This is a matching and all original Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver serial number 116018. This revolver was manufactured in 1861 and was issued to and used during the Civil War by Company G, 3rd Iowa Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. Colt only manufactured 20,000 Model 1851 Navy Revolvers during this first year of the Civil War.
The engraved scene on the cylinder depicts the battle between the Texas Navy and Mexican ships with the date of the battle, “Engaged 16 May 1843.” The Colt Model 1851 Navy measures 13” in length and weighs approximately 2 pounds 9 ounces, considerably lighter than its Dragoon ancestors.
The Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver is generally grouped into three basic classifications: 1. Square Back Trigger Guard; 2. Small Rounded Trigger Guard; and 3. Large Rounded Trigger Guard. Within each of these classifications, known as “First Models,” “Second Models,” etc., collectors have created several others that have unique characteristics. The First and Second Models with square backed trigger guards were produced in the serial number range of 1 to approximately 4,200. The Third Model incorporated the small, round trigger guard and is subdivided into early, middle and late Third Models. Generally, the Third Model with the small, round trigger guard are found in the serial number range 4,200 to 85,000. Finally, the Fourth Model, which has the large, rounded trigger guard, is also subdivided into early, middle and late. The Fourth Model begins around serial number 85,000 and goes until the end of production around serial number 215,000.
As noted, the Fourth Model 1851 Navy is typically subdivided into three sub-models, with the early model being in the serial number range 8,500 to 118,500. The Middle Fourth Model is in the serial number range 118,500 to 165,000. The Late Fourth Model is in the serial number range 165,000 to 215,000 This particular Model 1851 Navy, serial number 116,018, is considered an Early Fourth Model. The serial number range for Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolvers manufactured in 1861 is 98,000 to 117,999. Based on the serial number of this revolver, it is estimated that it was manufactured in October or November 1861. This timing matches perfectly with the formation of the 3rd Iowa Cavalry Regiment in the fall of 1861.
The principal characteristics of the Early Fourth Model, and what differentiate them from the other Fourth Models, are: 1) a large rounded trigger guard, measuring 1 3/16th inches long by 14/16th inches deep, 2) loading lever catch is the thin type, and 3) larger percussion shield cutout placed in the lower half of the shield with no capping groove.
The Frame on this Colt has the matching serial number "116018" on the bottom. The original case-hardened finish is now generally a pleasing plum patina. All three of the single-slot Frame Screws are present. The left front portion of the Frame has the "COLTS/PATENT" stamp, which is still easily seen with no wear. The Cylinder Stop is present and undamaged, and it secures the Cylinder firmly when the Hammer is cocked, during firing (hammer fall) and when the Hammer is at rest. The original Arbor is present and it is serial number matching with “16018” stamped on the bottom. The grease threads are unmarred.
The original Hammer is present with the cross-hatching on the thumb piece, known as the Hartford Type Hammer Knurling, and it exhibits a plum patina throughout. There are eight diamonds in the checkering from top to bottom. The internal Hand, which advances the Cylinder during cocking, is present and undamaged and it still advances the Cylinder precisely and smoothly. The Main Spring is still strong and remains in the white with evidence of old corrosion. The Mainspring Screw still retains the vast majority of its fire blued finish and the slot is unmarred. The internal Sear and trigger release are crisp.
The Grips or one-piece Stock is the original Colt 1851 Navy black walnut stock. The Model 1851 Navy grip style was considerably smaller than the later Model 1860 Army design and was considered desirable for that reason. This stock retains its original finish and is in very good condition with only normal small dings and scratches in addition to six notches cut into the lower, right side. The original matching serial number “116018” is penciled into the backstrap recess.
The original Brass Backstrap is, uniquely, not serial numbered, although it clearly is original to the revolver. The Backstrap exhibits a nice, toned brass patina throughout. The original Butt Screw is also present and exhibits marring of the slot.
The original brass Triggerguard is serial number matching with "116018" stamped on the bottom front. The left side, covered by the grips when assembled, has the assembly stamp “65.” The Triggerguard exhibits a beautiful burnt mustard patina to the brass. Both original single-slot Triggerguard Rear Screws are present. The original Trigger is present and it retains considerable original blued finish with wear noted on the edges. The original single-slot Triggerguard Front Screw is present. There is a serif “4” inspection stamp on the left side of the triggerguard bow.
The original Cylinder is present and exhibits largely a plum and pewter patina. The "COLTS PATENT No" stamp is no longer visible but the matching serial number “116018” is present on the side and remains clear. Most of the naval scene and the “W.L. Orsnby New York” engraver stamping is no longer visible. All six original Nipples are present with minor corrosion along the edges. All six Nipples have clear and unobstructed channels to their respective cylinder chambers, each of which still remain very clean and still serviceable. The Arbor channel remains very clean and shiny. The front face of the cylinder has the assembly stamp “65.”
The original 7 ½" long, round, .36 caliber Barrel is present and is serial number matching with "116018" stamped on the bottom. The Barrel exhibits generally a plum and pewter patina throughout with numerous areas of beautiful, original bluing present. The original Barrel Stud on the bottom is present and is secure. The original brass front sight blade is present. Just forward of the blade front sight is a small hole that was probably a period attempt at a post front sight that was later removed.
The top of the Barrel has the final type Model 1851 Colt address, where he discontinued use of the Hartford address. This address was used from 101,000 to 215,000. The stamping on the top of the barrel is “—ADDRESS COL. SAML COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA--.” This is usually referred to as the “Late” New York address.
The Loading Notch on the right side of the barrel is the is the correct, rounded beveled or scalloped type. The Loading Lever Catch is the correct, “thin” type, that was used on the Model 1851 up until approximately serial number 165,000. The catch is still tightly secured to the bottom of the barrel.
The original Loading Lever is present and is serial number matching with “6018” stamped parallel to the lever. The Loading Lever Latch is present and retains the majority of its original finish and it remains tightly secured to the lever with the Loading Lever Latch Retaining Pin. The original Loading Lever Plunger is present and is secured by original Loading Lever Plunger Screw, which has a slightly marred slot. The Loading Lever Screw correctly enters from the left side. The Wedge is a correct style late production type without a spring and it is not serial numbered. It is possible that this wedge was replaced later in the war with a 2nd type without the spring. The single-slot Wedge Screw is present and it has a marred single slot.
The revolver is very tight when assembled with no movement in the barrel assembly when the wedge is installed. The cylinder rotates smoothly and locks up tightly when the hammer is cocked. The revolver functions perfectly.
While used, this early Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver was relatively well taken care of during its service. Given that it was a combat used cavalry sidearm for most of the Civil War, it is in very good condition.
As noted, this particular Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver is identified by serial number in the Springfield Research Service as being issued to Company G, 3rd Iowa Volunteer Cavalry during the Civil War. The 3rd Iowa Cavalry was organized at Keokuk, Iowa on September 14, 1861. The regiment then moved to Benton Barracks in Missouri on November 4, 1861. Companies “E,” “F,” “G,” and “H” were then detached to Jefferson City, Missouri on December 12, 1861 and served in Northern and Southern Missouri until July 1863. During that time, Company G and this pistol were attached to the Army of Southwest Missouri until February 1862, then the District of North Missouri until August 1862, then the District of Southwest Missouri until November 1862. Company G then served in the Cavalry Brigade, District of Southeast Missouri until June 1863, the Reserve Cavalry Brigade, Army of Southeast Missouri until August 1863 and then the Reserve Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Arkansas Expedition until October 1863. During this period of detached service, Company G was principally engaged in operations against guerillas near Booneville, Glasgow, Fulton and in North Missouri at Lebanon, and in Southwest Missouri covering the frontier from Iron Mountain to the Boston Mountains. Company G and this revolver saw action during this period at Florida, Missouri on May 22, 1862, the Salt River on May 31, Boles’ Farm on July 22nd and 24th, Santa Fe from July 24-25, Brown Springs on July 27, Moore’s Mills, near Fulton, Missouri on July 28, and Kirksville on August 26th. Company G then occupied Newtonia on December 4, 1862. The Company was engaged again at Hartsville, Wood’s Fork, on January 11, 1863 and conducted operations against Marmaduke from April 17 to May 2, 1863. The Company was engaged again at Cape Girardeau on April 26th, near Whitewater Bridge on April 27th, at Castor River, near Bloomfield on April 29th, at Bloomfield on April 30th, at Chalk Bluffs on the St. Francis River on April 30 to May 1st. The Company then conducted the march to Clarendon, Arkansas from August 1-8 then saw service in Steele’s Expedition to Little Rock from August 8 to September 10. The Company then saw service at Reed’s Bridge and Bayou Metoe on August 27 and at Shallow Ford on August 30. The Company ended their detached service at Bayou Fourche and the capture of Little Rock on September 10, 1863. Company G then rejoined the rest of the 3rd Iowa Cavalry on October 1, 1863.
The full regiment then served at Benton, Arkansas from October 1 to December 20, 1863, and from Benton conducted operations to include the Expedition to Mt. Ida from November 10-18, action near Benton on December 1st, and the Expedition to Princeton from December 8-10. The regiment was then ordered back to Little Rock on December 20th. On January 5, 1864, the 3rd Iowa Cavalry was given Veteran status and the cavalrymen went on furlough from January 6 to February 5, 1864. The regiment then served at St. Louis from February 6 to April 26 and was ordered to Memphis, Tennessee on April 26th. The regiment then fought against Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate Cavalry units from May to August, to include Sturgis’ Expedition to Guntown, Mississippi from June 1-13, which included action near Guntown on June 10th, and at Ripley on June 11th. The regiment next participated in Smith’s Expedition to Tupelo, Mississippi from July 5 to 25, which included actions at Saulsbury, Kelly’s Mills, Cherry Creek, Huston Road, Okolona, Harrisburg, Old Town or Tishamingo Creek and Ellistown. The regiment next participated in Smith’s Expedition to Oxford, Mississippi from August 1 to 30, to include action at Tallahatchie River, Holly Springs, Hurricane Creek, Oxford, and College Hill. The regiment then participated in the repulse of General Forrest’s attack on Memphis on August 21st.
The regiment next moved to Brownville, Arkansas on September 2nd, 1864, and campaigned against Confederate General Price in Arkansas in Missouri from September to November, including actions at Independence, Big Blue, State Line and Westport. The regiment fought at the Battles of Charlot, Marias des Cygnes, Mine Creek, Little Osage River, and White’s Station, Tennessee. The regiment participated in Grierson’s Raid from Memphis on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad from December 27, 1864 until January 6, 1865. The regiment saw action during this period at White’s Station on Christmas Day, 1864, at Okolona, Egypt Station, Mechanicsburg, and Pond. The regiment moved from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee and then to Louisville, Kentucky until February 1865. In February, the regiment moved to Chickasaw, Alabama and took part in Wilson’s Raid to Macon, Georgia, and fought engagements at Mentevallo, Six-Mile Creek, Maplesville, Ebeneezer Church, Selma, Fike’s Ferry, Cahawba River, Montgomery and Columbus, Georgia. The regiment took part in the capture of Macon, Georgia on April 20, 1865. The regiment initially served in Macon and then moved to Atlanta when the 3rd Iowa Cavalry Regiment was mustered out on August 9, 1865.
The 3rd Iowa Cavalry Regiment lost a total of 318 men during the Civil War, including 5 officers and 79 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded.
This revolver remains in fully functional condition.