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Old July 9, 2011, 05:59 PM   #1
Join Date: April 9, 2011
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1878 colt double barrel question...

I found an old colt double barrel and the only number on it is no. 3.....I am new to the shotgun scene any help or insight would be appreciated. it is not hammerless.

Last edited by BigShep85; July 9, 2011 at 06:45 PM.
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Old July 9, 2011, 06:51 PM   #2
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Colt made an 1878 model and an 1883 model.
The 1883 was a hammerless gun.

All these Colt shotguns had serial numbers like almost all other Colt firearms.
If the serial number actually is number 3, it would have value to a collector.
Check the gun over carefully to see if there's another serial number on it.

The Model 1878 hammer gun was available in 10 or 12 gauge with barrels from 28 to 32 inches.
The barrels were browned or blued damascus steel.
It had double triggers, side plates, and a color case hardened receiver.
The stock was a semi-pistol grip style.

Colt made 22,683 of these guns between 1878 and 1889.
Many of these guns were custom order models with custom options, and the custom order guns are worth more money.

In order to identify whether yours is a custom order gun, you'd have to buy a Colt Archive letter. Colt will do a hand search of the Colt records for your specific gun and send you a letter detailing everything Colt knows about the gun, including in what configuration if was shipped, whether it had custom features, when it was shipped, and who it was shipped too.
An Archive letter for a shotgun costs $100.00

Values for the standard production Model 1878 are based on the percentage of remaining original finish, and on the gun being undamaged.
Values run from a low of a 10% gun at $725, to over $4,000 for one in 100%.
A custom order gun would be more.

Note that these guns were made with damascus barrels and are NOT safe to shoot with any modern shells, and should not be fired with black powder shells unless and until a shotgun gunsmith who's expert with damascus guns says it's safe. This usually requires x-rays of the barrels.
No matter how good the gun may look or how nice the condition of the barrels seems, these barrels can have hidden flaws inside the damascus steel laminations that can allow them to explode.
These guns were made for use with black powder and modern shells use powders that have a very different pressure curve that can easily blow them up.
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Old July 9, 2011, 07:42 PM   #3
Join Date: April 9, 2011
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I love this forum it never fails to amaze me at the wealth of knowledge one can get and the wonderful people willing to take the time to share it.
Thanks for all the info it was exactly what I was looking for and needed. It is members like you who make this a great forum.
I was at an auction and came across this shotgun and needed the info quick before it came up for bid. I turned to this forum for help and there were its members once again to help out. I will let you know the outcome and hopefully post pictures of it.

Thanks again,

Last edited by BigShep85; July 9, 2011 at 11:59 PM.
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Old July 10, 2011, 02:03 PM   #4
John L. Smith
Join Date: March 3, 2010
Posts: 40
Barrel X-rays

I have an old Eclipse double made in Belgium, my thinking prior to 1900. It has laminated steel barrels. It is what I started out with 50+ years ago.
You mentioned having the barrels x-rayed. Do you know of anybody in Florida that does that? If so let me know. I would like to shoot the old girl one more time before both of us are gone.

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Old July 10, 2011, 06:12 PM   #5
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I don't personally know of anyone in Florida.

The kind of specialty gunsmiths who know the old damascus shotguns are VERY few and far between. They serve a vary narrow clientèle and they're mostly known by word of mouth.

There are a few well known shotgun experts who will either do this kind of work or who know who does.
One you might contact is Simmons in Kansas to ask who they know:

If an old shotgun action is in good enough shape, it's possible to cut the barrels off and install new modern steel insert barrels. These use the rear of the barrels with the mounting and locking parts with new barrels sleeved in.
This ain't cheap.
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Old July 10, 2011, 08:10 PM   #6
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Go to - they will have a listing of folks who work on old double guns.

Damascus barrel guns ARE shot, sometimes very frequently - a blanket statement statement saying no is incorrect - the correct answer is.......It depends

Each gun needs a thorough examination by a smith who knows old guns. Groups like The Vintagers shoot guns from Civil War era and later - but each gun needs to be checked out
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Old July 10, 2011, 08:39 PM   #7
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The chambers will be short, probably 2 1/2" I'm not advocating shooting damascus barrels without them being checked and then with black powder only but I will say that I grew up shooting 2 3/4 smokeless loads out of short chambered damascus barrels and never hurt anything. Also a damascus barrel wont blow up. It may bulge and it may split but I never saw one blow up. I have seen damascus muzzle loader barrels blow from using smokeless powder.
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