We just picked this one up at a Civil War show. This untouched Colt 1851 Navy was found in Kentucky, where it had been kept within a family for many years. This Navy is so nice, that at first glance, I mistook it for a post Civil War era gun; that is until I was corrected by its owner. He was RIGHT! The serial number is in the 172,000 range which actually dates it to the latter part of 1863...and within several weeks to a few months of the Feb. 1864 fire that left Colt Mfg. mostly in ruins and severely curtailed production.
Specs: This is a 4th Model with the large trigger guard, 7-1/2" octagonal barrel in .36 caliber. The numbers are 100% matching. It has the standard one-line address which reads: -ADDRESS COL. SAML COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA-. Left side of frame is marked COLTS PATENT. Cylinder has all of its original naval engagement scene between the Texas and Mexican navies. Front of cylinder has a couple of minor nicks along the scene date but nonetheless is clearly marked ENGAGED 16 MAY 1843. Over its 23 year span of production, no year saw more 1851 Navies leave the Colt factory than 1863. It has the gaudy, more colorful case hardening compared to the more subdued tones we find on '51 Navies from the 1850's. The silver plating is also not as durable as 1850's production although this one is so nice, it's managed to hold onto quite a bit of its silver across the trigger guard.
The Model 1851 Navy was one of Colt's most popular revolvers with sales from all over the world. These .36 caliber six shooters were quite popular in Great Britain, seeing service in the Crimean War, Egyptian army, and even saw use with the Prussian navy which intercepted a shipment bound for Russia. Of course, they were also in wide use here in America...from the time of the California Gold Rush, US Dragoons during the 1850's, and saw heavy use in the hands of Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. The 1851 remained in production until 1873 when it was finally replaced with Colt's new lineup of cartridge revolvers, following the expiration of the Rollin White patents held by Smith and Wesson.
Overall, NRA Antique Excellent Condition. Frame retains 90% bright original case colors. Barrel has 80% original blue full coverage with 20% brown patina mixing throughout..and some tap marks around the wedge on the left side of the lug. It's not often we come across a percussion Colt with much of its original blue remaining on the cylinder...but this one still has 80% original blue that's thinning with perfect cylinder scene. Loading lever has 60% original case colors mixing through a dark patina while the hammer shows 35% of its original case colors. The screws are Good to VG condition overall...with about half showing significant amounts of their original fire blue. Even the trigger is still wearing 80% of its original blue. Trigger guard has 70% of its original silver plating which has nicely tarnished over many decades of storage. There are just traces of silver plate remaining in protected areas on the backstrap. Grips are almost perfect with 95% original varnish intact with the walnut still light brown in color with very little darkening from dirt, oil, or grease. A few light compression marks on the left side...otherwise, they're just about perfect with no chips, cracks, or repairs. As mentioned earlier, we checked and they are indeed correctly numbered to the gun by hand in India ink. Mechanics are Very Good throughout with the cylinder indexing properly...full and half cock work...barrel is tight to the frame, and there is zero lateral movement or "play" between the cylinder, frame, and barrel assemblies. Bore is in Good+ condition with strong lands and grooves...but a little frosty with a few pits. For a Civil War production Colt Navy, this revolver is in exceptional condition and certainly worthy of being paired with a factory wooden case.