This is an early Four Screw Colt Model 1860 Army Percussion Revolver in .44 caliber with 8" barrel. The serial number is in the 8,600 range which dates it to mid-1861 production with 100% all matching numbers. It has excellent markings, 30% cylinder scene remaining, and safety pins on the back of the cylinder are still visible. For an early 1860 that was probably one of the first ones issued in the Union Army in 1861, it is in remarkably nice shape. This is the third example we've had in the 8,500 to 9,000 serial range and each one of these has had a unique inspector cartouche on the right grip. It's in a large oval and instead of the traditional three-letter initials on the US Army Inspector, it has four letters. There were only two inspectors that I can find in the Civil War with four letter initials. One worked for the Navy (so not our guy) and the other was in the Army. His name was Robert Henry Kirkwood Whitely. In his early years, Whitely attended West Point where he met and became good friends with another cadet named Robert E. Lee. After graduating, Whitely saw a number of assignments in the Ordnance Dept. At the oubreak of the Civil War, Lee tried to get his old friend to head the Confederate Ordnance Department, however Whitely stayed in the Army siding with the Union. At the beginning of the war, Whitely filled a number of assignments before becoming the commander of the Allegheny Arsenal following a disastrous accident that occurred in Sept. 1862. While it is well-known that Whitely inspected a number of arms and accoutrements throughout his career, among them Colt dragoons, Batty peace flasks, and Sharps carbines, his inspection of Colt 1860 Army's is unpublished to date. Fortunately, author Charles Pate is writing a new book on the 1860 which will greatly expand our knowledge of the subject. Part of the reason for this is because Whitely inspected so few and given the wear these early ones saw after four years of combat, many are no longer visible. Fortunately, we had one a few years back that was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art many years ago that was an absolute screamer. It had a great cartouche and its large oval border was so unique, that we were able to identify two more with weaker markings...including this one. All have been in the upper half of the 8,000 serial range. Here are the two previous ones which are in the 8,500 and 8,800 serial range.
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Very Good with near Excellent bore and great mechanics. Overall, the metal is a silvery gray and was probably lightly cleaned in the 1920s or 30s for display purposes. It has great edges and contours and really photographed well. Grips are solid with no repairs and nice wood to metal fit. For such an early 1860, this one is in exceptional shape.