Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3130: Engraved Colt Medium Frame Lightning Rifle with Sycamore Stock

Auction Date: August 28, 2022

Incredibly Well Documented, Rare and Fresh Special Order Factory Panel Scene Engraved and Gilt Silver Trimmed Colt Medium Frame Lightning Magazine Slide Action Rifle with Sycamore Stock and Factory Letter

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $55,000 - $75,000

Incredibly Well Documented, Rare and Fresh Special Order Factory Panel Scene Engraved and Gilt Silver Trimmed Colt Medium Frame Lightning Magazine Slide Action Rifle with Sycamore Stock and Factory Letter

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Lightning-Rifle
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44-40 WCF
Barrel: 26 inch part octagon
Finish: blue/gold/silver
Stock: sycamore
Item Views: 815
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 107
Class: Curio & Relic Long Gun

The factory letter lists this rifle in ".44 CLMR" with a 26 inch half octagon barrel, blue finish with "gold trimmings," sycamore stock with checkered pistol grip, half magazine, and factory engraved. It indicates the rifle was shipped to G.O. Carlson in Hartford, Connecticut, on February 17, 1906. The rifle has a Rocky Mountain blade front sight, adjustable sporting rear sight, standard two-line address and patent marking, "44 Cal." on top at the breech, primarily grape vine engraving patterns, the Rampant Colt on the left, a gilt-silver plated buttplate and small parts (magazine tube tip, dust cover, hammer, and trigger), and checkered sycamore pump handle and pistol grip stock. Most noteworthy is the panel scene of the bear on the right side of the frame most often executed by John Ulrich and adorned on some of the most lavish and important Winchester Rifles of the 19th and 20th century. In fact an almost identical bear vignette is listed as the #3 pattern in the Winchester Highly Finished Arms Catalog from 1897. The buttplate, lower tang, and upper tang all have the matching serial number. The sycamore stock is exceptionally rare and a very odd choice for a high end rifle. The engraving is beautifully executed. Provenance documentation included with the rifle suggests the original owner may have been Gustav O. Carlson who was a tool and die maker and engraver, but this information was not verified. Instead, it was likely George O. Carlson (c. 1871-?), who had a hardware business at 336 Park Street and was a "versatile inventor." He lived in Wethersfield, which borders the south side of Hartford. However, the bear and grape theme is reminiscent of California and may relate to The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, possibly in relation to fund-raising for relief efforts. G.O. Carlson is noted in the list of donors of funds raised by the Merchant Committee in Hartford for the Red Cross after the earthquake and had ties to California due to his sister who lived in San Diego. In 1928, he is noted as having went to visit her for two months. Unfortunately, the factory records do not reveal more details. Regardless of the specifics of the original order, the rifle is identified in the provenance document as purchased from Carlson by Robert Proud Sime (1863-1940) who settled in Hartford after years as a seaman and opened the R.P. Sime Cafe at 109 Allyn St. 1.5 miles from the Colt factory. He then passed down to his nephew Gordon Proud Sime (1890-1961) and then his son Robert Gordon Sime (1921-2010) and then George Gordon Sime (1957-). The latter ordered the Colt letter in 2019 and was told over the phone by the Colt archives that "what I have is very special and they do not see anything like this often. I was told that Colt engraved many guns but only 22 engraved Colt lightning rifles were accompanied by a factory letter and mine was number 19 of 22." (sic) He indicates his dad kept the rifle hidden away with a revolver and other valuables in a hidden compartment in his kitchen. A clipping of a Pratt & Whitney Aircraft newspaper article titled "Old Colt is A Cracking Good Rifle: Gold Plated Arm Is Museum Piece" from 1953 showing Robert G. Sime holding the rifle is included. In it he notes the gold trim, the engraving, and the sycamore stock which he indicates is from a tree in Hartford. He states, "My uncle bought it and a year later gave it to my father who in turn gave it to me." He indicates that in 1940, his father used the Lightning's speed to kill three deer standing in a group at the edge of the woods. Both the article and the provenance document indicate the rifle is marked "F.P.G. -9 T I M," but this marking has not been located.

Rating Definition:

Fine with 60% plus original blue finish, traces of original gold, dark aged patina on the silver plating that originally backed the gold, some areas of smooth gray patina, crisp engraving, replaced buttplate screws, and minor overall wear. The softer sycamore wood is also very good and has some worn spots in the checkering, attractive natural grain patterns, minor flaking at the toe, and mild handling and storage type wear overall. Mechanically excellent. This is a stunning factory panel scene engraved Colt Lightning rifle with rare and interesting features.

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