Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1064: Documented Colt Model 1871-1872 Open 42 Steson Revolver

Auction Date: April 14, 2018

Documented Early Colt Model 1871-1872 Open Top Single Action Revolver Factory Recorded in Extremely Rare .42 Stetson Caliber with Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $22,500 - $30,000

Documented Early Colt Model 1871-1872 Open Top Single Action Revolver Factory Recorded in Extremely Rare .42 Stetson Caliber with Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: 1871 1872
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 42 Stetson
Barrel: 7 1/2 inch round
Finish: blue/casehardened/silver
Grip: walnut
Item Views: 1723
Item Interest: Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 38
Class: Antique

An estimated 7,000 Colt "Open Top" revolvers were manufactured in 1872-73. They are the ancestors of the Colt percussion and conversion revolvers and the direct predecessors of the famous Colt Single Action Army revolvers. Many of these rare revolvers saw very hard use or have been destroyed. Offered here is an early three digit serial numbered example which is listed by the factory records as being in .42 Stetson caliber. The accompanying factory letter lists this Open Top with a barrel chambered in ".42 for Stetson cartridge" when it was shipped to Spies, Kissam & Co., New York City as part of a 20 gun shipment on July 18, 1872. This letter is also reprinted and discussed in R. Bruce McDowell's "A Study of Colt Conversions and Other Percussion Revolvers" on page 280. In 1871, George R. Stetson received a patent for his cartridge that became known as the .42 Stetson because the bullet diameter was .42 inches. Stetson cartridge was essentially an improved version of the .44 Henry flat rimfire. The .44 caliber and .42 caliber can use the same rifled barrel bore because the .42 Stetson has a groove-to-groove dimension of .44 inches. As explained by McDowell, Colt was simultaneously producing the Open Top and Richards-Mason revolvers and required proper terminology to identify the two revolvers in their records. The result was that the Richards-Mason revolver was listed in .44 caliber and the Open Top was listed in .42 caliber. The top of the barrel has the one-line New York address, and the frame has the correct early production "COLTS/PATENT" marking seen on roughly the first 1,000 revolvers. The cylinder has the naval battle scene. Matching full serial numbers are found on the frame, barrel, both grip straps, and cylinder. Fitted with the short Navy type grip. Includes consignor research.

Rating Definition:

Exceptionally fine. The barrel retains 60% bright original high polish blue finish and the cylinder retains 25% of original blue finish with the balance a mottled brown-gray patina. 30% of original case colors remain on the hammer and frame. There are some patches of deep pitting. 90% of the cylinder scene remains. The grip straps retain 85% original silver plating. There are a few patches of deep pitting. The grip is very fine with a small chip missing near the bottom (right side), some scattered minor pressure dents and scratches and retaining most of the original varnish. Mechanically excellent.

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