This is a fantastic pre-1898 antique first-generation Colt Single Action Army revolver that was engraved and restored some years ago by Master Engraver Ken Hurst. Mr. Hurst is one of THE BEST! He was formerly the Master Engraver at both the Colt and Winchester Custom Shops before starting his own independent shop in the mid-1980's. His work is world reknowned, often employing the use of bold scrolls with intertwining vignettes. It's truly an honor to have one of his works residing in our online gallery. The gun is signed "K. Hurst" on the bottom of the frame next to the serial number and the bottom of the barrel next to the ejector housing.
The gun itself is an original 1883 Vintage 1st Gen Colt SAA in the 99,000 serial range. Caliber is 44-40 with a 4-3/4" barrel. The gun is almost completely engraved in what would equate to Colt Custom shop Level D coverage. Most engraved guns we encounter are nickel-plated. The metal on this one is silver-plated: a scarce and seldom seen finish in this day and age. Silver plating is really one of those 19th century "old school" finishes that is often over-looked. True, it's not as tough as nickel and it will need a polish from time to time if not protected, but as you'll see in the photos...this nearly pure white metal really does a wonderful job showing off Hurst's beautiful engraving. Adding contrast to the silver, the screws, trigger, cylinder pin, and ejector rod housing are deeply fire-blued. If you look closely, you'll notice that Mr. Hurst even engraved the screws. Finally, the gun was stocked with a magnificent pair of REAL mother of pearl grips by Larry Smith. He even fitted original Colt German silver escutcheons for the grip screw. The result of the engraving, silver plate, fire blue, complemented with mother of pearl makes this old Colt visually stunning.
The first time I saw this combination of engraving, silver, pearl, & fire blued appointments was on a 1st Gen .41 SAA Colt engraved by Ben Lane some years ago. I have seen A LOT of guns in my lifetime but that gun really made an impression on me. Personally speaking, it's not very often that art trumps the originality on a 19th-century Colt. What was going on here? Why aren't there more custom engraved Colts out there with this combination! Well, I pondered this for quite some time and reached the conclusion that given the opportunity some day, we would acquire an SAA and explore this a bit further. Easier said than done without breaking the bank account but we finally got that chance with this gun.
Mother of Pearl: Everybody who's ever seen the movie "Patton" remembers what happened when a "Stars and Stripes" reporter mistook George Patton's ivory-handled Colts for being "pearl-handled revolvers". Needless to say, the General was no fan of pearl grips when he corrected the reporter in rather colorful language. Ivory is generally the material of choice for grips on engraved Single Actions but it wasn't always that way. Believe it or not, during the height of the Old West, mother of pearl grips were quite popular on Colts from around 1880-1910. It was exotic, pleasing to the eyes, and coupled with a nickel or silver plating, it was unbeatable... One could make a pretty good argument that pearl even outsold ivory as the material of choice on SAA's leaving the Colt Custom Shop back in the 1890's. Unfortunately, in spite of its beauty, pearl has its downside. It's fragile, hard to work with and has gotten harder to find over the years as the world's oyster beds have been mined of their largest and oldest shells. As a result, pearl has almost become a lost art. According to their 2010 catalog, ivory is still available on a new Colt. However, pearl is not an option with Colt's custom shop. While I'm an admirer of old opaque ivory, pearl has depth; it's translucent which allows it to show figure and multiple colors 3-dimensionally. As a collector, it's interesting to observe the different colors and figure which is not unlike a piece of burl walnut.
Looking at an engraved Colt such as this one, we've noticed how the bright silver around the engraving reflects light away from the gun and the fire blued appointments add contrast to the silver. However, rather than reflect, light sinks down into the pearl grips, revealing figure that almost glows from inside. There are lots of fantastic engraved guns out there where the finish doesn't reflect properly and simply swallows up the art. Silver, fire blue, and pearl handles may seem like an 19th-century fad in modern gun art, but we can't think of a more complementary combination in bringing out the finely detailed work of a master engraver like Ken Hurst. The result is one seriously stunning piece of eye candy.
Overall condition is NRA Antique Excellent Plus as an older restoration. The silver plating is 99.99% intact with no bubbling or flaking. Pearls are Excellent. Excellent screws throughout. The mechanics work perfectly with a Very Good+ to Fine Bore. Once again, we've done our best to find a beautiful gun for a reasonable price. If you were to order a new Engraved Single Action from Colt with D level coverage by a master engraver, it would cost you nearly $8,000 just for the engraving. With silver plating ("price on request"...yikes), ivory (about $800...the closest thing as pearl is not available), fire blue appointments (about $150), plus the gun ($1300), you're easily looking at a price tag of over $10,000 to have this done for a gun you've never seen. That would still be a bargain compared to buying a factory-engraved 1st Generation Colt where low-finish examples usually start at $20,000 and rise quickly based on condition. This Colt offers the best of both worlds...an original antique Colt 1873 SAA revolver, engraved and signed by a former Colt Master Custom Shop Engraver, finished and stocked exactly like a 19th-century gun with silver, fire blue, and pearl, for a price that's well under both an original factory-engraved gun or a newly-made Single Action from the Colt Custom Shop.