I was told that this one was first shipped in 1904 as a 32-20 to Chicago. It was returned and then shipped in 1905 as a nickel, 5 1/2", 41 Colt in a one gun special order to St. Louis. I am taking a guess but if this is true the dealers in those days could send them back to Colt . I am sure others will have better information.
This is just my personal, unknowing opinion, but I’m not sure that Colt actually duplicated serial numbers on guns. It could happen, but I suspect it would have been caught on the production lines and one of the guns would have had an extra stamp like Winchester did to signify a duplicate and differentiate it from the other.
Since the Archive Letters are derived from the shipping records, I suspect that duplicates were caused by a Colt employee recording the wrong serial number in the records and creating a false duplicate. This would also explain the “No Record” guns. In the case of duplicate serial numbers in the records, the configuration of the gun that matches the configuration of your gun is the correct record. A problem arises if the configuration of both guns are the same; then you don’t know if your gun is the one that shipped to Bat Masterson or to Simmons Hardware!!!!!!
Personally, I'm not aware of a case where two Colt Single Actions with the same serial number have been discovered.
I think Old-Colts hit it right on the head. Human errors....when the guy or gal in the shipping room was writing down descriptions and serial numbers they made mistakes. They would have never dreamed in a 100 years in the future that some collector would care or it would have any affect on value!
That is what makes the sheriff's models (ejectorless) and factory engraved and other special features that actual are mentioned on the factory letters so valuable.
The fakers love to find "no record" guns and then do their magic alterations on them.
I know of one case, a Martial SAA sharing a SN with a civilian 44-40. I have inspected both guns and they are supported by paper work. It is not my story to tell and hopefully the owner can complte his article for the Rampant Colt in time for us older collectors to read it.
Something similiar just happened to me with a New Model #3 S&W. It is pictured in the W.F Sheard thread in the lounge area. I have the letter from S&W and it states shipped with a 6 1/2" barrel with a butt swivel. The gun is close in serial range to the Japanese contract guns; that was the configuration they all were shipped in. The barrel has not beeb cut to 6" and there is no provision for the swivel. Human error is likely to blame when they recorded the info 100 years ago.