SCARCE US NAVY FIRST CONTRACT COLT M1851 REVOLVER DELIVERED IN DECEMBER 1857 TO THE NEW YORK NAVY YARD AND CONVERTED TO CENTERFIRE FOR THE NAVY BY COLT IN 1873

$4,500.00

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Item Code: 1142-125

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This iron frame M1851 Colt Navy serial numbered 62125 was made in 1856 and delivered to the U.S. Navy Yard in New York in 1857. It is a rare survivor among Colt revolvers purchased on the first Navy contract, later converted for metallic cartridges, and continued in service until replaced by the Colt M1889, giving them more than thirty years of service.

Despite its hopeful name, the Colt Navies were not immediately acquired by the U.S.N. The Navy purchased 50 in 1856 and ordered another 130 in 1857, which was expanded to a total of 2,000 by a September 28, 1857 contract. This pistol is serial numbered 62125, placing it among some 588 revolvers sent to the New York Navy Yard in December 1857. Not only that, although the inspector’s initials would have been stamped in the wood grips, which were usually replaced in 1873, it retains on the buttstrap a USN acceptance and property stamp showing star-shaped periods after the first two letters just as on another gun from the same shipment that retains a New York Navy Yard inspector’s initials in the wood. (McAulay, p.51.)

After some fifteen years of service, this pistol was also one of approximately 1,000 Colt M1851 Navy revolvers sent by the U.S.N. to Colt for conversion to .38 caliber centerfire. In the main, the alteration consisted of removing the percussion nipples, creating a bored-through cylinder rebored to chamber the .38 centerfire metallic cartridge and installing a breech plate or conversion ring with loading gate, along with a longer hand, etc. This cylinder work was done separately and cylinders seldom, if ever, matched the serial numbers on rest of the gun when reassembled. The loading assembly was also removed and the dovetail for the lever catch and the mounting recess were filled, but the plunger hole left open. A Mason spring-loaded ejector rod and housing was installed on the right side of the barrel. The pistols were also cleaned and refinished, new markings applied, iron backstraps polished and grips replaced if necessary.

The metal overall is smooth with the barrel showing mostly a mix of thin blue and plum brown with a just little rubbing of the edges, with stronger blue on the underside near the frame. The ejector rod housing shows brown. The early production New York barrel address, “ADDRESS SAML COLT NEW - YORK CITY” is sharp and the three-line stamp, “COLT’S / PATENT / U. S.” on the left frame is sharp as well, next to the 1871 and 1873 patent stamps applied during the conversion, indicating the pistol was in good condition to begin with and no aggressive cleaning was necessary. The frame shows some nice case colors on both sides, strongest on the left, which shows off the patent stamps well.

The cylinder has a partially visible naval battle scene with the waves and the lower portions of ships clear, but is rubbed toward the front, eliminating the scene caption, and there are some small dings. The patent stamp and serial number are very good. The latter is 4273, a mismatch expected on this model. The loading gate is numbered 349 as part of the conversion ring and features the early external spring.

The grips have a good fit and finish. As these were usually replaced in 1873, they do not bear the Civil War inspector’s initials. The backstrap shows a mix of gray and some thin brown, with a few small dings and signs of cleaning near the heel. The U.S.N stamp on the butt is very good, though rubbed on portions of the U and S, and the left side of the N. The star periods are clear.

As a real Navy-Navy and a Richards-Mason conversion this pistol is rare in itself and in extraordinarily good condition for one with some thirty years of naval service, starting in 1857. This would be a great addition to a Civil War, US Navy, US martial arms, or even a 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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