View Full Version : Need advice on 1951 colt navy

March 6, 2012, 07:24 PM
Hey I'm new to the forum, but have been an enthusiast for awhile. I saw this was the best forum to talk guns so here goes...

My mother and I share a safety deposit box and I remembered that last time I went with her in 2005 (I was 21) and I noticed an old gun in the box. It never crossed my mind until just recently when I have really gained interest in guns as far as owning a shooting a lot of them. So I went to the box today out of curiosity to check the gun out. I was hoping for like a 60s-70s s&w or something that I could trade towards a nice sniper rifle. To make a long story short what I found is what I believe to be a genuine real deal 1951 colt navy...from all the pictures I think it's a true original colt. It has beautiful patina and looks awesome. (I couldn't even get the cylinder to slide open, until I realized it don't operate like that lol) anyway my question is what are the markings/characteristics to spot a fake? Also what kind of value/interest are there in this gun if real deal?

Here are some pics of the gun:

Thanks in advance for the help/info...funny think is I was thinking about buying a Mosin-Nagant, I would think there is a little price differenc between the two lol....thanks

March 6, 2012, 08:18 PM
I'm not a pro at spotting a forgery, but if it's the real deal you are off by about 100 years (1851, not 1951).

March 6, 2012, 08:26 PM
I must of posted wrong date...sorry bout that lol...you can see the patina and I know that more than 60 years old for sure...what do you think?

March 6, 2012, 08:31 PM
Looks the part but somebody put the wedge in upside down.

March 6, 2012, 08:35 PM
The wedge is inserted correctly, but looks like a replacement, as I do not see a spring.

March 6, 2012, 08:37 PM
I meant 1851...

March 6, 2012, 08:38 PM
Look at the next to last pic.

March 6, 2012, 08:46 PM
That's what I am looking at. The gun is upside down in that view. The lip on the wedge faces the bottom of the gun.

March 6, 2012, 08:52 PM
What do you guys mean by wedge, im dumb when it comes to percussion bc i e been spoiled on seni auto handguns...The barrell has the same patina...any other pics I can give you to make it easier for you to tell?

March 6, 2012, 08:57 PM
That's what I am looking at. The gun is upside down in that view. The lip on the wedge faces the bottom of the gun.

Guess I'm just being all around dumb tonite. :eek:

March 6, 2012, 09:51 PM
The nipples are gone. Is the serial number 388XXX? If so it was made between 1854 - 1855.
Does the cylinder rotate when you cock the hammer? The chambers look pretty rusty. How does the bore look? (inside the barrel). Can you get the wedge out? I'm guessing it's pretty well stuck.
The barrel address is good.
Can you take more pics?

March 6, 2012, 11:08 PM
someone held that in their hands more than 150 years ago.

very nice, looks in pretty good shape.

if authentic, would that piece be valuable as a collector's item?

if not, could it be cleaned up and fired safely?

March 6, 2012, 11:14 PM
Are the nipples something that collectors need to have original or did people change them periodically? Do you guys think I should not touch the light rust in the barrell and cylinders? To answer the action is perfect...half and full cocks work good...you can pull the wedge out just by pinching it with fingers...I'm happy to see everything is mechanically perfect in the action...so what do you think real McCoy?

Here are some more pics...

Let me know what you guys think...the rust looks like surface bc this gun has been in safety dePosit box for the last 60-70 years...

March 6, 2012, 11:16 PM

March 6, 2012, 11:17 PM

March 6, 2012, 11:23 PM
Hey sandman I thought the same thing...it could of been wild bill hicocks you never know...the history is way more interesting to me than the money that's for sure...a 150 years is just amazing to me...I felt like pawn stars or american guns lol...at first I thought it was a dragoon and I was freakin until I measured the bore out to be .36...the look of that decade and half old case hardened patina is just the best finish I have ever seen...anyone have a colt navy to compare mine to yours?

March 6, 2012, 11:27 PM
Is that cylinder partially loaded? :eek:

Fingers McGee
March 6, 2012, 11:35 PM
Well, if I read the serial number right - 38349 - it's a late 3rd model Navy made in 1854.

March 6, 2012, 11:46 PM
no its not loaded! lol...its like a side shot of the side of the lightly rusted cylinder...

How is it a late model if they were made til 1873? 1956 is only 5 years after the first one...i know the fourth model had "address sam l colt new york city america" whereas mine doesnt have the america, just new york...

So bottom line is it the real deal? What rating on a scale of 1-10 considering the 150 year old age?

hoof hearted
March 7, 2012, 12:47 AM
Oh heck, just sell or trade it to me.............

I have lots to bargain with!

March 7, 2012, 01:25 AM
what ya got? i am looking for something long range like 500+ yards...also feel free to make on offer publically or privately at [email protected] would at minimum let me see what the market looks like

March 7, 2012, 05:14 AM
Wonder why they filed the rear sight off?:confused:

March 7, 2012, 05:49 AM
Wonder why they filed the rear sight off?

It looks more like it was broken off in one of the pictures.


March 7, 2012, 05:57 AM
Did you ask your mother if she knew anything about the history of the gun? It may have some family significance that is worth more than anything you can get out of it.

March 7, 2012, 07:10 AM
It's not rare and the cylinder is in tough shape. I would remove as much rust as possible to keep it from deteriorating further. That's not a popular thing to do with antiques but...that's my opinion. Or you could leave it as it is and just enjoy it's history, which, if you knew, would make it worth keeping in its current condition. Does your mother know its history?
Other than the cylinder, it doesn't look too bad (needs a new hammer to make it a shooter). I wonder what the internals look like...
I've seen originals with 2nd generation cylinders that fit well. That might be an option if you wanted to shoot it.
So...sell it on gunbroker as is
Clean it up and make it a shooter
Keep it as it is for what it is (researching it can be alot of fun)
Me? I would clean it up and make it a shooter.

For what it's worth...I bought a Mosin Nagant for $99 at Cabellas. I got 440 rounds shipped to my house for about the same. I paid $450 for an original 1851 Navy .36 a few years ago that's in really good shape.

March 7, 2012, 09:08 AM
Those chambers look loaded. :eek:
Do not attempt to clean up too much. Just oil well and wait until you can find an expert to look at it. If truly old, and I think it may be (your photos are the pits), you have some value there. Nice find.
I don't believe replacement nipples will hurt the collectors value.

March 7, 2012, 12:55 PM
Some observations:
The hammer appears to be severely damaged, with the "sight" section broken off & the dimple in its face. Agree it's not shootable.

DO NOT USE AGGRESSIVE METHODS TO REMOVE RUST! Just oil it lightly for the moment. Do nothing to remove the patina. Value is reduced already, don't make it worse. Do not polish anything, do not scrub it with anything, do not use sandpaper or Brillo pads or anything similar.

Even as is, it's worth more than a Mosin.

And, I really hope you have your mother's permission to be disposing of her property.

Fingers McGee
March 7, 2012, 12:59 PM
How is it a late model if they were made til 1873? 1956 is only 5 years after the first one...i know the fourth model had "address sam l colt new york city america" whereas mine doesnt have the america, just new york...

Navies are classified as early, middle, and late 3rd models, and early, middle and late 4th models depending on characteristics. approx dates are:

Early 3rd - 1851-1853
Middle 3rd - 1853-1854
Late 3rd - 1854-1857
Early 4th - 1858-1862
Middle 4th - 1862-1863
Late 4th - 1863-1873

Doc Hoy
March 7, 2012, 01:58 PM
I am no expert on historical originals and their values but I agree that adding new nipples might not hurt the value.

On the other hand I doubt the thirty or forty bucks you would invest would increase the value enough to make it worth while.

If you have to mess with the cylinder to get the new nipples to turn into the holes the story might be different.

Is it correct to think that originals have a value that declines if you mess with them?

I do like your photos a little more than the Rifleman did.

March 7, 2012, 02:47 PM
The problem is finding an "expert." A local "expert" sold me an original Whitney as a "pre-Italian repro", whatever that means.
You could contact James Julia in Maine - send them some pics and they'll give you a free, basic appraisal. I did once. I might be going to their pre-auction viewing this weekend.

March 7, 2012, 04:45 PM
Those chambers look loaded.

I don't understand you saying that when you can see all the way down to the nipple holes in one pic.:confused:

March 7, 2012, 05:07 PM
Among the photos he posted on another site, I can.
It's camera, lighting & angle that makes it look like the chambers are loaded here. :)

March 7, 2012, 05:34 PM
You can see them in one pic here. You can even see the chamber cuts in most of them.


March 7, 2012, 06:01 PM
He posted a link to a bundle of photos on the Colt Forum.
Some are clearer.

March 8, 2012, 02:01 PM
Thanks for all the help guys. What should I use to remove the rust in the cylinders? I dont want to ruin this gun! But I want to get it looking as good as possible without devaluing the originality of it.

hoof hearted
March 8, 2012, 02:16 PM
I would use a brass bore brush on a cordless drill in the "chambers" (the holes in the cylinder) and be methodical using a penetrating oil. It won't hurt the value if you don't try to remove any exterior coloring.........

I am still interested in the pistol but your terms of me making offers in public forums precludes me from going any further. I am not going to "play" the bidding war thing.

Regards, HH

March 8, 2012, 02:29 PM
As mentioned on the CF, a non-aggressive solvent like Break Free shouldn't damage the patina.
If you can find somebody competent enough to break it down completely, soaking in kerosene is a traditional rust remover.

May be necessary to use a penetrating oil to get the screws out, do not try it yourself.
I'd personally be reluctant to take a power tool to the chambers.

You indicated on the other site your Mother's OK with all this?

March 8, 2012, 03:40 PM
Yea i would love to verify the seriAl number on the grips but I would afraid to strip one of the screws out...and YES my mother is all good with it as she gave me permission to take it out of the safety deposit box and do with as I see fit...

And if you would like to make me an offer privately by email my address is [email protected] I'm pretty reluctant to sell..

So should I use the break free on the whole gun or just barrell bore and cylinder chambers?

March 8, 2012, 03:48 PM
Break Free anywhere you can get it into or on the gun.

I'd still suggest a pro breakdown to get at the internal nooks & crannies, but for now pickling as much as you yourself can is advisable.

March 8, 2012, 05:37 PM
Cool...I'm going to take it to a local gun shop "Nesbit's" in western PA tommorrow so I can have him tell me what he thinks and hopefully they sell Breakfree there...

Also after doing more research I now can see the faint cylinder scene on the gun which I posted on my photobucket account although it is hard to see on photo...

March 8, 2012, 05:40 PM
Here is the link for the new photos...


March 8, 2012, 06:34 PM
I can tell you from personal experience that when the day comes that you have years and wisdom to your credit, you will look back on selling that Colt as one of the biggest mistakes you ever made.

BTW almost any modern rifle will shoot reasonably well at 500 yds. It's the rifleman not the rifle.

March 8, 2012, 08:46 PM
That's good advice, like you said you can't value a family heirloom in terms of money...

March 10, 2012, 01:04 AM
Well I cleaned the gun up and got it a new storage case as I felt like I was doing the gun a disservice by just caring it around bare (just waiting to drop it). I also oiled every part of the gun with clenzoil which seemed to be a great cleaner/oil which I would assume is very comparable to Breakfree. Posted some new pics after cleaning.


Also I took it to get appraised by a local gun shop/ "colt" guy...he said it was worth about $110" retail, which I assume to be a little light based on his place of business...bottom line I'm def going to hold on to this piece.

It was all worth when the very second I walked in the shop an older gentleman (who i learned later was a big colt collector) leaving the shop stopped me in the doorway and asked what I had...I said "a 51 colt navy" and he replied "what is it? A reproduction?" which I politely countered with "no, it's the real deal." ...I don't think I've ever been so proud of something in my life...thanks again for all the info/help/direction...hopefully I will be passing down to a future son of my own...

March 10, 2012, 01:21 AM
Little error...I meant $1100 on appraisal...

March 10, 2012, 07:47 AM
No offense intended but unless it cleaned up a lot better than it looked in the pics I didn't see an 1100 dollar gun.

Doc Hoy
March 10, 2012, 08:58 AM
You can be rightfully proud of this piece of your family's history.

Especially given the connection to members of your family. You have the pistol and you have your family and each have some inherent value independently. But when you consider the two things together it is far more than twice as good.

Let that pistol get away and both the pistol and the family are damaged.

I am gratified (not that it should matter whether or not I am gratified) that you intend to keep it.

March 10, 2012, 10:35 AM
I would be inclined to go with Hoof Hearted on the cordless drill, absolute speed control, all sides of the chambers get equal cleaning, and not all day about it either. Of course he's a professional. Plus the nipple threads could be cleaned rather easily, I would think. A replacement nipple with a slot sharply cut into the threads would turn into the cylinder threads and clean them up easily. BUT if I was going to sell this gun, I would do NOTHING to it. Not even oil it. As found would be more attractive to a buyer. IMHO:D

March 10, 2012, 11:54 AM
No offense taken,but value is what somebody is willing to pay for it...either way it don't matter bc I'm sure the value will only increase as I'm sure more navies will be lost than found in the future...I cant wait til I'm 80 years old, lol, and the gun will be 200 years old...I think I'm going to buy a reproduction just so I can fire one without worrying about ruining my original...the shop I went to had a matching pair of uberti navy repros that I think would be cool to own...And at $500 for the pair is a pretty good deal in my eyes. I see a lot of people speaking highly of the uberti's...

March 10, 2012, 12:37 PM
Wildhipoint, I too am glad you're keeping it!! The hammer could be repaired and made to look unaltered and nipples for 1st gen Colts can be found at Track Of The Wolf, they also fit perfectly in my Savage Navy. Fact is, with a little TLC it could probably be made back into a shooter.

March 10, 2012, 02:34 PM
Yea I would def like to make it shootable, even if I never fire it...it is sort of like having a 69 zl1 camaro (only 69 made) that doesn't run...but either way the gun is very cool!

March 11, 2012, 01:09 AM
Hey I went to that track of the wolf To look for replacement nipples and they have them in brass, steel, stainless, etc...

What material nipples where original to the colt navy?

March 11, 2012, 01:44 AM
Iron, make sure you don't get metric threads.

March 11, 2012, 06:06 AM
That 'brass' is not actually brass. It's a bronze alloy, hard as stainless steel.

March 11, 2012, 04:11 PM
Really enjoyed looking at the cleaned-up pics of the gun. Good on ya, WHP!

March 11, 2012, 04:52 PM
Did you brighten the brass?
Looks like it in the "After" photos.

March 12, 2012, 12:43 PM
Nope I just wiped the clenzoil on then wiped off...def a good product even if it was expensive lol

March 12, 2012, 09:53 PM
Remember, if you do remove the patina on the brass or polish it in any way you devalue the gun.

March 13, 2012, 08:12 AM
No offense intended but unless it cleaned up a lot better than it looked in the pics I didn't see an 1100 dollar gun.


Cleaning devalued the revolver significantly.

The cleaning advise given may be OK for a old repro but not for a antique.:rolleyes:

March 13, 2012, 09:23 AM
I'm coming in late on the post and I think this Colt is worth finding the what history you can about it. I personally would not shoot it since modern replica's are abundant.

March 13, 2012, 10:30 AM
I have several antiques that I have not touched other than cleaning the dirt off with soap and water, and I won't go beyond that. But I also obtained an H.Aston that was a rusty piece of junk, worth maybe $200. A few places told me to clean it up, which I did, and now it's probably worth $500 plus, depending on the market. It's not a rare or unusual piece to begin with. I also bought a 50-70 Trapdoor that needed cleaning to be a shooter, which I did. Again, not a rare piece, but a great shooter. I have an engraved Remington-Beals that is worth quite a bit and I only cleaned it with soap and water. To say that cleaning an antique automatically devalues it might be a stretch - it depends on the gun, its rarity, condition, etc.

March 13, 2012, 02:46 PM
Careful cleaning doesn't automatically devalue, but removing patina by abrasives or harsh chemicals does.
The brass looked brighter in the After images than in the Before images.

March 13, 2012, 04:03 PM
I have an 1849 pocket which I believe is real. The serial number says it was made in 1863. It was among a lot of revolvers I bought at an auction. It is in what I would say is between poor, and almost fair, condition. Every thing turns and works as it should, but the cylinder is sloppy loose. I looked it over with a magnifying glass and it appears that all the parts have matching numbers. Since I don't think it is worth a whole lot, I mounted it in a shadow box, from Hobby Lobby, on a black background and hung it on the wall. Looks great and is a heck of a conversation piece. Good luck with the old gal.

March 13, 2012, 07:27 PM
I didn't polish the brass at at all...the outside patina was not effected...I just wiped on the wiped off...the only place I really clean-cleaned was in the cylinders and bore...I just wanted to get some oil on the surface rust, which I'm sure collector community doesn't like...

March 15, 2012, 08:13 PM
I love how this guy went from wanting to trade this for a sniper rifle to wanting a pair of navies. Black powder is dangerous stuff.....it gets in your blood and doesn't let go!

March 22, 2012, 05:25 PM
No doubt...I am really considering the uberti pair for 450...I'm dying to shoot black powder...is the stuff at stores the same as the old west besides being smokeless? Or does it have less potential energy?

March 22, 2012, 05:30 PM
Powder energy varied more in times gone by than today. I do not understand your comment about it being 'smokeless'. Black powder smokes!

March 22, 2012, 06:09 PM
Oh yea and I got that Mosin (a 1943 model unused) and a tin of 440 rounds all for $210...deal of the century...I was hitting 20 oz poP bottles from 200 yards with open sights, pretty impressive performance for the money!

March 22, 2012, 06:11 PM
Well doesn't the new stuff not smoke? Maybe I'm thinking of something different...shows my very limited black powder knowledge! Also wondering if I can put black powder in targets so they go boom when shot...those shockwaves are too expensive...I can't afford 8 bucks a boom lol

March 22, 2012, 06:22 PM
I don't think black powder will explode when hit by a bullet. It takes heat to ignite it. What you what is tannerite.


March 22, 2012, 08:16 PM
Tannerite is the same as shockwave...way over priced!

March 22, 2012, 11:14 PM
Modern black powder smokes & thoroughly.
There are black powder substitutes that produce less smoke.


March 23, 2012, 11:28 AM
It takes a high powered rifle to set off Tannerite.

March 23, 2012, 03:36 PM
I'm new here, and don't want to ruffle any feathers so the following is submitted respectfully and with the best of intentions.

Cleaning devalued the revolver significantly. The cleaning advise given may be OK for a old repro but not for a antique.

I read the following on the offical Colt Collector's Accociation's website Here:


"Not all collectible guns are in pristine condition and may need some judicious conservation. We are talking about conservation – not refinishing a gun – to stop deterioration brought on by years of neglect. Some guns are badly rusted or the mechanisms are frozen. The first thing to do is disassemble it. If the screws are rusted tight, try using Break-free or Gibbs rust remover. If the screws still will not turn, then put the entire gun assembled, but minus the grips, into a high detergent motor oil and let soak for a week. High detergent motor oil is the best product for soaking completely through all parts of the gun and lifting rust. Monitor this process carefully."

I'd take it that if the Colt's official collector's association gives explicit direction on how (and why) to clean one up, then you have only helped conserve it and therefore improved it's value. That's my two cents. Enjoy your beautiful piece. FWIW I'd get a Colt archive letter for it. I bet you'll learn something about where it was shipped or issued.

March 23, 2012, 05:03 PM
Exactly. If it's not rare or valuable but it's rusting away, clean the rust up, free up the parts, and it'll be around longer than any of us.
The last time I checked, a Colt letter was $300.00.

March 23, 2012, 05:24 PM
hey-my 2 cents worth. if it is original-leave it alone.