This is an early "U.S." Marked Colt Single Action Army Revolver that is Ainsworth-inspected and was part of Lot Number Five that shipped to the United States government in 1874. It appears to have been found in semi-relic condition and was heavily cleaned many years ago. In spite of its rough condition, the "US" on the side of the frame, the slanted barrel address, and most importantly, the serial numbers are clearly legible. This one is number 5,264 which is right in the middle of the Single Action Revolvers issued to the 7th Cavalry. It has been inspected by Colt historian John Kopec and comes with a letter of authentication. In it Kopec states, "This revolver originated from Lot Five. Lot Five was one of the "prime" lots from which those revolvers which had been issued to the Seventh Cavalry were drawn. This issue was made on July 2, 1874 while the Seventh Cavalry was preparing to depart on its Black Hills Expedition."
The story that came with this revolver was told to a previous owner when he acquired it at an auction which held in Ontario, Canada several years ago. The auction house stated that this Colt was found along the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border many years ago and was owned by a man who worked for the Canadian Correctional Services. What makes this story so intriguing is that in the year following the defeat of Custer's 7th Cavalry at the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana on June 25, 1876, Sitting Bull led his band of Sioux into Canada in order to escape the relentless pursuit of the US Army. There, the Sioux lived in relative peace for four years before returning to the United States. Could this be one of the Colts that was taken from the 7th Cavalry and went to Canada with the Sioux? Without more concrete evidence, that would be difficult to state as a categorical truth. However, given its serial number, the other known surviving Colts above and below this number, its rough condition, that it came from Canada, and the story about it originating more specifically from western Canada, it cannot be excluded as a possible Custer Colt either!
Mr. Kopec's letter lists several SAA's with 7th Cavalry associations very close to our 5,264. This includes numbers 5,128, 5,147, 5,180, and 5,416. Just last month, several pieces of a Colt revolver that was excavated in the 1990's in Major Reno's Line (which lies adjacent to the Custer battlefield) was sold by the James D. Julia Auction House, Session 1, Lot number 1,433. There was one complete serial number that was still visible which was "5100" on the trigger guard. While the 7th Cavalry under Reno suffered heavy losses, they did have more cover within a line of timber than Custer's command which was exposed on a hill/s. Obviously, Reno's men were armed with Colts but following Custer's demise, so were Sitting Bull's warriors. It is believed that following the massacre, his warriors carried the Springfield carbines and Colt revolvers taken from Custer's men into the ongoing battle with Reno's troopers a short distance away.
While not in the 5,200 range, these were all close in serial proximity to these known examples. Furthermore, Kopec states that 5,264 was not among active duty Colt SAA's in the 5,200 range that were turned in during the recall of 1893. I presume these were converted from their original 7-1/2" Cavalry configurations to 5-1/2" Artillery Models. He notes "Our subject revolver #5264 however somehow escaped this recall period and has survived in its basic unaltered Cavalry configuration. This usually indicates a revolver which had been either lost, stolen (deserter) or had been an Indian captured example."
Condition-wise, this Colt is in Fair Condition. It is one ugly duckling but for a US Cavalry gun which could have been at Little Bighorn and captured by Indians, this is exactly what I'd expect to find. The metal shows heavy cleaning with signs of roughness underneath. As far as color, the metal overall is mostly a silvery gray with patches of an old reblue in protected areas. We took several photographs of the inside of the frame with the cylinder removed which shows much less cleaning to give you guys a better idea of what state this revolver was found in. As you'll see, it is quite rusty in the more hidden areas. While the cleaning removed the rust from the outside of the gun, it left numerous marks...as though it was put on a grinding wheel or heavily wire brushed. Fortunately, whoever cleaned it stayed for the most part off of the primary markings. For example, most of the early two-line patent dates on the left side of the frame are visible as is the "U.S." property marking. The early style slanted barrel address is mostly there as is the long-style checkered border on the hammer. The serial numbers on the trigger guard, frame, backstrap, and barrel are positively matching. The cylinder has its correct early short style cylinder stops and there is a partial serial number visible but was heavily damaged in the cleaning. Kopec notes that this number does not match. I agreed with this at first but after studying this for quite some time, I believe what's visible is indeed a matching number to this gun in the form of 5?6?....and most likely 5,264. Kopec notes the ejector tube is replaced, grips are replacements, as are several of the screws. The original firing pin tip on the hammer was most likely bent or broken as the little round bushing in the frame is cracked. See photos. This pin appears to have been replaced. Hammer appears to be original. Trigger looks to be original as well. The loading gate has been on this gun for forever, however, its three digit sub-assembly numbers do not match the sub-assembly number located underneath the trigger guard on the frame. This appears to have been a field swap during the gun's period of service with the US Army rather than a later replacement. Mechanics have been brought up to good working order. Bore is poor. We do have in our possession what we believe to be the original stop bolt to this gun which is broken in half.
If any of you have questions, feel free to contact me and I will do my best to answer them for you. This Colt will come with its Kopec letter and a notarized letter from its owner stating where it was acquired along with the story he was given about it coming from western Canada.