The extraordinary antebellum era Colt '51 Navy was manufactured under contract for the U.S. Army in 1857. The '51 Navy or "Revolving Belt Pistol" was Colt's most popular military model prior to the Civil War. They were used by both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy. The "Navy-Navy" revolvers were purchased first in mid-1852, and the "Navy-Army" revolvers were purchased starting at the beginning of 1855. More were actually purchased for the Army than the Navy with some 16,778 revolvers purchased for the Army across more than a dozen contracts in the 1850s plus more than 8,000 more through the commercial market during the Civil War. Though there were thousands of "Navy-Army" revolvers, very few of them remain in high condition like this one as they were widely issued during the Civil War by both sides. They were Colt's second most widely used revolvers of the 19th century after only the smaller Model 1849 Pocket revolvers. Many of these revolvers continued to be used in the American West after the war, including by many legendary figures such as Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill. Colt's famous portrait shows him with a Model 1851 Navy in his hand. It has a brass cone front sight, "-ADDRESS SAML COLT HARTFORD CT.-" on top of the barrel, "COLTS/PATENT/U.S." on the left side of the frame, the classic Naval Battle of Campeche cylinder scene showing the Texas Navy and Republic of Yucatan's vessels defeating the Mexican Navy in 1843 (a scene chosen because the Texas Navy was armed with Colt Paterson revolvers), various small single letter sub-inspection marks throughout, "CGC" (C.G. Chandler) cartouche on the left side of the grip, "WAT" (Captain William Anderson Thornton) cartouche on the right side of the grip, and matching serial numbers on the loading lever, wedge, arbor pin, cylinder, barrel, frame, trigger guard, and back strap. The finish is blue on the barrel and cylinder, color casehardened on the frame as well as the loading lever and hammer, niter blue on the trigger and screws, and bright brass on the trigger guard and back strap. Provenance: The Don and Carol Wilkerson Collection
Excellent. The barrel retains 90% plus of the original blue finish. The cylinder has a distinct scene and retains 95% of the original blue finish. 90% plus of the original vibrant case colors remain on the loading lever, frame, and hammer. Finish loss is mainly restricted to the edges and recoil shield. There is some very minor pitting at the breech. The small parts retain most of their original niter blue finish. The grip straps display a very attractive aged patina. There are some scattered light scratches and handling marks throughout. The grip is very fine and has clearly legible cartouches, minor lower edge wear, and light handling and storage wear. Mechanically excellent. This stunning Model 1851 "Navy-Army" revolver is sure to add value to any U.S. martial, Civil War, or Colt firearms collection.
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