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Old November 5, 2011, 09:53 PM   #1
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Confederate Pistol Identity

Attached is a picture of a gun that my dad bought at an auction over 30 years ago in NW Arkansas and it's just been a family mystery since then. It looks like the Colt Dragoon/1851 Navy Revolver type, but I've never seen a gun that looked just like it. It has the serial number "328" in several places, as well as the etching of the palmetto tree with "S.C." under it that has similarities to that of the Palmetto marking, but of course the gun looks nothing like the Palmetto Armory pistols. It also has the letter "P" in a couple of places. I've looked into a lot of the Confederate armories and a lot of the pistols looks like this one, but the serial number doesn't seem to make sense.

My dad said the only time he ever showed the gun to a dealer he was offered a lot of money for it, but I've had other people tell me it must be a fake.

Anyone have any insights of thinks I should look into?

Thanks in advance for your help
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Civil War Gun.jpg (245.5 KB, 267 views)
File Type: jpg Palmetto Emblem.jpg (236.6 KB, 214 views)
File Type: jpg DSC01466.jpg (232.5 KB, 194 views)

Last edited by bracketbraxton; November 5, 2011 at 10:08 PM.
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Old November 5, 2011, 11:08 PM   #2
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Take this for what it is worth, since you paid nothing for this response, but I am going to say that this is a fake.

The reasons:
Palmetto pistols previously known have a different palmetto tree for the emblem/trademark.
Palmetto pistols previously known are single shots.
Palmetto pistols previously known, though single shot, show good machining.
This pistol does not show good machining. It looks more like a hand-made pistol from India or some other country where they get pretty good at making guns.

So, my two cents.

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Old November 6, 2011, 08:31 AM   #3
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Hard to tell from the limited photos but at maximum resolution it does appear to be old. I would not part with it until you get some more info on it. Could be a gold mine..or not. Looks promising to me.

The only Confederate Dragoon I'm aware of it the Tucker & Sherrard copy of the 2nd model Colt Dragoon or "Texas Dragoon".
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Old November 6, 2011, 08:34 AM   #4
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If you look at the Palmetto mark, it's clearly made by individual strokes from an engraver's tool; even the star in SC is composed of multiple lines not a single stamp. The known Palmetto marks all are produced by a single stamp.
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Old November 6, 2011, 08:47 AM   #5
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I wonder if it is a "home brew" gun made during the war? Is the bore rifled?

It looks like a gun that was made to function, but not high quality. (Not that I would fire it. It has earned its retirement.)

That is a neat piece of family history. Hang on to it.
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Old November 6, 2011, 11:18 AM   #6
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Looks like the bottom of the grip frame was welded. There were some copies of Colts made by some machine shops back in the 1850-60s. That's why Sam'l Colt's slogan was "Beware of counterfeits and patent infringments!"

The 328 stamping looks too crisp to be 140-some years old. Could be an inventory number from a movie prop house. Could be an older replica that someone 'antiqued'.
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Old November 6, 2011, 04:20 PM   #7
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I'll look and see if the bore is rifled, as I don't remember. And sorry if my post was misleading as I know it's not a Palmetto Armory weapon, just thought maybe someone had seen a similar etching on a non-Palmetto Armory gun. I've seen a similar style of serial numbers from a certain real Confederate Armory made weapon, but I can't remember which one. I should have taken better notes when I've researched it every couple of years.

Are there specific pictures that I could post to provide additional insight?

My dad always thought it looked like a hand-made pistol, and it certainly looks and feel old.

I know it wasn't faked in the last 35 years, but before that anything is possible. Certainly never thought it might be from India!
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Old November 7, 2011, 07:51 AM   #8
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You can check the thread pitch of the screws and nipples, that may rule out a Italian clone that's been defarbed.
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Old November 7, 2011, 09:00 PM   #9
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That number font is modern, and the "Palmetto" mark is an absurdity. It is somewhat amusing to have folks say that a gun can't be a fake because it is 30+ years old. I was around 30 years ago, and believe me, there were a lot of fakes. I think the gun is basically a repro, possibly made from parts of more than one gun, and antiqued to look old. For anyone thinking an original Dragoon frame, Colt didn't put in the capping groove until the middle of Model 1851 production. (The OP does not indicate the caliber.)

One puzzle is the trigger guard, which appears to be a crude casting, nowhere the quality of any repro I know of, and too crude to be from the same place as the rest of the gun, which is not that bad.

IMHO, if you can locate the dealer who offered a lot of money, sell it to him.

Jim K
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Old November 7, 2011, 09:45 PM   #10
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Thanks for all the insights provided - I guess I won't quit my day job quite yet!
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Old November 14, 2011, 03:06 PM   #11
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There is a lively trade in presumed "Confederate" artifacts. It is my understanding that, particularly in the case of martial items such as guns, knives and military accoutrement, the frauds, repros and forgeries outnumber the genuine articles by a factor of at least ten to one. Confederate items were poorly documented and obtained in an astoundingly complex procurement environment, since the South possessed no arms manufacturing industry of consequence. The lack of original document and baffling manner in which weapons wers acquired by the South, along with the intense interest in them by latter day collectors, makes the environment quite ripe for fakes.

One item that seems to be faked more than anything else seems to be the Confederate D-guard bowie knives. If you ever seen one offered for sale, take a pass. It's nearly 100% certain to be a fake - even those offered by otherwise reputable dealers.
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