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Discussion Starter #1
Friday I got a tip that a local gunshop got in an old Colt in 44WCF. We hot footed it over to look at it and bought it.

Serial # is 70605. It came with recent Colt letter and this homespun holster. The serial and letter puts it as 1881. The serial # on frame, trigger guard and backstrap match. The build numbers on frame, trigger guard, backstrap, cylinder and barrel match. The loading gate number does not match. All the markings are sharp and deep.

Letter says 7.5" nickel. Obviously, the length has shrunk. It's now 5.25. The sight looks to be factory and is in the right location for a 5.5" barrel. The crown is nickel plated. The build number looks like it has a * above it.

When looking through the "Subtle changes" topic, there are some questions. I'm thinking the ejector button should be a bullseye. It's a crescent. It and the housing look as new. The barrel roll mark says. "Frontier Six Shooter 44-40". The addition of the 44-40 came later than 1881? It does not have 44 maked at bottom of barrel next to frame. The three patent date in two lines and a colt without circle don't agree with "Subtle changes".

The hammer has checkering cut all the way to edge. It has a fixed pin but not old cone shape. I can't find a rampant colt mark but it's been worked on. It has a new cam and second notch is broken. I'm thinking it's a later 1st or early 2nd hammer.

The bolt and hand are new. The springs look new but are of the early very heavy type. The action is well timed and locks up solid.

The nickel plate that fit inside the holster is as nice as you'll find on a gun this old. The nickel exposed while in the holster is in bad shape. It's all but gone off the back of the backstrap and front of grip area.

The grips are homemade but not bad. The letter does not state grips but it has the stud for two-piece.

Any light you can shine on this old Colt would be appreciated.

Colt FSS holster a Feb 2020.jpg
Colt FSS 1881 a Feb 2020.jpg

Colt FSS 1881 b Feb 2020.jpg
 

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An 1881 should have an etched panel for the COLT FRONTIER SIX SHOOTER so the barrel has been changed and the hammer should have bordered checkering of the long style with a line under it. Sounds like the hammer needs rebuilding too. I wouldn't worry about spending the money to make it correct but just shoot it with ffg after getting that hammer fixed.
 

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As you surmised, there are changes to your revolver that cause it to differ from its original state. Some of your suppositions are correct, others are not and are likely original to your firearm and not later changes. Let's start with these:

The number within the loading gate is an assembly number and this would differ from the serial number most of the time. I'm only aware of one revolver that has an assembly number that is the same number as the last digits of the serial number, and this is purely a coincidence. You would likely find matching numbers on the frame should you elect to remove the trigger guard.

Ovoid ejector rod heads started to evolve around serial number 65,000. So yours, with a serial number of 70605 might have originated with this ovoid ejector rod head. The bullseye was phased out over the next few years, until 1883, in Civilian Models, but remained in production for Cavalry Model revolvers that were produced until 1891.

As you already noted, the barrel is not original to your firearm, nor are the grips. Acid etched barrels would have been produced until late 1889, so yours would have originally had such a barrel on it along with a front sight that would not have been as abrupt nor tall. Attached are photographs of Colt Frontier Six Shooters I own (first two photographs), or have owned in the past (second two photographs) with acid etched panels. Also, the grips are that which yours would have originated with.

Also, difficult to tell from the photographs, but I strongly suspect an old renickeling/refinish.

How much are you into your revolver for? With the replaced barrel and grips and the possible refinish, unfortunately, your revolver has limited appeal to collectors and its valuation is substantially lower than it would be with original finish and an acid etched panel that contains a reasonable amount of the panel extant.

Edit: Also, the Colt on the frame is not original to the gun. There is a possibility it may have been applied by Colt perhaps if they rebarreled this firearm at a later date???
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank for the reply. I'm a shooter, not a collector so not planning to restore it to original factory condition. I'll get the second notch on the hammer repaired. Maybe find or make replacement grips.

Here are some more curious features. The build numbers on frame, trigger guard, backstrap and barrel agree. There is a 54 and 01 stamped under the trigger guard in a different font. What the significance of these numbers?
Colt FSS 54 01 stamp Feb 2020.jpg
Colt FSS numbers Feb 2020.jpg
 

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The build numbers you refer to on the frame, backstrap, barrel, and trigger guard are the serial numbers.

The numbers under the trigger guard are the assembly numbers and should match those on the loading gate.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
1125N is a colt factory refinish number. Sent back to Colt for refinish or repair and various parts numbered to keep them together.
Is there a * or & on the right rear TG bow ?
I don't see one on the trigger bow. But there looks to be one on the barrel above the 25.

Colt FSS barrel number Feb 2020.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Thanks guys,

I'll get it our when there is better light and look for more clues. Most of what's been said is about what I expected. It's just that I've seen many of these old guns really ruined by poor refinishing. Refinishing likely explains the wrong patent date stamp and rampant Colt.

Barrel length? This one measures 5.25" from cylinder face to muzzle. The end of the barrel is nickel plated. So.. was that a standard length back in the first generation days?

Colt FSS barrel length Feb 2020.jpg
 

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barrels 7 1/2 and 5 1/2". Depending on when Colt did the work they may have upgraded the barrel as the sight would indicate and stamped the Rampant Colt on the frame. Possible they replaced the hammer also.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Until I get the hammer repaired or find a good Colt hammer at an affordable price, I'm contemplating installing a Pietta hammer - stainless or nickel.

I've been told the Pietta hammer will drop in and work and the checkering pattern looks closer to early 1st generation than the one in it.

I pulled the hammer from one of my Cimarron Eleminator 8s and put it in the old gun. It fit and swong in fine and notches look to be in same place. The hole for the hand in the Pietta hammer is too small for the Colt hand. But that's no step for a stepper.
 

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Thumbs up! Even with ffg, it looks to come back reasonably well.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I got one more piece of the puzzle taken apart last night. On first disassembly, I found that the cylinder bushing was stuck. A measured light tap didn't knock it loose. So each time I had it apart, I applied penetrating oil on each end. I did this several times and tried bumping it each time. This morning I noticed it had moved just a little. I bumped it back and forth a couple of time - gaining a little each time. It's clean of rust and now and slides in and out easily.

Colt FSS cyl bushing Feb 2020.jpg
 

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I have had several of these "Back to the Factory" rebuilds. My experience is that if a part needed replaced, or re-marked/re-stamped, Colt used the current products and current dies in use at the time of the rebuild. I like them when they have those bin numbers stamped all over them, none of which are readily visible. My current one (I think it is the one) even has the ejector rod head numbered.

If you study the replaced parts and re-stampings/roll dies you can come pretty close to the time period when Colt did the rebuild. Example is your barrel's caliber marking...that style appeared in 1923 and was discontinued in 1929. (Kopec's "Study"). And since it has the larger/later front sight I would speculate the barrel was replaced at that time and a not re-stamping of the original barrel. Hope this helps.

Edit to add: The 5-1/4" barrel length is a bit confusing for a Colt replacement unless the customer specifically asked for that barrel length. Another possibility is that the customer had this CUT barrel on hand already and had Colt do the installation. Or, the newer CUT barrel had been installed previously before sending it to Colt. You will probably never know the answer to the barrel. The 5-1/4" was not a standard length offered.

Another observation is the stock locating pin in the trigger guard: The gun originally had one piece wood (most likely) and that pin would not have been there. The two piece grips did not appear until 1882. Could be some overlap in evolution of the grips, or, trigger guard replaced (which would explain the absence of the 6 pointed star or ampersand), or Colt installed the pin (which looks to be a factory pin).
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I got the hammer back today from Lever Action Bill. He had welded up and recut the second notch. It's now safe(r) to load. Thanks Bill!

Since I had it on the operating table, I fitted one-piece faux antler grips I'd cast a while back. They were made for a Uberti Cattleman so I had to do some fitting. All was overhang so not to ugly after done. And the medallions say 45Colt. I'll probably shoot it at next Cowboy Action Shooting match.

Colt FSS faux antler grip March 2020.jpg
 

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Looks great
Another one saved
Thank you both for repairing it and finishing it
Looks great to me
Thank you for sharing it with us
God Bless,John

Sent from my SM-S727VL using Tapatalk
 
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