Elisha Collier was no different from any other gunmaker in that he worked hard to secure lucrative military contracts for his revolver designed in 1818. Close inspection of papers in the British Library indicates that Collier met with England’s Ordnance Board at Woolwich twice, once in 1819 and again in 1824. Collier presented his revolvers to aristocratic committees that included the Duke of Wellington and Lord Somerset, later Lord Raglan—the infamous General of "Charge of the Light Brigade" fame. Of over 70 Colliers known today, there is a rare group of three that were set up as military weapons, likely presented at the 1824 Woolwich Trials and elsewhere. This unique and super-rare Collier revolver fits comfortably in this sample made for evaluation. The five-shot, hand-turned revolver has a substantial 8 in barrel. With the added length of the cylinder, it is in line with the 9 in barrels of 1820s military pistols. Weighing a substantial 2.84 pounds, it is much heavier than the standard 2.125 lb. Second Model pistols. Its frame is piped with a two-line border, and the scalloped leading edge of the top frame mirrors those details of the Collier rifle in the Musee de l’Armee, Paris, a sample made for military evaluation. In addition, the lettering “E. H. COLLIER, LONDON” on both weapons is identical. The .53 cal. Damascus twist barrel, stamped with London "V"’ and "GP" proof marks, is rifled with 16 grooves, making it the world’s first revolving cylinder pistol fitted with a rifled barrel, some 12 years before Colt secured his 1836 patent. The mechanism and straw-blued springs of the lock are robust, as one would expect for a military weapon. These components are in excellent condition, as is the flared-pommel walnut stock. Collier is known to have presented a percussion revolver at the 1824 Woolwich Trials, and it is tempting to think that this may have been that weapon. Nowhere on the pistol can be found the tell-tale plugged holes of the side-mounted flintlock frizzen of the Collier Second Model, indicating that the pistol had been designed as a Third Model percussion pistol. This is supported by the pitting on the inside of the top rib, which is consistent with the early corrosive percussion compounds. The bones of this matchless 200-year-old Collier are unimpeachable, and, at this point, the storyline of its history ramps up. It is likely that there were two periods of reworking this historic weapon—in the 1830s and 1940s. The lock plate and cock are finely decorated in the style used by Mills after he had licensed Collier’s Patent around 1828, yet there are still traces of the original double line border decoration of the frame. What accounts for this contradiction of a partially decorated but military-spec weapon? The lower half of the lock has been filed down 1/64 of an inch, indicating that the original “E.H. COLLIER. LONDON” lettering may have been removed and replaced with acanthus scrollwork and a handsome dolphin cock, making it more attractive for sale to the civilian market. The barrel is marked “DU 494”, an Irish registration number for Dublin County used between 1844-1846. Collier tried to secure a contract in Ireland. An 1824 letter written by Collier is titled “Seeking to Promote New Firearms for the Use of Police of Ireland.” Collier also wrote about his revolvers to the Irish Postmaster General, and the Collier would make the perfect coach gun. There is also the question of why the pistol has an ill-fitting Third Model cylinder? Mechanical analysis shows that the internal stop bolt, helical spring, and cylinder shroud were made in the 1940s. A recently found 1950s typescript advertisement from B. A. Williams describes a genuine Collier revolver that was missing its cylinder and “…one was made to fit the gun.” This Collier may well be the one described.
Good with mostly gray and brown patina, some light Damascus patterns on the barrel, minor pitting, repaired rear ramrod pipe, and moderate marks and scratches. The cylinder is a 20th century replacement as described above. The stock is also good and has an applied coat of glossy varnish, crisp checkering, and minor dings and scratches. Mechanically fine. A unique Collier Third Model pistol, built as a sample for evaluation, is too important of a weapon to the history of revolvers to be dissuaded by the later adjustments. The historian of firearms recognizes that changes of this nature add to a storied life, confirming that the Collier has always been valued during its 200-year lifespan.
There are currently no customer product questions on this lot