Uberti/Colt Prototype Single Action Revolvers
Uberti/Colt Single Action Revolvers
Bruce A. Buckner, Jr.
My collecting interest is primarily the Colt single action .22 caliber revolvers. I have been interested in these for many years having purchased my first one, a nickel K numbered Frontier Scout, in California in 1963. The collection has grown to include examples of almost all of the variations of the Frontier Scout, Buntline Scout, Peacemaker .22 and New Frontier .22 revolvers. A few of the scarcer models, such as the dual cylinder K Buntline, still have eluded me, so I am always looking around to see what is available. In 2010, I happened across a Uberti single action .22 that was marked “Made for Colt Firearms Hartford Conn.” on top of the barrel. At the time I breezed past it, but later became interested in these guns.
“Made for Colt Firearms”
In late September 2010, I was attending the Colt Collector’s Association (CCA) convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One evening, after a full day of browsing around the show, I was scanning Gun Broker (www.gunbroker.com) listings for interesting items and happened across an unusual gun. It was a Uberti revolver that was described by the seller as being made by Uberti for Colt. I saved three photos from the auction description. One of the photos showed this inscription on the top of the barrel: “Made for Colt Firearms Hartford Conn.” The revolver had a 4 ¾ inch barrel, one-piece wood stocks and very little bluing left on the barrel. If the serial number was given in the description I did not record it. I should have followed up on this gun but failed to do so. I was too focused on the CCA show at the time. A couple months later, I remembered the gun and searched Gun Broker again for it, but it must have been sold. (See Photos 1 – 3.)
I am a regular contributor to the Colt Forum (www.coltforum.com) on the subject of Colt .22 single actions and in December 2013, another member (Terry St. Clair) mentioned that he had recently seen a Uberti .22 with unusual markings at Dance Sporting Goods (570 Southpark Boulevard, Colonial Heights, Virginia 23834). I contacted Dance and they sent me photos of the gun. This revolver had the same marking on top of the barrel as the gun on Gun Broker three years earlier but retained much more finish. It, too, had a 4 ¾ inch barrel and one-piece wood stocks. The serial number was 75255. From the photos provided, it was definitely not the same gun as previously seen on Gun Broker. I purchased the gun and received it on January 6, 2014. (See Photos 4 -6.)
The markings on this gun are as follows: “MADE FOR COLT FIREARMS HARTFORD CONN.” on top of the barrel; “75255” on the bottom of the frame; "S.A. CAL .22" on the left side of the barrel with three proof marks and "AP" (1986 date code, see Table 1) in a box on the second line. “CAT. 1536” and “75255” are in the third line and "A. Uberti & C. Gardone VT. Italy" is on the bottom of the barrels. "CAL. .22 Long Rifle" is marked twice around the circumference of the cylinder at the rear along with two proof marks.
The proof marks are described in Table 2. A chart of Italian proof marks is Attachment 1.
To my amazement, I found another Uberti/Colt .22 single action at Collector Firearms’ web site (www.collectorfirearms.com) a few days after receiving the first one. This gun had the same markings as #75255 except the serial number was 75959. This gun had a 5 ½ inch barrel and the same type of one-piece wood stocks. I contacted Collector Firearms (3301 Fondren Street, Suite O, Houston, Texas 77063) and agreed to purchase the gun. I received it on January 15, 2014. (See Photos 7-9.)
The markings on this gun are as follows: “MADE FOR COLT FIREARMS HARTFORD CONN.” on top of the barrel; “75959” on the bottom of the frame; "S.A. CAL .22" on the left side of the barrel with various proof marks and "AP" (1986 date code) in a box on the second line. “CAT. 1537” and “75959” are in the third line and "A. Uberti & C. Gardone VT. Italy" is on the bottom of the barrels. "CAL. .22 Long Rifle" is marked twice around the circumference of the cylinder at the rear along with proof marks (see Table 2).
On both guns, the serial numbers are marked on the frame, barrel, cylinder, trigger guard, back strap and inside the one-piece wood grip. The last three digits of the serial number are marked on the loading gate. The guns are all steel, no alloy trigger guards or grip frames here. The grips are true one-piece and appear to be walnut. The most unusual feature of these guns is an articulated hammer which operates a safety device apparently designed to prevent the hammer falling from anywhere less than the full cock position.
The inscriptions on the tops of the barrels of these guns intrigued me and I showed them to several people without much success until I talked with Kevin Cherry who is an active member of the CCA and operates Cherry’s Fine Guns (Cherry's Fine Guns Home Page Commemorative Firearms) at 3408 W. Wendover Ave., Geeensboro, NC 27407. Kevin happened to be at the March 2014 meeting of the Ohio Gun Collector’s Association in Wilmington, Ohio. He said that a number of guns similar to mine were produced by Uberti for Colt, but that when the guns arrived at Uberti USA, Colt refused to accept them. Maria Uberti (Uberti USA) eventually offered them to Kevin and he bought them all. He sold them through his business for several years. He also mentioned that he thought Don Wilkerson had bought two or three .22s from him and that Don was going to include information about these guns in his book on the .22 caliber single actions. Don’s book “Colt Scouts, Peacemakers and New Frontiers in .22 Caliber” (Walsworth Publishing Co.) was published in 1993 but made no mention of these guns.
Kevin said there were about 65 guns with the unusual safety, including some center fire calibers and different barrel lengths. He even thought there may have been one made in stainless steel and one or more with a “Buntline” barrel. Kevin put the date for all this around 1987. He looked in his files when he got home, but later told me that he couldn’t find anything referring to these guns.
At the time Cherry’s published a sales paper called “Cherry’s Sporting Goods News”. I have been looking for copies of this paper for some time and found a few issues at the
CCA show in St. Louis in 2017. Unfortunately, the latest I found was 1986, which is too early for mention of these guns. However, I now know what they look like and will search for some later issues.
Representatives from Colt’s Manufacturing attended the same OGCA show, and I asked Bev Haynes and Joe Canali of Colt Archives (https://www.colt.com/Customer-Services/Archive-Services) about them. Bev had no information but Joe suggested I talk with a man named Phil LoPiccolo (Manahawkin, New Jersey) about them. I met Mr. LoPiccolo at the October 2014 CCA convention in Concord (North Carolina). I showed the guns to him and he said they were the subject of a lawsuit by Colt against Uberti. He couldn’t provide details of the lawsuit but did say that “not many” of the guns were made and that there were some center fire guns.
Mr. Bob Duebell (Cincinnati, Ohio) is an advanced Colt and Great Western collector and a member of CCA and OGCA. Bob saw my guns at the 2014 CCA convention and suggested I speak to a man named Jim Martin (Kingman, Arizona) who has a great deal of experience with Colt, Uberti and Great Western revolvers. Jim was a top ranked competitor in the fast draw competitions in the late 1950s and 1960s and is a regular contributor to the Colt Forum. He is also the recognized master gunsmith for action work on single action revolvers. I communicated with Jim via e-mail and telephone but at the time, he didn’t have any information to share with me.
I showed the .22 revolvers again at the Colt Collector’s Association show in Louisville, Kentucky in October 2016. Georges Delaume of Alexandria, Virginia saw them and we talked about the guns quite a bit. Georges said he owned a similar gun and would call me about it when he returned home. He called me after the show and said his gun was identical to mine in .22 LR caliber and with the 4 ¾ inch barrel and had all the same markings. His gun is serial number 75xxx and the date code was the same as mine. He said his gun was purchased from the son of a Colt collector in Florida and that it had much less finish remaining than mine.
The .44 Magnums
Shortly after the 2014 CCA convention, Dennis Russell, collector of 2nd generation Colt black powder revolvers and author of “Percussion Colt Revolvers – The Second Generation” (Jared Press, 2011), contacted me by e-mail about another Uberti/Colt revolver. Carol Watson’s November 2014 Orange Coast Auction lot #533 was a .44 Magnum revolver that closely resembled a Colt New Frontier with adjustable rear sight and high ramped front sight. From the photos, the gun appeared to be electroless nickel or chrome plated or possibly made of stainless steel and also had the unusual pivoting hammer block as seen on the .22 single actions described previously. The gun had “Cat. 1489” and “75948” on the barrel and the same markings as the .22s (except for the caliber) including the AP date code (1986) and proof marks with, a 7 ½ inch barrel and one-piece walnut grips. The serial number (75948) was also on the bottom of the frame. The description of the revolver indicated that it was in new condition and unfired. No box was described as accompanying the gun. Norman Green of San Jose, California, bought this revolver and I have not been able to examine it in person. (See Photos 10-17.) I appended many photos of this gun because the markings show up better on the light finish than on the dark blue of the other guns.