Highly prized by collectors for its limited production and significance as the first large frame Colt revolver manufactured specifically for a metallic cartridge, the Model 1871-72 Open Top Revolver is the transition model between the Colt percussion revolvers and solid frame Single Action Army revolver. The production of the Open Top was made possible after the American government refused Rollin White’s request to extend his breech loading revolver patent in 1870. White’s patent was a drastic leap in the progression of firearms development as it allowed for a bored through revolver cylinder to be loaded with cartridges at the rear. Smith & Wesson held exclusive rights to the use of White’s patent, and for every S&W manufactured revolver that used his bored through cylinder patent, White received a 25 cent royalty. White was responsible for defending his patent in court against other manufacturers who infringed upon his breech loading design, and his success in the courts paved the way for S&W to manufacture the first commercially successful revolver to use rimfire cartridges, the Model 1, with near immunity from competitors. S&W followed up the Model 1 with a series of tip-up revolvers that dominated the rimfire market. The expiration of White’s patent signaled the end to S&W’s unyielding domination over the rimfire revolver market. Colt’s response was the Model 1871-72 revolver of which 7,000 were manufactured in 1872 and 1873 at a time when settlers pouring into the American West demanded powerful large caliber sidearms. Their heavy use on the Western frontier and limited production run has made the Model 1871-72 one of the most difficult Colt revolvers to find in any condition. This Model 1871-72 is in exceptionally fine condition and is historically linked to American westward expansion. The accompanying factory letter confirms the 7 1/2 inch barrel in .44 Rimfire and blue finish as well as this revolver being part of a 50 unit shipment on January 10, 1874, delivered to C. Gove & Co., Denver, Territory of Colorado. The Territory of Colorado existed as territory of the United States from February 28, 1861, until it was admitted to the Union as the State of Colorado on August 1, 1876. The territory, which included portions of the Kansas, Nebraska and New Mexico Territories, was created by Congress in response to the population boom caused by the Pike’s Peak gold rush, and the territorial borders gave the Union control of the area’s rich mineral deposits during the Civil War. Carlos Gove was a legendary gunsmith and merchant in the Denver area. He came West while serving in Second Dragoons. In the 1840s, he was working as a gunsmith for the Pottawatomie, and after multiple relocations came to Denver and opened a ship in the fall of 1862. Fellow legendary western gunsmith J.P. Lower as well as Gove's son-in-law Frank Church partnered with Gove to form C. Gove & Co. on September 2, 1872. Their "Denver Armory" became one of the largest firearms dealers in the West. Lower left in 1875, and the company became C. Gove & Sons. Among the gunsmiths working for him were George and Olaf Schoyen. After Gove retired and sold the business in 1884, he entered local politics. As part of the C. Gove & Co. shipment nearly 150 years ago, this Colt Model 1871-72 Revolver represents 19th century attitudes of American exceptionalism, economic wealth and Manifest Destiny that drove settlers to the West coast. It certainly is a physical piece of the American spirit. The barrel has the distinctive blade and integral notch sights and "- ADDRESS COL SAML COLT NEW - YORK U.S. AMERICA-" on top. The left side of the frame is stamped with the two-line patent dates marking. The cylinder is roll engraved with the naval engagement scene. Matching full serial numbers are on the frame, barrel, trigger guard and back strap. The matching partial serial number "205" is on the cylinder. The loading gate has the assembly number "131." Fitted with a nicely figured and varnished walnut grip.
Exceptionally fine. The barrel retains 50% bright original high polish blue finish, the cylinder retains 60% bright original high polish blue finish, and 40% bright original high polish blue finish remains on the trigger guard with a smooth gray patina on the balance. The back strap retains traces of the original blue finish. Nearly all of the crisp cylinder scene remains. 60% original case colors remain on the hammer and frame. The grip is fine with high edge wear, scattered minor dings and scratches and 85% original varnish remaining. Mechanically excellent. This factory documented Territory of Colorado shipped Colt Model 1871-72 Open Top Revolver in seldom encountered blue finish will make an exceptional addition to any Colt or western frontier collection no matter how advanced.
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