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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I am negotiating to purchase a 1900s era Colt SAA in 90%+ condition. It comes from an old gentleman's estate and the heir swears that it is original, including the grips. Looking at the heel of the grip on the right side of the gun, it appears that the grips are not a perfect fit next to the grip frame. Did ivory grips sometimes "warp" after decades of storage?
 

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Any more pictures of the whole gun? The hammer knurling looks unique in the picture above.
 

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I have not noticed warped Ivory before but it stands to reason that they could warp. It may have been caused by the screw being set too tight. They probably could be straightened by someone who works with ivory. Some natural products (like horn) can be softened with water or steam to allow some manipulation, but I would not try it myself; let a pro do it. They fit that gun very well otherwise; have some age and look good. It may be the white balance of your camera but I would expect to see more of a yellow color on 100+ year old ivory. A call to Colt or a factory letter would say if it was shipped with ivory. The style of hammer spur, without the line below the knurling was used a few years in 1906-1907 era (here we go from memory again instead of getting out the book) before going to a borderless knurl. That said however, the hammer's color does not match the case colors on the frame so it may be some kind of replacement hammer. Hope this helps.
 

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I have many Colt SAA's with ivory grips. In viewing the pictures you posted, I believe the ivory panel on the left (in the picture) is simply a bit thicker than the panel on the right. That is not unusual for grips on which some non-professional might do to short-cut a job. If these grips were original to Colt, I would not expect that thickness difference. Also, in viewing the cracking pattern on the grip bottoms, it appears that the two panels may not be perfectly matched (cut from the same larger piece of ivory stock). The left panel has more cracking which might mean it was cut from a larger piece of ivory that was closer to the tusk surface. In general, ivory that is away from the tusk surface (on the same tusk) displays less cracking with aging. None of my comments should be taken as hard-fast rules. These are simply my observations over the years and from discussions with other people who have worked with ivory.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Here are some additional photos. The serial number on the gun dates it to 1902. About some of the questions: The ivory is actually a whitish yellow and you can see some light yellow areas near the top. A closer photo of the knurling on the trigger is included. To me the case-hardening on the trigger looks to match the rest of the frame. I would appreciate any additional comments anyone wants to make. I talked to the seller and the grips are solid with no give to the area at the toe where it appears to have warped a little.

The bluing and case-hardening appear to be original and there are a few minor to the bluing on the cylinder. Firearm Gun Revolver Trigger Gun accessory
Gun Firearm Revolver Trigger Gun accessory
Firearm Gun Trigger Revolver Gun accessory
Gun Revolver Firearm Trigger Starting pistol
Footwear Personal protective equipment Shoe
 

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Looks like there is something between the right grip panel and the grip frame at the bottom rear toe, have you had the grips off yet? [might be a 100.00 bill stashed in there]........Ha......Mike
 

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Ivory, like all natural material, reacts to it's environment. When the humidity is low they will contract or shrink. When the humidity is higher they will expand. They will never fit "perfectly" unless you can replicate the RH when they were crafted. The crazing on the heal is checking and not uncommon with ivory. As the Scrimshander for Randall Made knives I've worked with ivory for over 30 years. Those ivory grips are no where near as old as the SAA, they are way too white but who cares. One piece ivory grips are $600.00+ and those look stable from what I can tell.

For everyone that has ivory grips, you should wipe a light coat of mineral oil on them every month or so. I use baby oil, it smells better!
Gun Revolver Firearm Trigger Starting pistol
 

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I have many Colt SAA's with ivory grips, from all 3 generations, including Colt 1911's with ivory grips, as well as several other makes with ivory..I have never had any problem with any of my ivory gripped guns. I do have an old original Merwyn Hulbert, Open Top Army with ivory and it does exhibit some minor shrinkage at the toe of the grips on both sides, bottom is heavily veined and yellowed, but no real cracks, just old age(like Me!). My only 'old' SAA with ivory, from 1881 has ivory and except for being veined and 'cracked'(not broken) from age, they are still intact, not chipped or broken, but yes, some very minor shrinkage to the grip frame, but still would call it a 'proud' fit to the frame.
With reasonable care, regular oiling of the ivory will keep them in great shape. Age will yellow ivory, and they are a natural material so yes, anything 'could'
happen but not likely in our lifetime. Unless abused, ivory is pretty tough stuff!

The very best lube/preservative for ivory that I have ever found is pure sperm whale oil, which I find at auctions (Pre Ban, of course).The very best oil for preserving antique guns In particular. I have one full pint left, labeled from the early 1860's, New Bedford, Mass. WAY Pre Ban!!!!
A little goes a long way
 

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I have never had any problems with my ivories as well, never warped or shrunk .......sixgunshorty35717 never heard of the whale oil trick but I bet that works, does the whale oil make them yellow faster?..can you still find it anywhere. I"d like to see the 1860 label on that bottle...MIKE
 

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The Master Colt engraver, Ken Hurst, gave me some Narwhale oil (or something like that) to put on my ivory. That stuff 'smells to high heavens'!! As a chemist, I suspect that most animal or plant based oil will somewhat penetrate the ivory and help to keep it from shrinking. Plant based oil: Coconut/palm oil; olive oil. I think the key is that the oil needs to not be pure hydrocarbon-based (oil from oil wells) even though the Green People refer to such oil as being from decayed plant or animal sources.
A major negative for animal or plant based oils would be ones that can absorb large amounts of water. That could result in rust to the metal. Usually, if water is absorbed; water can be released.
The sperm whale oil is an excellent choice if you can find it.
 
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