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Attractive and Untouched Colt 1861 Navy Produced in 1862

Attractive and Untouched Colt 1861 Navy Produced in 1862

  • Product Code: FHG-B204-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $3,995.00

This is a VERY GOOD+ to LOW FINE condition example of the scarce Colt New Model Navy Percussion Revolver, better known to collectors as the Model 1861 Navy Revolver. The Model 1861 Navy was the pinnacle of Colt’s percussion revolver production and blended some of the best features of both the popular Old Model Navy (aka Model 1851) and New Model Army (aka Model 1860) revolvers into one pistol. The gun was .36 caliber, as implied by the name “Navy”, with a six chambered cylinder and had a 7 ½” round barrel. The loading lever was of the Model 1860 Army “creeping style” and for all practical purposes the front half of the revolver was a scaled down version of Model 1860 Army in .36 caliber. The rear portion of the revolver was pure “Navy” with the classic Model 1851 grip frame and grip angle, which would live for generations as the pattern for the grip design of the classic Colt Model 1873 Single Action Army. The Model 1861 Navy was more streamlined than the earlier Model 1851 variant and the new loading lever was a significant improvement over the older toggle action design. While the revolvers were not purchased in huge numbers by the US government during the American Civil War, they did serve in reasonably large numbers, proportional to their production. Only 38,843 of the pistols were produced during its production run from 1861 to 1873, with less than 28,000 being manufactured before the end of 1865. Most sources place US government purchases at about 2,000 guns, but based upon recorded serial number data, more were purchased on the open market, as well as by the various states and by individual soldiers. According to the Springfield Research Service serial number record books, a number of Model 1861 Navy revolvers were reported in the hands of troopers from Companies F & L, 13th Illinois Cavalry during 1864. These guns are scattered in the serial number ranges of 2496 – 4324, 7636 – 12482 and 16001 – 16236. Model 1861 Navy revolvers also show up in the records of the 2nd Illinois Cavalry (Companies C &D, scattered from 4255 – 7709), the 9thIllinois Cavalry (Company D) and the 10th Illinois Cavalry (Company B). Colt Model 1861 Navy revolvers are also listed among the small arms issued to Company L of the 2nd KY Cavalry (US), and Company E of the 11th Ohio Cavalry. The members of Company M, 1st Arkansas Cavalry privately purchased a handful of the pistols as well. This wide range of serial numbers and issue of the pistols clearly indicates that many more of the revolvers were purchased by the states and saw use during the war than the 2,000 Ordnance Department purchased and inspected revolvers. The fact that a minimum of three Illinois Volunteer cavalry regiments were at least partially armed with the revolvers suggests that Illinois may have made a significant purchase of the revolvers directly from Colt or other sources. At least one delivery of 50 “New Model” Navy revolvers to the state of Illinois is contained within surviving Colt documents, as well as a delivery of 461 to the state of Connecticut and 120 to the state of Rhode Island. The closest serial numbers to this revolver (#6972) that are listed in the Springfield Research Service books are #6868 which was in the possession of Company I of the 1stMaryland Cavalry in 1863 and #6876 which was in possession of Company C of the 2nd Illinois Cavalry in May of 1863. Only those revolvers purchased directly from Colt by the Ordnance Department via an official contract and delivered to the Ordnance Department inspectors were marked in any way. This makes martially marked Model 1861 “New Model” Navy revolvers quite scarce today. 


During 1862 exactly 2,000 of the pistols were delivered directly from Colt to the Ordnance Department, with an additional 56 being procured in 1863. The first of 1862 deliveries were made on February 17 and the last on April 2. These were the only revolvers of this pattern to receive military inspection marks. Other documented US military purchases of the “New Model” Navy include 307 that were procured from Joseph C. Grubb & Company of Philadelphia, PA, and 2,400 acquired from B. Kittredge & Company of Louisville, KY. None of these guns were inspected and marked. The US Navy also purchased some 3,370 “New Model” Navy revolvers during the war, but according to most researchers the majority of the guns underwent no specific inspection and were left unmarked. Unlike the “Old Model” Navy revolvers (Model 1851), the military inspected “New Model” Navy pistols were not marked U.S. on the frame under the COLTS / PATENT but were simply marked with the usual single letter sub-inspection stamps on most of the individual components, and often with an inspectors’ cartouche on the left side of the one-piece walnut grip.


This Colt New Model 1861 Navy Revolver is in VERY GOOD+ to LOW FINE condition. It is serial number 6972, placing its production in the first half of 1862. For reference Colt factory records indicate that Model 1861 Navy revolvers as high as the low 6XXX serial number range were part of a shipment of 500 of the revolvers that were delivered to Major R.H.K. Whitely, commander of the New York Arsenal on Governor’s Island, on March 6, 1862. All of the serial numbers on the gun match, including the wedge and the grips, which are ink numbered with the last three digits of the serial number inside the backstrap cut out. The pistol retains crisp and legible markings throughout. The lower left front of the frame reads COLT’S / PATENT, and the side of the cylinder is marked COLT’S PATENT No 972. The front edge of the cylinder also retains some of the ENGAGED 16 MAY 1843 legend, in reference to the naval battle scene roll engraved on the cylinder. The top of the 7 ½” round barrel is marked with the standard one-line New York address: 




The gun does not bear any government inspector marks, but as it was not part of the official contract for 2,000 of these revolvers, it should not. However, the lack of these markings does not in any way mean that the gun did not see Civil War service, as noted with the examples discussed above.


The gun remains nice and crisp throughout with sharp lines and edges and strong markings. The gun appears to be essentially untouched. It retains some traces of blue in the protected areas of the barrel, primarily on the web around the wedge and under the barrel where it was protected by the loading lever. The frame has some traces of case colors present in the protected aeras as well, mostly around the rear edges of the recoil shield and in the capping cut out. The hammer also retains some traces of color, as does the web of the loading lever. The balance of the gun has a nice, mottled plum patina that shows scattered freckles of oxidation and darkening here and there and some freckled areas of minor surface roughness, with some pinpricking and light pitting around the muzzle and of course on the face and rear of the cylinder. The frame has more of a mottled gray patina, which is lighter than the plum brown tone that is prevalent on the barrel and cylinder. The cylinder retains about 85%+ of the Ormsby roll engraved Republic of Texas vs. the Mexican Navy battle scene and is quite crisp and clear. The cylinder retains all of its original cones (nipples), but none of the safety pins are present on the rear of the cylinder. Only the shadows of their location are present.  The bore of the pistol rates about VERY GOOD+ as well. It is partly bright, with sharp rifling, but is moderately oxidized with patches of darkness and scattered light to moderate pitting along its entire length. The pistol is in FINE mechanical condition mechanically, and functions as it should. The revolver times, indexes and locks up correctly and the action retains a nice, crisp feel to it. The brass frame appears to have been lightly cleaned at some point in the past and has toned down to a very attractive golden color. There is no silver-plated finish on the grip frame, even under the grip, so it was probably never plated. The gun was likely produced with the “military finish” which included a lower level of polish to the metal resulting in a duller blue, skipped the silver-plating process for the brass parts and utilized oil finished, rather than varnished wood grips. The one-piece walnut grip is in about VERY GOOD condition. The grip is solid free of any breaks, cracks, or repairs. The edges remain fairly crisp but the lower right leading edge does show a small chip missing. The grip may have been lightly sanded at some point, as there are some very light surface scuff marks on the wood. Otherwise, the grip shows the usual array of lightly scattered bumps, dings and mars that are normally associated with a mid-19th century percussion revolver.


Overall, this is a relatively crisp, well-marked and mechanically fine example of one of the less commonly encountered Colt revolvers from the American Civil War period. With less than 39,000 produced, and less than 28,000 of them produced before the end of 1865, these guns can be hard to find compared to the approximately 200,000 Colt Model 1860 Army revolvers and approximately 215,000 Colt Model 1851 Navy revolvers produced. The 1861 Navy production only equaled about 19% of Colt 1860 Army production and 17% of Colt 1851 Navy production. As such, they are about five times rarer than the more commonly encountered Colts of the era. By that logic, the guns should be five times as valuable as their more numerous brethren! This is a very nice example that presents well and has a really nice, honest, and attractive appearance.  The gun will be a wonderful addition to your collection of Civil War era secondary martial revolvers and is a gun you will really enjoy displaying with your collection. 


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Tags: Attractive, and, Untouched, Colt, 1861, Navy, Produced, in, 1862