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MODEL 1860 COLT ARMY PISTOL – IDENTIFIED TO COMPANY E 8TH US CAVALRY – A HISTORIC EARLY INDIAN WAR ISSUED REVOLVER:   One of the distinctive, and now well documented, evolutions of the Model 1860 Colt Army Revolver, this pistol was refurbished after the Civil War for reissue to the Frontier Army during the early Indian War years.  While many of the known specimens of this refurbishing effort have a “US” stamp immediately forward of the trigger guard bow, apparently not all of these refurbished pistols were so stamped.  During the refurbishing process the pistol was disassembled, the parts were polished usually resulting in the removal of the much of the cylinder scene, the muzzle was trimmed and  crowned, and the pistols were reassembled without regard for matching the original serial numbers, resulting in mixed numbers on the various parts.  

This pistol, although not stamped “US” on the trigger guard, presents with some compelling features which not only identify it as one of these early Indian War Frontier Army Colts, but also documents the issue of this pistol to Company E of the 8TH US Cavalry Regiment.   

The muzzle of the barrel has been trimmed resulting in a barrel length of 7 ¾”.  The cylinder has been polished, but much of the scene is still present, indicative that this pistol may not have required the heavy polishing noted on most of these refurbished Colts.  The serial numbers on the frame, backstrap and trigger guard are the same number – 88409, and the serial numbers on the barrel and cylinder are the same number – 69202, indicating the components of two pistols were combined during the refurbishing process.  The presence of mixed numbers is characteristic of these pistols and is well documented by several published researchers. 

Having saved the best for last, both sides of the pistol’s grip are stamped “Co E 8TH CAV”.  The format and font of this stamping is identical as those noted on the grips of another Model 1860 Army and on a Remington New Model Army – both pistols bearing the same “Co E 8TH CAV” stamping.  

The 8TH US Cavalry Regiment was created in 1866, after the Civil War, as the army reorganized and expanded to meet the demands of the advancing frontier.  Since the Model 1860 Colt Army pistols were replaced in 1874 with the adoption of the Model 1873 Colt Single Actions, the markings on the grips of this pistol were applied during that fairly tight intervening period of eight years.   During those years, the 8Th was attached to the Department of California, and Company E was stationed, and saw considerable action, in Oregon against the Modocs and in the Arizona Territory against the Apaches.     

It is worth noting that while the army did not approve such unit identification stamps on the firearms, and in fact, specifically prohibited the practice via written orders, there were several units on the frontier that regularly applied stamped identification marks on their guns, to include the 3RD, 4TH, 8TH, 9TH, and 10TH Cavalry Regiments.  Of special interest is that as the army discouraged the practice, and therefore never established a service- wide standard for content, font, or placement of the identification stamps on the arms, each unit developed their own unique criteria and style.  The unique nature of these stamps has proven to be a boon to modern collectors, as once familiar with the placement and style of a particular unit’s stampings, the collector is better equipped to identify genuine stamps from spurious stamps applied to enhance an unmarked piece, and as most of these early frontier arms were used heavily and often show significant wear, in the cases where a portion of the markings have been partially worn or obliterated, what markings remain are sufficient to make a complete identification of the unit to which the gun belonged. 

Such is the case with this Colt.  While in generally very good condition, the grips do show the expected wear of a pistol carried by a soldier serving on the frontier.  From what is legible, and as compared to the format of the stampings on the two other known 8TH Cavalry pistols, both sides of the grip on this Colt were stamped “Co E 8TH CAV” in an arc following the curve of the grip. 

The right side of the grip retains a legible “Co…..8…..CAV”, with the serifs of the “E” and the “TH” still visible under close inspection.  

On the left side of the grip retains a legible “Co E….. TH …..CAV”, with only the tops of the “E” and the “TH” being visible.  The heavier wear to the center portion of the line of stamping is consistent to that part of the grip that would have worn against the inside surface of the holster flap, particularly with the regular motion of the soldier on horseback.   

In spite of the wear, and the faded portions of the markings, there is no doubt whatsoever that the stampings are original to the pistol’s period of use, and that they are indeed genuine 8TH Cavalry markings.  The grips, giving every indication of being original to the revolver, are in very good condition with no significant wear at the toe and only the normally encountered handling marks with no cracks or breaks.   

The mechanics are excellent, with the cylinder indexing properly and locking up tight at full cock.  The metal finish is very smooth with a blue turned plum color overall, and with some traces of the case color patterns visible on the frame.  In the right light, some traces of the original blue finish still show through the patina in protected areas.  The proper inspector’s marks are still visible, and the barrel address and frame stamping are clear and legible.  The brass guard has a nice mellow patina and it is also stamped “CO” - perhaps an initial effort to stamp the unit marks before they were applied to the grip.  The edge of the muzzle is worn, a commonly seen indicator that the pistol was carried regularly in a mounted soldier’s holster where the constant motion buffed the edge of the muzzle against the toe plug of the holster.   

Most of these refurbished 1860 Colt Army Pistols appear to have seen extensive service on the frontier, and many of them probably did not survive to be available today.  Now that their place in the history of the Indian War Cavalry has been well documented, they have become very desirable and somewhat difficult to find.  That this particular specimen is unit marked in a well known manner adds considerably to the value.  There will be no doubt that you are holding a true piece of history from the early Indian Wars and one that was carried on the American Frontier.  SOLD




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