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Old January 20, 2013, 11:27 PM   #1
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colt .41 Saa 1st Generation

Hello to all. My first post. I have what I think is a colt 41 1st generation saa. Ser # 188xxx. I have had someone take a look at it and he said it looks to have never been altered or dismantled. I have read some that say do not shoot it? I have seen values all over the price spectrum. I got this from an elderly lady who said it was her father's. Can anyone point me in the right direction as to shoot it or not or if it is worth much? I have enclosed a few pictures.
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Old January 21, 2013, 12:04 AM   #2
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First, the person who said don't shoot it is right. For one thing, why would you (risk it)? It's largely a defunct or at best very small niche round, hard and expensive to find ammo for and with so many other choices out there to shoot. At the very least, find out if it is a) all original or b) at least been fixed with period-correct parts, and c) have it checked by a gunsmith regardless, but especially if remotely considering shooting it. A lot of these .41s have been "humped" up by now, rendered as mixmsters with 2nd Gen .357 or .45 Cylinders and replacement barrels--nothing wrong with that, but those are not worth "lettering" with Colt. However, it looks like yours was probably largely untouched, as your guess yours may be worthwhile. That "lettering" means, for a couple hundred dollars, Colt will send authentication letter showing the original provenance - its basic configuration as of shipment and DOB (DOM) based on serial number,...and where originally shipped to (usually a store or distributor). Some feel the .41s aren't worth the lettering, but again if otherwise found to be all original or period, it wouldn't hurt and could help should you decide to sell.

The .41 Colt was fourth or fifth in popularity behind the original .45 Colt, then .44-40, .38-40, and .32-20, but ahead IIRC of the .44 Russian and rare and 20th Century-only (about the time of your gun) .44 Special, very rare .38 Special and ultra-rare .357. A whole lot of other esoteric calibers were also offered in limited numbers. The caliber/cartridge does have some history. I forget which, but Billy the Kid or John Wesley Hardin was known to carry a .41 in the late 19th Century - as chambered in the 1877 Colt, it's first try at a double action.

Can't help too much on value, someone else will chime in, but if the gun has no "special provenance" (like owned by Teddy Roosevelt or used by Bonnie and Clyde...and the Colt letter wouldn't usually indicate end-user/buyer anyway, so you'd have to stumble upon that sort of thing differently)...but otherwise is all original and fine shape,--my guess is maybe $2,000-2,250, $2500 tops. Being a .45 or .44-40, .38-40, etc., would add $300-500 to that...again for an un-messed with example but still missing most of the original finish as yours appears to. But...I could be off by a third in either direction!

Btw, very cool gun! I'd leave it alone other than a check and superficial cleaning, and just enjoy it. Show it off to friends and family. A piece of history--and sounds like family provenance even if no other special background.

Last edited by gak; January 21, 2013 at 12:24 AM.
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Old January 21, 2013, 12:16 PM   #3
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By all means get a letter. Just knowing that it left the factory as it is set up now adds value. I can't own a gun like this, I'd have to shoot it.
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Old January 21, 2013, 01:42 PM   #4
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For one thing, why would you (risk it)? It's largely a defunct or at best very small niche round, hard and expensive to find ammo for and with so many other choices out there to shoot.
+1. Also, the .41 Colt round is notoriously inconsistent.

It was originally produced with an outside-lubricated heeled bullet that was the same diameter as the case, like .22LR. It was later changed to a now-conventional inside-lubricated round, but Colt curiously never standardized the dimensions; it was produced with a variety of case lengths, bullet diameters, and bore diameters, seemingly without any rhyme or reason. Consequently, if you fire off-the-shelf commercial ammo- of ANY vintage- in this gun, the bullets may be substantially undersized for the bore, resulting in mediocre to unbelievably poor accuracy. This issue is one of the main reasons why the round fell into disuse; it was comparable in power to .38 Special, but the latter round was standardized from the outset, resulting in far superior accuracy and consistency in most cases.

FWIW if you look through gun periodicals from the 1960s and earlier, you may see advertisements for .41 Colt bullet molds offered in 3-5 slightly different calibers; a shooter was expected to slug the bore- i.e. drive a soft lead ball through it, then measure the ball's resulting diameter- and order the appropriate mold for his/her individual gun! However, the cartridge is now uncommon enough that such molds have generally become a custom-order proposition.
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Old January 23, 2013, 09:37 AM   #5
Bob Wright
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If, after having it checked out by a gunsmith and it found to be solid, you could have a new cylinder made for it in .38-40. Both the .38-40 and .41 Colt took the same bore diameter, which I believe is .401".

Keep you loads within reason and you would have a fine shooter.

Bob Wright
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Old January 23, 2013, 04:23 PM   #6
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New cylinder.

I'm kinda with Bob on this one..... However, slug the bore and measure the true diameter. It may be closer to .410 diameter. If so, consider a new cylinder in the wildcat, "41 Special"; which is simply a slightly shortened 41 Magnum. A new 41 magnum cylinder could work too, but the rest of the gun is old and running a full magnum load might hurt the gun and you. You would have to handload the 41 Special, but it would prevent the possibility of running the higher pressure 41 Magnum ammo through it. A simple cylinder change will preserve the originality of the gun, while making a real shooter out of it too; just don't lose the original cylinder. If the revolver is not all original, then, and only then, would I consider changing both barrel and cylinder to a better caliber. First choice, 45 Colt; second choice, 44 Special. I'm sure a 41 Special can easily equal the power of a 357 Magnum with less pressure and less muzzle blast. By the way, I once owned a first generation Colt revolver exactly like yours except in 45 Colt. Built in 1902, it was a great shooter. By all means, get yours in shootin' shape and have fun shootin' it.
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