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July 26, 2013

Rare & Unparalleled Colt 1860s

By Joel R Kolander

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Colt has long led the way in collectable firearms. Whether it’s Walkers, Patersons, Peacemakers, or Londons, people want to collect Colt firearms. To those collectors I excitedly say, “You’re in luck!” Rock Island Auction Company’s September 2013 Premiere Auction has a remarkable number of gorgeous Colts just waiting to find a new collection to call home. To give you an idea of just how many exceptional Colts there are, this article will cover a selection of our Colt 1860 Army revolvers. If this is a small sample of just one model, imagine what the entire auction will look like!

The Colt 1860 Army built off of the wild success of previous Colt models and was the most used pistol in the U.S. Civil War. It was originally known as the “New Model Holster Pistol” and more than 200,000 of the iconic revolvers were produced with 129,730 being purchased by the U.S. Government for issue to troops. This was no large surprise as Colt was already the largest private seller of arms to the U.S. Government. These would replace the Third Model Dragoons that had been manufactured since 1851 and would cut the weight of the soldier’s sidearm almost in half. The new, easier to wield revolvers would prove to be prized by both sides of the Civil War. In fact, “Quantrell’s force is supposed to have been armed with four revolvers to the man, two in belt holsters and two on the saddle.”

Documented Cased British Proofed Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver with Rare Matching Canteen Shoulder Stock Photographed in The Book of Colt Firearms

The 1800’s were a time of invention. Some call it a time of gadgets. The Industrial Revolution had gotten its second wind and America was manufacturing like mad! We had new forms of power, higher efficiency, machine-based production, new materials, new chemicals, and machine tools. America was inventing more in the 1850’s, 60’s, & 70’s than it had in its entire existence. It gave rise to such life-altering inventions as the sewing machine, the typewriter, the telephone, and the lightbulb.

However, not all inventions would have such profound consequences. Camera pocket watches, canes with any number of varied purposes (swords, guns, telescopes, etc), ring guns, new kitchen utensils, farm implements, and many more were simply the fad devices of their day and their longevity was limited. One of those inventions with a limited lifespan was that of the Colt Model 1860 Army that came with a “canteen stock.” Intended to lessen the amount of gear a soldier would have to haul by combining two pieces of equipment into one, the canteen stock became available as early as the Second Model Dragoon. Colt credited then Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis with the concept of the attachable breech shoulder stock, though Colt kept the 1859 patent (number 22,627) in his name and fails to mention Davis in the patent application.

Rare and Extraordinary London Cased Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver

Our next Model 1860 has a rarity driven by the fact that it is both British cased and proofed. The case is oak with brass hardware and all seven baize-lined compartments have their accessory in place. The gun itself is in such excellent condition that several books on the subject do not have a finer specimen shown in their pages. The amount of bluing that remains on the barrel of this gun is phenomenal and remains in a crisp, black, shine. It seems to flow into the vivid case hardening, which itself only ceases when reaching the highly-polished, one-piece, walnut grip.

The screws softly glow their nitre blue hue.
Look at the case hardening and high volume of blue!

Extremely Rare Initial Production Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver Serial Number 35 with Navy Size Grip

What makes this Colt so rare? We believe that noted Colt authority R. L. Wilson says it best when he states, “Several rare variations exist within the Army series, and these are: 1. Approximately 55 of the first 100 revolvers have round, rebated cylinders, three screw frames NOT cut for shoulder stocks, Hartford barrel addresses, silver plated brass backstraps and trigger guards, 7 1/2″ barrels and Navy size grips… The first 100 revolvers do not have capping channels in the recoil shield cutouts.” He writes this of an identical revolver (serial number 5) on p.158 of The Book of Colt Firearms. The revolver pictured below is serial number 35. Extremely limited production, low serial number, iconic firearm, legendary Colt name… Need we say more?

Outstanding Cased Early Production Colt Model 1860 Fluted Cylinder Army Revolver

This pistol is an example of the scarce, early production Colt Model 1860s that featured a 7 1/2″ barrel and a fluted cylinder. They are known in the original shipping ledgers as the “cavalry” model and approximately only 4,000 were manufactured. This revolver is serial number 1504, well within the serial number range for the early production variations. Many of these fluted 1860s were shipped to dealers in the South before the beginning of the Civil War. Because of their release prior to such a large conflict, even fewer remain that one might expect and rarely will one encounter an example with any amount of original finish.

These rare, beautiful Colt 1860s are only the tip of the iceberg. Not only do we have 21 in total, but the selection of all our Colt antique handguns is this auction is over 120 items! Also, if some of the original Colts are a bit too pricey, we have an excellent selection of Commemorative Colts many of which are rare or specialized in their own right. With over 120 originals and almost 190 commemoratives, that’s almost 300 ways to get your hands on a piece of Colt history! And those are just the old-style Colt handguns! In the very near future we’ll have all the items in our September Premiere Auction available for viewing in our Online Catalog. We’ll also have some pre-made categories available so that you can find the guns that interest you most with a simple mouse click. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to be one of the first to receive these updates! In the meantime, you’ll want to view our recently released 16-page mailer that gives a sneak peek at some of our Premiere Auction’s featured items.


Adler, Dennis. Colt Single Action: From Patersons to Peacemakers. Edison, NJ: Chartwell, 2007. Print.

Haven, Charles T., and Frank A. Belden. A History of the Colt Revolver, and the Other Arms Made by Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company from 1836 to 1940,. New York: W. Morrow &, 1940. Print.

Hogg, Ian V. Weapons of the Civil War. New York: Military, 1987. Print.

Wilson, R. L. Colt: An American Legend. New York: Morrow &, 1985. Print.

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