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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A recent acquisition: a Colt M1860 Army Revolver manufactured in 1862 according to Colt's site. It is interesting because of the tinplating. Normally, these revolvers were finished with a case-hardened frame, blued trigger, backstrap and hammer and a brass trigger guard. However, I've read some weapons issued to the Union Navy were tin-plated due to the corrosive effects of salt water on traditional finishes. Notice the small "U. S." markings on the bottom of the grips on either side of the butt strap as well. Any additional information to aid in my research would be greatly appreciated.

BroGeo
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The Navy did use 1860's during the civil war. usually they were not marked. On a few there was a large USN on the bottom of the butt strap. Not sure about tin plating I have seen this mentioned before but have never seen any documentation for revolvers. An archive letter would give you the shipping information.
Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
What I have been able to research so far:

Charles Pate states, " I saw your pistol when Amoskeag (auction #130, Lot #666) had it up for auction and looked up the shipping info. It was shipped to the Army's Washington Arsenal on 6/9/1862 in a shipment of 500 pistols. If you look at page 212 of my book you will see that Washington Arsenal was ordered to send 150 "pistols" for the USS "Eastport" in August 1862. These may have been single-shot pistols, but it is also possible that they were M1860 revolvers, since that was the type of arm wanted for the ship. However, I'm not aware of the Navy having plated any of their Colts or marked them in the manner of your gun."

The USS Eastport (formally the CSS Eastport) was a well-modeled, fast Mississippi River steamer built at New Albany, Ind., in 1852, was acquired by Confederate Navy in January 1862 and underwent conversion to an ironclad gunboat at Cerro Gordo on the Tennessee River prior to duty with Lt. Issac N. Brown's flotilla. Her alterations were about half completed when on 7 February 1862 she was captured by the Union gunboats, Conestoga, Tyler, and Lexington, under the command of Lt. Seth Ledyard Phelps together with the materials to finish the job.
Eastport was sent to Cairo, Il., and her conversion finished. She then served with the Union Army until 1 October 1862 when the ships of the Western Flotilla were turned over to the Navy and renamed the Mississippi Squadron. Eastport steamed on western waters until sunk on 15 April 1864 in the Red River by a Confederate torpedo during the Union retreat. Efforts to salvage her failed and she was blown up and destroyed to prevent capture on 26 April 1864.
It has been suggested that Eastport may conceivably have been C. E. Hillman formerly, since Hillman's main particulars are said to match her description before iron plating.
The USS Eastport was a 280-foot ironclad gunboat of the Mississippi Squadron. It was scuttled and sunk by USN Rear Admiral David D. Porter and Com. S. L. Phelps to avoid capture by Confederate land forces on April 26, 1864 after the Eastport had earlier hit a "torpedo" submerged in Red River during Major General N. P. Banks’ Federal retreat near the end of his infamous Red River Campaign. Just after the war, the Federal troop-transport steamboat Ed. F. Dix was on its way up Red River to Shreveport with Federal cavalry onboard, who were preparing to march into Texas. On June 23, 1865, the Ed. F. Dix struck the submerged Eastport and sank on top of it. The Eastport’s forward starboard iron casemate was peeled back and pierced the Dix as it tried to pass over the sunken Eastport.

BroGeo
 

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U.S. Navy Procurement And Sea Service
In May 1861, the U.S. Navy placed orders for 750 new .44-cal. Colt “New Model Holster” pistols (Model 1860s) at a cost of $25 each. The guns received were of the fluted-cylinder design, with 500 received at the Boston Navy Yard and the balance at the New York Navy Yard. The final delivery of 200 was sent to the Washington Navy Yard in August. During the inspection of the August delivery, one revolver exploded three charges at one pull of the trigger. The problem was a flaw between the chambers. The Navy exchanged several of its Model 1860 Armys for .36-cal. Model 1861s. No further Navy orders were placed for Model 1860s. They were all the early fluted cylinder models.
The Army had responsibility for the operations on the Mississippi River and the inland rivers until October 1862, while the Navy supplied the officers and sailors for the vessels purchased by the War Department for operations there. The Army supplied the vessels with small arms, including the Model 1860 revolvers. On Oct. 1, 1862, the Navy took over responsibility for operations on the inland waterways, and the Army gunboats and their ordnance stores were transferred to the Navy.
December 12, 1862, saw the 175 officers and crew of the gunboat Cairo operating on the Yazoo River, where it was assigned to protect two gunboats trying to clear the river of torpedoes. The Confederates on shore electrically detonated two torpedoes alongside the Cairo, and she sank within 12 minutes without the loss of life. In 1964, Cairo was raised from the bottom of the river, and among the artifacts recovered from the wreck were two 1860 Colts, serial numbers 16408 and 17092. The two revolvers are on display at the U.S.S. Cairo Gunboat Museum, a portion of the Vicksburg National Military Park. Model 1860 Colts remained on board Union warships on the western waters throughout the war. Ships known to have received them were the Mount City, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cairo, Carondelet, Louisville, St. Louis, Benton, Essex, Tyler, Conestoga and Lexington.
A year after the war, the Navy’s storage location at Jefferson Barracks listed 284 1860 Colts in inventory.
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1860 Colt “Army” revolvers recovered from the “USS Cairo” wreck in 1964, Serial #s 16408 and 17092. Revolvers are housed in the USS Cairo Gunboat Museum and appear that they may have some remnants of tin plating remaining. A call to the museum could confirm if they were plated or not.
There was also a third Colt Army later recovered from the wreck site.
I think you are on the right path of research and a tin plated Colt Army/artifact associated with the Mississippi Squadron would be a real rarity.
 

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Always difficult to tell tin plating from that old thin nickel plating you often see on these old Colts.
But one thing is for sure - this plating was put on long after this gun was made, after it had been used and abused.
Look at the barrel - the serial number is weak, worn and polished down, but there is still some of this plating on the worn, sanded down parts.
The plating might be old, but it was added after this gun was worn and rusted quite a bit.
Remember that every small town hardware had a nickel plating tank after about 1875 or so, and lots of guns and tools were plated by some owner that thought this would be a way to brighten it up.
 

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Plating over a pitted or sanded surface retains the material of any type in the pits and scratches the longest.
If you notice the plating is not bright, but very dull. That means it’s either tin or nickel sulfamate (which is sometimes used as an underplate for many other plating types) The late 1870s saw a literal war of lawsuits pertaining to nickel plating rights and formulations. Springfield employed J. S. Howard to nickel plate two 1875 Officers Rifles for the Centennial exposition in 1876. The formula for those was not patented until early 1876.
I have done a good bit of research on different types of early plating and would enjoy reading or seeing period advertising for the nickel plating available in every hardware store if you could share some references.
‘There are known tin plated Colts tin plated Colts of various models from this time period. They look very similar to Brother Georges. Not to mention Brother George is not a novice when it comes to evaluating firearms and is an outstanding researcher. If you put a little time into this I believe you will find he is on the right path.
These are in better condition than the one in question but it is evident the tin plating adheres better to the brass than the steel. The serial number range places it in a most likely issue to Illinois and or gunboat crews as per known 1860 Colt shipments. Many items issued for the use on “tin clads” (ironclads) were tin plated. The revolvers in the “Cairo Gunboat Museum” have remnants of tin plating as shown in a prior post.
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onefish:

I must admit that my reference is similar to gun show wisdom, but somewhat better.
I had a long correspondence with a well know single action army collector and dealer out in St. Louis, gone these many years, but well known to Single Action Army guys for decades. I'll remember his name in the middle of the night, and list his name!
He told me than a few times that back "in the Earlies" professional rebluing was not readily available, usually requiring a trip back to the factory, but nickel plating was widely available. The systems used involved some nasty stuff as waste, and so fell into disfavor.
I myself have owned two SAAs with aftermarket nickel plate on them where, when i removed the ejector housing, there was bright factory blue - the fellow who did the plating just left the part on the gun, and plated it that way! That's sure not professional, is it?

I once owned a nice Colt Navy with what I believed to be tin plate on it. I'll attach some photos of it.
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Interesting. Seems everyone was plating except for Colt, who sent their guns out for plating.
 

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Interesting. Seems everyone was plating except for Colt, who sent their guns out for plating.
Colt outsourced some aspects of their work - including the casings made for revolvers, and the engraving work.

But Nickel plating was not too available until after the Civil War - I believe that when you get to the 1870s is when it became much more available.
 

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Plating over a pitted or sanded surface retains the material of any type in the pits and scratches the longest.
If you notice the plating is not bright, but very dull. That means it’s either tin or nickel sulfamate (which is sometimes used as an underplate for many other plating types) The late 1870s saw a literal war of lawsuits pertaining to nickel plating rights and formulations. Springfield employed J. S. Howard to nickel plate two 1875 Officers Rifles for the Centennial exposition in 1876. The formula for those was not patented until early 1876.
I have done a good bit of research on different types of early plating and would enjoy reading or seeing period advertising for the nickel plating available in every hardware store if you could share some references.
‘There are known tin plated Colts tin plated Colts of various models from this time period. They look very similar to Brother Georges. Not to mention Brother George is not a novice when it comes to evaluating firearms and is an outstanding researcher. If you put a little time into this I believe you will find he is on the right path.
These are in better condition than the one in question but it is evident the tin plating adheres better to the brass than the steel. The serial number range places it in a most likely issue to Illinois and or gunboat crews as per known 1860 Colt shipments. Many items issued for the use on “tin clads” (ironclads) were tin plated. The revolvers in the “Cairo Gunboat Museum” have remnants of tin plating as shown in a prior post.
View attachment 780135
Onefish:

I've read your posting again, and must say you show yourself to be both a scholar (with your excellent mustering of facts,) and a gentleman (because you didn't scoff at my comment about availability of nickel, but asked for my sources).

I did want to clarify my comments about why I see this plating as put after this Colt revolver was used and abused. This judgement is about that first gun in this thread, the Colt model 1860 serial number 43158, and is based on only the barrel lug section shown in the final photo.

The edge of a Colt percussion barrel where it fits against the frame gets NO WEAR in normal use or cleaning. Those two edges are fitted right against each other. This should be completely flat, but it is rounded on all edges. The serious rounding seen on Colt 43158 was caused by some unskilled Doofus polishing the living heck out of that area of the barrel. This is not professional work and not skilled work of any sort. it even polished down the area with the serial - weakening the serial.

This is the sort of edge rounding you'll find on edges of wood furniture done by amateurs in their sanding.

But there are flecks of this plating on this surface. Not inside nicks or the serial. The remnants of this plating are on the smooth metal surface here, a surface polished down by some unskilled person, with the gun apart, who caused this unskilled removal of metal before the nickel was applied. This was not a skilled, let alone a professional job, and I can't imagine the Navy accepting any such work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
JNobleDagget,

I appreciate your input although I respectfully disagree with your conclusions concerning the subject revolver. While I do not believe the tinplating is "factory-applied", I do believe it to be period finished. As far as the wear on the barrel lug, I have observed numerous percussion Colts, including others in my collection, that exhibit similar wear in that area while the other serial numbers seem to retain their sharpness. I suspect it had to do with how they were disassembled/reassembled during cleaning. Black powder fouling would often seize up the arbor pin in the barrel channel and tapping on the base of the barrel lug and either side of the breech would cause it to come apart more easily rather than trying to pull it apart by brute force. I have seen modern black powder shooters do this with reproductions as well. Remember, these pistols were tools, not collectibles and were handled as such. Since I do not see similar evidence of buffing or rounding on the other parts of the revolver, I do not attribute the wear on the barrel lug to some unskilled person trying to "freshen" up a gun.
I have also just read an article in The Rampant Colt about double inspector markings applied to a four known Army-Navies/Navy-Navies where additional inspectors' initials were stamped on either side of the butt-strap in similar fashion to the "U.S." stampings that appear on my subject revolver. Conjecture, I know, but a fascinating coincidence.

BroGeo












 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Everyone, since there seems to be great interest in early CW plating (nickel or tin), I thought I would share some pictures of another Colt M1860 Revolver from the same collection as the subject revolver; however, this example is a commercial purchase and is nickel plated. While I did not purchase this example, I know the individual who did.

BroGeo
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Everyone, since there seems to be great interest in early CW plating (nickel or tin), I thought I would share some pictures of another Colt M1860 Revolver from the same collection as the subject revolver; however, this example is a commercial purchase and is nickel plated. While I did not purchase this example, I know the individual who did.

BroGeo
After consulting with Chares Pate, according to Colt records, this pistol was shipped to the Washington Arsenal either the 24th or 28th of June 1862. After the War, it was picked out because it saw little usage and was paired with another lightly used twin, nickel plated and presented to someone.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
onefish:

I must admit that my reference is similar to gun show wisdom, but somewhat better.
I had a long correspondence with a well know single action army collector and dealer out in St. Louis, gone these many years, but well known to Single Action Army guys for decades. I'll remember his name in the middle of the night, and list his name!
He told me than a few times that back "in the Earlies" professional rebluing was not readily available, usually requiring a trip back to the factory, but nickel plating was widely available. The systems used involved some nasty stuff as waste, and so fell into disfavor.
I myself have owned two SAAs with aftermarket nickel plate on them where, when i removed the ejector housing, there was bright factory blue - the fellow who did the plating just left the part on the gun, and plated it that way! That's sure not professional, is it?

I once owned a nice Colt Navy with what I believed to be tin plate on it. I'll attach some photos of it.
View attachment 780966 View attachment 780967 View attachment 780968 View attachment 780969 View attachment 780970
Interesting Colt Navy. According to Colt's site, manufactured in 1857. I take it you no longer own this example. The Perry Colts were purchased in 1852-3, but it might be possible this one was a left-over or perhaps ordered for usage in a humid environment - the "freckled" appearance is indicative of water droplets condensing on the metal surface eventually leading corrosion. Did you get a letter on it?

BroGeo
 

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JNobleDagget,

I appreciate your input although I respectfully disagree with your conclusions concerning the subject revolver. While I do not believe the tinplating is "factory-applied", I do believe it to be period finished. As far as the wear on the barrel lug, I have observed numerous percussion Colts, including others in my collection, that exhibit similar wear in that area while the other serial numbers seem to retain their sharpness. I suspect it had to do with how they were disassembled/reassembled during cleaning. Black powder fouling would often seize up the arbor pin in the barrel channel and tapping on the base of the barrel lug and either side of the breech would cause it to come apart more easily rather than trying to pull it apart by brute force. I have seen modern black powder shooters do this with reproductions as well. Remember, these pistols were tools, not collectibles and were handled as such. Since I do not see similar evidence of buffing or rounding on the other parts of the revolver, I do not attribute the wear on the barrel lug to some unskilled person trying to "freshen" up a gun.
I have also just read an article in The Rampant Colt about double inspector markings applied to a four known Army-Navies/Navy-Navies where additional inspectors' initials were stamped on either side of the butt-strap in similar fashion to the "U.S." stampings that appear on my subject revolver. Conjecture, I know, but a fascinating coincidence.

BroGeo
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The above is the photo I was looking at. My point is a limited one, that some person(s) filed or sanded the heck out of this barrel lug area while it was separate from the frame for some reason. There is no reason for ANY wear on the barrel lug area in normal service - that area is protected from rubbing and wear, except some mechanical serious polishing, which this has suffered. Sometimes a gun was "set back" to reduce the gap between barrel and frame, and this might include some filing work to try to make it fit. Often this "setting back" work will cause the flat of the frame and the flat of the barrel to form a "step" - they no longer are even level, and some one will "help" make them even with each other again by removing metal, sometimes professionally, sometimes Bubba quality work. Sometimes, a user separated the parts by hammering a chisel or flat screwdriver blade into the joint, and then tries to "fix" the damaged with a file!

On this one, metal has been removed not only from the area where it is against the gun but, there is also some rounding on the forward area of the lug, where it should be flat.
In any event, all I am saying is that it looks like small bits of nickel are still on the surface of this seriously filed down / heavily sanded area metal, and so the nickel on that part can't be original finish left on that area of the metal.
To me, this is just as certain as when you see pitted or scratched metal that has solid and even blue on it and the owner says it is factory original blue!
 

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onefish:

I must admit that my reference is similar to gun show wisdom, but somewhat better.
I had a long correspondence with a well know single action army collector and dealer out in St. Louis, gone these many years, but well known to Single Action Army guys for decades. I'll remember his name in the middle of the night, and list his name!
He told me than a few times that back "in the Earlies" professional rebluing was not readily available, usually requiring a trip back to the factory, but nickel plating was widely available. The systems used involved some nasty stuff as waste, and so fell into disfavor.
I myself have owned two SAAs with aftermarket nickel plate on them where, when i removed the ejector housing, there was bright factory blue - the fellow who did the plating just left the part on the gun, and plated it that way! That's sure not professional, is it?

I once owned a nice Colt Navy with what I believed to be tin plate on it. I'll attach some photos of it.
View attachment 780966 View attachment 780967 View attachment 780968 View attachment 780969 View attachment 780970
i DO OWN AN18
JNobleDagget,

I appreciate your input although I respectfully disagree with your conclusions concerning the subject revolver. While I do not believe the tinplating is "factory-applied", I do believe it to be period finished. As far as the wear on the barrel lug, I have observed numerous percussion Colts, including others in my collection, that exhibit similar wear in that area while the other serial numbers seem to retain their sharpness. I suspect it had to do with how they were disassembled/reassembled during cleaning. Black powder fouling would often seize up the arbor pin in the barrel channel and tapping on the base of the barrel lug and either side of the breech would cause it to come apart more easily rather than trying to pull it apart by brute force. I have seen modern black powder shooters do this with reproductions as well. Remember, these pistols were tools, not collectibles and were handled as such. Since I do not see similar evidence of buffing or rounding on the other parts of the revolver, I do not attribute the wear on the barrel lug to some unskilled person trying to "freshen" up a gun.
I have also just read an article in The Rampant Colt about double inspector markings applied to a four known Army-Navies/Navy-Navies where additional inspectors' initials were stamped on either side of the butt-strap in similar fashion to the "U.S." stampings that appear on my subject revolver. Conjecture, I know, but a fascinating coincidence.

BroGeo

I do own an 1856 Production Colt Model 1851 .36ca, with USN stamped on butt strap and US under the Cot Patent on Left side of frame
Most definitely it is a Naval Contract Colt
It also has been tin plated, and traces are still in evidence including the top barrel Address which is totally obfuscated`
The Barrel , Frame, Rammer, Wedge, Butt Strap are all matching( 612390).The cylinder is not ( #61143) and is only 87 numbers away (which proves nothing( #61143) in and of itself
The Barrel address, which is not visible is obscured by what is left of the tin or was 'destroyed' in the tinning process
One can only speculate
No question however, that this is the original Barrel as the numbers all match ( save for the cylinder as mentioned above)
All other markings are faint, but entirely visible, except for the Barrel Address
It is also iron framed, as requested by the Navy which did not want brass frames and the Navy also specified square, not round, trigger guards
I have been researching colt 1851's (or other percussion era Colts) which was common to tin plate Naval Weapons in Britain, and parts of Europe and can find very little information about tin plating Colts during the Civil War
I have seen several Civil War era rifles tin plated, but no other pistol, save the one I own, and others on different Civil War forums have mentioned as well
The 1851 is in Antique Very Good-Excellent condition, action is perfect (albeit heavy ,as most are) , both notches hold as designed. Grips are well worn but original to the gun.
The Campeche Battle roll engraving is visible, but faint
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