The Model 1878 was Colt’s first large frame double action revolver and, until recently, has been overshadowed by its legendary cousin, the Single Action Army. In the words of famed SAA expert and author John Kopec, “The Colt Model 1878 Double Action Army revolver has always held a more or less secondary place in the Colt collecting field. That is until now!” In recent years the Model 1878 has become increasingly popular with collectors who are rediscovering its legacy in Colt heritage and in U.S. history in general. Just like the SAA, the Model 1878 shaped American history out on the western frontier. The Model 1878 was used by settlers, lawmen and outlaws during America’s push to the West coast. Its association with the Wild West alone has made the Model 1878 a very collectable American handgun. The Model 1878 has also found a special place with military collectors. The U.S. Ordnance Department purchased 4,600 Model 1878s known as the Philippine or Alaskan models, which saw action during the Philippine-American War and Moro Rebellion. High condition examples are catching the eye of serious collectors, especially those looking for rare variations such as this example. Offered here is a superb, one of less than 200 B. Kittredge & Co. shipped ”Omnipotent” marked Colt Model 1878 Double Action Revolver. The story of the Omnipotent marked Model 1878 is retold in Don Wilkerson’s seminal work “Colt’s Double-Action Revolver, Model of 1878,” and Wilkerson referred to these handguns as “among the most sought after revolvers by collectors today” (page 233). These incredibly rare revolvers feature an acid etched “OMNIPOTENT” panel on the left side of the barrel, just as featured on this example, and most “Omnipotent” marked Model 1878s were shipped to B. Kittredge & Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio. Benjamin Kittredge is extremely important to the Colt legacy. In the 1870s and 1880s, Kittredge dominated the Colt retailer market. He is credited for coming up with at least nine Colt model trade names that included the now legendary names “Peacemaker” for the Single Action Army Revolver and “Lightning” and “Thunderer” for the .38 caliber and .41 caliber Model 1877 respectively. “Omnipotent” was Kittredge’s trade name for the Model 1878, and he had this name etched on the left side of the barrel. The first of these revolvers were shipped to Kittredge in August 1878. The last of these revolvers were shipped to Kittredge in May 1882. A very limited number of these revolvers were shipped to other dealers such as Hartley & Graham. The bulk of the “Omnipotent” revolvers were received by Kittredge. These revolvers came finished in blue or nickel with at least one nickel plated gun having a gold plated cylinder, grips varied from the standard hard rubber to more costly special order material like pearl, a few were even engraved, and in general they had 7 ½ inch barrels and were chambered in .45 caliber. Based on Wilkerson’s reading of the available factory records, “A total of 174 revolvers were shipped to Kittredge between the first Omnipotent marked invoice on August 6, 1878, and the last Omnipotent marked invoice on Mary 13, 1882. The author tends to think all of these revolvers were probably etched with the Omnipotent marking. If we count only those revolvers listed as Omnipotent in the records (the only revolvers that will definitely letter as Omnipotent) we have only 154 revolvers” (page 236). “Omnipotent” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “having complete or unlimited power,” often associated with deities. It is a name that truly fits the Model 1878 in powerful .45 caliber. Unfortunately, the “Omnipotent” trade name did not catch on like Peacemaker did for the SAA. This exceptional revolver was formerly of the famed William Locke collection and the Renaud de Kerchove d’Ousselghem collection and was well-documented over the decades as it was pictured and identified on page 240 in Don Wilkerson’s “Colts Double-Action Revolver, Model of 1878” and on page 209 in “The William M. Locke Collection.” The factory letter confirms the 7 ½ inch barrel in .45 caliber, nickel plating and grip material as well as the revolver being shipped on September 2, 1878 to the famed Cincinnati, Ohio, dealer B. Kittredge & Co. This shipment included one other gun of this type. As stated, the left side of the barrel has the incredibly rare “OMNIPOTENT” acid etched panel. Although the etched panel is not confirmed in the factory records, it is most certainly factory. As indicated by Wilkerson’s research, not all “Omnipotent” marked Model 1878s will letter as having the trade name on the barrel. The top of the barrel is stamped with the one-line Hartford address. “45 CAL” is stamped on the left side of the trigger guard. The early production three digit serial number “370” appears on the butt ahead of the lanyard loop, on the loading gate, and on the rear cylinder face with the individual numbers stamped between the chambers. Both of the bird head grip panels are also numbered to the gun. Besides the matching serial number, the rear cylinder face is also stamped with a factory “P” inspection mark. Includes a copy of George Gamble and R.L. Wilson's "A Life's Tapestry of a Collector, The Gamble Collection" where this revolver is pictured and identified on pages 284-287. Provenance: The William M. Locke Collection; The Renaud de Kerchove d'Ousselghem Collection; The George F. Gamble Collection
Excellent, retaining 98% plus original nickel plating. Wear is limited to some minor flaking on the left side of the barrel at the muzzle and some scattered very minor handling marks. The excellent original Omnipotent acid etched panel is clear and sharp. The other markings are crisp. 90% original niter blue remains on the trigger and hammer. The grips are also excellent with limited age lines and highly attractive color and grain. Mechanically excellent. This is a phenomenal example of an incredibly rare B. Kittredge & Co. shipped “Omnipotent” marked Colt Model 1878 Revolver absent from even the most advanced Colt collections. This example will be impossible to improve upon.
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