This is an old well-used Colt Single Action "Artillery" Revolver in .45 Colt with 5 1/2" barrel. From about 1895-1903, the US Army had their entire inventory of original 7 1/2" barrel Cavalry revolvers rebuilt and converted to the shorter 5 1/2" configuration. The work was performed by both Colt and the Springfield Armories with many original Cavalry guns being rebuilt by one only to be re-configured by another at different dates. By the 1890's, the Colt SAA had been almost retired from military service in favor of the quick-firing and faster loading Colt New Army Double Action revolver chambered in .38 Colt. The Artillery model was the final re-incarnation of the .45 Caliber Single Action Army revolver made up of the bones of these old and forgotten 7 1/2" Cavalry revolvers. Nonetheless, the SAA may have been slower to load and fire, but they could stop anyone who stepped in front of it. The Colt Artillery Model served with US Troops like Roosevelt's 1st USVC during the Spanish American Wars in Cuba and later the Phillipines where it came to the rescue after its .38 Double Action replacement was found ineffective at stopping the fierce Moro tribesmen.
Like most Artilleries, this one has mismatched serial numbers made up of Cavalry SAA's that served during the Indian Wars of the 1870s and 1880s. The only exceptions are the barrel and cylinder which are both correct and original US Gov't-inspected replacements (by Inspector Ronaldo A. Carr RAC--see photos) installed during its rebuild for the Army. Note the very slight beveling on the front face of the cylinder...this is correct for an RAC marked Artillery rebuild as noted in the Kopec book. Barrel address reads "COLT'S PT. F.A. MFG. C o HARTFORD CT. U.S.A. -" The frame is marked "US" on the left side w/1871, 72, and 75 Patent dates (last date is partially worn away) in the 55,000 range (circa 1880) still showing its original DFC (David F. Clark) military inspector stamp. The trigger guard is in the 17,000 range with a small "J" underneath....one of Casey's Custer-era sub-inspectors initials from 1875. The backstrap is in the 31,000 range (very light) that dates to 1877. The grips show a great deal of holster wear across the sides with not a trace of the original cartouches visible. Late-style ejector rod with original bronze spring intact. The hammer has been with this gun forever but its not the traditional military checkering but rather what is known as the early Civilian style shorter checkering pattern 14/32" long. At first, thought this was a very old replacement but given the late style RAC inspected Barrel and Cylinder, this hammer very well may be a correct Artillery rebuild replacement. I dug out my old copy of the Single Action Book by Graham, Kopec, and Moore (1976) and it notes on P. 272:
"As a general rule, the cross-hatching was short on the old style civilian hammers than on the Government revolver hammers. There are indications that when stocks of the original "old style" hammers were used up, that some of the later factory alterations (Artilleries) had fine checkered civilian style hammers fitted, and several such specimens have been observed."
Overall condition grades to NRA Antique Good+. The metal is a little worn and has been cleaned, now turned to a pleasing soft grey patination. It shows quite well and will eventually haze back to a light brown patina. The edges and corners are generally good with some roundness to some of the edges. Markings are generally good and legible with exception of the lowest patent date on the frame and the backstrap number are partially worn. Very good screws overall. Very good bore and good mechanics. Grips are in good condition with very good wood to metal fit. No chips or cracks. Just a decent representative of a Colt Artillery Model.