This is an early Colt 1860 Army Percussion Revolver with full fluted cylinder and four screw frame. The serial number is in the 3,600 range which is prime real estate for the months leading up to the Civil War in 1861 when Colts were shipping to southern states. Fortunately, Colt still has some of these shipping records and while the research isn't cheap, $300-400, they're worth every penny in my opinion. This one has been in my collection for several years. We purchased it at a show from a Virginia-based dealer. The story that came with it was that it was acquired by a naval aviator from Red Jackson's armory while based in Texas during the 1960's. Jackson was a well-known antique gun dealer back in the old days and the fact that it was so well-used and had come from Texas had me nearly convinced this would letter with the Colt archives as having been in one of the two shipments of 1,000 (700 & 300) Colt Army's that went to New Orleans in April 1861. This shipment is widely believed to have ended up in the hands of Benjamin McCulloch's Texas Rangers at the beginning of the war. About ten years ago, we had one of these McCulloch Colts. It was in the 3,300 serial range and had shipped to New Orleans in the group of 700 on April 9, 1861. See link:
However, it was also close to one we had a while back that was also in the 3,600 range. This one was in a much smaller order of ten .44 Army's that went to B. Kittredge in Cincinnati but it too, had shipped shipped at the outbreak of the Civil War in April, 1861.
Excluding the possibility of it shipping in any other orders, I figured the odds were loosely about 100:1 that this Colt in the 3,600 range would have shipped to New Orleans. After all, it was found in Texas fifty years ago. I called Colt and anxiously awaited the news which took a few days. I remember being at a truck stop somewhere in Virginia on my way to the Baltimore show one cold March day when Colt called back with the news. To my surprise, this Colt had not gone to the Big Easy but had shipped in THE SAME ten gun order to B. Kittredge in Cincinnati on April 18, 1861. The irony was almost comical and I couldn't help but chuckle. How do I find two guns from a ten gun shipment 150 years ago and miss the ones in a 1,000 gun shipment to Texas? Well, I'm still proud to have gotten a letter on this and to be able to connect this Colt with some of its history. I guess the new way of looking at things was that we had now owned 20% of this shipment. The fact that it shipped to a town on the Mason-Dixon line and showed such an extreme amount of usage. The other one we found in the 3,600 range turned up in North Carolina...so both ended up here in the South at some point. That said, it's still quite plausible that it went to pro-Confederate territory...as Kentucky, just to the south was a very divided state. It's my understanding that much of northern Kentucky, with its fertile farm lands along the banks of the Ohio River were had more pro-Southern sympathies than their pro-Union Kentuckians living in the more mountainous areas to the south. That said, there were many guns sold in towns all along the Ohio River that ended up with Confederates at the beginning of the war. Even Henry rifles sold as late as 1862 in Louisville, KY were being purchased by Confederates.
Overall Condition rates NRA Antique Fair+ to Good Overall. This gun got used really hard...probably non-stop for four years from the looks of it. The metal has been cleaned up and has turned to a soft gray. There are some scattered pits on the cylinder the surfaces are fairly smooth overall. The frame, arbor pin, trigger guard, and backstrap (which is faint), have matching serial numbers. The numbers on the cylinder were probably located on the rear and have been worn away...as have the numbers on the barrel. The wedge has no number and is a replacement. COLT'S PATENT is visible on the left side of the frame and the barrel still shows a good New York Colt Address. Both of the other 1860's in the 3,300 and 3,600 range had New York addresses so it appears by at least April 1861, Sam Colt had changed his address from Hartford to New York. Bore is in good condition with strong lands and grooves. Barrel locks up to the frame tightly and the mechanics are perfect. Original walnut grips have been cleaned and a little underneath the straps. They're quite smooth with no cracks and since this is a commercially-sold 1860, no government inspector cartouches. There are a couple of chips (very well done) repaired but no cracks. This will display nicely in my opinion. Factory letter included with April 18, 1861 date of shipment. It is interesting to note that this Colt was shipped on the same day that the world learned of the attack and fall of Fort Sumter.
STEAMSHIP BALTIC, OFF SANDY HOOK
April 18,  10:30 a.m. via New York.
Having defended Fort Sumter for thirty-four hours, until the quarters were entirely burned, the main gates destroyed by fire, the gorge walls seriously injured, the magazine surrounded by flames, and its door closed from the effects of heat, four barrels and three cartridges of powder only being available, and no provisions remaining but pork, I accepted terms of evacuation offered by General Beauregard, being the same offered by him on the 11th instant, prior to the commencement of hostilities, and marched out of the fort Sunday afternoon, the 14th instant, with colors flying and drums beating, bringing away company and private property, and saluting my flag with fifty guns.
Major, First Artillery, Commanding.