At the close of the American Civil War the Colt Patent Firearms Company was aware of two facts that would greatly impact their business practices for the next decade. First, the end of war not only meant no more major US military orders for handguns in the foreseeable future, but it also meant that thousands of surplus US military percussion revolvers would soon be flooding the market, making newly made percussion revolvers difficult (if not impossible) to sell. Second, the day of the percussion revolver was over, and the new self-contained cartridge handgun was the wave of the future. Unfortunately for Colt, Smith & Wesson held the exclusive rights to Rollin White’s patent on the bored-through cylinder, which meant that until that patent expired in 1869 there was no easy way for Colt to manufacture a traditional cartridge revolver without infringing upon that patent. Colt also had thousands of parts on hand to produce the many models of percussion handguns that had been its bread and butter business since the firm was founded. Immediately the designers were put to work to find reasonable ways to manufacture cartridge handguns from the parts on hand, as well as how to convert existing percussion revolvers to cartridge handguns. Although the possibilities for both production and conversion were somewhat limited until the expiration of White’s patent, the designs patented by F. Alexander Thuer in 1868 and 1870 allowed Colt to offer Thuer conversions of all their popular percussion models as an interim product line, until bored through cylinders could be used. The Thuer system was not particularly successful and only about 5,000 Thuer altered revolvers of all models were produced. It is interesting to note that the first of the Colt “bored through cylinder” cartridge revolvers to be offered after the expiration of White’s patent were not alterations of existing models, but were two completely new product lines, the .22RF Colt Open Top revolvers and Colt Cloverleaf Pocket Revolvers. Following their introduction Colt started to produce the Richards and Richards-Mason conversions of their larger framed revolvers, including the M-1860 Army and the M-1851 and M-1861 Navy models. These were produced both as newly made guns, using percussion revolver parts on hand, as well as true conversions of previously manufactured revolvers. In total about 9,000 M-1860 Army Richards conversions were produced, with an additional 2,100 Richards-Mason Army models manufactured. About 3,800 M-1851 Navy revolvers were altered to .38 caliber (both rimfire and centerfire) and another 2,200 M-1861 Navy revolvers were so altered. The single largest batch of altered, converted or remanufactured revolvers were in the 1862 Police and Pocket Navy sizes, all altered to .38 caliber, in either rimfire and centerfire. Colt produced 24,000 cartridge revolvers on this mid-sized frame between 1873 and 1881, with a wide variety of models (at least 5) and configurations. For the ease of identifying these guns for modern collectors, the guns have essentially be divided into categories based upon the their barrel profiles (octagon or round), barrel lengths and the presence or absence of an ejector system (and sometimes loading gates). In some cases the guns were made almost completely from left over percussion parts on hand, were sometimes made by altering completed percussion guns on hand, and were sometimes a hybrid of old, surplus parts and newly made parts. To make matters more confusing the presence or absence of features like loading gates and barrel addresses almost appear to be random on some “models”, and to further muddy the waters, these mid-sized .38 cartridge revolvers were produced in 3 different serial number ranges! The guns are found serial numbered in the upper regions of the M-1849 Pocket serial number range (between about 274,000 and 328,000), in the upper regions of the M-1862 Pocket Navy and Police ranges (found between about 36,000 and 48,000) and in their own range of 1-19,000. The guns were manufactured between 1873 and 1880/81 with most of the new serial number range guns manufactured between 1873-1875, and the balance of the guns primarily being produced c1875-1880. In all cases, the unsold stock remained on hand and in many cases was still shipping in the mid-to-late 1880s.
Offered here is a VERY FINE example of what collectors refer to as the Model 1862 Pocket Navy With Ejector chambered in .38 Rimfire. Like all of the other similar .38 cartridge guns that Colt produced during this era, the revolver was based upon the frame of the 1862 Pocket Navy & Police series of handguns. This one uses the 5-shot rebated cylinder of the 1862 Pocket Navy (rather than the fluted cylinder from a Pocket Police), and the 5 ““ barrel for the gun is a left over Pocket Navy barrel that has been machined to round from its original octagonal profile. This pattern of revolver was also manufactured with 4 ““ and 6 ““ barrels. The fact that this gun uses an older Pocket Navy barrel can be determined by the barrel address, which his a single line, late percussion production “New York” address. The guns with newly made barrels were either roll stamped with the two-line Hartford address or were left unmarked. These 1862 Pocket Navy / Police cartridge guns were manufactured from about 1873 through 1875, with approximately 6,500 being produced during that time. Roughly half of the production was in .38 rimfire and the other half was in .38 centerfire (.38 Colt). The guns were made with a Mason patent ejector rod, and most had a loading gate installed as well. The earliest guns had a loading gate with an internal spring, while the majority of the production had an external loading gate spring, like those found on the M-1851 Navy-Navy cartridge conversion revolvers. This is one of the guns that was numbered in its own serial number range of newly manufactured cartridge revolvers with the serial number being 4251, placing it in the first 1/3 of production of these revolvers. The matching serial number 4251 is found on the bottom of the grip, on the triggerguard, on the bottom of the frame and on the bottom of barrel web. The letter N is also present under the serial number in all of those locations except for the barrel. The cylinder is numbered with the last 3 digits, 251. The cylinder arbor, the rear of the loading gate, and presumably the conversion ring, bear the full conversion serial number 4216. This number rarely matches the balance of the gun. The wedge is an un-numbered; cartridge era wedge with no spring that was made at the time the gun was manufactured, and is clearly original to the revolver. The rebated cylinder is clearly marked COLT’s PATENT followed by the partial serial 251 number and retains about 90%+ of its original, roll-engraved “Stagecoach Holdup” scene. The left side of the frame is clearly stamped in two lines: COLT’s / PATENT, rather than with the later two line patent dates of the later cartridge revolvers. This early frame mark confirms not only the use of a left over Pocket Navy / Police frame that had been marked with the older, percussion marking, but also confirms its early production c1873-1874. The left rear of the triggerguard web is deeply stamped with the original percussion caliber marking .36 CAL.. The old octagon barrel has been machined to round and is marked in a single line: ADDRESS COL SAML COLT NEW-YORK US AMERICA.
As previously noted, the revolver is in about VERY FINE condition. The gun retains about 80%+ of its original nickel-plated finish that was applied at the time of the conversion/alteration process. The frame shows more thinning and streaking to the nickel than the balance of the gun and has toned to a pewter-gray with a subtle “milky” tone, as has the nickel on the balance of the gun. The frame is free of any pitting, but does show some patches of light surface oxidation, mostly where the nickel has flaked and worn away. The cylinder retains about 85%+ original nickel-finish, with scattered flaking and wear, mostly in the cylinder stops and in the sharp edges of the roll engraving. The cylinder scene remains extremely sharp and clear and is at least 90% present. The brass backstrap, gripstrap and triggerguard retain about 90%+ original silver plating, with some minor wear and thinning from handling and use. The 5 ““ round barrel retains about 85% of its original nickel finish, which is strongest along the middle section of the barrel. The muzzle shows the expected flaking and wear from holster carry, and the web and frame juncture show the expected wear and finish loss from firing. Most of the loss is due to flaking, and the top of the barrel shows flaking along the roll-stamped address marking. Most of the areas where the nickel has flaked have developed a dark brown, oxidized patina, with some minor surface roughness and light pinpricking. The barrel is essentially free of any pitting but that previously mentioned surface oxidation does exist and also creates a dark brown halo around the barrel address. The bore of the revolver is in NEAR FINE condition and remains mostly bright, with sharp 7-groove rifling its entire length. The bore is free of any serious pitting or wear and shows only some lightly scattered pinpricking, minor oxidation and light pinpricking along its length. The original brass post shaped front sight is in place on the top of the barrel near the muzzle and the sighting notch in the hammer nose remains crisp and sharp. The gun is mechanically EXCELLENT and indexes, times, and locks up perfectly, with the hammer responding crisply to the trigger. The original Mason Patent ejector rod is in place on the right side of the barrel, and functions smoothly and correctly. The kidney shaped ejector rod head is slightly bent, probably having been damaged while being holster carried during the period of use. All of the screws are original, with the exception of the wedge screw, which is a modern replacement. Most of the screws are in very nice condition showing only minor to moderate slot wear. Most of the screws retain 50% or more of their original vivid fire-blued finish. The only screw that shows serious wear and damage is the one in the barrel web that secures the Mason patent ejector rod to the right side of the barrel. This screw shows a heavily damaged and worn head and no finish. The revolver is mounted with a lovely set of period ivory grips that are relief carved with the period initials G W in a gothic font. As is typical of ivory grips, the ivory is carved as two grip panels, with a glued wood block making them into a “one piece” style grip. The grips fit the gun very well, and although are not likely factory, they are most assuredly period, more than 100 years old and contemporary to the period of use of the revolver. A major Colt retailer like Schuyler, Hartley and Graham of New York may have added the grips, and it is possible that the gun was delivered to them in the white and that the grips and nickel finish were added at that time. The grips show some attractive yellowish age toning and nice grain lines along the smooth right side. There are a couple of minor age grain cracks present in the bottom of the grips, but these remain tight and are not in any way structural or serious. The grips are free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The grips show only some very minor handling marks and a nice patina from handling and use over the last over the last 140 years +/-.
Overall this is a really wonderful example of a Colt Pocket Navy Cartridge Revolver With Ejector Rod. These sleek, mid-sized cartridge guns were made in a relatively small quantity of about 6,500, during the height of westward expansion in the aftermath of the American Civil War. As they were cheaper than the larger Richards and Richards-Mason guns and could easily be carried in a coat pocket or a holster, and most do not survive in this wonderful state of preservation. The monogramed carved ivory grips are a really stunning addition to this attractive mid-sized revolver and really set it apart from other Colt conversions. This would be a fantastic addition to any advanced collection Colt revolvers or old west arms, and would be rather difficult to upgrade from without spending significantly more money. This is one of those really lovely Colt revolvers that is even prettier in person than on the web site, and my photos really don’t do this very fine specimen justice.SOLD