This is a nice Colt Model 1849 Pocket Percussion Revolver in .31 caliber, five-shot cylinder, and 5" octagon barrel. It is one of 11,000 Model 1849's produced at Samuel Colt's short-lived second factory in London, England from 1853-1856. Colt made quite an impression with the English populace at the 1851 London Exposition at the Crystal Palace which earned the Inventor top honors. Seeing an opportunity for the expansion of his revolvers, Colt opened a plant on the river Thames in 1852. These London Pockets are an amazing combination of Yankee industrial ingenuity and Old World English craftsmanship. They were made from the most advanced machinery capable of producing interchangeable parts, yet the hand work in terms of fit and finish were second to none!
Colt did well in the English market for a few years but had stiff competition with Tranter and Adams whose large bore double action revolvers earned a better reputation during the Crimean War and Indian Mutinies during the 1850's than the Colt Navy and Pocket Models. By 1857, Colt shut down his London factory and simply shipped his guns and remaining parts back to America. Many of his later production London Colts that had gone unsold in Great Britain were later sold on the American market while others were assembled from remaining stocks of London parts at Hartford. On a sidenote: it is not uncommon to find Hartford-made American Colts from the late 1850's with London components. Today we find quite a few of the original London guns here in the States. I think one could make a fairly convincing argument that there are as many or more London Colts here in the United States as there are in Europe. Given the timeframe involved, there is also little doubt that a significant number of London Colts saw service in both the Union and Confederacy during the American Civil War...especially the later production.
This one is in the 8,700 serial range and has 100% matching numbers! According to Colt's Dates of Manufacture by R.L. Wilson, it was made in 1855. Most American Colts had brass grip straps. That said, the most distinguishable feature of these London Colts is their iron trigger guards and backstraps. These were usually blued; however, there were a few Londons that had silver plated grip straps. Unfortunately, they're rarely noticed as very few have survived with little if any silver intact. This is one of the few that had silver plated over the iron straps and what's amazing is that it's almost all there...95+% of it! Condition-wise, it's one of the best London Pockets we've had to date...better than even some cased examples we've owned, but in terms of silver, we've NEVER had a better example than this one. This one came to us from a West Coast collection of a retired military officer who purchased it back in the 1960's and simply put it away in his safe where it sat for the past fifty years.
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Fine Plus with 50% original mirror bright deep Colt London blue on the barrel and cylinder with the balance either flaked or turned to a brown patina. The frame has 65% strong original case colors with the balance a mixture of spotting patina. Overall, there are some minor spots of light corrosion here and there from poor storage, but that said, it is uncommon to find antique weapons that are 160 years old with such a high percentage original finish intact. There were simply too many environmental factors that would have to be avoided for a weapon to survive sixteen decades through multiple owners and to be cared for in such a way that it showed any resemblance to what it looked like when it was new. The loading lever retains 70% original case colors. Backstrap is at 98% original silver plating with a few pinprick bubbles from age. Trigger guard shows 95% original silver plating with some minor loss on the edges of the bow and rear edge of the right profile. All I can say is that you will look long and hard to find better silver plating on a Colt London than this one has...especially in this price range. Mechanics are Very Good. The bore is almost perfect. Aside from a few spots of light corrosion, it is about 95% mirror bright with razor sharp lands and grooves. Again, to find a black powder weapon of this vintage with such a nice bore and blue still remaining on the cylinder, it is doubtful it was fired more than a few times. Original walnut grips are Excellent with 99% strong original varnish intact. Just a really super example of an early Colt Revolver.