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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a family heirloom that has been handed down a few times. The story goes that this piece was carried by a family member while riding for the pony express. I have a set of saddle bags that go with it as well. It is in rough shape at the moment and is not useable. I believe there is a broken spring inside since the hammer just flops around freely. My plan is to have colt pull the archive records for this but I am not sure of the model. So I have 2 questions. 1 what do I have? 2 should I get it restored or will that "ruin" the gun.
 

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It's a Model 1860 Army - built in 1863, and was in Federal service, initially - given the cartouche on the grip.

Colt's archives will reflect that - but nothing more, and certainly no individual issue.

You can replace the mainspring, and maybe even the triggerguard screws - sometimes Dixie Gun Works has originals - but beyond a gentle cleaning and re-oiling - don't refinish it and don't polish it - the green verdigris can be easily removed with a round toothpick.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Awesome. Thanks for the quick replies. But what is a cartouche? Also how do I find a reputable person to service this and replace the spring? And what kind of value is there with this? Just curious about the value for insurance reasons since I am not looking to sell it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Another question. The army models I have looked at have 4 screws in the side above the trigger and mine only has 3. Is this just a manufacturing difference or something?
 

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There were two basic models of the M1860Army, with two sub-models of each basic model: One, has a fluted cylinder; the other, like yours, has a rebated round cylinder. The sub-groups are the same for both basic models: 4 screw cut-for-stock, in which the round recoil shield on the frame behind the cylinder is cut away on a bevel and the frame has a 4th screw that projects from each side to accommodate a detachable shoulder stock. These are sometime known as Military Models. The 3 screw, not cut for stock model is sometimes known as the Civilian Model.
Note: These Model Names are not indicative of the end use of these pistols. Virtually all M1860 Army revolvers saw military service during the Civil War. Only Presentation Pieces, ornately decorated with elaborate engraving escaped military use. Unadorned Army's sold to civilians probably account for less than 5% of these guns.
 

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The cartouche is the Government Inspector's stamp - the small, rectangular mark on the side of your grips - the one with the rounded ends.

It shows that your Colt went through the inspection process for a Government contract.
 

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The Colt Model 1860 Army was perhaps the most often-seen revolver of the Civil War.

Accurate, well-balanced, hard-hitting and dependable - it was extremely well respected by combatants on both sides of that conflict.

The fact that it was also streamlined and graceful in design helped - following an advertising precept in use today - that - 'If it looks good - it'll probably perform well' - thus engendering confidence in the weapon.

Here are some notes pertaining to the Government's purchases of them in the arming of a wartime fighting force.

The Federal purchases are as follows:

The First Contract of May 4, 1861 - 500 revolvers - followed on May 15, 1861 with another 500.

The first shipment was delivered on June 4, 1861 - along with an additional 300 revolvers - at the cost of $25 each.

The first 'substantial' order was for 5000 revolvers - and that was let on June 12, 1861.

Demand was high - to say the least.

By October 9, 1861 - all had been delivered - with more to follow - all at the same price.

Between October 21, 1861 and April 15, 1862 - Colt delivered 25,700 Model 1860's at $25 each.

The Second Contract - June 6, 1862 - was for 15,000 - the price to be paid was then $14.50.
The Third Contract - August 14, 1862 - was priced at $14.00.

The First Contract of 1863 - January 30 - was for 30,000 revolvers at $14.00 each.

The last Contract for the War was let on May 25, 1863 - for 20,000 revolvers at $14.00 each and was completed on November 10, 1863, when 800 revolvers were received.
An additional 155 revolvers were also received at $13.73 - but they were furnished without the bullet mold.

The Confederate Army was able to purchase them from various suppliers - immediately before the War.

In fact - they were the first to use the weapon - having gotten them from the shipment Colt made to large supply houses below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Between December, 1860 and April, 1861 - 2,230 were shipped in bulk orders to dealers in the South:

50 to William M. Sage of South Carolina
160 to William T. Martin of Natchez, Mississippi
120 to H.D. Norton & Bros., in San Antonio, Texas
1,100 to Kitteridge & Folson, New Orleans, Louisiana
500 to Peter Williams & Co., Richmond, Virginia.
Additionally - 300 were purchased directly by Georgia, rather than through dealers.

Incidentally - a Southern dealer - H.D. Norton & Bros., - reported to Colt about the new fluted cylinders bursting due to thinness - and Colt immediately corrected the problem.

Confederates also had an additional link in the 'Supply Chain' - that of 'battlefield capture and recovery' - and in the early days of the War - that surely was easy.
Later on, though - as Union Cavalry got more seasoned and deadly - it ceased to be a truly viable method

The end of the War saw 9,047 revolvers retained by former Federal Officers and Enlisted Men, with the price being deducted from their Mustering-Out pay.

The Ordnance Department would continue disposing of their percussion Colts for thirty years after the end of the War.

Here are the prices of the Army Colts during those years of disposal:

December - 1868 - 149 Colt Armies - sold @ $5.25 each.
May - 1870 - 142 Colt Armies - sold @ $4.52 each.
October - 1876 - 140 Colt Armies - sold @ $1.70 each.
October - 1883 - 100 Colt armies - sold @ $1.75 each.
February - 1884 - 409 Colt Armies - sold @ $2.05 each.
December - 1892 - 13 Colt Armies - sold @ $1.60 each.
June - 1901 - 740 Colt Armies - sold @ $00.16 - $00.51 each.

This illustrates 'just' the venerable and ubiquitous 'New Model Army'.
 

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An addition to my former remarks.
By the time your Army was made, the Union Army had discontinued the use of detachable shoulder stocks. It turns out that these stocks were massively unpopular with the troops because the blow by of hot gasses and flame from the crevice between the cylinder and forcing cone of the barrel burned their left forearms when the pistol with attached shoulder stock was fired.
However, Colt never let anything go to waste. In 1863, during the height of the Civil War, demand for the Army was so great, it was not possible to re-tool to eliminate the cut-out recoil shield without adversely affecting production. It was easier and more efficient to eliminate the holes in the frame for the 4th screw, which had no function other than to support the shoulder stock.
At the same time, Colt still produced the so-called Civilian Models for the duration of the War.
 

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Since this pistol was made in 1863, it couldn't have been carried by someone while riding for the Pony Express. The Pony Xpress was in operation only from April 1860-Oct 1861. It could have been owned by someone who was employed by Russell, Majors & Waddell or even who had ridden for them, but since the gun was made 2 years after the end of the P. X., you see what I mean...

P.S. Please post a photo of the saddlebags.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thank you very much for all of the wonderful info. You guys obviously have a wealth of knowledge. It is good to know about the PX I always doubted that story. I will get pics of the bags as soon as I get a chance.
 

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Those are what are called pommel bags. They go over the pommel. The hole goes over the horn. They are very nice. The Pony Express used what is called a mochila, which was a one piece leather arrangement with 4 pockets that fits over the saddle. This made horse changes very quick, as all you needed to do was throw the mochila over the saddle on the new horse and off you go. Below is a pic of what it would look like.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Guns and leather. What other areas of expertise do you have. Lol thanks for the information. This all very good stuff I am learning. Any idea how to date them?
 

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Late 1860's - mid-1870's - the style is from that time frame.

Take a look at Rattenbury's 'Packing Iron' - you can get it through your Public Library on an 'Inter-Library Loan'.
 

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Just so you'll know, the wedge is in backwards. It inters from the left side (screw side). The screw is there to keep it from coming out all the way when removing the barrel assy.


Dragoon
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks for the advice. I am sure there are several things wrong or in need of repair. I am very fearful to start pulling it apart so I am looking for a gunsmith that is familiar with working on antique firearms to give a good going over. I want it cleaned up (not refinished just oiled up and such) and put back into firing condition again. Currently the hammer just flops around due to what I am assuming is a broken spring.
 

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Replacement screws, I have bought a package of Uberti screws for about $15, nicely polished & blued, that fit all the old big-frame Colts - except the hammer screw, different diameter.
 
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