This is an original Colt Second Model Dragoon Percussion Revolver in .44 caliber. Mfd in 1851. The serial number is in the 10,400 range. Of the three Colt Dragoon Models produced during the 1840's and 50's, the Second Model is the least common with only 2,700 produced. The early Colt Walkers and Dragoons never fail to leave an impression. There is something about the angular trigger guards (or "squareback" guards) that gave the early guns a distinct and rather "sinister-like" appearance. Original Colt advertisements stretched those qualities further by elongating the appearance. To make it look even more menacing, it was often illustrated with the hammer fully cocked and at a slant so that the muzzle and cylinder chambers were visible. See photos. Colt was at least partially keeping up with the times as the squared trigger guard was quite in style on New York and New England style percussion sporting and target rifles from the late 1840's through early 1850's. The Colt offered more than just looks...here was a powerful six shooter in .44 caliber back when most guns were single shots. To say these guns were popular back then seems rather understated given the amount of wear surviving examples tend to show. Dragoons and Walkers probably saw as much severe use as any weapon during the 19th century. Many saw continuous use in the US military, the Civil War, frontier, or in some cases perhaps all three. As a result, survival rates are believed to be quite low with only around a 7-8% survival rate for 2nd Model Dragoon.
Second Model features: True to 2nd Models, it has the rectangular cylinder stops and flat mainspring with the roller bearing on the hammer. As previously mentioned, it has the squared trigger guard and walnut grips. This was originally sold on the civilian market and not the US Army as the backstrap and trigger guard were originally silver plated. There is also a letter "O" stamped below the serial number...which is commonly found on other civilian market dragoons. The only modification to this gun is the addition of a small brass lanyard ring on the base of the back strap. From previous experience, this practice (which is not uncommon) indicates use by a horse soldier or cavalryman. The lanyard has been there for probably as long as the gun. If you look closely, you'll see a nice patina has formed around the stud and protected the original silver plating on the bottom strap.
This gun came from an elderly gentleman who lived in the eastern part of North Carolina not far very far from the Albemarle Sound, and he had owned it for over 30 years. It was in rough shape and appeared to have come out of a barn or shed...as it had a very heavy patina and showed evidence of being used as a hammer or tool at some point during its life. With the lanyard on the base of the grip, I can imagine this revolver must have had quite a story to tell. These types of lanyards were added to many Colts in cavalry units during the Civil War. Given it turned up in the South, was a civilian market Colt, and like many southern weapons, showed extensive wear, I couldn't help but wonder if this had belonged to a Confederate soldier. Whatever the history behind this gun, the years had not been kind to this old Colt. When we found it, the action was rusted up, the metal turned to a heavy brown patina showing lots of abuse, and a piece of wood jammed into the wedge slot was all that was holding the barrel to the frame. There were heavy dings in the metal where it had been used as some sort of tool...and some small but bothersome patches of pitting. In spite of the abuse and the terrible state of disrepair it was in, there was one thing that swayed me. This gun still had its original wooden grips and they were still in pretty good shape. Over the years, we've seen a fair number of Dragoons with grips that have been sanded down, busted, had major repairs, and ones with replaced grips. To see this gun with such a good and solid pair of original grips and knowing this more than likely came from the South, we decided to try and save it. After a year and two tours through our gunsmith's shop, the gun is now in good working order and presentable as a good representation of the 2nd Model.
Overall condition grades now up around NRA Antique FAIR+ to GOOD. The metal is mostly silvery gray showing considerable wear but with generally good edges and fair markings. Trigger guard shows 1-2% original silver in protected areas. Back strap shows 7% confined to the base of the grips where it was protected by some cavalryman's improvised lanyard ring. The barrel address is about 75% legible and reads "ADDRESS SAM L COLT N?W ???K CITY-". The COLT'S PATENT on the left side of the frame has been obliterated with but if you look closely, you can see fragments of the marking. Good serial numbers on the frame, barrel, trigger guard, back strap, and loading lever. The cylinder has no original scene remaining but the serial number is still partially visible...what's there matches the rest of the serial numbers. The wedge is a replacement but looks very convincing and would be hard to tell from an original. Grips are in Good+ condition and exhibit what appears to be about 40% original darkened varnish. Very solid with some natural shrinkage around the grip straps. For a Colt Dragoon, these grips are in exceptional condition. Action is in Very Good working order. Barrel to frame lockup is nice and tight. Hammer works on full and half cock position. Cylinder indexes properly and locks up just like it should. Back of cylinder shows traces of the original safety pins. The arbor pin or "cylinder pin" has a neat old hammer weld near the wedge slot. Has been there forever. The mechanics have been rebuilt and are in good working order. All in all, a good representative of a scarce 2nd Model Dragoon that came from the southeastern US.