place on the top of the barrel, near the muzzle and shows some wear. The civilian style, one-piece, varnished walnut grip is in about GOOD+ to NEAR VERY GOOD condition. As noted, it is numbered to the revolver and fits the frame of the gun very well. The grip retains some of its original varnish and remains quite attractive. The grip is solid and free of any breaks, cracks, chips or repairs. The grip shows some scattered bumps and dings from handling and use, and the  leading and trailing edges of the grip bottom do show the expected wear and rounding from carry and use.


Overall, this is a solid and reasonably priced example of an early Civil War production Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver. The gun has an attractive oxidized patina and displays very nicely. Of all the Civil War era handguns, the Colt Navy is probably the most representative example of what a common soldier on either side would have had access to, in terms of a real “combat” handgun; a term that could not be applied to the classic Colt M1849 Pocket Revolver. The classic styling and functionality of the Colt Navy revolver kept it viable well into the age of cartridge revolvers and made it the favorite side arm of many 19th century soldiers and civilians. No wonder “Wild Bill” Hickok carried a pair of percussion Colt Navy revolvers as his primary sidearms until the day he was killed in 1876; well into the cartridge era. With the late 1861 production serial number, this would be a perfect Colt Navy to add to any Civil War collection and would certainly be a solid addition to any collection without spending the high prices associated with high condition examples.


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Tags: 1861, Production, Colt, Model, 1851, Navy, Revolver