Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 121: 1891 Production Colt Cavalry Model Revolver

Auction Date: August 26, 2022

The Finest Known 1891 Production Rinaldo A. Carr Inspected U.S. Colt Cavalry Model Single Action Army Revolver with Factory Letter and John Kopec Gold Seal Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $125,000 - $225,000

The Finest Known 1891 Production Rinaldo A. Carr Inspected U.S. Colt Cavalry Model Single Action Army Revolver with Factory Letter and John Kopec Gold Seal Letter

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Single Action Army
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 45 LC
Barrel: 7 1/2 inch round
Finish: blue/casehardened
Grip: walnut
Item Views: 3094
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 143
Class: Antique

Renowned Colt historian and author John A. Kopec recently had the pleasure of examining this “extraordinary revolver,” and he clearly confirms the originality of this “remarkable unissued condition” Cavalry Model in his accompanying gold seal letter of authentication. “During our examination of this extraordinary revolver we have noted its remarkable unissued condition,” writes Kopec. “Without doubt there will be questions about the finish of this example being ‘too good to believe.’ These questions were all considered and verified using our ‘Control’ example #137578.” In the letter Kopec resolves eight points of concerns to erase any doubts about the revolver’s authenticity. These points covered the bluing, case colors, markings, and features. The feathering adjacent to the front sight and barrel stud were faint but found correct. The frame’s “unbelievable case-colors” were observed as “remaining near perfect” and “showing their ‘opalescent’ brilliance.” The U.S. frame marking had all of the hallmarks of a correct period die stamping: “The letter ‘S’ in the ‘U.S.’ frame marking shows no ‘hook’ at the base of this letter and was compared with one of our other ‘controls’ and found to be correct, also showing that the Ordnance Inspector had two styles of the stamping die ‘S’ in his tool box.” Furthermore, “the letters ‘U.S.’ show no disturbance of the case-hardened surfaces around these letters. This was found to be consistent with these areas of our two controls.” The barrel and cylinder feature blue finish consistent with Colt’s standard military blue finish. The leading edge of the ejector tube has the “arsenal applied bevel.” Finally, the revolver correctly has the letter “K”, the initial of Colt factory employee A. Kind who worked on the U.S. Cavalry Model contracts during the 1890s, stamped on several components. This was the first time Kopec examined the revolver as it was a “new listing” to his ongoing, decades long survey. Based on Kopec’s survey of surviving Cavalry and Artillery Models this revolver falls between no. 137592 which is a New York militia revolver and no. 137599 which is a Cavalry revolver. But how did this Cavalry Model stay in such pristine condition some 130 years after rolling out of the Colt factory? We again turn to Kopec for the answer. His knowledge obtained from decades of diligently studying Colt Cavalry and Artillery Models is invaluable. This revolver was part of the final U.S. contract which consisted of 2,000 units. This revolver was included in the initial lot of 1,000 completed on February 16, 1891. In the letter Kopec noted, “Several of the other examples from within this series including #137185, #137203, #137564, #137571, #137621, and #137647 are listed in our data-base as being in ‘new’ or ‘near new’ condition and all of these referenced examples show a Colt shipping date of June 21st 1891.” This grouping of Cavalry Models, which includes this example, remained unissued and stored at the Springfield Armory until sold as surplus in the 1920s. An actual receipt to an Armory surplus sold Colt in the 1920s is featured on the dust jacket to Kopec’s book “Colt Cavalry & Artillery Revolvers…a Continuing Study.” Kopec surmises “the Armory still had a supply of new revolvers during 1898, and kept on finding other supplies of these unissued examples for the next 25 years or so.” In our Premier Firearms Auction No. 77 (September 2019) we were privileged to catalog no. 55104, the finest known 1880 production Colt Cavalry Model Single Action Revolver. Today we are honored to catalog no. 137595, the finest known 1891 production U.S. Colt Cavalry Model Single Action Revolver. Based on condition alone, no. 55104 is certainly this revolver’s equal. Never did we imagine we would again be extremely fortunate to find another Cavalry Model equal to no. 55104, but here it is: no. 137595! The accompanying factory letter confirms the revolver was delivered to the U.S. government inspector at the Colt plant on January 20, 1891 in a shipment of 200 guns. The walnut grip features the inspection date “1891” above Capt. Stanhope E. Blunt’s script letter cartouche on the left side and Rinaldo A. Carr’s script letter cartouche on the right side. Carr’s tiny “RAC” initials appear on the frame, barrel, cylinder and butt. The “P” proof mark is stamped on the underside of the barrel as well as on the cylinder. The matching full serial number is stamped on the frame, trigger guard, and back strap. The matching partial serial number (“7595”) is stamped on the cylinder. The revolver was not disassembled to examine the partial serial number stamped on the barrel underneath the ejector housing out of respect for the superb condition. The assembly or batch number “517” is stamped on the loading gate. The top of the barrel has the typical one-line Hartford address. The left side of the frame has the two-line, three patent dates marking followed by “U.S.” The frame, hammer and loading gate are casehardened with striking colors. The screws and trigger have a fiery niter blue finish. The remaining surfaces have the Colt military blue finish. The one piece grip is oil finished black walnut.

Rating Definition:

Near new. The revolver remains in "as issued" and unfired condition with 99% plus original high polish blue and vivid casehardened finishes showing slight edge wear at the tip of the ejector rod housing, heel and toe and a few minute storage marks. The cylinder has a faint drag line but otherwise retains 99% original military blue finish. The vivid original case colors on the frame, loading gate, and hammer are exceptional. There are two small casting flaws on the top of the frame. The screws and trigger retain 99% original niter blue. All frame, barrel and serial number markings are exceptionally sharp. The grip is in the same exceptional condition as the rest of the revolver. The grip features raised feather grain and shows only the slightest storage marks. The inspection date and final Ordnance inspection and sub-inspection cartouches are sharp. This is truly a stunning 1891 production time capsule example of the legendary U.S. Colt Cavalry Model Revolver that can best be equaled, but not improved upon. This Cavalry Model is destined to be the standout piece in any private or public Colt or U.S. martial arms collection. We leave you with Kopec’s final thoughts that best summarize this amazing Colt: “This revolver remains today in unbelievable unfired and basically ‘untouched’ condition. It is just really difficult for us to imagine how this revolver has survived through the years in this spectacular condition.”

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