January 5, 2021
By Mike Burns
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“Happiness is a warm gun.” –John Lennon
Handguns to the left of us! Handguns to the right! This February, Rock Island Auction Company will be hosting another exciting Sporting & Collector Auction featuring an absurd amount of handguns for sale.
These pistols, revolvers, and small arms might fit in your pocket, but rest assured they pack a serious punch. Alluring, beautiful, and stuffed with history, they can all be yours at the February 3-6 Sporting & Collector Auction at Rock Island Auction Company.
Let us know what you think about this list. Are you as excited for the S&C Auction as we are? Tell us your favorite item and be on the lookout for more incredible and amazing firearms all at your fingertips when the Preview Hall opens for exhibition on February 2. We’ll see you there!
Jean Alexander LeMat was a physician, inventor, and gunsmith who designed one of the most iconic revolvers used by the Confederacy during the Civil War. Despite its heavy weight and slow reload time, its signature high-capacity shotgun barrel were powerful and effective features that was favored by many high-ranking southern generals.
A remarkable reflection of the contrast in industry between the North and the South, this revolver was one of the most advanced weapons in the Confederate arsenal. However, the LeMat revolver lacked the practicality to match lighter and more accurate weapons being designed by the Union. As a result, Southern forces would become increasingly ill-equipped and disadvantaged as the war progressed towards its inevitable conclusion. Few LeMat revolvers have survived to the present day because of their limited production number and heavy use during combat.
Early second model French-made LeMat revolvers are even rarer to come across, making them extremely desirable for collectors. The revolvers were manufactured in Paris in 1864 and many senior Confederate officers carried LeMat revolvers. They are even closely associated with General J.E.B. Stuart who carried a LeMat revolver when he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern in 1864. This example is estimated at $11,000 - $17,000 and can be found during the February Sporting & Collector Auction.
The Colt Single Action Army revolver is not only one of the most iconic revolvers of all time, but it is one of the greatest pieces of American history because of its significant relationship with the United States Military and the American frontier during the 19th century. Essentially turning the tides in their favor, the Colt Single Action Army revolver quickly gained favor in the American Armed Forces after the retirement of the Colt 1860 Army percussion revolver; beating the highly competitive Smith & Wesson “Schofield” revolver. The Single Action Army’s success during the time cemented Colt as the government's primary arms manufacturer for decades to come.
A favorite of General George S. Patton, the Single Action Army revolver was immensely popular (even well into the 20th century) because of its power, accuracy, and exemplary handling. Colloquially nicknamed “The Peacemaker,” Colt Single Action Army revolvers are frequently featured in Western movies, further adding to the legacy of the gun, and are considered to be the precursor to most modern sporting revolvers.
Today, authentic Colt Single Action Army revolvers are highly valued by collectors because of their prominence in history and media. All original, good condition, U.S. Cavalry and Artillery Single Action Army revolvers produced between 1873 and 1891 are among the most valuable Colt items to collectors, often selling for over $10,000.
Manufactured 1883, this gorgeous Single Action Army revolver is chambered in .44-40 and is covered with gorgeous floral scroll engravings that cover nearly all of its surface. Fitted with lustrous pearl grips, this revolver is estimated at $12,000-$18,000 and can be yours during the February 3-6 Sporting & Collector Auction.
This addition to our list of awesome handguns featured in the upcoming February 3-6 Sporting & Collector Auction is something exceptionally special. Historic, rare, and resolute are certainly words that jump to your mind when confronted with this monumental testament to the American Civil War, the Griswold & Gunnison Percussion revolver.
The Civil War is such a fascinating topic to discuss not only because of its legacy throughout this country, but also because of how easily an alternative conclusion could have been reached. Perhaps–if the South had the advanced industrial powers and capabilities as the North did–the course of history might be completely different than what is taught in textbooks today. While Union troops had access to some of the most advanced technology offered at the time (such as the Henry repeating rifle, the Spencer repeating carbine, and a more connected and strategic system of railways), Confederate armies lacked the industrial strength, manufacturing capabilities, and raw materials, all which contributed to their defeat.
Places like the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts possessed some of the most state-of-the-art production equipment available, thanks mostly in part to the industrial revolution. There, attention to interchangeable parts and mass assembly made supplying and replacing firearms exponentially faster and easier.
That being said, both armies had unequipped soldiers, often purchasing weapons for themselves out of pocket for most of the war. However, the weapons that were available and their quality varied drastically depending on which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you found yourself. Naturally, competition is the best teacher; so the South attempted to recreate many of the revolvers developed in the North by brands like Colt.
Offered here is an example of the Southern efforts to match the Colt Model 1851 Navy percussion revolver. Samuel Griswold and Arvin Gunnison, the largest Confederate handgun maker during the Civil War, manufactured approximately 3,700 of these revolvers. During the Battle of Griswold Station, the pistol factory was destroyed by the 10th Ohio Cavalry and 3rd Kentucky Cavalry and although production ceased in late 1864. However, the Confederacy continued to receive these revolvers as late as April 1865. Completed and uncompleted revolvers were likely moved before the plant was destroyed and were later assembled at another location.
The Griswold & Gunnison revolver is easily identifiable and possibly the most popular of all Confederate side arms because of its distinctive brass frame and grip straps, 6-shot cylinder, safety pins between the percussion nipples, and one-piece walnut grip. The well-made Griswold & Gunnison revolver is one of the most desirable Confederate made Civil War handguns and is estimated at $10,000-$20,000. Own this scarce piece of history at Rock Island Auction Company’s February Sporting & Collector Auction.
What does a “Pinched Frame” mean when referring to a Colt Single Action Army revolver? A “Pinched Frame” indicates that the rear sight channel located on the top strap of the revolver appears to resemble a point or a "pinch" about a half an inch in front of the hammer. Although originally intended to give the user a more constricted and accurate view of their target, the “Pinch Frame” actually made it extremely difficult to aim quickly with such limited sights.
Colt produced roughly only 200 of these revolvers for the United States Military before they requested a different version to improve usability. This revolver has a rare and extremely desirable "Pinched Frame" rear sight found only on civilian Single Action Army revolvers below serial number 200 and government test model revolvers. With such low production numbers, it is no wonder why these revolvers are valued so highly by collectors.
The accompanying factory letter lists serial number 91 Colt SAA with a blue finish and .45 caliber chambering when shipped to J.P. Moores Sons of New York City on May 30, 1874. A beautiful revolver, this Single Action Army falls below the 200 serial number and has markings that indicate such, warranting its $16,000-$22,500 estimate. With a nickel plated front sight and an early “bullseye” head ejector rod, this magnificent piece of history and technology is available during the February Sporting & Collector Auction at Rock Island Auction Company.
By the end of the 19th century, the bison population on the American frontier had been reduced to near extinction marking an effective end to the Wild West. As a result, the popularity for different uses of the revolvers outside of combat, such as target shooting and sport, skyrocketed. The Colt Bisley Flattop was designed for this increased demand in target shooters.
Manufactured in 1899, only 976 of these Colt Bisley Flattop Target Revolvers were manufactured and only 196 were chambered for the .455 Eley cartridge. This consecutive pair feature a distinctive wide hammer as well as humpback grip profiles. With stunning blue finish, pristine polished hammer sides, and checkered hard rubber grips with the Rampant Colt in an oval at the top, it is no wonder these revolvers are estimated at $16,000-$27,500.
The pair also come complete in an astonishing wooden English case with shimmering brass shield insets in the lid as well as rich green felt lining the interior. The case has 7 compartments (three have wooden lids) and a 24 round bullet block with 24 rounds of D.C. Co. 455 Colt cartridges. Located within the case is a key and wooden handled metal cleaning rod. Make it yours at the February 3-6 Sporting & Collector Auction.
Rock Island Auction Company will be hosting another exciting Sporting & Collector Auction February 3-6 that is jam-packed with thousands of firearms from around the globe. With over 200 manufacturers, over 1,000 Colts, 700 Smith & Wessons, along with hundreds of others, this sale is perfect for everyone.
Looking through the items quickly, you’d be forgiven for assuming this is one of our prestigious Premier Auctions, but this is a Sporting & Collector Auction… with an amazing collection of volcanic lever action pistols. Why not? But it’s not just premier quality items, an amazing assortment of concealed carry, semi-automatic, and sporting handguns will all be featured in the February Sporting & Collector Auction along with many others from the likes of Sig Sauer, Springfield Armory, and Smith & Wesson.
As always, if there are any questions regarding consignment, future auctions, or registration, please contact Rock Island Auction Company. Explore what so many others already know and come see the magic for yourself when the Preview Hall opens for exhibition on February 2, 2021.
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