This is a nice clean example of a Civil War era Colt Navy Revolver. Standard .36 caliber with 7 1/2" octagonal barrel, and six shot cylinder. The serial number is 107,716 which is desirable 1861 production. That year, Colt produced 20,000 units that fall in between the 98,000 and 118,000 serial ranges. With the outbreak of the Civil War beginning in April 1861, this Navy is right there in terms of manufacture...most likely built that Spring and no later than the Summer of 1861. This is such an interesting serial range because so much is going on in those first few months leading and up to and just after the outbreak of War. There are states and private citizens arming themselves both as Northern and seceding Southern States prepare for War. Many Colts just prior to the 100,000 serial range were shipping South with the less inflammatory "Hartford" barrel addresses instead of "New York", a town some considered to be at the Vanguard of the Abolitionist Movement. However, whether it was simply coincidence or a very clever marketing ploy, once the War began and sales switched to those trying to save the Union, Sam Colt quickly changed the barrel address on his revolver back to more well-known "New York" style. This particular gun has Sam Colt's newly reinstated and more patriotic sounding New York style address.
Springfield research gives us a good glimpse of where a few of these early 1861 production Navies went during the Civil War. It lists 51 Navies in the 106000-110,000 range (one, 107640 is 76 numbers from this gun) issued to Co A of the 3rd NY Cavalry. Unfortunately, the records show the issue date later in the War so we don't know what these were doing back in 1861....just that they show up on the radar screen in 1863 with a particular unit. Another one very close, No. 107695...just 21 numbers below this gun was issued to the 2nd Illinois Volunteer Cavalry....but once again, the record is later in the war. However, the most interesting group of Navies we found in this range are a batch from 107,000 to 110,000 issued to "McClellan Trp Tennessee Cavalry CSA". Clearly, some Colts were still crossing the Mason Dixon line after the war had begun. These show an issue date of August 21, 1861. The closest guns issued to this unit to our Navy, No. 107,716 are 107515, 107,583, 107,761, and 107,810. Without contacting Colt for a letter, but based on the fact that we now have records of similar Navies being issued to a Confederate Unit 4 months after the start of the War, its a safe bet that 107,716 was built sometime prior to August 1861.
Overall, condition is NRA Antique Very Good.with nice profiles and edges throughout. This gun was used but well-looked after and protected from the elements over the past 140+ years. Originally, we noted this gun had 100% matching numbers, but we were mistaken....its only 89% matching. Thanks to an astute reader, he pointed out that while the gun is numbered 107716, the backstrap number is 9 digits off at 107707. All I can say is its been on this gun forever and given the very close proximity, almost guarantees this gun was issued and saw military service within a closely numbered batch of other 1851's. The rest of the numbers are all matching including wedge, barrel, frame, arbor pin, cylinder, triggerguard, and loading lever. We even pulled the grips off and found its to be matching too. For a gun that went through the Civil War from the very beginning followed by 140 more years, 8 out 9 numbers still matching with the non-match being a non-critical part and only 7 digits away isn't too shabby! The brass triggerguard still retains 50% original silver plating. Backstrap shows 25% original silver plate mainly on the butt and around the junction to the frame. Wear is entirely consistent to that of the triggerguard and gun as a whole. The metal overall has worn to a pleasing silvery grey patina with strong traces of original blue above the loading lever and in protected areas around places like the barrel wedge and screw holes. The case colors on the frame and loading lever have mostly faded out with 10% lfaded but discernable colors mostly in protected areas....i.e... around the recoil shield and fulcrum of the loading lever. Cylinder retains approximately 50% of its roll-engraved cylinder scene. The safety pins on the back of the cylinder are worn down and mashed but still discernable. Good screws throughout. Mechanically, the action works beautifully. Barrel to frame lockup is excellent and very tight. Very Good bore. Grips are in very good condition with nice wood to metal fit with no chips, cracks, or repairs. Its hard to beat the history around this one's mid-1861 date of manufacture! Just a nice Colt 51 Navy with a very pleasing overall appearance.