View Full Version : I need info on Confederate 1851 Colt Navy
July 14, 2007, 01:07 PM
I am looking for information on an 1851 Colt Navy that was used by a Confederate soldier/ officer. It matches alot of the information I can find online and in books but I have not found this exact gun anywhere.
All of the numbers match on this gun. It is a 36 cal. with a 5 1/2" barrel, iron backstrap and trigger guard, silver plated and engraved with Ivory grips. The serial number places the date of manufacture in 1861. This gun has the V and P proof marks on the cylinder (every chamber) and on the side of the barrle but no US stamp. It has some other proof marks that I do not recognize, I think they may be British. The top of the barrel is marked ADDRESS COL SAMUEL COLT NEW YORK U S AMERICA.
I have owned several Colt 1851 Navy revolvers over the years but I have never seen one quite like this one. I believe it to be a special order or presentation gun but I am not sure. This gun does not appear to have been altered or modified in any way.
If you have any information that would help me in identifying this gun please let me know.
July 14, 2007, 09:50 PM
Never say never, but AFAIK all production Model 1851 Navies had 7 1/2 inch barrels, although Colt did experiment with both a 6 1/2" and a 5 1/2" barrel (Swayze, Plate 24). Both guns are in a museum. The marks you describe as V and P (GP?)sound like the English View and Gunmakers Proof marks and are seen only on guns sold in, or taken into, England.
The ivory grips may indicate a presentation gun, or may just indicate an owner's whim. Presentation guns were usually engraved, but that is not a hard and fast rule.
If you have been able to trace the man who used it in the Civil War, you may be able to determine if he was in a position to have or have made a special revolver; otherwise, I would assume the barrel was cut down by a gunsmith, fairly common after the war, though not used much during the war because it reduced the leverage on the rammer.
The British proofs add to the puzzle. Was the owner ever in England? Or was the revolver one that was sent to England for sale then returned to Colt and sold here? For a revolver made in 1861, that seems unlikely, but not impossible.
You don't give the serial number, but it should be between 101,000 and 118,000 if the gun was made in 1861.
If you can show evidence that the gun was really carried or even owned by a Confederate officer during the Civil War, the value would be considerable. Absent proof, it could still have good value, even with the short barrel. The most important factor is condition, so good pictures would help in both assessing the work done on the gun and its possible value.
July 14, 2007, 11:51 PM
My idea is that you have a London-made Colt. The silver backstrap is an identifying feature, and the English proofs seem to support it. Colt had a factory in London making Navy models. The English supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, bringing in military supplies and industrial hardware and purchasing cotton and agricultural goods.
The grips may be ivory or bone, which was a common material for making imitation ivory panels.
July 15, 2007, 12:17 AM
There were also a good number of US made Colts sold in England before the London Armory was in operation. Sounds like what you have here, maybe sold back in the CSA... if you can prove it. Provenance is tricky, buy the gun not the story, etc.
July 15, 2007, 06:43 PM
The barrel does not appear to have been cut down due to the engraving and the location of the front site. However, if the engraving was done after the cutdown that would explain that.
The mark on the right side of the barrel is an E with a star on top. I did see this mark on another Colt that was shipped to Egypt on contract. But it had the London barrel address.
If someone can give me some clue as to how to post some pictures I will be happy to.
I really apprieciate all the info.
July 15, 2007, 08:20 PM
Doing pictures on this site is pretty easy.
First of course, you need a digital camera, and it is nice to have a photo editing program, like Photoshop, Nikonview, or whatever. You take the picture with the digital camera, then transfer the picture to your computer in My Pictures. It is best to use your picture editor to cut the picture pixel size to something reasonable to save upload and download time. For all but the most detailed needs, cropping the picture (to get rid of background and extraneous material, like your carpet) and then reducing it to about 100k bytes or less won't matter a bit.
Then on this site, select the thread where you want to display the picture(s) and click on REPLY for the last entry. Once you have the REPLY window open, type your comments/explanation, then go down to MANAGE ATTACHMENTS. Find where it says UPLOAD FILE FROM YOUR COMPUTER. Click on BROWSE, and you will see the contents of your computer. Look in My Pictures for the picture you want to include and click on it. The address should be shown. Then click on UPLOAD, and the picture will be uploaded to this site's server and a thumbnail put in your entry.
Click on SUMBIT REPLY.
July 17, 2007, 05:16 PM
This is a picture of the V, P, and E markings. The E with the star is only in one place however the V and P markings are on the side of the barrel and every chamber is marked with one or the other.
July 17, 2007, 05:35 PM
The original plating is remaining only in spots here and there, the engraving is a simple design and covers about 60% of the gun. The hammer has a notch for a back site and the front side is a small brass blade instead of a pin. The barrel does not appear to have been shortened but I cant be sure.
Hopefully you guys can help me figure this one out.
July 18, 2007, 11:22 PM
Having looked at the pictures, I think the reason it does not fully match the Colt descriptions is because it is not a Colt. IMHO, it is one of many "counterfeit" Colts made in Europe that were sold to those who couldn't get or couldn't afford the real thing. Colt markings were copied, but usually were "wrong" in one way or another. (A picture of the barrel top would be helpful, as would pictures of the serial numbers.)
The first thought is Belgian, but such guns were also made in England and the English proofs seem genuine. The star and E could be a Belgian or French mark, but a Belgian-made gun should have a whole bunch of Belgian proofs, not just a lone inspector's mark.
The grip angles and the trigger guard shape both are just slightly "off" and the method of doing the front sight would not have been either Colt or an American gunsmith. The hammer knurling is wrong; Colt never used that pattern. Other subtle areas, like the screw spacing and sizes being not quite right tend to confirm that opinion.
Was the gun carried by a Confederate officer? It certainly could have been, but proof of that would have to come from something other than the gun. It would not have been a Confederate-made gun; the English proofs make that nearly impossible.
The photos are excellent and you learned fast. Sorry I could not have better news.
July 19, 2007, 01:54 PM
Thanks for all the great info. I made some pictures of the Colt markings on the barrel, left side, and cylinder, maybe this will tell you more.
I just really want to get to the bottom of this mystery even if its not good news. This colt actually belongs to a client of mine who says it was a bring back from the Civil War by a confederate ancestor. He has no idea of where the relative obtained the pistol but it has been in his family for many years.
Now they have decided to part with the pistol and Im trying to establish a fair price.
This one has really been a puzzle for me but Im sure I will learn alot from this old piece.
Thanks again for all your help.
July 19, 2007, 03:41 PM
Flayderman says a standard Colt with that barrel address would have a brass trigger guard.
The (crown)/V and (crown)/CP are normal British proof marks, but the only place I can find (star)/E is as a French military proof.
July 19, 2007, 04:05 PM
If Colt did build this gun here in the states, could the British proof marking have been put on it after it was made and maybe exported to England? I would think the frame, barrel, etc. would already be hardened before shipping, making it hard to restamp at a later date.
The serial # of this gun fits right into Colts #s for 1861, is that simply a coincedence?
Does the barrel address marking, side marking, etc. look like the correct Colt markings or do they look like counterfiet?
I know Im asking alot from you on this one but its got me really confused. Im no expert by any means when it comes to this old of a Colt (or colt copy). The 1st generation SAA's are more my bag but this old cap and ball has alot of character.
I dont like to speculate and I know you cant make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, so if I can find some way of proving it is a fake, that will be OK too.
July 19, 2007, 09:40 PM
A lot of stuff is very subtle and a bit hard to describe even with a real Colt 1851 of the same vintage in front of me. The trigger and bolt screws are a shade too far back. The "Colts/Patent" is stamped unevenly and is too far back. The barrel marking is uneven, and a couple of the letters are wrong. The cylinder serial number is a big boo-boo; those san-serif numbers never were put on in Hartford or London, and the whole legend is too far back.
The back strap is the wrong shape, as is the trigger guard. The hammer knurling is wrong, Colt never did anything like that. Now Colt did sometimes have the legends hand engraved when a gun was to be fully factory engraved, but that engraving never came out of the Colt factory or from a Colt contractor. It looks more like Khyber Pass than Connecticut.
Could the gun be a modern repro faked up to look old? Maybe, but I can't imagine any repro with that kind of front sight; it is just too "different."
One thing is certain in my mind. That gun is no "brevete" (licensed copy) or even an unauthorized copy by a foreign or U.S. gun maker. If it is not a modern reprto, it is a counterfeit, a fake made for no other purpose than to be sold as a genuine Colt. Someone, probably working from an original, did a meticulous job of copying not just the gun but the markings as well. The only jarring note is the cylinder serial number; that font simply is not nineteenth century. Maybe it was put on much later when someone thought the cylinder should have a number.
All in all, a real puzzle. I can't even discount the Confederate story. If the gun is old, it could have been carried in the Civil War.
If I can ask Sagetown to indulge me with one more photo, of the underside of the trigger guard, frame and barrel, showing the three serial numbers. Thanks a lot.
July 20, 2007, 10:55 AM
I'll indulge you with all the pictures you want to see if it helps me ID this one. Here are pics of the three #s on the underside, the one on the grip strap, and whats left of a number under the push rod.
If these pics are not clear enough let me know and I'll be happy to make more.
July 20, 2007, 02:17 PM
Just more confusion, I am afraid. I am still certain that the gun is not a Colt. The number font on those parts is not that used by Colt, yet it is different from that used on the cylinder. The bottom grip strap screw is way too big, and of course the backstrap itself is not the right shape . Oh, and Colt put only the last four of the serial on the cylinder, a point I forgot to mention last night. I did notice that the "7" on the rammer appears to be similar to the font Colt used. Could the rammer be genuine, and the rest of the gun counterfeit? I simply don't know.
I didn't mention the grips, since they are easily changed, but no 1851 Navy used a screw through the grips, though some replacement grips may have had it. Colt grips were made in one piece and could be removed only by taking off the backstrap.
The trouble is that the things I am mentioning are, to me, confirmatory details. My real reason is simply "it doesn't look right." I don't know your profession (attorney?) but I am sure that in your business there are often things that you just know are wrong, without any need for analysis. That is the way I am with this gun.
Maybe someone else can chip in with more info. I will be back if I come up with any more ideas.
July 22, 2007, 06:18 PM
J. K. is on the trail! That pistol screams "Cheap Belgian Copy".
Was it a 1863 copy or a 1963 copy?
I am not an expert, but I did sleep in a Holiday Inn Express some time ago.
July 22, 2007, 08:15 PM
Seems to be a lot of faked engraving on it too. Acanthus leaves abound on it. Fake guns were big back in the '60s when it was the Centennial of the Civil War. Be careful on purchasing anything.
July 23, 2007, 07:30 AM
Allthough there are no proofmarks to hint in the direction, Spanish copyists (even contemporary) should not be excluded.
I once handled a startling S&W russian in Spain. Looked great, great provenance, but still: a basque copy from the same period.
July 23, 2007, 07:45 PM
How about Made in Pakistan? But for all the fighting and killing, this Infidel would love to go there and watch those guys make guns.
July 23, 2007, 09:57 PM
About all I am sure of is that the gun was never anywhere near a Colt factory. And I am not even sure the rammer wasn't. Really confusing but interesting at the same time.
July 24, 2007, 10:43 AM
Thank you all for the input. I finally took the pistol apart and went over the whole thing under magnification. I found another of the E under star markings, two other foriegn stamps that I cant identify, and on the front of the cylinder I found the infamous Oval/crown with the E L G letters inside that Ive seen on so many Belgian made guns.
So, now I can show the owner of the gun proof that it is simply a belgian copy. I do think it has quite a bit of age to it, most likely early 1900's due to the wear that covers the entire gun. I dont think it is worth much being a copy but if any of you have an idea please let me know.
Thanks again for all your help.
July 24, 2007, 04:05 PM
Belgian AND British proofs? That gun has some history! Made in Belgium, then sent to England and included among the many guns shipped to the Confederacy? Then sold to a patriotic but gullible officer as a "genuine Colt"? Could be, but I still suspect some modern fooling around.
The only thing that could give the gun any significant value would be absolute, documented proof of the story about the Confederate officer, and that might be difficult (spelled near impossible) to get. What kind of proof? Well, an unquestionable statement in the officer's diary that "Today I used my good old Colt, serial number 102777, to shoot a damyankee captain" would probably do the trick, but those kinds of things just don't happen.
Joe from N.Y.
May 16, 2011, 01:15 AM
I know this is an old thread, but i am curious about a stamp on the right grip of an 1851 that my friend got recently that his father had in the basement for over 30 years. I described it in this post:http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?p=4582879#post4582879 On the grip, it looks like a stamped crown with an E8 under it. It almost looks like those proof stamps they use in England. Has anyone ever seen these before?
Joe from N.Y.
May 16, 2011, 01:31 AM
And Jim Keenan said in his post that "Oh, and Colt put only the last four of the serial on the cylinder, a point I forgot to mention last night." but mine has five digits stamped on the cylinder. Could mine be a fake?
May 17, 2011, 02:21 PM
"Could mine be a fake?"
Yes, it is (see my reply on another forum), but not just because of the serial number. Colt did put the whole number on the cylinder until the serials went over 5 digits, after which normally only the last four were used.
Joe from N.Y.
May 17, 2011, 03:17 PM
more photos, better lighting:
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