Outstanding & Rare Cased Austrian Naval Officers Colt KKP Dragoon Revolver
- Product Code: FHG-2312-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
1848 was the first year when Samuel Colt claimed that his patents, designs and his Hartford manufactory all coalesced into a profitable enterprise. His journey to this stage of his life had been fraught with mishaps, economic reversals and the failure of his original Patent Arms Manufacturing Company. However, by 1848, Colt was well on his way to becoming the “American Legend” as some historians have referred to him.
1848 was also a year of civil unrest in Europe, as young people around the world looked to the American model of government and began to agitate for the end of the oppressive regimes that many of them were living under. For the previous two decades, groups around the world taking the monikers of “Young Italy”, “Young Ireland” and “Young Germany” to name just a few, had been organizing to help establish new democratic governments in their countries. Even the United States had its own “Young America” movement that supported the democratic movements around the world and further supported the concept of Manifest Destiny for the United States in North America, and potentially extending to Central and South America. In 1848, much of the European agitation erupted into outright rebellion. This started in France in February of 1848 and quickly spread to Sicily, the Italian States, the Austrian and Hungarian Empires, the Netherlands and many of the member states of the German Confederation. In all, some fifty European countries would become embroiled in this civil unrest that would be called the “Spring of Nations” the “Springtime of the Peoples” and the “Year of Rebellion”. In this chaotic situation, Samuel Colt saw a business opportunity. Despite the fact that his business was just starting to be truly successful in the United States and that American competitors were starting to violate his patents; Colt saw the European upheaval as a chance to enter a new market.
In the 1830s Colt had visited England and Europe to secure patent protections for designs, with mixed results. Now, with Europe on fire he turned his gaze again across the Atlantic to secure patent protection for his products and to sell his revolvers to those willing to pay for them. As he would show in the months leading up to the Civil War, as well as for some after the firing on Fort Sumter, Colt was interested in sales of his firearms, not in politics or ideology. He cared little if his customers were the oppressors or the oppressed, the rebels or the ruling regime. He simply wanted to sell guns.
However, Colt acted too slowly and by the time he embarked for Europe on May 2, 1849 aboard the steamer Europa, the rebellions had largely fizzled out. While some reforms were secured by the protestors, like the abolition of serfdom in Austria and Hungry, the abolishment of absolute monarchy in Denmark and establishment of a representative democratic government in the Netherlands, much of Europe returned to the previous status quo of monarchial rule. Despite the opportunities he may have missed for immediate sales, Colt continued on his course to securing European patents where he could. Always looking to the future, Colt knew that patent protection would prevent the manufacturers in those countries where he could obtain patents from producing arms based on his designs without paying royalties to Colt.
In August of 1849, Colt visited Austria and applied for patent protection for his designs. At the end of September of 1849, an Austrian board of ordnance conducted trials of Colt revolvers and carbines with positive results. As noted by authors Roy Marcot & Ron Paxton in their exhaustive book Colt Brevete Revolvers, the board reported in part that the Colt design was a “perfectly practical weapon and specially recommended as an officer’s arm.” Because of the Austrian military’s positive response to the Colt firearms, Joseph Ganahl contracted with Colt to obtain the exclusive rights to manufacture Colt patent revolvers for five years, through August of 1854. Ganahl was one of the handful of Austrian manufacturers who held a royal appointment allowing him to manufacture firearms. Ganahl’s company was the Kaiserlich-Koeniglich Privilegierten Maschinen und Spinnen Fabrik, abbreviated as the KKP and translated as the Imperial & Royal Privileged Machinery, Textile and Spinning Factory. The factory was located in Innsbruck, Austria. Innsbruck is in the Tyrol region of the Alps, near the Swiss border.
The “Colt” revolver that Ganahl undertook to manufacture was based upon the Model 1848 Colt Dragoon. A sample Colt Dragoon had been provided to Ganahl by Colt’s Vienna based sales agent Herr Schwartz. Over the next five years, Ganahl would produce a relatively small number of Colt patent revolvers, with production estimates ranging from about 1,100 to 1,200 guns. 1,000 were manufactured for use by the officers of the Austrian Navy as the Model 1849 and another 100 to 200 were produced for “civilian sale” although it is generally believed that the majority of these revolvers were also acquired by Austrian military officers, probably from all branches.
Although based upon the Colt Dragoon, the Austrian KKP produced revolver showed a number of differences from the Colt product. The overall profile was very much like the Colt Dragoon with the open-top frame, large wedge-retained octagonal barrel housing that terminated in a round barrel and the oversized oval link between the loading lever and ramrod, which projected below the loading lever. The Austrian made guns made use of both the semi square-backed triggerguard on some revolvers and a more oval shaped triggerguard on others. The large, six-chambered cylinder also used round stop slots as found on some transitional Colt Dragoon revolvers and early production Colt “Baby Dragoon” revolvers. The distinctly different features include the caliber, which was nominally .36 but appears to have varied from .36 to .40, rather than the Dragoon’s larger .44 caliber. Also, the barrels were nominally 5.25” to 5.5” in length, with some minor variations, instead of the Colt Dragoon’s longer 7.5” barrel. The Austrian guns also incorporated a longer, narrower grip design than found on the Colt product, which dramatically changed the angle of the grip frame and its resulting profile. Ganahl also incorporated a design improvement in the frame. First, he used iron rather than brass for the grip frame and backstrap, which improved the strength of those components. He also attached the triggerguard and gripstrap to the frame separately from the backstrap. That meant that removal of the two rear frame screws and the screw in the butt only removed the grip, leaving the triggerguard and gripstrap secured to the frame by additional screws, two of which are hidden in the upper rear of the frame until the grip was remove. This prevented the loosening of the grip to frame attachment, which could occur with a regular Colt Dragoon if these screws worked loose under recoil.
The standard finish for the revolvers was a blued barrel and cylinder with a color case hardened frame that was more a dull black color typical of oil quenching instead of the more vivid colorations associated with water quenching. Grips were varnished hardwood and by looking at the grain of the handful of known examples either in person or as published examples, it appears that most were stocked in Austrian beech as was used in their military rifle and musket stocks. The standard military production revolver was issued to officers with a leather holster and received only minor embellishment and decorations. Marcot & Paxton note that early guns had plain cylinders while later guns has lightly engraved bands around the cylinders. The guns offered for “civilian” sale, most of which were likely acquired by officer’s as well, were typically more elegantly decorated and were often cased and offered with a variety of accessories. Some guns were produced with a fixed rear sight on top of the octagonal portion of the barrel, right in front of the cylinder, while others did not receive a rear sight. Front sights were typically narrow blades. The serial numbering of the guns appears to be in a single range, with both “civilian” and military gun numbers intermingled with no apparent pattern. The presence of the square backed triggerguard profile or an oval triggerguard appears to be somewhat random as well.
Upon the expiration of the patent royalty agreement between Ganahl and Colt in August of 1854, Colt again tried to obtain a contract with the Austrian government. This time he was somewhat more successful. He had changed sales agents in Vienna and had employed the long-time Austrian government arms contractor Ferdinand Früwirth. With Früwirth’s help Colt managed to arrange a small contract for 1,000 Model 1851 Colt Navy revolvers.
Based upon the research done by Marcot and Paxton in their book, only a handful of the Austrian Colts are known to exist in collections today with many of those in institutional collections. They list eight known serial numbers, with the gun being offered here being a new number. Based upon my own research and investigation regarding these revolvers, it appears that less than twenty examples are in the United States with only a very few, maybe five or six cased M1849s in America. The finest example is probably #143 which is in the collection of the Wadsworth Athenium. That gun appears to be a standard, early production naval officer’s revolver. They also picture three cased examples: #262, #685 and #700. Both #262 and #685 are part of the Henry M. Stewart Jr. collection and are currently part of the VMI Museum collection. #700 was part of the Will Hoffeld collection when it was photographed and described on pages 254 and 255 of their book. It was later part of the famous Horst Held collection of fine European handguns and was subsequently sold on this web site earlier this year.
Offered here is an extremely rare example of an Austrian Model 1849 Colt Revolver. The gun is even more scarce as only one of a very few examples that are cased with a complete set of correct accessories. The revolver is serial number 1011, and this number is found on the bottom of the butt. Most of the Austrian Colts have the serial number on the exposed portion of the frame’s butt, like this one, and have matching or mating numbers on the primary components. The mating number for this gun is 16. That number is found on the face of the cylinder, on the cylinder arbor pin, on the side of the loading lever, on the rear face of the barrel web, inside the hammer neck and on the wedge. The number probably appears on the frame under the grips, but after removing the grip assembly the wood grip was so tightly fit to the backstrap that I was afraid removing the grip from the frame would chip it. The serial number is the highest one noted when compared to the known examples listed by Paxton & Marcot.
While it could be argued that this one of the “civilian” guns because it is embellished and engraved to a much higher level than the more pedestrian M1849 Austrian Naval Colts, the markings are typical of the standard Naval Officer guns. The “civilian” guns usually have a retailer marking on the frame, while the engraved or enhanced officer’s guns typically have the same frame markings as the standard quality naval revolvers. This one has the standard military manufacturing frame markings and is stamped in a single line on the lower left side of the frame:
and in two lines on the lower right side of the frame:
KKP MASCHIN FABRIK
While most of these revolvers have blued cylinders, this one is color casehardened like the frame of the gun. Additionally, the case colors are far more vibrant than typically encountered on Austrian Colts, suggesting water quenching rather than oil quenching. Interestingly, one of the cased sets in the VMI collection, from the late Henry M. Stewart Jr. collection, is nearly identical in configuration to this example. It is serial number 685, is marked in the same fashion as this revolver and also has a color casehardened cylinder. That revolver is also in a nearly identical French casing with the same accessories.
The revolver has the typical Austrian M1849 profile and is about 10.75" in overall length with a Dragoon pattern octagon to round barrel that measures 5.25”. The octagonal section of the barrel measures just over 2” at 2.15”, including the forcing cone. The ten-groove bore of the revolver is nominally .36 caliber, measuring .36” land-to-land and about .40” groove-to-groove, with very deep grooves. The forcing cone mouth measures .39”. The six cylinder chamber mouths vary slightly from as tight as .385” to as big as .390”. The revolver is engraved with simple delicate foliate patterns on the rear portion of the frame, along with simple line boarders. Similar foliate patterns are engraved around the center of the cylinder. The cylinder is also engraved with a pair of feathery geometric boarder lines around its circumference near the front edge and forward of the round cylinder stop slots. Three silver bands are set into the cylinder as well, one on the around the leading edge and a pair further back that boarder the other engraved band, with the rear most silver band passing through the stop slots. The revolver has the typically long, narrow Austrian Colt grip frame design and the oval, rather than square-backed triggerguard design.
This revolver is contained in a leather covered wooden French style, form fit casing with a complete set of accessories. At least some references note that the casing prepared for officers was typically a leather covered wood case, when it was offered. An old Gun Report ad from the 1960s shows a cased Austrian M1849 revolver, #705, for sale in a French fit case that is also described as leather covered wood. The revolver in the ad has the same brass accessories found in this cased set, as does #685 from the Stewart collection in the VMI Museum. The casing measures 13” wide by 7.5” deep and 2.25” tall. The case has a leather strap handle attached to the right side, to allow it to be carried. The interior of the casing is lined in a dark, forest green baize, as is the pillow in the lid. The lining and case interior is the same color as the Stewart casing and the configuration of this case matches the Stewart gun and ad from Gun Report. The casing contains the correct pattern iron bullet mold, a steel Dragoon-style cone wrench combination tool, a brass cleaning rod, a brass flask with powder measure cap, a brass cap container and a brass bullet container with some original pointed lead bullets in it.
The revolver remains in about EXCELLENT condition. The barrel retains about 95% of its original blued finish, which is almost all brilliant and fine. There is some very lightly scattered flecks of minor surface oxidation on the metal here and there and some minor thinning and fading. There is a tiny “T” shape scratch on the reverse of the barrel web below the wedge and another similar scratch on the obverse above the wedge. There are also a couple of minor impact marks around the wedge. Normally none of this would be worth mentioning, but the overall condition of the gun is so wonderful that the most minor imperfections are worth noting. The frame retains about 95%+ of its original color casehardening and the coloration is more vibrant that typically encountered on these guns, though still not nearly as brilliant as Colt colors of this period. The cylinder is case hardened as well and retains about 85%+ of the case hardened coverage but has a much more muted appearance that is more a mottled and dusky grayish-blue than the frame which shows some brighter blues. The gripstrap, backstrap and triggerguard are a more muted brownish-gray color with some scattered areas of brighter blue coloring. The hammer retains most of the original case color as well. All of the engraving and markings remain extremely clear and crisp throughout. The silver bands on the cylinder remain about 90% present with some thinning and wear. The metal is almost entirely smooth throughout with absolutely no pitting present, but some tiny flecked areas of minor surface oxidation here and there, primarily on the barrel. The screws are not engraved like those on some of the engraved Austrian Colts, but they are all extremely sharp and crisp with only a couple of the grip frame screws showing the most minor slot wear. The heads all retain strong amounts of their original pale, purplish fire blued finish, with at least 50% remaining throughout and with some screws retaining much more.
The revolver remains fully functional mechanically and times, indexes and locks up exactly as it should. The loading lever functions correctly as well and locks securely into position when not in use. The bore of the revolver remains in about EXCELLENT condition as well. It has strong rifling along its entire length that has such as slow rate of twist that at first glance it looks straight. The bore is bright throughout with some freckles of oxidation and some minor frosting in the grooves but is free of any pitting. The revolver is one that was produced without a rear sight, but the original front sight blade is present near the muzzle. The varnished hardwood, one-piece grip appears to be typical straight-grained Austrian beech with a nice medium brown color. The grip retains nearly all of the original finish with only the most minute wear and loss. The wood remains extremely crisp with a few very lightly scattered minor handling marks.
As noted, the revolver is contained in its original Austrian leather-covered wood French-fit casing. The case remains in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition with the expected wear and minor damage from 150+ years of existence. As is so often the case, the case shows significantly more wear and damage than its contents. The casing is slightly warped, and the lid does not align perfectly. Due to warping and wear the lid does not close completely and the push button latch does not engage and lock the case closed. The leather covering shows scattered light to moderate wear with some loss along the sharp edges and contact points, was well as general wear, scuffing and minor loss. The interior remains in about VERY GOOD+ to FINE condition with some scattered wear, minor loss, some discoloration due to age and some staining. The accessories are all in about FINE to VERY FINE condition and are very attractive. The only accessory that is marked is the mold, which is numbered 36 on the top of the body forward of the sprue cutter attachment screw, and on the bottom of the sprue cutter arm. These appear to be mating numbers to match the pieces to each other, rather than a reference to the caliber of the mold as the mold cavity measures nominally .38” at the base. The iron bullet mold is left in the white and remains very crisp and fully functional with some lightly scattered surface oxidation and discoloration and a fine mold cavity. The combination cone wrench and screwdriver has a similar appearance to the mold with a bright pewter patina and scattered light surface oxidation. The tool shows no damage and is crisp and fully functional. The brass flask is very fine as well and is free of any obviously dings or dent and retains crisp edges and tight seams. The powder measure cap for the flask shows a some very minor handling marks. The two brass containers are both in crisp condition with minor dings and handling marks. The smaller one contains a few old percussion caps while the larger one contains heavily oxidized, flat-based conical lead bullets. The cleaning rod is crisp and in fine condition. All of the brass accessories have a medium golden patina and match each other well with no apparent cleaning. The casing also includes four spare percussion cones (nipples), which are screwed into the area of the case between the gun and the flask. These are all very crisp as well and retain some of their bright fire blue with most of the loss apparently due to flaking. Due to shipping restrictions, the caps in the cap container will not be included in that tin if the set is shipped.
Overall, this is an outstanding example of an extremely rare of an Austrian Model 1849 Colt Revolver in a wonderful original Austrian casing and complete with all of the correct and very scarce accessories. The Austrian M1849 Colt rarely appears for sale to begin with, as it appears that less than 20 exist in the United States. Cased examples are even more rare, and simply do not come up for sale with all of the accessories. This example is nearly identical to the well-known and documented Henry Stewart Jr. example in Marcot & Paxton’s Colt Brevete Revolvers, with the exception that this gun is in much finer condition. In fact, this may be the finest extant example of an Austrian Colt Dragoon. This is a really fantastic piece for any collector of European revolvers, a collector of Colt Brevete revolvers or any percussion revolver collector in general. This is a lot of gun, accessories and rarity for sale for a very reasonable price, as a similar condition cased Colt Navy or Dragoon would be priced at three to five times where this gun is priced.