This is an original eight-shot cylinder from Colt's very first production gun, the Colt 1st Model Ring Lever Revolving Rifle produced from 1837-38. This one is from the 131st Colt ever produced. Although we associate Colt almost synonymously with revolvers and handguns, the Ring Lever Rifle was Colt's very first production model which actually preceded the Colt Paterson Revolver. This cylinder is in great shape and for 176 years old what's even more amazing is that over half of its original roll-engraved scene is still visible. If you look closely, you can still see the mythological Greek centaur firing his Colt rifle, the deer jumping over a fence followed by men on horseback. It's not a great scene as there is wear and some scattered pitting, but it's almost all there. The word "COLT" in the banner between the scene is still partially legible. See photos. Serial number on the back is 131. Another unique aspect of these early Colts was the use of four-pronged percussion nipples. This cylinder has all eight of its original nipples which are all in good condition. Strong traces of original blue in protected areas within the hole for the arbor pin. Caliber is .36". Diameter 2". Length 1.8". It's estimated that just 200 of these 1st Model Colt Rifles were produced.....fifty of which were sold to the US Army and shipped to Florida during the Seminole Wars. We were able to find a little bit of history pertaining to these first rifles from pg. 9-10, Colt Firearms 1836-1945, by JAMES E. SERVEN. 1954:
A GOVERNMENT ORDER--1838 During February 1834, Sam (Colt) departed for Florida, where the warring Seminole Indians were giving the United States Army serious difficulties. In Colonel William S. Harney, Sam found a staunch friend and the first Army officer to successfully champion Colt arms.
Because of Col. Harney's favorable recommendations, General Thomas S. Jesup purchased from Colt fifty revolving rifles, eight-shot pattern, of various calibers, at a price of $125.00 each.......Maj. G. J. Rains, active in the Seminole campaign later praised the rifles as follows: "This weapon, eight times as efficient in fire as the musket...is unequalled by any in the service."
...At the American Institute of the City of New York for the Encouragement of Science and Invention, Colt's rifle had won a gold medal in 1837. Again in 1838, Colt's rifle won the Institute's award. An exhibition of Colt's eight-shot rifles was held at the Battery, New York City, on February 19, 1838. At that time, Dick & Holmes, agents, offered Colt rifles for sale at $150.00 each. In times when a large glass of beer, costing five cents, brought with it a free lunch, $150.00 was not exactly a paltry sum!
This cylinder came to us from an older dealer who found it and kept it on his desk as a pen holder for many years. In spite of being sixty years old, Serven's book provided us with more information and photographs of Colt Ring Lever Rifles than any other Colt book in our library. As you will note from the pictures, this cylinder is identical to the ones photographed in Serven's book. It has the following important features:
1. Eight chambers chamfered at the muzzle
2. Square-shaped lugs between the chambers (most of the 2nd Models were rounded)
3. Double key slots on the rear of the cylinder
4. Percussion nipples with four pronged bases
5. Cylinder scene between two sets of ringed bands that features centaur firing a rifle with running horses and deer (with no house...as found on the 2nd model). "COLT" stamped at the end of the scene. See photos.
6. Serial number in the 130 range on rear face of cylinder, correct for a 1st Model.
Today, we see Colt Patersons selling at auction for astronomical figures from near relics that fetch over $30,000 to well-preserved belt pistols in their original cases landing well into the six-figure ranges. While sadly, these early Colts are well out of reach for many of us, that doesn't mean we can't own at least a part of that history and what better piece to have than the central tenet to Sam Colt's original vision...a revolving wheel on a gun. That said, this cylinder was the genesis of that dream coming to fruition for Colt. This is a rare chance to own a piece of Colt history from its earliest days in Paterson, NJ. It is almost certain that Sam Colt himself helped oversee the building of the rifle this cylinder once belonged to. Colt is one of the oldest companies in the United States spanning almost 180 years. Today it builds M-4 carbines for the Army but 176 years ago, Colt got its start building ring lever revolving rifles for who? Yes, the US Army. This would make the ultimate spare for a Ring Lever Rifle as many were sold with extra cylinders. If you're like me and don't have a ring trigger rifle to go with it, then congratulations, you will be the proud owner of the ultimate pen holder/paperweight. In the meantime, I'm going to put this beauty to work on my old desk sitting on paperwork and holding pens and pencils. Guaranteed 100% Original!