At first glance, this looks like a reproduction but it's actually a real Civil War vintage Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver that someone had restored within the past twenty years. The serial number is in the 55,000 range which dates its production to approximately mid-1862 and it bears U.S. military inspection markings. Standard 8" barrel in .44 caliber with six shot rebated cylinder, and three screw style frame. Barrel is clearly marked "--ADDRESS COL SAML COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA--". The left side of the frame is stamped "COLT'S PATENT". The left side of the walnut grips retains the original US government inspector's cartouche as well as sub-inspector initials on several other parts. The serial numbers are matching on the barrel, frame, trigger guard, back strap, and grips. The wedge and arbor pin are not numbered and appear to have been newer additions during the restoration. The cylinder is numbered but several hundred numbers off from the rest of the gun. It is not a recent replacement, is original production, bears US gov't sub-inspector markings, and appears to be what many collectors dub as "a campfire swap"...a common occurrence during wartime. Since cylinders were often removed from the frames for reloading and cleaning, it was quite common for cylinders to get mixed up and/or switched with another from Model 1860 Army Revolver. To illustrate this point, the Colt 1860 was the weapon of choice for most Union cavalrymen during the Civil War with soldiers often carrying more than one. See photo (below) of Union soldier with two Colt Model 1860's tucked into his belt. That photo (probably taken 150 years ago) gives us a unique glimpse into how cylinders from a cohabitating pair of Colt revolvers (which may or may not have been in similar serial ranges) could have easily been mismatched with one another.
Overall Condition grades to Excellent Plus as restored. The attention paid to detail, quality, and accuracy of this restoration are in our opinion well above average. It's a good "five-footer" meaning from a few feet away, it could pass for a $20K minty original to the untrained eye. Another way of putting it...this would be very acceptable as a movie prop used by a lead actor.
If we broke down levels of restoration into categories, (1) the lowest being a so-so job by a home enthusiast, (2) the next highest, a simple refinish by a regular gunsmith, (3) the third by a gunsmith who specializes in general restoration, and (4) the highest being a very expensive restoration where new parts were fabricated, markings restamped by a large operation staffed by specialists...this would be somewhere in the 3rd level.
The work appears to have been done by a professional who knew how to expertly polish metal without rounding off corners or hurting markings. This person also did a good job of applying the same finishes to each individual part as one would expect to find when this Colt was new. For example, the loading lever, frame, and hammer are case color hardened while the barrel, cylinder, plunger, and backstrap were finished using a high lustre blue. The screws and trigger were fire blued which is one of those little details that an amateur or general restoration will miss. The original wood grips were also refinished using a properly military style low sheen oil finish instead of the varnished grips one usually finds on a Colt sold on the civilian market. High wear parts such as springs, locking bolt, cylinder pawl, percussion nipples, barrel wedge, cylinder pin, and perhaps the occasional buggered screw have been replaced with correct new parts.
The quality of the blue is not quite 19th century but on par with that of a 2nd generation or 3rd generation Colt reproduction...very nice. Case colors are almost an art form in itself and achieving perfection is often beyond the reach of most small shops. The colors on this Colt are good but not quite correct for an original Colt. That said, the same could be said for almost all of the Italian replicas on the market.
The gunsmith who rebuilt this gun did something very smart when he got to the cylinder as it still retains 75% to 80% of its original roll-engraved naval engagement scene. He polished to a high lustre but stayed off of the forward section to preserve as much of the original scene as possible. The tradeoff is that this area has a more dull/matte blue appearance with more imperfections from the lack of polish but I would take this any day over a cylinder that's been buffed smooth with no scene left.
The grips are in good shape but a shade or two under the backstrap. The front corners are rounded a bit...which is most likely from wear sustained during the Civil War as most military-used 1860's have this to some degree. Great care was taken to clean up the surfaces of the walnut without damaging the original inspector's cartouche which is clearly visible on the right side. The grip still retains its original serial number inked into the wood underneath the backstrap. A major restoration would have most likely replaced original wood in slightly worn condition with replicas. Again, like the cylinder scene, I would prefer to have a restored gun with as many original components as possible even if these areas detract somewhat from the cosmetics. If appearance is important, one can always have a set of new grips made and a new cylinder installed while keeping the original components in reserve. The action is in nice working order. Cylinder indexes properly, locks up, with hammer still functioning on half and full cock. There are some small blemishes between the stop notches indicating the cylinder has been turned. Bore is original with all rifling intact and remains in Good+ condition with some scattered light pits. No rings or bulges. All in all, this would make a fantastic display gun that would cost a fraction of an original in similar condition.