COLT MODEL 1861 NAVY-NAVY RICHARDS-MASON CONVERSION

$3,750.00 SOLD

Quantity Available: None

Item Code: 1142-123

This is a good example of the scarce Richard’s-Mason metallic cartridge conversion done in 1873 by Colt for the U.S. Navy on its remaining Model 1861 .36 caliber Navy-Navy revolvers (Colt M1861 Navies actually purchased by the U.S. Navy.) The revolver shows the usual mismatch of serial number on the cylinder since they were worked on separately, and a renumbered frame indicating a substitution by Colt during the cleaning and conversion process. Since cleaning and polishing, along with rebluing, were part of the process, this one is unusual in preserving much of its original detail, indicating it was also in fairly good condition when converted. Not only are the 1873 markings sharp, the revolver shows a crisp barrel address, visible original markings from its percussion stage, and a partially visible cylinder scene. It also shows the original wartime “U.S.N.” inspection/acceptance stamp on the buttstrap.

The Navy acquired a total of 3,370 of these revolvers in percussion starting in September 1861. In postwar years they disposed of many .36 caliber percussion revolvers and in 1873 contracted with Colt to convert its remaining 1851s and 1861s for use with .38 caliber centerfire metallic cartridges. In the main, the alteration consisted of removing the percussion nipples from the cylinder to create bored-through chambers that were reamed out to accept the metallic cartridge. A base plate or “conversion ring” was installed in the frame along with a loading gate and the ratchet recut on the rear of the cylinder and fitted with a new hand. In this case the loading gate is fitted with the early external spring, and is numbered 586. The loading assembly was also removed and mounting holes filled, though the plunger hole was left open. A Mason patent spring-loaded ejector rod and housing was then installed on the right side of the barrel. The guns were also cleaned, polished and reblued, and the grips were replaced if necessary. Estimates are that about 1,000 M1861s went through the process and put in another fifteen years of service, being replaced only by the Colt M1889 double-action navy revolver. Their survival rate is consequently very low.

This pistol is numbered 1958 on the frame, grip, and barrel assembly, giving it an initial 1861 production date. The forward frame next to the triggerguard shows another number underneath, indicating a substitution on Colt’s part during the cleaning and alteration. The cylinder is numbered 4109, but the cylinders were worked on separately in the conversion process and seldom, if ever, match the rest of the gun. The cylinder scene is partially visible. The cylinder patent stamp and number are fully legible. The cylinder scene is partially visible. The barrel address is very good: "-ADDRESS COL. SAML COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA-" in one line. The left side of the frame is crisply stamped "-PAT. JULY. 25. 1871-/-PAT. JULY. 2. 1872-" in two lines. The original “COLTS / PATENT” stamp is visible just forward of that, though rubbed on the bottom line. The original “36 CAL” stamp is visible on the upper left triggerguard and the brass backstrap has a visible “U.S.N.” stamp from its first service, just slightly rubbed on the let of the “U.”

Overall the metal is smooth and silver gray in tone, with just some slight hints of case color on the frame. The screw slots are good. The cylinder shows some dings, as does the buttstrap. The grips have an wedge-shaped chip out on the bottom right. The color shows it is old damage and certainly from its renewed service since Colt replaced grips as necessary (or perhaps profitable) during the conversion and cleaning.

These are very scarce pistols. This one deserves a good spot in a U.S. Navy or Colt collection.  [sr] [ph:L]

DISCLAIMER: All firearms are sold as collector's items only - we do not accept responsibility as to the shooting safety or reliability of any antique firearm. All firearms are described as accurately as possible, given the restraints of a catalog listing length. We want satisfied customers & often "under" describe the weapons. Any city or state regulations regarding owning antique firearms are the responsibility of the purchaser. All firearms are "mechanically perfect" unless noted, but again, are NOT warranted as safe to fire.

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