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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I believe I have a Colt Model 1873 U.S. Artillery Model, Standard Blue finish. It has a 5 ½” barrel with “Colt PT F.A. MFG CO,HARTFORD CT USA” on the top and R.A.C. with a sideways P on the side . The trigger guard has a serial number of 113962 (with a single letter under that I cannot read) and a frame serial number of 114092. The cylinder has four charters (?888) and a small P and an A stamp on opposite sides. There are no other makings on the gun that I can see. The gun comes with plain wood grips. The finish is in good condition and comes with the original Lanz, Owen & Company, Chicago marked 1881 pattern US military two-stage flap holster.

The serial numbers point to the gun being manufactured in 1884/1885. I understand that Rinaldo A. Carr “R.A.C.” inspected these guns from 1889 to 1909. I assume this is one of the guns returned to Colt in 1895 to be refurbished and altered to a 5 ½ inch barrel “Altered Revolver”. This may account for the mismatched serial numbers.

How do I determine the full history of this gun. Are the parts original? Was it refurbished in 1895 by Colt? How do I value it for insurance coverage? I was told by the last owner that the gun was in storage since 1942. However, the last owner can not remember if the gun was cleaned or refinished during that time.
 

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Sometime in the past it has been refinished and re blued, not at Colt. If it has been in storage for 60 years, then the refinishing happened prior to that time. Even if other wise correct in all aspects, the re bluing would knock a large amount off the potential value, perhaps even as much as one half. I could be wrong, been wrong before and I know I will be wrong again in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
RonJames:

I called the last owner and asked him if the gun had been refinished or re blued at any time in the last 60 years. He said he could not recall. I'm not an expert so I would not know the difference. How can you tell that it was re blued?
 

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It's actually a very bad rebluing job. All the crisp edges are rounded and the screw holes are slurred.
The frame was color case-hardened originally.
 

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Since insurance value is at best a guestimate, I suggest $1000. You might be able to sell it for that to someone wanting a 'project' to recreate or restore to be a somewhat collectible artillery. OTOH to seek to buy an artillery for $1000 would be hard to find except one with major faults. An artillery in fair to good condition will price 2000-2500 & up. A nice one sold recently at LGS for 5000+.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
I appreciate all the input. I assume that all of the Colts produced at that time had case-hard finished frames. Since my frame looks new, it must be because it was re-blued. I would appreciate any comments about my understanding of the model, age, and history of this gun. Also, I have a box of 35 year old Winchester 45 Colt, 255 gr. Lead Cartridges. Winchester told me that they are rated at 14000 PSI. If I get the gun checked by a gun smith, can I shoot these loads? Thanks
 

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It wasn't until 1900 that Colt guaranteed their Single action for use with smokeless powder. The actual serial number range that saw the switch from cast iron frames to steel frames is a little cloudy, one reference states that serial number 144000 was the cut off, another states it was 188000. Your serial number falls well with in the cast iron era. Shooting modern smokeless cartridges may not be dangerous ( I haven't heard of them blowing up ) but I have heard reports ( quite a few of them ) of cracked frames. Opinions are like belly buttons, every one has one and each is different, Me, I would not shoot it with modern smokeless ammo. JMHO for what it is worth.
 

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Shooting modern smokeless cartridges may not be dangerous ( I haven't heard of them blowing up ) but I have heard reports ( quite a few of them ) of cracked frames.
I actually saw one let go, or at least start to. Best way I could describe it was two lateral cracks at the front and rear portion of the top strap - as if the revolver's frame were being stretched. This was back in the late '60s, and though I do remember the caliber was .45 Colt I've no idea what serial number range this particular SAA was in.
 

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I'm working from memory (always bad) but if the revolver is indeed an "Artillery Model" would it not have the "U.S." stamping on the left side of the frame? Also have the inspector's marking on the bottom of the frame?

Its possible that most all the markings have been polished off. (Crying shame) I suppose you could apply for a Colt letter which would solve the question.

I sold one of these models a few years back and the bottom of the frame was stamped D.F.C. which I think were the initials of David F. Clark who was an army officer who took delivery of the revolver for the Army in 1882.

Like I say I'm working from memory but I'm sure that "my" revolver had the U.S. Stamping and the D.F.C. stamping intact. Whomever polished off the stampings, if that is what happened, should be stoned.
 

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Forgot to mention, you can apply to Colt (I think you still can) and using the serial number stamped on the frame request a "Colt letter" showing the date the gun was shipped from the factory and by whom it was received. If it was a military gun it will show that also. When I requested the letter on the revolver I sold, the fee was $50, that was five years ago so may be more now.
The grip on my revolver also was stamped RAC in very small letters about
1/16" high.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I had a gunsmith look at the Colt today. He checked the serial numbers and markings and concluded that the gun was original and mfg. in 1885. He thinks that the "U.S." mark on the frame was removed when it was refinished. He also concluded that this gun was at some point in very bad condition (rusted and pitted) and it needed a lot of sanding before it was re-blued. The good news is that he certified the gun to be in good mechanical condition and safe to fire. Thanks for the information and feedback.
 

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Sorry it was not as valuable as you wished, however if your gunsmith certified a 1885 cast iron Colt safe to fire with modern smokeless .45 Colt ammo, then he is in error, again , I don't think it will blow up ( maybe ) but there is a very real probability you will turn what ever value it has into a handful of junk parts. Just my two cents. Good Luck.
 

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Maybe you could get some 45 black powder loads for it. You could shoot these with no problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Last Update - I sent pictures to the Colt Archives Dept. They confirmed the “114092” frame serial number and it left the Colt factory as a .45, blued, with a 7 ½” barrel, and would have been marked a U.S. gun. The gun was definitely refinished. They believe that the patent markings are no longer on the frame due to deep buffing prior to refinishing by a third party. It looks like the Government returned the revolver to Colt around 1895-96 to be refurbished and altered to a 5 1/2" barrel. Also, the gunsmith advised me to shoot only low pressure black powder or smokeless powder special "Cowboy Loads".
 

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neal, thank you for posting back with the new information, You still have a vey nice gin-u-wine old Colt. Use light loads and enjoy and shoot safe.
 
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