One good thing about working in a gunsmith shop is you never know what will come through the door. You get to see all kinds of guns ranging from high end collectables to glorified decoy anchors. The revolver in the picture rates as one of the high end collectables.
The gentleman who brought it in stated that his great grandfather carried it in the Civil War. This claim was met with some skepticism on my part. In my 25 some years in a gun shop it seems family legend gets in the way of the facts when it comes to the age of grandpa’s gun. Generally the family legend will age the firearm far beyond its years.
It’s almost a steady stream of family heirlooms coming through the door for restoration or appraisal. I’m always honest about the age of particular guns. I don’t let the customer’s family legend get in the way of doing my job. Most of the time the customer appreciates the honesty. Other times they do not. It’s hard to explain to a guy that the only way his grandpa could have carried a particular firearm at a particular time in history is if he was a time traveler!
The revolver in the picture is a Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver. This particular revolver was made from 1860 to about 1873. Total production was about 200,500. Most of the production was sent to the U.S. Government. The serial number on this particular Colt narrows production to about 1862-64.
Originally these revolvers left the factory with the barrel, cylinder and back strap blued. The hammer and loading lever were case color hardened. The brass trigger guard on military contract guns were left bare, civilian models were silver plated. The walnut grips on the military issued guns were oil finished, civilian models were varnished. Military guns will also be found with government inspectors marks stamped onto them.
The facts of this particular Colt were stacking up quite nicely for supporting the family legend. The time frame for production is correct, the finish of the gun is correct, and the presence of inspectors’ marks indeed lend credence to this Model 1860 being in service during the Civil War. The fact that the owner of this gun also has several other items from his great grandfather’s service proves positive that this revolver is indeed a Civil War relic.
The only difficult part of this appraisal is trying to attach a monetary value. Gun values can only be established by tracking the sale of similar firearms. With so few of these revolvers left in circulation, this is difficult. The condition of this particular Colt would be rated as poor, with the trigger and a few screws missing. But most guns of this era were made to be used. Very few surviving are in excellent condition. I would value this particular Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver at about $2,000.00.