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MODEL 1860 COLT ARMY PISTOL – IDENTIFIED TO COMPANY E  8TH US CAVALRY – A HISTORIC AND WELL DOCUMENTED EARLY INDIAN WAR ISSUED REVOLVER IN VERY NICE CONDITION:   Perhaps the best known specimen of a Colt Model 1860 Army Revolver identified as having been in the inventory of the Company E, 8TH US Cavalry Regiment, this exact pistol is featured in a number of published references such as GUNS OF THE WESTERN INDIAN WARS by R.S. Dorsey, and ARMING & EQUIPPING THE US CAVALRY by D. Farrington.     

Manufactured in 1864, this Colt presents in its original form with none of the evidence of the refurbishing which so many of these early Indian War revolvers were subjected to.  The barrel is full length at 8”, and the cylinder was not repeatedly polished and retains a considerable amount of legible scene details.  All of the serial numbers match, including those on the cylinder, cylinder arbor, the wedge, and most importantly – the grip.    

Both sides of the pistol’s grip are legibly stamped “Co E 8TH CAV”, establishing the issue of this pistol to Company E of the 8TH US Cavalry Regiment   The format and font of this stamping is identical as those noted on the grips of two other Model 1860 Army revolvers, on a Remington New Model Army, and on two Model 1868 Sharps Carbines – all bearing the same “Co E 8TH CAV” stamping, using the same font and format.


The 8TH US Cavalry Regiment was created after the Civil War in 1866, at the Presidio of Monterey, California 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 that early Indian Wars period, the 8TH was attached to the Department of California, and Company E was stationed, and saw considerable action, in Oregon against the Modocs, in Idaho against the Nez Perce and Bannocks, and in the Arizona Territory against the Apaches.   

It is worth noting that while the army did not approve of 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, and more often than not, located the stamps on the same place on the firearms within a company or regiment.  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 that may be applied to enhance an unmarked piece, and as many 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 possible.   

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, numbered to this pistol and obviously original  to the revolver, are in very good condition with little of the significant wear commonly encountered on these Colt Army pistols which were used in the field.     

As a result, the fully legible stamping on these grips easily rates as excellent.  Both sides of the grip on this Colt were stamped “Co E  8TH CAV” in an arc following the curve of the grip.  Showing only the slightest amount of wear across the length of each stamping, all of the characters are fully present and only the sharp edges which would have stood proud of the surface when the grips were newly stamped have worn away with time and use.  The stampings on these grips is without doubt the best known surviving example of this unit’s markings on a pistol.  The original inspector’s cartouche is still faintly legible on the left side, immediately below the “Co E” portion of the stamping, between the stamping and the bottom edge of the grip.   

The mechanics are excellent, with the cylinder indexing properly and locking up tight at full cock.  The metal finish is very smooth with some of the original faded blue finish remaining in protected places.  The proper inspector’s marks are still visible, and the barrel address and frame stamping are clear and legible.  

An author's proof copy of GUNS OF THE WESTERN INDIAN WARS which featured this particular revolver will accompany this sale. 

Most of these post-Civil War issued 1860 Colt Army Pistols were exposed to harsh and extensive service on the frontier, and many of them probably did not survive to be available today.  Not only did this important specimen survive in very nice condition, but it also is unit marked in a well recognized manner which adds considerably to the value.  Well documented, these unit marked pistols have become very desirable and are quite difficult to find.  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.  (0104) PENDING



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