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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Sam Colt did not make his own cases. he contracted with others to make them just as he did with powder flasks. No one knows how many suppliers he had (some say three and others say as many as five in the 1850's and 60's) but certain characteristics are common to the vast majority of the originals - and so we can suggest some tests to prove validity. Here they are, there are eight of them. If all eight are extant in a case you wish to validate, then it is likely a genuine Colt contract case.

1. THE WOOD: African mahogany is predominant even though walnut is sometimes found. Oak was used in most English factory cases.

2. THE SCREWS: They must be iron. Brass screws are modern and never found in those old cases of the period.

3. HARDWARE: Hinges and locks are brass and the wood around them is scribed by the carpenter to tell where to install.

4. PARTITIONS: Interior partitions are cloth covered wood and measure 3/16" or a little bit less in thickness: while the interior surrounds (thin dust liner wood around the sides of the case the side cloth attaches to) are 1/3 the thickness of the partitions and reveal a thin runner of unfinished wood at the top edge. Also the interior top edges (where the lid meets the case itself) are usually raw and unfinished.

5. ESCUTCHEONS: These vary with "cloverleaf" and round wooden shapes and brass shields most frequently found. (see pic)

6. PADDED LID INTERIOR: Horsehair stuffing was most frequently used to pad the inside of top lids in order to hold and protect the case contents when the lid was closed. It should be bunched up a bit and have a crunchy feel, never flat foam rubber.

7. BOTTOMS: Case bottoms were made of unfinished pine and sometimes roughly inserted showing spaces between the pine and the sides of the case with glue drips sometimes apparent.

8. LOCK PLATE ACCESS: The access hole for the catch should be a rectangle, neve round - and sometimes you will have two rectangles for double catch locks,

Simply apply all eight of the "tests". If they are all found then you have a rare piece of American history!

iron screws (left) not brass, thin dust liner (thinner than the partitions)

oxidized raw pine case bottom with oxidation darkening but no copal varnish

Original case with scribe marks (little lines at the hinges, sometimes not this long but a good example) somebody added a wood surround inside the lid. Also please notice the lock plate hole is rectangular.

Here are some original Colt escutcheons you will see, all are proper and thanks to Jordan and Watt for the pic (the only one here I did not take myself)


Is this an original Colt contract case?

Jeopardy music..............

Answer: NO three hinges, and whats with that "gator cloth" it should be baise fabric.

Another case to consider.

Jeopardy music.............

NO: Looks like a pimp Caddie with that velvet all over. This has been redone with original partition but he did not have enough so he punted behind the hammer with walnut in a strange shape. There might be an original under there, maybe the partitions came from it.

Another case to consider:

More Jeopardy music.........

NO: interior configuration is wrong, hinges are too close together, odd compartment behind the hammer, cloth is rolled over the top of the dust liner all the way around and the lock plate has a square hole.

How about this one?

dum dum dum dum de dum dum dum Jeopardy....

YES!!! This original Colt case has been gutted including the dust liners and the partition configuration is not right BUT

Look at the lock and hinges. Rectangle lock plate and Iron screws. Mahogany wood and key shaped escutcheon. Buy this case for $300- $500 on Ebay or at a gun show and I can refit for a Navy or Army (usually under $200) its worth $1200

Yet another:

Wait for it!

NO! Caught you, three hinges again. The square lock plate holes are also a clue.

And still another:


NO! Look at the lock escutcheon and hinges are mounted on the back, not in letted.

And the last one:

Jeopardy music .............

More Jeopardy music......

YES: Although the dust liners where removed to make the partitions in an odd right hand partition configuration for a Remington, and the lid padding is flat foam rubber, look at the hinges with iron screws, the rectangle lock plate and the African mahogany wood. (note: Remington used a couple of the case makers Sam used and they have the same clues for those guns).

Use the eight clues at gun shows and on the online auctions or auction catalog pictures. You will easily be able to determine if the case is Colt contract. If it misses on a point or two look further like the velvet "pimp mobile" above, there might be an original case under there.

Restore your cases or buy new cases at Bill Cases - Fine Quality Engraving of Guns

Thanks for reading! Bill Shumate jr.

Other articles I have written:

1,975 Posts
"Here are some original Colt escutcheons you will see". Regarding pictures #5 and #6 with a four-lobed scalloped escutcheon, is this shape proper with both a wood and brass inlay?

34 Posts
Just saw this thread after I posted pics of my case in the Colt .31 brass mold thread.

Again great info and illustrations from Billscases. Thanks for posting.


1,191 Posts
Thanks Bill,
I'm still enjoying the beautiful case i got from you a few months back. you are a true craftsman. and so much great info. and pic's. Thanks..... Louis.
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