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Discussion Starter #1
Guys,

Here is another Colt Dragoon for review. The last one was very informative.
This one was made in 1857 and has military cartouches on the stock, and military proofmarks on the components where you would expect to see them.

The surface finish is interesting, it looks like the blue has aged to patchy brown but has never been cleaned. Sort of a ‘barn find’. Please take a look and let me know if I am missing anything.

thanks
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Wow. I think the cylinder looks great, especially since the markings often disappear quite easily, the grips look good with the original cartouches, and the frame and trigger guard look good. However, the barrel and the ram rod are another story. I think they were separated from the gun at one time and were in a fire. The good and the bad. If the barrel and components did not suffer this fate, you would have a very nice Dragoon.
 

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There's some oddities on this Dragoon. The last photo you post shows the left side grip with oval cartouche of (who could be) inspector "Joseph Hannis". However, your second photo shows the overall left side of the gun, and I can't see that same cartouche on the gun. Did you photograph two guns and get confused as to which photos you're uploading?

Your "JH" cartouche is a bit of an oddity. If you check the Pate book, he shows your cartouche and says "Joseph Hannis" was reassigned from Ames to Colt in Summer 1861, and again in Summer 1862, and both times was with Colt only briefly. If that's true, perhaps Hannis couldn't have cartouched this particular gun. But I know Hannis was working much longer than that as inspector, and I have previously seen a "JH" cartouche on an 1850 Dragoon, but that cartouche didn't look like yours. Anyway, maybe the cartouche changed, or, what's more likely, I also recall there were more inspectors with "JH" as their initials, so maybe it's not "Joseph Hannis" on your gun as Pate suggests.

I can't tell what's on the right grip cartouche, so you'll need to tell us the initials or take a better picture.

Also, what is stamped on the left side of the barrel housing, to the left of the wedge? Looks like there's something stamped there.

Did you disassemble the gun to see the arbor pin and its number? The wedge and its number?

As mrcvs noted, the barrel and rammer look different from the frame and cylinder. That's odd. Maybe it's just your camera or the lighting, but at this point, it looks odd, as why would barrel look so different (flaking) from cylinder and frame? The gun looks generally very cruddy, like it was a barn find, but this serial number Dragoon shows up as having been auctioned by Gunbroker a while back, so it's been around at least a bit, or more.

I also wonder about the cylinder serial number. Hard to tell from the photo you posted (photo also won't enlarge for me) but that serial number on the cylinder looks very puckered to me, which is not in keeping with that faded scene. So I'd want to look more closely at that, to see if the cylinder was renumbered. Also, the "1" on the cylinder serial number looks of a different font from the other serial numbers. That did happen on occasion, as some parts were numbered on one day, and then new parts brought in, or numbered on a different day, with different punch sets, etc.

Although the barrel looks flaky and cruddy, I wouldn't clean this gun without getting some expert opinion on what/how to deal with it.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I don’t have the gun in hand yet, but I did ask for some extra photos. Arbor, loading lever, and wedge serial numbers match.

The left side grip cartouche does appear in the overall left side picture. I had to adjust the brightness to see it.

The dark patchy surface on the barrel remains difficult to interpret from the photos. It looks cruddy, but from all angles the surfaces look smooth and the edge Are all sharp.
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There's some oddities on this Dragoon. The last photo you post shows the left side grip with oval cartouche of (who could be) inspector "Joseph Hannis". However, your second photo shows the overall left side of the gun, and I can't see that same cartouche on the gun. Did you photograph two guns and get confused as to which photos you're uploading?

Your "JH" cartouche is a bit of an oddity. If you check the Pate book, he shows your cartouche and says "Joseph Hannis" was reassigned from Ames to Colt in Summer 1861, and again in Summer 1862, and both times was with Colt only briefly. If that's true, perhaps Hannis couldn't have cartouched this particular gun. But I know Hannis was working much longer than that as inspector, and I have previously seen a "JH" cartouche on an 1850 Dragoon, but that cartouche didn't look like yours. Anyway, maybe the cartouche changed, or, what's more likely, I also recall there were more inspectors with "JH" as their initials, so maybe it's not "Joseph Hannis" on your gun as Pate suggests.

I can't tell what's on the right grip cartouche, so you'll need to tell us the initials or take a better picture.

Also, what is stamped on the left side of the barrel housing, to the left of the wedge? Looks like there's something stamped there.

Did you disassemble the gun to see the arbor pin and its number? The wedge and its number?

As mrcvs noted, the barrel and rammer look different from the frame and cylinder. That's odd. Maybe it's just your camera or the lighting, but at this point, it looks odd, as why would barrel look so different (flaking) from cylinder and frame? The gun looks generally very cruddy, like it was a barn find, but this serial number Dragoon shows up as having been auctioned by Gunbroker a while back, so it's been around at least a bit, or more.

I also wonder about the cylinder serial number. Hard to tell from the photo you posted (photo also won't enlarge for me) but that serial number on the cylinder looks very puckered to me, which is not in keeping with that faded scene. So I'd want to look more closely at that, to see if the cylinder was renumbered. Also, the "1" on the cylinder serial number looks of a different font from the other serial numbers. That did happen on occasion, as some parts were numbered on one day, and then new parts brought in, or numbered on a different day, with different punch sets, etc.

Although the barrel looks flaky and cruddy, I wouldn't clean this gun without getting some expert opinion on what/how to deal with it.
I went to the big screen computer for a second look . And in my opinion this is what i came up with . The cartouches left grip - In Daum and Pates Inspector book Pg. 94 under Joseph Hannis it looks like the # 5 stamp but no examples of 3rd model dragoons were observed. In the #2 description sn#16169 - 3rd model Dragoon was observed . Right grip - same book pg.222 under Robert H.K. Whiteley it looks like #3 stamp. No examples were observed but states ("JH" on left grip ) when siting examples of 1851 navies . Further reading leads to He did inspect 3rd Model Dragoon Revolvers. They are in sn# range 15500 to 16500 and appear to cover the deliveries under the contracts SIGNED (not guns delivered ) during April and May 1856 for a total of 330 revolvers. Arber SN# looks like 8593 to me . Cylinder scene and inspector letter "H" seem to have same amount of ware. SN# 16393 looks a little crisp . Hense , my two cents .
good luck , Kal
 

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Discussion Starter #8
The arbor S/N is definitely a '6393'. I looked at it with enhanced lighting, contrast etc.

I still don't quite understand the surface finish on the barrel area. Bad photos just don't help. I found some additional photos that look a little different but still don't explain the appearance.
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Seeing that holster reminds me of another thread I'm following about Bowie knives . Storing knives in their sheaths . If leather gets wet tanning salution may come in contact with steel and deform or discolor it.
 

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Trying to buy a gun through the mail is like going to a 4th of July picnic, putting on a blindfold and some oven mitts, and trying to tell the difference between a burger and a hotdog, with just your mitted hands. In other words, not easy to do. As an aside, I wasn't raising the tiny inspector initials as a potential issue, just pointing out some oddities. Colts guns are full of oddities, and that's why we have hundreds of books on the subject. There were a few inspectors with "JH" initials and at the end of the day, for SOME of the initials, we're all just guessing as to what initials go with what man. For example, for Dragoon SN 9129, the cataloguer said the cartouche in the picture below was for "Joseph Hannis" and as you can see, it's a different cartouche from the one on your gun.

I suppose that given what we have to work with here, on your gun, I would mostly worry about the patina. Why does it look so different on the barrel, from the cylinder and frame. Crud doesn't typically just build up in one area, but it could be because that's the area that came into contact with an open holster's leather. Secondly, I'd want to take a closer look at the cylinder number under magnification, why it's so nicely puckered. If you've looked at thousands of serial numbers on Colts, you just know if it's right or not when its under magnification. But at the end of the day this is a good-conditioned gun. As you can tell it has no finish whatsoever, but probably because it lived for 100 years in a humid climate, and perhaps inside of a leather holster. If you buy it, you'll need to find someone who can gently and correctly bring it back from its cruddy state (or learn to live with it and love it "as is").
 

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With how sharp the edges are on this gun it just seems like it's a gun that would not need to be tampered with. Which makes me want to look for natural explanations. I tend to agree that the barrel damage was caused by being stored in a holster. As for the cylinder scene, it just looks normal to me. Whenever I see an old gun with no cylinder scene left it's not uncommon for the serial numbers to be quite strong. The serial numbers are almost always struck deeper than the cylinder scene was rolled and the numbers are almost always the last thing to go. Anyway those are just my thoughts as a rank amature.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I learn something every day on this form. I have many antique military firearms, with most dating to the 1700s-1800s, but none of them were ever holstered in a leather holster, so I had never seen that discolouration on metal from tannins before.
 

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The roll-engraved cylinder Scene on the Dragoons was notoriously "light" as engraved. It is often completely gone on the Dragoon production that's still around today. Interestingly, there are several "stages" to look for in the gradual disappearance of the Scene, but the serial number almost always survives (if there was no outright abuse). The picture below is the number from Dragoon SN 16856 (less than 500 numbers away from the Colt we're examining). You can see there is some Scene left on SN 16856, but the number is washing out. It's not as "puckered" (😉) as the Dragoon we're looking at. It's just something to note and consider. Also look at the font difference in the "1" between the two guns. Something to note and consider.
 

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I learn something every day on this form. I have many antique military firearms, with most dating to the 1700s-1800s, but none of them were ever holstered in a leather holster, so I had never seen that discolouration on metal from tannins before.
That's great - share with us some photos of your other arms, and teach us something interesting about them!
 

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As I looked at the below two photos again, something else to consider that just came to mind, is that: someone just started to clean the barrel and stopped at the barrel housing and left it alone, perhaps because he didn't like what the cleaning was doing to the gun. The difference in patination (dark to light) is just too great for this to be happenstance. The more I think about it, the more I think that's what's going on here. Cruddy patina (which I love!) and someone saying, "heck I'm going to clean this up" and then he started with the barrel, and once he saw what he was doing, he stopped. So now the patination is "zebra" like. I keep telling folks not to clean these old guns too vigorously... In my mind, if that's what happened, this over-zealous cleaner stripped quite a bit of money off the value of the gun.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
The very first group of photos are the most recent, taken yesterday when I asked for additional shots. Those last few photos I added were from an older gunbroker.com listing. So I suspect the lighting or flash accounts for the different appearance.

As for the cylinder serial number. I am not sure that the stampings are puckered around the edges. The patina on that cylinder looks untouched for 150 years. If anyone in the past few decades had rubbed those numbers to see them better it would buff the edges like that, and would another hundred years to grow back the patina.


As I looked at the below two photos again, something else to consider that just came to mind, is that: someone just started to clean the barrel and stopped at the barrel housing and left it alone, perhaps because he didn't like what the cleaning was doing to the gun. The difference in patination (dark to light) is just too great for this to be happenstance. The more I think about it, the more I think that's what's going on here. Cruddy patina (which I love!) and someone saying, "heck I'm going to clean this up" and then he started with the barrel, and once he saw what he was doing, he stopped. So now the patination is "zebra" like. I keep telling folks not to clean these old guns too vigorously... In my mind, if that's what happened, this over-zealous cleaner stripped quite a bit of money off the value of the gun.
 

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The very first group of photos are the most recent, taken yesterday when I asked for additional shots. Those last few photos I added were from an older gunbroker.com listing. So I suspect the lighting or flash accounts for the different appearance.
Sorry, that doesn't sound right to me. Lighting or flash can't account for such a different appearance. Changes in patina to these guns take years to manifest, and can't happen over weeks or months while guns are sitting on Gunbroker (unless they were "helped" along by cleaning or applying "bottled" patina). I just did a side-by-side photo montage for you below, so you can see the barrels from the two different picture sets you've uploaded. The patina does not look the same. Check spot against spot...

Also, when I say "puckering" I mean that in a positive sense. Fresh numbers look puckered. Washed out or faded numbers appear on cylinders with more wear. When I see puckered numbers on a faded cylinder I want to understand why. Again, very hard to tell from the photo of the serial number you've uploaded. We'll need better photos to make better determination.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
I now have this Dragoon in hand and it is a beautiful gun. The case color is still there on the receiver, fantastic clear cylinder scene, unblemished grips, back strap and trigger guard.

The barrel blue has faded and the barrel and loading lever have what looks like patches of old dried grease. All the edges are original and sharp, hardly any pitting anywhere. The bore looks almost unfired. Way better than the earlier photos. Good camera and good light makes all the difference!
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