The letter states that this carbine was fitted with "Fancy Wood" stock and shipped "Soft" to Hartley & Graham in New York, New York, on May 9, 1888, as part of a three gun shipment. The "soft" notation indicates that the rifle was intended to be engraved and finished by Hartley & Graham. Many Colt firearms sold soft by Colt to Hartley & Graham were engraved by L.D. Nimschke's New York shop. This rifle features Nimschke's distinctive scroll and border engraving on a punch dot-background. The engraving covers the receiver, upper and lower tang, trigger guard, dust cover, top and sides of the barrel to the rear sight, muzzle, barrel band and buttplate heel. The receiver, trigger guard and barrel band are gold plated and the barrel, magazine, dust cover and buttplate have a silver-plated finish. The stock and forearm are highly figured, fancy grain walnut with fine checkering and a high polish piano finish. This carbine is illustrated and described on page 192 of "The Book of Colt Engraving" by R.L. Wilson. The description identifies L.D. Nimschke as the engraver and states: "Engraved Baby carbines are extreme rarities". The carbine has a staple-mounted saddle ring on the left side of the receiver, folding leaf rear sight and steel block front sight. The top of the barrel is roll-stamped with the two-line legend: "COLT'S PT. F.A. MFG. CO. HARTFORD CT. U.S.A./PATENTED MAY 29. SEPT. 18.83 MAY 26.85.JUNE 15.86. FEB. 22. 87." ahead of the rear sight. "44 CAL." is boldly roll-stamped on the left side of the barrel surrounded by a hand engraved oval border. The serial number, "27981" is stamped on the lower receiver tang surrounded by an oval border. This is probably the most elaborately decorated Colt Lightning Baby carbine extant.
Excellent. The carbine retains nearly 90% of the original gold and silver-plated finish. The gold finish on the receiver, trigger guard and barrel band has dulled with age but remains mostly intact. The intricate scroll engraving is crisp and deep. The silver-plating on the barrel, magazine, dust cover and buttplate is tarnished but at least 90% of the finish is present. The frame screws, forearm screws and trigger retain nearly all of the fire blue finish. The loading gate has about 70% of the fire blue finish intact. The stock and forearm are in very fine to excellent condition and have sharp, unhandled checkering. There is one chip present in the upper right forward wrist at receiver juncture. Nearly all of the high polish piano finish is present. Wear is limited to a few very minor handling and storage marks. This is an extremely rare, highly decorated, Lightning Baby carbine engraved by one of the finest 19th century American engravers.
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