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April 29, 2021

Two Guns Are Better than One: Finding the Perfect Pair of Colt Revolvers

By Joe Engesser

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A grizzled gunfighter scans the streets, wary and alert. He's a stranger to these parts, a drifter, but he doesn't walk alone. The two Colts strapped to his side are the best pair of wingmen money can buy. And so it was for Old West legends like Wild Bill Hickok and Jesse James who carried two six-shooters.

“Fill yer hands,” Marshal Rooster Cogburn bellows in 2010’s “True Grit” as he gallops into fire with two Colts blazing, and you can find your own pair this May.

Hollywood seized on this image and heightened the myth with the dueling wielding gun fu style of John Wick and the over the top fun of Guns Akimbo, but plenty of historic gunslingers did indeed pack two revolvers. The fastest reload, as they say, is a second gun, though the tradition of owning two six-shooters was more often about presentation than doubling one’s firepower in a gunfight. Rock Island Auction Company has numerous paired revolvers up for bid this May, including a great selection of collectible Colt revolvers, so let’s take a look at some of the unique, historic, and cool-looking Colts and find the perfect pair of sixguns for you.

Find the perfect pair of Colts this May at Rock Island Auction Company's Premier Sale.

Colts for the Everyman

From greater firepower to fashion accessories to high-end presentation pieces, revolvers have been owned in pairs almost since their invention, and Samuel Colt and company created some of the most popular revolvers around. Luckily, you don’t need to spend a fortune to find a great pair of Colts, like these 1920 New Service revolvers.

A factory-documented pair of Colt New Service flattop target revolvers in the ultra-rare dual calibers of .44, Russian/S&W Special.

Another worthy mention for collectible Colts that won’t break the bank is the 3rd Generation Single Action Army. Though not as rare as some of the other revolver pairs featured at Rock Island Auction Company’s May Premier Sale, the 3rd Gen SAA is a great-looking gun, a fun shooting revolver, and an affordable way to attain that iconic Colt quality and reputation that all Colt collectors seek.

The evolution of the legendary SAA, we have several desirable pairs of 3rd Gen Colts up for bid in May.

Golden Guns

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—gold is good, golden guns are even better. There’s no denying two revolvers look great together in a display case, but silver and gold can transform a firearm into a work of art. And while it’s true certain gold engraved Colt revolvers are exceptionally rare, like this Colt SAA engraved by the famed Cuno Helfricht, you can also find more affordable options and own the authentic flare of a gunfighter without taking out a second mortgage.

Two factory engraved 1876 Colt New Line .22 etched panel revolvers plated in gold and nickel finish.

Those New Lines are an impressive pair, but you could also try these blinged-out six-shooters below. Artistic presentation pistols date back centuries, but Colt took it to the next level with embellished display revolvers like this set, two matching gold and silver-plated Colt SAAs with pearl grips that would be a standout in any Colt collection. Even gunslingers like Doc Holiday and John Wesley Hardin would be impressed.

Fit for a gunfighter. These old-school revolvers feature matching gold and silver-plated finish.

Historic Colts

Horse pistols were issued in pairs until the mid-19th century, and some cavalrymen and gunslingers continued that tradition when black powder revolvers became available. In 1854, Captain Jonathan R. Davis killed eleven armed outlaws using two Colt revolvers and a Bowie knife, and notorious bandit Juan Soto was known to brandish a pair of Colts on his rampage through California, including going out in a blaze of glory against famed Sherriff Henry Morse.

Clint Eastwood brandishes two 1847 Colt Walkers in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Cased pairs from the mid-19th Century can be rare finds today, especially models like the .31 caliber 1855 Sidehammer pocket revolver. Pictured and discussed in Wilson and Hable’s “Colt Pistols”, these unique pocket revolvers are a true pair of collector guns.

Colt Model 1855 root pocket sidehammer revolvers, a jackpot for Colt collectors.

Thankfully for gun collectors, the more elaborate presentation revolvers often saw little use or wear, so they’re still well-preserved in many instances. They also tend to be documented and have interesting stories behind them, like these 1861 Colt Navy revolvers with Mexican Eagle grips. Featured on page 78 of John Hamilton’s book, “Colt’s History and Heroes”, these revolvers almost certainly would have been created for a prominent Mexican official during the Restored Republic period from 1867 to 1876.

A stunning pair of Colt 1861 Navy revolvers with a unique story to tell.

Cased revolver pairs were often presented to prominent figures to gain contracts and influence, as likely occurred with these silver-plated Colt Model 1860 Army percussion revolvers. A true pair with matching factory engravings, these revolvers were almost certainly intended for a Mexican politician or military officer, similar to the 1861 Navy revolvers above.

Cased pair of factory engraved silver-plated Colt Model 1860 Army percussion revolvers, one of the highlights of Rock Island Auction Company's May Premier Sale.

Lord Cardigan’s Colt Revolvers

A set of factory engraved Colt Model 1851 London Navy revolvers presented by Samuel Colt to the Commander of the Light Brigade? Sounds like the stuff of stories, but these revolvers are some of the most well-documented Colt presentation pieces that we’ve come across, described in publications like "Samuel Colt Presents", "The Book of Colt Engraving" and the "Antique Arms Annual” from 1971. Talk about an iconic pair of guns.

These 1855 2nd Model London Navy revolvers are engraved on the back straps: “Presented to/The Earl of Cardigan/by the Inventor”.

As historically significant presentation revolvers go, you can’t get much better than this. Career British officer James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, was hailed as a hero for his legendary charge against a defended Russian battery during the Battle of Balaclava. The order to charge was a mistake and the Light Brigade paid dearly for it, but their valiant resolve against a blaze of enemy fire became a symbol of courage for the British Cavalry. Cardigan’s celebrity status was instant, and Samuel Colt was among the many notable figures who honored the Earl.

Samuel Colt presented two Colt Model 1851 London Navy revolvers to Lord Cardigan, the British officer who commanded the heroic Light Brigade.

Other Historic Revolver Pairs

While we’re talking about finding the perfect set of sixguns, it would be a crime not to touch on some other revolver brands up for bid at Rock Island Auction Company’s May 14-16 Premier Firearms Auction. Toping that list is a pair of one-of-a-kind engraved Remington revolvers created for and presented to Tsar Alexander II of Russia during the American Civil War.

A gift from one liberator to another. Remington New Model Army percussion revolvers with American and Russian theme raised relief carved grips.

This historic set of Remington New Model Army percussion revolvers were believed to have been created to thank Tsar Alexander II for his friendship with the United States and President Lincoln, and to honor him for his refusal to recognize the Confederacy, a decision credited with helping keep Britain and France from openly supporting the Southern cause. That alliance is signified by the carved grips on the revolvers featuring a rendition of the Seal of the United States and the Russian Coat of Arms.

Author Howard M. Madaus described these stunning New Model Army revolvers as being specially engraved for the Tsar.

Not much can top a pair of Remingtons gifted by Lincoln to Tsar Alexander II, but two Smith & Wesson New Model 3 target revolvers presented by the Prince of Wales and future King of England, Edward VII, are a close runner-up. Bequeathed by Edward VII to British Captain Leon Martin for his marksmanship at a shooting exhibition, these cased revolvers won the NRA’s Silver Medal Arms Award for their outstanding historical value, beauty, and rarity.

A gift from a future king. This presentation set of gold-plated S&W New Model No. 3 target revolvers is a stunning collector’s piece.

And finally we have a trio of Tiffany & Co. embellished Smith & Wesson .32 double action Third Model revolvers. These highly stylized sixguns evoke the classic Art Nouveau style and demonstrate how far an engraver can push the line between decorative firearm and crafting a true work of art. Though sold as separate lots, if two guns are better than one, it only stands to think that three guns are even better.

Tiffany & Co. created breathtaking specialty pieces for Colt, Winchester, and Smith & Wesson.

“God made man. Sam Colt made them equal.”

While you can’t beat a great pair of revolvers, let’s also examine a few lone Colt sixguns that should not be overlooked this May. Theodore Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill Cody, Buck Taylor, and countless other Western icons carried Colts, and it’s no surprise they all preferred the Colt Single Action Army, a candidate for the most popular revolver of all time. American gunslinger Bat Masterson certainly thought so as well. Lawman, hunter, gambler, and friend to Wild West legends like Wyatt Earp and Luke Short, Bat Masterson was the real deal, and a determined collector can own his special order SAA Colt revolver.

A Colt carried by a real-life gunfighter? Bat Masterson’s special order, extensively documented SAA Colt revolver is a once-in-a-lifetime offering.

Another piece of Western history up for auction, and part of a likely intended pair, this engraved black powder Colt Single Action Army revolver is directly attributed to the Dalton Gang and their foiled double bank robbery attempt at Coffeyville, Kansas, where two Daltons were killed and one was captured. As Colt firearms expert R.L. Wilson writes about the gun, "Documentation on outlaw or lawmen Colts from the 19th Century are rarely as specific or comprehensive as proven in the present documenting letter.” A gun owned and likely carried during one of the most infamous shootouts in American history is truly a rare find.

In just fifteen minutes, 8 men lay dead in Coffeyville, Kansas, including 4 of the 5 members of the Dalton Gang.

The Ultimate Pair of Pistols

Rock Island Auction Company has sold Ronald Reagan’s Colt revolvers and Theodore Roosevelt’s SAA, but probably the pinnacle of historic presentation guns, and arguably the height of American gun collecting itself, has to be the War Pistols of Alexander Hamilton. A gift from Hamilton’s father-in-law, Major General Philip Schuyler, Hamilton carried these pistols during the American Revolution and they were likely present at the Battle of Yorktown. It’s not often a gun collector can own such a prominent piece of the American Revolution.

A gun collector’s dream, two flintlock war pistols owned and carried by American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton are up for auction this May.

Even if sixguns aren’t your style , hundreds of other Colts are included in our May 14th-16th Premier Auction, from derringers to rifles to 1911s and more. So take a look at our online catalog, place your bids, and find your own favorite pair. Twice the firepower, twice the fun. Two guns are definitely better than one.

Rock Island Auction Company’s May 14th-16th Premier Mailer only scratches the surface.

“I have two guns, one for each of ya” - Val Kilmer's quotable Doc Holiday carries two Colts in 1993's "Tombstone"

As always, if there are any questions regarding consignment, registration, or future auctions, please contact Rock Island Auction Company. Our 2021 auction schedule is now posted on our website, so be sure to go through the listing and start making your plans to visit. All our events adhere to all COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. We can’t wait to see you here.

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