1863 Production Colt M-1851 Navy - Excellent
- Product Code: FHG-1739-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
Next to the M-1873 Colt Single Action Army revolver, there is probably no Colt revolver that is more iconic than the Colt “Belt Model”, better known to collector’s as the M-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 gun featured a .36 caliber, 7 ““ octagonal barrel and a six-shot cylinder. The action was Colt’s tried and true single action lock work, and the gun was made in two primary sections, with a removable wedge securing the barrel and loading lever assembly to the cylinder arbor and 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 really outstanding example of a 4th model Colt M-1851 Navy percussion revolver in about EXCELLENT condition. The gun is a typical Fourth Model revolver with the large brass trigger guard, thick loading lever latch and large percussion capping cutout that is interestingly without a groove. It is clearly marked on the top of the barrel:
- ADDRESS COL. SAML COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA -
The gun is serial numbered 172864 with the correct Colt numbering dies of that era, placing production in early 1863 at the height of the American Civil War. The serial numbers match throughout, with the exception of the loading lever, which is not numbered. Even the wedge is numbered and matches. The wedge, cylinder and cylinder arbor show only the last 4 digits of the number, 2864, while the balance of the numbered components have all 6 digits present. The one-piece walnut grip is ink numbered 2864 in the backstrap cut out, in a very clear period hand. The revolver is crisply and clearly marked on the lower left side of the frame: COLT’s / PATENT, and 36 CAL on the rear left web of the triggerguard. The gun is in really in overall EXCLLENT condition. It retains about 80%+ of its original blued finish on the barrel. The majority of the wear and loss is along the sharp edges of the octagon barrel and simply from age. The blue shows some thinning from holster wear along the 5 upper most barrel flats, with the lower 3 flats retaining nearly all of their finish with no significant thinning. The barrel is free of any pitting, but there is some lightly oxidized freckling present on the face of the muzzle. The areas where the bluing on the barrel has thinned or worn have developed a pleasing plum brown patina that has blended with the finish. Under strong light, some minor oxidized age freckling can be seen mixed with the finish. The pistol shows the usual impact marks on the barrel web where the wedge had been beaten out of the pistol during its service life, and then beat back into place. The loading lever retains about 50% of its original vivid case coloring, most of which is at the rear half of the lever and on the protected side that rests against the barrel. The lever shows the most loss towards the end where it engages the lever catch and on the plunger itself. The balance of the lever is a smooth plum brown patina that matches the gun perfectly. As previously noted the lever is unnumbered, but it appears in all ways to be original to the gun and contemporary to its period of use. The loading lever moves smoothly and operates correctly and locks tightly into place, as it should. The frame of the revolver retains about 95%+ coverage of the case coloring, but some of it is faded and muted, giving it about a 75%+ vivid case coloring rating. The faded coloring is a smoky purplish brown base color with lots of vibrant mottled blues, purples and browns present as well. The frame is smooth, with crisp edges and very clear markings. The cylinder retains about 35%+ of its original blue, with the most brilliant areas being in the recesses of the scene and the cylinder stop slots. The balance of the cylinder has a smooth plum-brown and blue patina that makes the cylinder appear to have more like 50%+ original finish. The cylinder is extremely sharp and crisp and retains at least 95%+ of the roll engraved scene. The Mexican War naval battle scene engraved on the cylinder rates EXCELLENT and is extremely clear. About 95%+ of the scene is still very crisp and clear, with practically no wear noted. The cylinder is clearly marked COLT’s PATENT No 2864. The late production cylinder does not include the Ormsby signature line as found on some high condition guns produced in the previous decade. However, the legend at the front edge of the cylinder is present and clearly legible, reading: ENGAGED 16 MAY 1843. This mark is rarely legible on even the crispest of examples. All of the cones (nipples) in the cylinder are original and they are very crisp, but do show use, with pinpricking and light surface oxidation visible in their recesses. There is also some light pinpricking on the face of the cylinder from firing and use. The safety pins on the rear face of the cylinder are in very nice condition as well. All 6 remain very sharp and in nearly perfect condition. The hammer retains about 30%+ of its vivid case coloring and the trigger retains about 85%+ of its fire-blued finish. The brass grip frame, grip strap and trigger guard retain about 95%+ of their original silver-plating and are in wonderful condition. The silver remains bright over most of the surfaces, but the butt, grip strap and triggerguard area all show some darkening from tarnish. Although it is preferable not to remove the patina from tarnished brass, it would be advisable to lightly clean the silver-plating, as tarnish on silver is the equivalent of rust on iron or steel. The action of the revolver is excellent, and the gun functions correctly, timing, indexing and locking up very tightly. The action of the pistol is extremely crisp. All of the screws are original and most are extremely crisp, with only a couple showing any noticeable slot-wear. All of the screws retain the large majority of their fire-blued finish, with some dulling from age. However, all retain 75% or more of that blued finish. The bore of the revolver is in about FINE condition and is mostly bright with crisp rifling its entire length. There appears to be lightly scattered pitting along the entire length of the bore, with a couple of small patches of more moderate pitting towards the middle of the barrel. It is not clear how much of this is really corrosion and how much might be accumulated debris, and a good brushing might remove the majority of the ring. Otherwise, the bore is really in very nice condition. The original brass post front sight is in place on the top of the barrel, near the muzzle. The civilian style one-piece, varnished walnut grip is in about EXCELLENT condition. As noted it is numbered to the revolver and fits the frame of the gun perfectly. The grip retains 90%+ of its original varnish and is really attractive. The only area of notable varnish loss is a small line about 1 ““ in length on the left side of the grip, about where the ends of the fingers of the right hand would be when the gun was held in a firing grip. This location, and wear pattern, suggests that the minor loss of varnish was from use and firing of the revolver. The grip is free of any breaks, cracks, chips or repairs, and remains very crisp and sharp. The grip shows only the most minor bumps and dings from handling and use. Even the leading edges of the grip bottom remain crisp and sharp.
Overall, this is a really outstanding example of a Civil War production Colt M-1851 Navy revolver. The gun is 100% complete and correct in every way, is extremely attractive and displays wonderfully. In fact, the gun is really worthy of being cased and is head and shoulders better than most Colt Navy revolvers offered in cased sets these days. The revolver has all matching serial numbers, is mechanically excellent, and has a truly outstanding cylinder scene. Civil War era Colts are tough to find in this kind of condition, and even an 1863 production civilian “Navy” was likely to see at least some of the turmoil of war over the next year or so. This Colt Navy is simply stunning and should please even the pickiest of advanced Civil War handgun collectors. If you only have one Colt Navy in your collection, it would be hard to find a nicer one without spending 5 figures on it. This will be one of those guns that you will be extremely happy to have in your collection and will not likely be concerned about trying to upgrade one day. 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. 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 died in 1876, well into the cartridge era. If a Civil War collector were to have only one Civil War handgun, the Colt Navy would be an excellent choice, and this gun with its wonderful condition and 1863 date of manufacture, would be a fantastic addition to that collection.