Uberti/Colt Prototype Single Action Revolvers
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Thread: Uberti/Colt Prototype Single Action Revolvers

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    Uberti/Colt Prototype Single Action Revolvers

    Uberti/Colt Single Action Revolvers

    Bruce A. Buckner, Jr.

    Introduction
    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.
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    In October 2016, I spotted another Uberti/Colt .44 Magnum on the Guns International web site (www.gunsinternational.com) which I purchased and subsequently received on October 29, 2016. The gun came from Reidsville Sporting Arms (Reidsville, North Carolina) and is identical to the “New Frontier” discussed above except it has blue and case color finish instead of chrome or stainless steel. The revolver has “Cat. 1489” and “75919” on the barrel and the same markings (including date cope AP and proof marks) as above. The serial number (75919) is marked in the same places as with the .22 revolvers. The photos on the Guns International listing also showed what appeared to be a list of guns by caliber, barrel length and serial number. To my surprise and absolute delight, the gun did arrive with this list and two other items of provenance that shed a good deal of light on these guns.

    In chronological order, these items were as follows. Discussion of these items will follow later in this document.


    1. A copy of a telex communication dated September 9, 1986 from Colt Firearms to Aldo Uberti & Co. ordering 65 firearms (five “Phanton .44 Mag” and 60 SA firearms in .22 and .44 Mag in 4 ¾, 5 ½ and 7 ½ inch barrel lengths). The order was signed “J. Frascarelli”. (The word “Phanton” was actually spelled that way on the order.) See Attachment 2 for description of a Phantom revolver and Attachment 3 for a copy of this telex.



    1. A copy of a shipping manifest dated December 23, 1986 from Aldo Uberti & Co. to Colt Industries Firearms Division (Charter Oak Blvd, W. Hartford CT 06119 USA) detailing “Italian Goods to be Exported”. Listed were 65 “breech load revolvers” (Stallion, Cattleman, Buckhorn and Phantom model names) and one “muzzle load revolver Paterson prototype”. Code numbers, catalog numbers, model names, calibers and barrel lengths were detailed. See Attachment 4.



    1. A copy of a letter dated June 6, 1988 on the Aldo Uberti & Co. letterhead to Kevin Cherry (Cherry’s, 2703 High Point Rd., Greensboro, NC 27403) showing the model (all are “single action rev.”), barrel length (4 ¾, 5 ½, 7 ½ and 10 ½ inches) and caliber (.44 Mag., .22Conv., .22 LR and .22 CAL), and serial numbers of 65 revolvers. The letter is signed by Maria Laura Uberti of Uberti USA, Inc. and states that these revolvers “were made for Colt Firearms as prototypes by my father Aldo Uberti”. The serial number range is 75918 to 75985 with one outlier-75255 (a .22). Not all numbers in this range were used. All the .44s (including the Phantoms) were in the range of 75918 to 75954 and all the .22s (except 75255) were in the range of 75955 to 75985. See Attachment 5.


    In addition to the above, I have a photographic copy of a note dated May 13, 1988 also signed by Maria Laura Uberti that directly quotes the inscription on the tops of the barrels of the revolvers and indicating that Colt did not follow through on the deal. In the note, Ms. Uberti is offering the guns to someone (probably Kevin Cherry) for $13,000 plus shipping and excise tax. Unfortunately, someone blanked out the addressee on the photo copy. However, the supposition that it was Kevin Cherry is supported by the date, the serial number list (above) dated June, 6, 1988 and by Kevin’s statement to me that he was the purchaser of the guns. See Attachment 6.

    I asked several Colt connected people about the person who signed the September 8, 1986 Telex from Colt to Uberti. In an e-mail dated December 15, 2016, Beverly Haynes (Historian, Colt Archives) told me that Jackie Frascarelli was a long-time employee at Colt. She eventually left to start a gun business with a man named Joe Lucas. Jackie suffered a stroke a few years ago and is now in an assisted living home in Indiana. (I regret to say that Ms. Frascarelli subsequently passed away in the summer of 2018.)

    Joe Canali (former Colt Archivist) called the evening of December 15, 2016 and confirmed most of the above information about Jackie Frascarelli. She would have been head of Commercial Sales about the time the order was placed with Aldo Uberti & Co. He also was able to tell me the name of the business that Mr. Lucas and Ms. Frascarelli started – J&J Custom Firearms. In addition, Joe gave me Mr. Lucas’ contact information.

    I was able to speak with Joe Lucas on the phone and he asked if I would send him copies of the documents I have to see if they would jog Jackie’s memory. His recollection was that Jackie was working in Sales in the l980’s, left Colt for a while to work for B-Square and went back to Colt a few years later as head of the Custom Shop.

    I sent the documents to Joe and he called back on January 5, 2017 to say he had shown the papers to Jackie and her only comment was to the effect that: “This was probably something Al DeJohn put in front of me and asked me to sign”. (Al Dejohn headed up the Colt Custom Shop from its inception in 1976 until his retirement in 1989 and is now deceased.)

    Table 1 – Italian Firearms Makers Date Codes

    From the Bluebook of Modern Black Powder Arms, by John Allen, 5th Edition, 2007.
    AA=1975 AF=1980 AN=1985 AZ=1990
    AB=1976 AH=1981 AP=1986 BA=1991
    AC=1977 AI=1982 AS=1987 BB=1992
    AD=1978 AL=1983 AT=1988 BC=1993
    AE=1979 AM=1984 AU=1989


    Table 2 – Proof Marks (See Photo 13)

    Cogwheel star over PSF = “Italian smokeless proof since 1951” (page 62, GUNMARKS by David Byron, Crown Publishers, copyright David Byron, 1979).
    Wikipedia (Attachment 1) calls this “finish proof for firearms ready for sale”.
    Cogwheel star over shield or crest with crossed lightning bolts or maybe crossed rifles with bayonets = “Italian provisional proof since 1951 (Gardone)” (page 91, GUNMARKS ibid.)
    Wikipedia (Attachment 1) calls this “provisional proof for all guns (Gardone)”.

    The above two marks are on the barrels and cylinders of both my .22s and the two .44s discussed here. There is another mark on the barrel of the guns, but I cannot make it out even under high magnification or by expanding Photo 13 greatly. It just looks like an amorphous mass. It is the mark on the barrel nearest the frame in Photo 13.

    Photo 1 – Uberti 22, serial number unknown
    ubertiGB2.jpg

    Photo 2 – Uberti 22, serial number unknown
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    Photo 3 – Uberti 22, serial number unknown
    ubertiGB1.jpg

    Photo 4 – Uberti 22 serial number 75255
    u75255a.JPG

    Photo 5 – Uberti 22, serial number 75255
    u75255b.JPG

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    Photo 6 – Uberti 22, serial number 75255
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    Photo 7 – Uberti 22 serial number 75959
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    Photo 8 – Uberti 22, serial number 75959
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    Photo 9 – Uberti 22, serial number 75959
    ubertia6.jpg

    Photo 10 – Uberti 44, serial number 75948
    chrome44a.jpg

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    Photo 11 – Uberti 44, serial number 75948
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    Photo 12 – Uberti 44, serial number 75948

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    Photo 13 – Uberti 44, serial number 75948

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    Photo 14 – Uberti 44, serial number 75948

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    Photo 15 – Uberti 44, serial number 75948

    chrome44g.jpg

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    Photo 16 – Uberti 44, serial number 75948

    chrome44h.jpg


    Photo 17 – Uberti 44, serial number 75948

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    Photo 18 – Uberti 44, serial number 75919

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    Photo 19 – Uberti 44, serial number 75919

    U75919a.JPG

    Discussion of Provenance


    9/9/1986 Telex Order from Colt to Uberti (Attachment 3)

    The model name Phantom is misspelled “Phanton”.
    The model numbers shown on the order don’t correspond to any other material I have, even copies of pages from a 1980’s Uberti catalog. There must have been some other correspondence between Colt and Uberti specifying what was to be ordered and supplied.


    12/23/1986 Shipping Manifest from Uberti to Colt (Attachment 4)

    Again, the Italian “Cod. No.”s and “Cat. No.”s don’t relate to any other material I have. Also, looking through some Uberti catalogs, it appears that the model names sometimes changed meaning, so a “Cattleman” revolver in 1986 might be somewhat different than a “Cattleman” revolver in 2006.
    However, the Cat.No.s on the manifest are actually marked on the guns and this allows us to equate the number with an actual firearm.
    Thus, Cat. No. 1536 is a cal.22 revolver with 4 ¾ inch barrel, fixed sights and blue and case color finish (serial number 75255).
    Cat. No. 1537 is a cal.22 revolver with 5 ½ inch barrel, fixed sights and blue and case color finish (serial number 75959).
    Cat. No. 1489 is a cal.44M revolver with 7 ½ inch barrel, target sights (adjustable rear and ramped front) and blue and case color finish (serial number 75919).
    Interestingly, Cat. No. 1489 is also a .44 Magnum revolver with 7 ½ inch barrel, target sights but with a different finish which may be chrome, electroless nickel or stainless steel (serial number 75948).
    Looking at the manifest, we see five Cat. No. 1489 revolvers with no finish specified almost certainly meaning they were blue and case color. We also see five Cat. No. 1489s with “chrom.” finish.
    There are also six Cat. No. 1525 revolvers (cal.22) listed with “inox” finish. Inox, from the French “inoxydable”, is another name for stainless steel. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stainless_steel) See Attachment 7.
    Based on this, I believe the finish on the Cat. No. 1489 serial number 75948 to be some type of chrome or electroless nickel finish and NOT stainless steel.
    Also, on the manifest are a couple of odd terms I have not been able to figure out. The revolvers are listed as “QD” or “targ.”, which I presume is reference to the types of sights. “Targ.” is obviously target sights with adjustable rear and ramp front. Both cal.44M revolv1ers are listed this way. However, I am at a loss to understand what “QD” means. Presumably it is a reference to fixed sights or iron sights, but I can find no reference to that anywhere. Likewise, the meaning of the terms “sic.1” and “sic.2” escapes me. Several Cat.No.s with the same descriptions are listed separately as “sic.1” and “sic.2”.

    6/6/1988 Maria Uberti/Uberti USA Letter (Attachment 5)

    This is pretty much self-explanatory. It is a list of guns that Uberti USA is shipping to Kevin Cherry including caliber, barrel length and serial number. One interesting thing about the list is that it shows the calibers of most of the .22 revolvers to be “.22Conv.” I would presume that these guns would have been provided with .22 LR and .22 Magnum cylinders. Both of the .22s I have are in this group, but neither had Magnum cylinders with them when they came to me. This is hardly surprising considering that the guns have been around for more than 20 years and through no telling how many pairs of hands. One odd thing though is that one .22 is shown as a “.22 CAL.” I don’t know how this would be different from .22Conv.

    5/13/1988 Maria Uberti Note (Attachment 6)

    I obtained this note from a person on Gun Broker (Mike Kingsley) who purchased one or two Uberti black powder revolvers from a seller with the username “kabulguy” (whose real name may have been Mr. Walsh and whose e-mail address may have been [email protected]). Somehow it got included with his guns. The note was shown in the photos with the gun description and the seller sent a copy to the buyer who sent it to me. I found some of my old e-mails associated with this and the photos of the guns in the auction listings did not show the “Made for Colt…” inscription as quoted by Maria Uberti in her note and which is on all the guns under discussion here. My e-mail exchange with Mr. Kingsley was in April and May of 2015. There was another name associated with this, a Mrs. Benson in Connecticut but I don’t know what the connection was.

    Conclusions

    I don’t think that there is any doubt that the revolvers discussed here were made by Uberti at Colt’s request and that they were prototypes. However, what they were prototypes of and what Colt intended to do with them is a mystery. In 1986, Colt ceased production of the New Frontier .22 which left them without a single action .22 revolver in the lineup. Colt had a SA .22 on the market from 1957 to 1976 and from 1982 to 1986. It could be that they wanted to put another gun into production based on a Uberti prototype. I will say that the Uberti single action .22 revolvers as exemplified in the two samples that I have are very nice guns. In my opinion, they are what the Peacemaker .22 should have been with all steel construction and two-piece grip frames to allow the fitting of one-piece grips. The .22s are the same size as the Frontier Scout and Peacemaker .22 revolvers, although a little heavier because of the all steel construction.

    Another mystery is the reason Colt refused to accept the guns after they arrived at Uberti USA. My guess is that Colt did not like the look of the articulated hammer. Colt single action fans are, by and large, traditionalists and that hammer device would likely have offended many potential buyers. I do know that, when I posted photos of these guns on the Colt Forum, I got a lot of negative comments about the hammers.

    Unlike some others who have seen the guns, I don’t mind the looks of the articulated hammer. This was in the era of gun manufacturers trying to add safety features to all their firearms (for instance, the Series 80 Government Model semi-auto pistols). In fact, some form of the SA hammer safety design is still used in Uberti revolvers to this day.

    I would really like to find one of these in it’s original box (assuming they came in such a container) and a .22 with the 7 ½ inch barrel. As long as I am wishing, I’d like one in the “inox” finish as well! I keep looking, but no more have come to light.




    Attachments:
    1) Chart of Italian proof marks (Wikipedia internet source).
    2) Description and photos of Uberti Phantom revolver.
    3) September 9, 1986 Telex Order from Colt to Uberti.
    4) December 23, 1986 Shipping Manifest from Uberti to Colt.
    5) June 6, 1988 Maria Uberti/Uberti USA Letter.
    6) May 13, 1988 Maria Uberti Note.
    7) Description of “inox” from Colt Forum.
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    Addendum (May 2018):

    In April I was going through some of my old Rampant Colt magazines (quarterly publication of the Colt Collector’s Association) and found a reference to Jackie Frascarelli. On page 3 of the Fall 1996 issue under the column titled “Under the Dome” is a notice that Jackie Frascarelli returned to Colt’s employment after a 2 ½ year absence. According to the writer (Justine S. Horgan, Archivist), Jackie had previously been employed at Colt as Manager of Sales Administration and would assume the position of Manager of Custom Shop Sales. This confirms that she very likely would have been in Sales Administration about the time that the order for these prototype revolvers was originated.
    There is a photo of Ms. Frascarellli on page 28 (lower left) of the Winter 1998 Rampant Colt magazine. The photo was taken at the 1998 annual Colt convention in Denver.

    I found two more “New Frontier” .44 Magnum revolvers at a Little John’s Auction Service (Anaheim, California) sale in February 2018. These were: serial number 75925 with 7 ½ inch barrel and serial number 75945 with 6 inch barrel. Incredibly, they both came with shipping boxes. The box for 75945 has lost the label end of the box, but “75945 Buckhorn 361” is written on the top in blue ink. The other box has a label on the end which does not match serial number 75925, but has the following information: ”SA Buckhorn, Cal. .44 Mag., Cat. No. 1551, Code No. 353, Barrel 6 ¾, S/N 75934”. These numbers all match the information in the paperwork discussed in this monograph.

    ubertibox1.JPG

    ubertibox2.JPG


    Attachment 1

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    Attachment 2

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    Last edited by Buckspen; 10-30-2018 at 08:11 AM.
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    Attachment 3

    Uberti Phantom .357 Magnum, sold in GunBroker auction for $485 (12/29/17). This gun does not have the articulated hammer of the other guns being discussed in this document. It is also not in the same serial number range but is included in order for the reader to understand what the “Phantom” revolver actually was. Note the sights, grip and trigger guard shape.


    phantom1.jpg

    phantom2.jpg


    Attachment 4

    Att4.jpeg


    Attachment 5 (page 1)

    Att5p1.jpeg

    Attachment 5 (page 2)

    Att5p2.jpeg
    Last edited by Buckspen; 10-10-2018 at 03:51 PM.
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    Attachment 6

    Att6.JPG


    Attachment 7

    Att7.jpeg
    Last edited by Buckspen; 10-10-2018 at 04:05 PM.
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