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Extremely Fine Early Production Starr Model 1863 Single Action Army Revolver

Extremely Fine Early Production Starr Model 1863 Single Action Army Revolver

  • Product Code: FHG-2226-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

The Starr Arms Model 1863 Percussion “Army” Revolver was designed as a simplified and more robust version of their earlier Starr Model 1858 Double Action Revolver. The simplified action was also intended to be less expensive to produce and thus more cost effective, for the US Government to purchase. Like the earlier M1858 Double Action Army, the gun was a six shot, .44 caliber percussion revolver. However, the M1863 utilized a single action lock work, instead of the delicate and complicated double action lock of the M1858. The M1863 also had a longer barrel, measuring 8” in length. This was an increase of 2” over the earlier M1858. The production of the M1863 started at about serial number 23,000, continuing from the end of the production run of the earlier M1858 Double Action revolver. Some 32,000 of the “improved Army” revolvers were produced by the Starr Arms Company between the end of 1863 and the end of 1865. 


In September of 1863, Starr received a contract to deliver 25,000 of their Improved Army Revolvers at the rate of $12.00 each. The contract specified that 1,000 guns were to be delivered during the month of October (1863), with additional deliveries of 2,000 guns per month over the next twelve months until the contract was fulfilled. Starr delivered the first 1,000 of the Single Action M1863 revolvers in December of 1863 and a total of 24,002 over the twelve months of 1864. During the American Civil War, the M1863 Starr was issued to a number of US cavalry regiments, including the 1stColorado Cavalry, the 6th & 7th Michigan Cavalry and the 11th New York Cavalry, just to name a few. 


After the Civil War, the obsolete Starr revolvers of all patterns were returned to various US arsenals and remained in storage until they were eventually disposed of. The first major sale of Starr .44 revolvers was in October of 1865, when 99 of the revolvers were sold from the Watervliet Arsenal at the price of $5.00 each. Over the next 36 years Starr revolvers were sold from a number of US Arsenals. The largest single sale of .44 Starr revolvers took place in December of 1870, when the Austin Baldwin Company acquired 20,000 of the revolvers from the New York Arsenal, purchasing them for $8.00 each. The last major sale of .44 Starr revolvers  occurred on June 19, 1901, when Francis Bannerman & Company purchased 7,537 of the revolvers from the New York Arsenal, paying between 2.13¢ and 27.55¢ each; a far cry from the original contract price of $12.00 for the single action guns, and $20.00 or more for the earlier double action revolvers.


This is example of the Starr Model 1863 Single Action Army revolver is in about VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition. The right side of the gun is crisply marked STARR’S PATENT JAN 15 1856 and the left side is marked STARR ARMS Co NEW.YORK. There are a variety US government sub-inspector marks crisply stamped on the frame, barrel, cylinder and trigger guard, which includes the capital letters FDC and S. The matching serial number of 23303 is present on the center of the frame below the loading level recess and on the cylinder. This is a very early production Model 1863, within the first 200-300 of the revolvers produced, continuing from the production serial number range of the earlier M1858. Interestingly, the gun does not have a serial number in the frame cut out under the hammer, a feature that would be present on later production M1863 revolvers. Instead only a single 0 is stamped in this location. The one-piece walnut grip is sub-inspected with a small capital D and an even smaller G in a circle on its bottom. The grip also retains two extremely clear and crisp inspection cartouches. The script letters ADK are present in oval cartouches on both sides of the grip. This is the mark of Springfield Arsenal sub-inspector Andrew D. King. It is uncommon for both the inspecting and receiving cartouche to be stamped by the same person, as usually the final acceptance “receiving” cartouche was applied to the obverse of the grip by an officer of the Ordnance Department, rather than by a sub-inspector. King’s mark is only occasionally found on M1858 Double Action revolvers and is not listed as one of the known inspectors of M1863 revolvers by the authors of U.S. Military Arms Inspector Marks. King did inspect M1858 revolvers at Starr during the spring of 1862, and served in both inspection rolls at that time, marking both sides of the grip in some cases. However, he was not at Starr in December of 1863 when this revolver was likely delivered. King was working at Springfield in October and November of 1863 and at some time in December of 1863 went back to Ames to inspect other items. Likely these earliest Starr single action revolvers that were delivered to Springfield in December of 1863, arrived without any final inspections. At this time King viewed and marked them prior to proceeding to Chicopee and the Ames factory complex, again serving as both inspector and receiving officer as he had for some the M1858 Double Action revolvers. This means that this revolver is not only one of the earliest examples of a Starr M1863 to be delivered, it also carries the least common of all inspection cartouches on the grip.


The gun retains about 70%+ of its original blued finish, averaged overall. The .44 caliber, 8” round barrel retains most of its original blue, which has thinned significantly but still covers most of the barrel. In addition to thinning, the blue does show some scattered minor scuffs and mars and some very lightly scattered flecks of surface oxidation. The frame retains the majority of its original bright blued finish, with most of the loss due to flaking which is the reason that most Starr revolvers show significant finish loss. The cylinder retains only some scattered traces of its original bright blue, again the apparent victim of flaking. The exposed metal has developed and attractive smoothly oxidized brown patina. This same smooth oxidation is present on the frame of the revolver where the finish has flaked. The hammer retains about 60%+ of its case coloring, much of which is still vibrant, with areas of fading and loss resulting in some muted coloration. The loading lever retains about 30% of its original case coloring, with the rear portion near the pivot retaining some traces of the vibrant color, with the balance of the lever faded to a smoky and mottled blue-gray patina. The metal of the gun is mostly smooth and free of any significant pitting but does show some scattered patches of very minor freckled surface oxidation as noted above and some minute areas of lightly scattered minor pinpricking. The gun remains in excellent mechanical condition and times, indexes and locks up perfectly. The cylinder retains all of its original cones (nipples) and they are very fine, crisp condition with no breaks or cracks. The bore is about EXCELLENT condition as well. It is nearly all mirror bright with crisp rifling present and shows only some light frosting in the grooves. The Colt style loading lever and catch work as they should, and the gun breaks down easily with the removal of the hinge locking screw at the upper rear of the righthand side of the frame. The one-piece walnut grip is in VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition as well. There is a tiny chip missing on the lower obverse edge behind the cartouche, as well as a few scattered minor handling marks, bumps and dings. Otherwise, the grip is solid, is free of any breaks, cracks or repairs and has never been sanded. As noted, the grip retains two excellent cartouches on the sides and crisp sub-inspection marks on the butt.


Overall this is a really fabulous condition example of the Starr Model 1863 Single Action Army Revolver.  The gun shows some real-world use but has clearly been extremely well cared for and never abused during its service life. While high condition M1858 Starr double action revolvers are relatively common, the single action M1863s saw more service (both during the war and as post war surplus) and are difficult to find with any level of finish on them. This is particularly true of Starr revolvers which are well known for their finishes flaking off, even with limited carry and use. The Starr M1863 was the third most used handgun issued to the US cavalry during the war, and no display of Civil War era martial revolvers or cavalry arms is complete without one. This is a really fantastic, very crisp example that any serious collector would be proud to own and display.


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Tags: Extremely, Fine, Early, Production, Star, Model, 1863, Single, Action, Army, Revolver