This stunning deluxe Cuno Helfrict master factory engraved revolver is quite possible the finest Colt Model 1877 D.A. revolvers extant and has nearly full coverage deluxe factory engraving throughout. The factory letter lists the revolver in .38 caliber with a 5 inch barrel, blue finish, rubber grips, and factory engraving and lists it as sold and shipped to Markt & Co. of New York City on May 27, 1895. Markt & Co. were import/export merchants with multiple international offices. In 1895, the company complained of the difficulties and costs of important American firearms into Germany to compete with German, Belgian, and English made firearms due to European proof laws. They are identified as dealing in a variety of hardware, machinery, metal goods, and "fancy goods." This revolver certainly falls within the latter category.The deluxe engraving was undoubtedly personally executed by Master Engraver Cuno A. Helfricht and covers most of the barrel, around the front sight (continuing to the barrel address), the ejector housing, nearly all of the frame, the cylinder (including in the flutes), and on the trigger guard and back strap. The engraving overall is stunning, and the way the patterns flow from the breech end of the barrel onto the breech section of the frame is particularly well-designed. The revolver also featured a rounded blade front sight, "COLT D.A. 38" in an panel along the left side of the barrel, the usual two-line barrel address on top, three-line patent marking on the left side of the frame followed by the Rampant Colt trademark, matching serial numbers on the frame and grip straps, assembly number "267" on the loading gate, and checkered hard rubber grips with the Rampant Colt design at the top and matching partial serial numbers "465" inside. The English style oak case has royal blue lining, a cartridge block with 25 cartridges, an oil bottle, screwdriver, cleaning rod, cleaning patches, and key. In addition to the factory letter, a letter from Rolf Hofer of Kusnacht-Zurich, Switzerland, on November 11, 1961, is included. He states that this revolver had been in his family for at least fifty years and was being given to his brother Charles E. Hofer of Winchester, Virginia. Charles Erwin Hofer (1894-1979) was born in Zurich, came through Ellis Island in 1917, and is buried in Winchester, Virginia. The revolver may have been their father's, identified as Hans Hofer in Charles's marriage record, given the timeline. The Colt Model 1877 "Lightning" (.38 Long Colt), "Thunderer" (.41 Colt), and "Rainmaker" (.32 Long Colt) revolvers were Colt's first double action revolvers. They were originally known as the "Double Action, Self-Cocking Central Fire Revolving Pistol." They launched the long line of Colt double action revolvers that followed, including the famous Model 1892 revolvers used in the Spanish-American War by Theodore Roosevelt and others to the iconic "Snake Guns" like the Python used by the lead character Rick Grimes in the hit series The Walking Dead as well as many real life police officers in the second half of the 20th century. It was distributor Benjamin Kittredge & Co. that came up with the catching nicknames for the Model 1877s. Around 166,849 were manufactured between 1877 and 1909. While there are visual similarities with the Colt Single Action Army, the revolvers are actually significantly different in their finer details, including their delicate hammer and trigger mechanisms. They competed against the imported Webley Bulldogs as well as copies of the British design. Soon there were also a variety of double action revolvers being manufactured by Smith & Wesson and other American manufacturers. Like its larger sibling the Colt Single Action Army, only a small portion of the Model 1877s were factory engraved. Because these revolvers were convenient for carrying and were capable of being fired rapidly, they were widely used in the late 19th century in the West by lawmen, outlaws, and express agents, and many show signs of their use making minty examples very difficult to come by.
Excellent plus with 98% plus original blue and vivid casehardened finish overall, crisp engraving and markings, extremely minor cylinder drag lines, and general light handling and storage marks. The grips are also excellent plus and have crisp checkering and embossing, a few minor marks, and lightly, attractively aged coloration. Mechanically excellent. The case is also excellent overall and has minor storage marks. This is an outstanding example of Colt's first double action revolver. The Colt Model 1877 D.A. was used by Billy the Kid, John Wesley Hardin, Granville Stuart, Doc Holiday, Frederic Remington, and others in the American West, but only a select few likely ever laid eyes on a Colt Lightning Revolver this extraordinary. This is undoubtedly the finest Colt Model 1877 DA Revolver we have ever offered at auction!
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