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Dedicated to the memory of De Witt Pourie  May 10, 1915 - February 7, 2001

 

COLT'S NAVIES - A DECADE APART

 

A TWO PART LOOK AT THE 1851 4TH MODEL AND 1861 MODEL .36 CALIBER PERCUSSION COLT REVOLVERS

 

1851 4TH MODEL AND 1861 MODEL .36 CALIBER PERCUSSION COLT REVOLVERS
TOP - MODEL 1851 4TH MODEL PERCUSSION REVOLVER
BOTTOM - MODEL 1861 PERCUSSION REVOLVER

 


 

PART 1
COLT MODEL 1851 PERCUSSION NAVY REVOLVER, 4TH MODEL

 

COLT MODEL 1851 PERCUSSION NAVY REVOLVER, 4TH MODEL
MODEL 1851 4TH MODEL COLT "NAVY" REVOLVER

 

Single action - Caliber .36, rifled with 7 grooves having a left-hand twist.  Overall length, straight line from tip of butt to muzzle - 14".  7-1/2" octagonal barrel.  Frame - 2-15/16".  Cylinder - 1-11/16". Brass trigger guard and back strap -  Weight, 2 pounds, 10 ounces. 

 


 

THE MODEL 1851 READY FOR LOADING
THE MODEL 1851 READY FOR LOADING

 

Top: Barrel and loading lever assembly.  Left: Frame, grip and hammer assembly. Right:  Cylinder

 


 

     The Model 1851 Colt was first manufactured in 1850 and was kept in production until 1873.  215,348 were made at Colt's Hartford, Conn. plant.  Another 42,000 were turned out by Colt's London Factory. The Hartford guns were serial numbered from 1 through 215,348.  There were 3 different barrel addresses utilized over the course of production. They were, along with the approximate serial number ranges;  "-ADDRESS SAML COLT NEW-YORK CITY-  ( SN 1-74,000);  - ADDRESS SAML COLT HARTFORD CT. - (74,000 -101,000); - ADDRESS COL. SAML COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA - (101,000 - 215,348).  The left front side of the frame is marked: "COLTS/PATENT" in two lines on all models.  All models also had a rolled engraved cylinder scene depicting a battle between the Texas and Mexican navies, including the wording along the front edge of the cylinder; "ENGAGED 16 MAY 1843" which commemorates the date of the battle. Also stamped on the cylinder is "COLTS PATENT No", with all or part of the individual gun's serial number following it. On the weapon pictured, it is the last 4 digits, "5685", of the serial number "175685".  On revolvers made in or after 1860, the caliber marking " 36 CAL" is stamped on the left side of the trigger guard to the rear.  This was done concurrent with the issuance of the 1860, .44 caliber "Army" revolver.

 

Top Barrel Flat
Top Barrel Flat
 Marked: - ADDRESS COL. SAML COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA -

 

Left Front Side Of Frame
Left Front Side Of Frame
Marked: COLTS PATENT

 

Left Side Trigger Guard - rear
Left Side Trigger Guard (rear)
Marked: 36 CAL

 

CYLINDER
CYLINDER
Marked COLTS PATENT No. 5685

 


 

     There were many variations of the Colt Navy. The trigger guard and back strap on the 4th Model Navy are usually silver plated brass, but in some instances a combination of iron and brass will be found, both silver plated. Some guns, mostly those found with "U.S." markings will have both parts of iron and adapted to be used with a detachable shoulder stock. The "U.S." markings will generally be found under  "COLTS/PATENT" at the left front side of the frame. Those purchased by the Navy are sometimes marked with a "U.S.N." on the butt strap. Specimens will also be found with and without the capping channel in the right recoil shield. Additionally, the front sight on earlier production guns was a brass post sight while later models will have brass or even German silver blade type front sights. Grips are of varnished walnut. The frame,  hammer and loading lever are cased hardened, the remainder blued. The various serial number and factory inspector or code stampings found on the pictured revolver are pictured below as is the rear of the cylinder showing the six locking pins.

 

Bottom Front Of Cylinder Arbor
Bottom Front Of Cylinder Arbor
Stamped 5685

 

Bottom Of Barrel Wedge
Bottom Of Barrel Wedge
Stamped 75685

 

Barrel, Frame And Trigger Guard Stampings
Barrel, Frame And Trigger Guard Stampings
At Bottom Front Of Frame All Stamped 175685

 

Butt Strap Stampings
Butt Strap Stampings
Small "Y" Stamp - Upper Right - Plus 175685

 

Right Side Front Trigger Guard
Right Side Front Trigger Guard
"J" Stamping

 

Back Of Cylinder
Back Of Cylinder
Note Locking Pins

 


 

     Of the 215,000 Model 1851 Navies produced at Hartford, the 4th model comprised over half that total with an estimated 125,000 being manufactured. The London armory turned out another 42,000 or so. Not counting fraudulent voter registrations, that equals the entire population of St. Louis city. Records detailing official and open market purchases show only about 35,000 Model 1851 Colt revolvers being purchased by both the Army and Navy during the Civil War. The Army purchased 20,000 of that number. The contract models carry martial marking as discussed herein. However, the 4th Model Navy was immensely popular during that conflict and many additional thousands were purchased by the individual states or for private usage. Many were sold after the war and the stock was not depleted until 1879! It is today one of the most popular guns in the arms collecting field. There are many variations and a collector could spend his life and fortune just finding and buying one of each. The revolver featured here was made in 1864. The 1861 "Round Barrel" Model Navy which will be featured next week was made in 1863. It was developed 10 years after it's predecessor but it is one year older.

 

     Credits for the information in this posting go to FLAYDERMAN'S GUIDE TO ANTIQUE AMERICAN FIREARMS... AND THEIR VALUES, by Norm Flayderman and to U.S. MILITARY SMALL ARMS 1816-1865 by Robert M. Reilly. No small amount of credit should go to De Witt Pourie of Villa Ridge, MO whose guidance, influence and encouragement has resulted in 30 plus years of collecting for the author of this page and who is one of those individuals directly responsible for it's inspiration. De died a week ago today at the age of 85, but he was really 85 going on 60 or less. He was still going to school... on computers, still attending gun shows and still standing as a mentor to the younger collector. He was an officer in WWII, an engineer, an arms collector of note, an avid reader, a photographer with professional status, a loving and care giving husband to his wife Eve and a very human being. He was, without doubt, the most honest and ethical individual that I have ever known. He was in fact, one of God's noble men.

 

     My thanks also goes to my son Reed, who is the webmaster for this page. One would not be reading this if it was not for him.

 

Dave Radcliffe