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“FAIR WEATHER CHRISTIAN” CARTRIDGE BELT – FRONTIER SOLDIER MADE FOR CARTRIDGES FOR THE HENRY RIFLE OR MODEL 1866 WINCHESTER OR THE .44 CALIBER SMITH AND WESSON AMERICAN AND COLT RICHARDS CONVERSION REVOLVERS  –  A VERY  RARE ONE OF A KIND FRONTIER BELT:  The rarity of this sort of accoutrement makes the decision to sell it very difficult, for these belts are a genuine pleasure to own, are undisputed examples of frontier related equipment, and are simply rare on the open market.  The well documented soldier made “Fair Weather Christian” belts for the .50 and .45 caliber ammunition, while never common on the collector’s market, are the most familiar.  Almost never seen are those frontier made belts, such as this specimen, that were fitted with loops to carry the early .44 caliber pistol rounds and/or cartridges for the Henry Rifle or Model 1866 Winchesters, hence a specimen such as this offering is indeed very rare.  As most of the enlisted soldiers would have been armed with one of the .50 caliber carbines and one of the pistols, it is likely this belt was worn by an officer, scout or perhaps an enlisted man who retained his Civil War issued Henry rifle.  An additional load of the standard .50 caliber carbine ammunition could have been carried on this belt in one of the “cut loop” cartridge pouches or boxes. 

This unique belt is fashioned using a full length Model 1851 Enlisted Infantry Waist belt as the base belt, to which a hand stitched strip of leather has been mounted to form the loops for .44 caliber cartridges.  The Model 1851 Enlisted Man's Belt Plate shows the appropriate use and still retains the hook and arrow shaped mounting points on the reverse.  The strip of leather forming the loops is made of commercially tanned leather that has been tarred or varnished in order to maintain the shape of the loops, similar to the treatment of the canvas cartridge loops on the Model 1876 Prairie Belts, hence the shine you see in the photographs below.  These loops do not have a treatment on them, rather this is the natural surface of the tar or varnish coating.  Whatever the coating was that was applied to this strip of leather, it apparently was affected by the aging process and exposure to the elements, causing the interior diameter of the loops to be reduced due to shrinkage to the point that the .44 cartridges will no longer fit in the loops without damaging the belt.  The size of the looped strip and the distance between the lines of stitching are firm evidence that this rare belt was intended for the .44 caliber cartridges, and while it would be a plus if the cartridges still fit in the loops, we simply do not have any control over the way these artifacts age through time.   

The belt measures 41” long and there are 36 loops for the cartridges.  There are two larger loops – one 1 ½” long and standing ¾” from the base belt, and the other almost 2” long and also standing ¾” from the belt – spaced so as to rest over the hips when the belt was worn.  We can only guess for what purpose these two larger loops were intended, perhaps to secure a sheath knife or attachment points for a set of suspenders to support the weight of the belt such as were used with the contemporary Model 1872 Infantry and Cavalry belts.  

All the features of this belt tell me this is a soldier made belt that most certainly saw service on the frontier during the early Indian Wars.  The rarity of this type of belt, particularly in .44 caliber, cannot be overstated as most did not survive the hard use to which they were exposed, and the few that do remain in private collections quietly move from one owner to the next on the infrequent occasions when they are offered for sale, almost never appearing on the open market. I would suspect it will be a long time before such an interesting specimen is seen again.  $3750 



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