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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I purchased this Artillery Model revolver with problems over 20 years ago when I was far more green when it comes to these. The price I paid for it would easily have purchased an Artillery Model revolver with a Gold Seal letter of approval, although those were not available then. At that time, Mr Kopec would have stated that this revolver was 100% correct. As I got better at this sort of thing, I would pull this revolver out and find additional fault(s) with it. Perhaps I was overly critical, as in starting to think the revolver was a complete dud, so I took the plunge in 2014 and sent this one to Mr Kopec for evaluation. He had already seen it before at least once, which immediately should raise a red flag, especially when it did not come with a letter. (I'm sure the letter that originally came with this revolver lined the bottom of someone's cat litter box rather nicely some time ago!) Even being green at the time, I did question the stocks, in that they did not look right, refinished and perhaps reshaped at the left side top and junction with frame and backstrap. I fell for this one because I had seen few before, and it had case colouring and a 4 digit frame serial number and a barrel with an italic barrel address. I will also state, in hindsight, the business I bought this from in Northern Virginia is now closed for some time and developed a shady reputation over the years, so whether they sold it "as is" or were responsible for alterations remains unknown.

As awful as it was that I paid for this one, and what it turned out to be, I consider that to be "tuition". It actually has made me proceed with caution and probably has saved me more later than what this one cost me by overpaying for it. Right now, I haven't lost anything on it as I haven't tried to sell it, so that's the silver lining in the storm cloud.

It's not a complete dud, there are a few positives. Some I could not have known even today as Mr Kopec had the benefit of having seen it before and identifying differences that are not evident to someone with this advantage.

Feel free to comment, and you can pick this one apart as much as you like!

In a bit, I will comment on what I now note and what I see if looking at this one today, with more experience, and then I will post John Kopec's letter for all to see and learn from.
 

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As a collector we have all been there. We have also had valuable lessons learned. Maybe not all of us :cool:. Most of us quickly sell our missteps and move on. Out of sight out of mind. Kudos to you for keeping yours and continuing to learn.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
And more photographs of some particularly problematic areas that will be more readily apparent when John Kopec's letter is posted. The last photograph is a good example of what is not just wrong with this revolver, but others that have been messed with, First Generations, both Civilian and Military. I cannot state definitively that this photograph can be used in the evaluation of ALL Colt Single Action Army revolvers as some third generation production has been questionable over the years.
 

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I would like to comment even before you post the Kopec letter that since Artillery Models were assembled by most likely more than one person, the fit of all Artilleries will vary. In particular, I suspect that as the assembling-from-parts process progressed, it became exceedingly more and more difficult for assemblers to create 'near perfect' fits. Therefore, to me, if you or Kopec object to the fit of the ears of the backstrap to the frame, my comment would be, "How do you prove that was not just a poor fit by the assemblers?"
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I would like to comment even before you post the Kopec letter that since Artillery Models were assembled by most likely more than one person, the fit of all Artilleries will vary. In particular, I suspect that as the assembling-from-parts process progressed, it became exceedingly more and more difficult for assemblers to create 'near perfect' fits. Therefore, to me, if you or Kopec object to the fit of the ears of the backstrap to the frame, my comment would be, "How do you prove that was not just a poor fit by the assemblers?"
Correct! I cannot prove this definitively to be the case, but I would certainly prefer to see a much better fit of the ears of the backstrap to the frame. At the very least, the fit evident in my photograph would be troublesome on a First Generation Colt Civilian or Cavalry Model revolver. Another telling sign with regards to my particular revolver is the soft edges of the backstrap near the ears as the 90 degree angle courses from horizontal to vertical.
 

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When you get tired of it, let me know. I'd be more than willing to take it off your hands. I love guns that are altered or not perfect. I feel better about shooting them, and certainly my wallet likes them better too.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
When you get tired of it, let me know. I'd be more than willing to take it off your hands. I love guns that are altered or not perfect. I feel better about shooting them, and certainly my wallet likes them better too.
Funny you should say that. This Artillery Model revolver might actually be fired later this week with black powder at the Rod & Gun Club. It's a fine example that can be used for this very purpose.
 

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Funny you should say that. This Artillery Model revolver might actually be fired later this week with black powder at the Rod & Gun Club. It's a fine example that can be used for this very purpose.

Richmond Rod and Gun club? Please say yes haha
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
And John Kopec's Letter

And, as posted, is John Kopec's letter on this one. I will state that John had seen this one at least once before, so he was aware of previously assembled parts that I would have had no way of knowing that they had been switched with other known Artillery Model parts, or, worse yet, Civilian Model parts.

Let's start with the good news. The most important parts--the frame and the cylinder (as well as the hammer)--are genuine and are untouched with condition. My concern with the cylinder was the lack of the serial number from the donor revolver, but John states that John T Cleveland may have inspected some cylinders as "spare parts", and this cylinder could have originated from that source. I agree with John in that this cylinder has never been buffed and remains as sharp as new. This cylinder was with this revolver at the time of initial inspection.

The frame and hammer case colours remain exceptional, according to John. Since becoming more experienced with these, I will state that I think this is a superlative statement in that I think they are really good, definitely above average, but I would not say that they are exceptional relative to others I have since seen. But, thank you John, I will gladly accept the compliment! At the time of purchase in 1998 or 1999, I had thought to myself, "Wow! This gun dates from 1874, 125 or so years previously, and still has decent case colours!" Yes, that still is a draw for me even today, but while uncommon relative to the majority brown guns extant from that era, it is not the best I've seen, or even own, today.

So, a checkmark in the plus column, frame, hammer, and cylinder!

It now goes downhill from here...

The triggerguard has been reblued, now obvious as I gain experience. The number "120030" appears too uniform to me and the font of some digits appears slightly different from original in my opinion. There definitely is a line through the middle of the third and last 0 of the serial number, which curves and is probably a portion of another number previously applied to the trigger guard. John states that the number now on this triggerguard has been restamped. John states that the triggerguard originally with this revolver was serial numbered 4241. Why this was changed out is a mystery to me. In fact, why this was submitted previously with authentic parts and then changed out since initial examination is a mystery to me. I would have no way of knowing this. As I have gained experience, had I looked at this triggerguard for the first time today, I would have questioned the serial number with the font and the uniformity and the line through the last 0. Additionally, the reblue is somewhat obvious.

The backstrap has also been reblued according to John, and I agree with this as well--the butt, at the very least appears browned and, in my opinion, it has an artificial appearance. With the grips removed, the reblue is even more obvious. John states the serial number originally on this backstrap was 28879, and a faked 19535 has been applied. No matter how much I look at the backstrap, I cannot figure out how John determined the original serial number on the backstrap was 28879, but such it is. Any part starting with a 2 and containing five digits can be nothing other than civilian in origin. The restamped fonts on the backstrap appear acceptable, but very uniform, which is, of course, possible. Had I examined this revolver today for the first time, the reblue would have been obvious, especially when disassembled.

I had no concerns with regards to the barrel on this one, and still don't. Although not evident in the photographs, there is nice feathering on either side of the front sight, the markings appear crisp... However, the original barrel fitted, at least at the time of initial examination, was not 3520 (or 13520). It was barrel number 451. Why the barrel was switched out remains a mystery, especially since both contain italic barrel addresses. This is something I would not have been aware of, and probably not John, had he not seen this revolver before with a different barrel. A caveat here--many Artillery revolvers could have had like Artillery Model parts swapped out over the years, and this would be unknown until recorded. Once recorded by John, or other sources, and swapped out, it can no longer be the same as it was at initial examination, but can be different as originally assembled at the time of armoury refurbishment.

The grips appeared problematic at the time I purchased this revolver, and it is even more obvious to me now, and, of course, to John. First, they lack the original oil finish and now appear too glossy. John describes the cartouches as facsimile stampings, which means they are faked. They are weakly stamped and that was not my overriding concern, given the other problems--eg, the finish and they appear too dark as compared to other known examples I have since handled. For what it's worth, the grip removal was easy in that the grip slipped right off readily. I'm not sure that if sliding off easily vs a more firm fit would "suggest" replacement vs original (or at least original to the refurbishment) being more likely.

Lastly, what strikes me most about this revolver is the "dark" appearance of the grips, backstrap, and triggerguard. Such dark appearances, as I have gained experience, are usually not indicative of originality. Most firearms when faked or intentionally reblued lack the richer hues of blue or the proper appearance of walnut that contains original finish.

What is most disturbing about this revolver is not the problematic parts that I now can readily identify as faked, or at least not quite right, but the parts that were correct as originating at Springfield Armory, but swapped out with other correct Artillery parts, for reasons unknown to me but obvious to the person engaged in modifying this revolver. Having said that, had this revolver been examined by John for the first time as submitted by me, it is probable that the barrel would have raised no red flags whatsoever.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
This was not addressed in the previous post, nor by John. Yes, as discussed previously, the lack of a smooth junction between the ears of the backstrap and the frame is something you definitely do not wish to see on a Civilian Model or a Cavalry Model, but somewhat less a concern on an Artillery Model as these are reassembled firearms. However, the photograph was provided to show the softness of the edges to the left and right side, strongly suggesting polishing and rebluing. This photograph, however, is excellent, in my opinion (especially since my photography is notoriously amateur in nature) in that it displays a poor junction between these two parts of the revolver.
 

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John's archives are extremely valuable! When he has examined a gun like yours before, he is able to say that it had different parts or different serial numbers on the parts. He is also able to refer back to his notes regarding condition of the finish on each part, especially the frame in case of re-case hardening.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
But can it shoot?

If anyone doubts the power that .45 Colt can pack using FFFg black powder, it sure can kick! Fired 49 rounds today, some with 35 or so grains of black powder, the remainder with a filler of Cream of Wheat filler. Less punch with the latter, but no discernible difference in grouping. The first target is at 10 feet, the other two photographs are as the shooting progressed. All but the first cylinder, at 10 feet, were fired at 75 feet. Will stop a horse or an Injun, not bad for just plinking. And this revolver after firing 49 rounds.
 

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If anyone doubts the power that .45 Colt can pack using FFFg black powder, it sure can kick! Fired 49 rounds today, some with 35 or so grains of black powder, the remainder with a filler of Cream of Wheat filler. Less punch with the latter, but no discernible difference in grouping. The first target is at 10 feet, the other two photographs are as the shooting progressed. All but the first cylinder, at 10 feet, were fired at 75 feet. Will stop a horse or an Injun, not bad for just plinking. And this revolver after firing 49 rounds.

Seriously, you need to let me take that gun off your hands. Very nice. I shoot all my colts, even the new ones, with black powder. It just feels right. I don't think the kick with 35 grains in a 250 grain bullet (my standard load) is that bad. Black powder has a different kind of recoil than smokeless. That being said, I let a couple of my buddies shoot my loads at a cowboy match last month and they both thought they were shooting 44 magnums. So i suppose it's all relative.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Bighipiron,

The recoil isn't unpleasant, not anywhere as abrupt as .44 Magnum with smokeless powder. Actually quite fun to shoot! Just wanted to allay any notions others might have as blackpowder instead of smokeless powder was fired.
 

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Seriously, you need to let me take that gun off your hands. Very nice. I shoot all my colts, even the new ones, with black powder. It just feels right. I don't think the kick with 35 grains in a 250 grain bullet (my standard load) is that bad. Black powder has a different kind of recoil than smokeless. That being said, I let a couple of my buddies shoot my loads at a cowboy match last month and they both thought they were shooting 44 magnums. So i suppose it's all relative.
As a spotter, there is no mistaking blackpowder. It makes a heck of a racket and it helps keep the bugs away. But it does make it difficult to keep an eye on the target to count hits.
 

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All this reblue that is stated as "obvious".....if you say so! Looks like a sweet Artillery Model to me. I guess I should never buy one...I just proved to myself with a lot of study of your photographs that I cant tell real from altered! (Except the restamped digits on the tg).
Regarding the switched out parts since Mr Kopec last had it....maybe the person doing the swapping had another Artillery SAA that had a frame serial number that matched the serial of the switched parts??
 

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I have mixed feelings about these artillery model Colts. I have one myself. I have thought about sending it to Kopec for authentication but why? I know mine has a correct serial number and Colt factory letter stating it was issued to the government. I have checked the serial numbers of the other mixed parts and they fall within the correct cavalry issued guns and most have some type of inspectors stamping. Maybe the unmarked hammer was replaced but, after 120 years, who knows what they were really doing when they refurbished these guns. I have great respect for Kopec but I dont think he can authenticate an artillery gun any better than any other Colt expert. Now, when it comes to numbers matching Cavalry models, he is the authority in my mind. I would ship one to him in a heartbeat. Almost every Kopec Artillery letter I read has "could be" Might be" or some such wording on certain components. Does that really enhance the value of the gun? On my gun for example, I know my grips have been replaced because I replaced them. Dont worry. Someone had some homemade laminated grips on it. I know my hammer is not marked with an inspection. The serial number on my cylinder is so worn, I cant make it out so, if it ever had an inspectors mark, its long gone. Would a $400.00 Kopec inspection enhance the value of my gun? I dont see how but maybe I am wrong. In the grand scheme of things, what is an Artillery model Colt ? A parts gun. Knowing the government, they wanted these guns refurbished as fast and cheaply as possible. In my mind, I see a couple of guys stripping piles of them down, separating the parts, cleaning them, and a few guys assembling them with new or used parts and making them fit as close as possible with no regard to serial number. Possibly a final inspection or two with additional stamps added at that time. Who knows for sure. I could be WAYYY off. Bottom line, when it comes to artilleries, its a lot of guess work.
 

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hearsedriver, you make some good points, but collectors want Artilleries that have been 'blessed' by Kopec.
 
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