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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Gentlemen,
I'm a newbie and am hoping to get some guidence on my SAA. I bought this gun about 30 years ago as a shooter. I know little about the value of SAA's. My question is this; would it be advisable to have the piece restored to original configuation. It originally was a Calvary Colt in .45, 7 1/2' barrel. some where along the way it was rebarreled to .38 Colt 5 1/2" & a new cylinder installed. It's been this way for a long time as the metal is an even grey patina. S#828xx places it in 1881 production, No's match except no No. on barrel or cyl., frame and grip flat marked D.F.C., traces of blue on EJ rod housing and some faded case colors in protected areas. Would restoring it increase the value, and if so who would you recommend to do the job? I am, of course wondering what it would cost and what it might be worth both as is & if restored.

Iv'e posted pix at;

http://richard1.myphotoalbum.com/view_album.php?set_albumName=album01

Any info/ advise much appreciated.
Thanks,
Arbee
 

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The toothpaste is already out of the tube, so I'd leave it as-is.
A first-generation will weather a lot of changes, but OLD changes are best!
Don
 

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Welcome to the Colt Forum Arbee!

I won't be the best advisor on your SAA that the Forum can produce. I think you are in an enjoyable predicament with your old gun. Either way you decide it'll be nice to have a decent 1st generation shooter. Obviously the damage has been done. A valuable and desirable Single Action Army variation has been severely diminished. My opinion is that you really couldn't make a bad decision which way you jump.

It has the "old west" look just as it is. It would actually be easy to feed by handloading special mild loads in .38 Special cases using hollow base wadcutters. You have a blackpowder frame for certain but I don't know about the cylinder. Most likely it is from the same production period as well. If I had it and determined to leave the barrel and cylinder alone I'd enjoy it as is. Any funds expended on a restoration of the external finish won't reap a financial reward later. Whether or not it would be rewarding to you in pride of ownership is your personal call and the money would be well spent if you enjoyed the results.

If a .45 Colt cylinder, a 7 1/2-inch .45 barrel or even a 5 1/2-inch barrel could be located then you could return it to it's original configuration. If the 5 1/2-inch barrel was used then it could be an "artillery model". This approach as some merit as well. I would think it would increase in value greater than the sum of its parts. Mind you, it would still be a parts gun. As you won't necessarily find a barrel and cylinder that match your gun's external finish you may find yourself wanting to refinish the piece. I'm not up on prices of such work but it is certain that good work doesn't come cheaply. Returning it to .45 Colt will be more costly than leaving it alone.

Your sentiment about the gun may be a guide for your proposed project.

If you aren't sentimental about guns you've had for many years you may be pragmatic and determine to sell it, use the funds realized along with an additional investment to purchase a Single Action Army that suits you.

I'm curious to know what you gave for the revolver 30 years ago. I purchased my first SAA in 1981 for $250. It was a 5 1/2-inch .44-40 with a 145,000 range serial number that had been chromed over the pits and had plastic steer head grips installed. I knew it was a slug but I was tickled at the time to have entered into the ownership of a SAA. With great anticipation I awaited my factory letter. What a huge disappointment to me to read that my gun was originally a 7 1/2-inch .45 Colt. I lurked the aisles of the old Round Up Inn gun show in Fort Worth until I sold that SAA for $295. I'd acquired a .38-40 Winchester 1873 right after buying the mongrel Colt SAA. I decided I wanted a 4 5/8-inch .38-40. I can't recall the exact price but, at the same show purchased a dandy tight revolver with 25% blue/case colors, a nice patina, and nary a buggered screw for either $300 or $325. The seller was asking $350. It still resides in my arsenal of trash and treasures. I shoot it regularly too.

I don't have a pair of glasses on me so can't proof what I've typed. So, sorry for any typo's. I scrutinized your photo's as best I could and it appears that your frame is better than the barrel/cylinder that was installed. That is good if you undertake to refinish the revolver.

Let's see what some true Colt pro's suggest. Please keep the Forum informed of your decision and how any project turns out.
 

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Well Arbee two people already registered their opinion while I was struggling to see to type my mess of a reply. You provided an interesting post.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks guys for the input. I bought this puppy about 1976-77 at a gun show for $200, more than I could afford at the time, but I wanted a SAA, Didn't know much about SAA's at the time and still don't. At the time I bought it I also picked up 6 boxes of .38 long Colt ammo for it, still have a couple of boxes left and all the empty brass so shouldn't be too difficult to reload. The gun is a good accurate shooter. My question re restoration is primarily concerned with enhancing value. In other words,would it be worth more restored, that is more than cost of restoration, or worth more as is. Again thanks for the comments.

Arbee
 

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Arbee,
The answer to your question depends on your morals as well as your pocket book. By this I mean that your gun could probably be restored to a correct 7 1/2 inch Cavalry Contract model. There are "restorers" or Fakers as they are sometimes called, that will redo the gun and then sell it as an original finish Cavalry model... There are many many examples floating around out there and they are tracked as much as possible by dealers and collectors so that they can protect themselves from buying a faked Cavalry Model... The question of Restoration vs Fake is generally determined well after the gun was redone and after it has changed hands several times...

The money issue here is that a real, correct, unaltered Cavalry model will bring $20,000 plus in the collector market... A "restored Fake" may bring $2000 depending upon how good it is done...

Now if you take it to the corner gun smith and have it reblued with the hi-gloss S&W blue style then you have a $1200 (maybe) gun ... If you spend $1500 for the correct 7 1/2 inch Cavalry marked barrel and cylinder and then you send it to one of the top notch master restorers and pay him the $3500 to $4000 he will want and wait a year or so for the gun you will have a top notch "hard to tell" gun that you can probably get $8000 to $10,000 plus for... (These are the guns that collectors and dealers track)... So for an investment of $5000 you could probably make an additional $5000 assuming the gun passes muster and doesn't get tagged as a fake...

(For those interested... I know for a fact that the about has occurred... I have the before pictures of a gun I sold in a condition similar to the one we are discussing... It turned up a couple years later in an auction as an "all correct" 7 1/2 inch SAA in the 47xxx serial number range... Some diligent digging turned up the facts!) Hope that answers your question... Bob Best
 

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Is there an amperstand (this mark) & any where on the gun??

This is a sign that the gun went back to the factory for repairs,rework,and/or refinish.

Be interesting to see the provenance of that gun??? The "choice" of caliber interests me,as the .38 Long Colt was the "offcial" U.S. Military Cartridge from around 1892,up through 1911.

The .38 Colt chambering was not that popular(Colt dropped it,then reintroduced it,then finally had to call it .38 Special!!)

Just wondering if some "old officer" kept his cavalry Colt,with the DFC marks,and had the factory convert it to .38 Colt,even though the Artillery conversions were in .45 Colt.

Just a speculation on my part!

Bud /forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif /forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
 

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Before making a decision to restore your old workhorse, it might be a good idea to obtain a Colt letter to determine if it has any additional historical value. It would be criminal to restore the gun only to find later it was originally sold to someone like Teddy Roosevelt, Bat Masterson, Blackjack Pershing, or someone in Custer's 7th Cavalry.
 

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You know Bud... That is a very good point! That gun could well have some provenance that could prove to be interesting... It might be worth a "phone" letter from Colt. I think I might do that if it was mine... Bob Best
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
OK the results are in. I'm going to leave the old girl the way she is, she's not factory original, but is a honest old gun. I requested a letter from Colt on the piece about 30 years ago when I bought it. Got a reply that they couldn't find anything on it. What's the concensus? should I try again? Also, forgive my ignorance, but what is a "phone letter" and how do I request one?

I disassembled the piece today and can find no & mark (damn). is this conclusive proof that the factory did not do the alteration? I'm wondering when the factory starting using the ampersand on factory re-works, could my gun possibly have been a factory alteration before they started marking them?

Again, many thanks to all who graciously responded, I really appreciate your opinions.

Arbee
 

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I liked Lonewolf's observations about a factory rebuild which is something I didn't even consider. See, I knew that you'd receive some worthwhile advice.

I've always heard that Colt's records on the SAA were complete so it is curious why your revolver didn't letter. I'll bet if you tried again something would turn up.

I can't recall if Colt charged for letters when I requested my first one. Marty Huber signed several early ones. Maybe they did charge $10 or $15.
 

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arbee:

If you check a little closer I think you will find your little gun was made in 1882.

The US on the frame is a mystery. If the gun is an origional Calvery Model it would have inspectors stamps on the grip. In 1882 the grips would have been stamped with JEG for Greer on the left side and DFC for Clark on the right side. If it was a civilian model made in 1882 it would not have the inspector stamps but then how do we explain the US stamp on the frame.

Just for information the US stamp was placed on the frames of Calvery Models by the Colt factory in 1873 thru 1875. Starting in 1876 the stamp was placed on the frame by Government Inspectors.

It appears you have a nice little shooter but the collectors value went way down when it was altered.

If I were you I would make another attempt to letter the gun. That would clear up a lot of the un-sures about it. If you do get a letter, be sure to let us know what it say's. It will be very interesting, I do not understand why it would not letter the first time you tryed. I have never seen one not letter before.

Hope this helps.

djh
 

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Hi djh,

You stated: "...I do not understand why it would not letter the first time you tryed. I have never seen one not letter before."


In a nutshell... Back before our government started requiring such strict reqistration requirements, the shipping records were used to track orders for Colt's business and nothing more. No one needed to keep the records longer than what was required for tax audit or their own internal business purposes. So no one cared about the old shipping records. These shipping records that were on hand now were stored in an old attic in the orginal Colt factory for many years. Many of the shipping record ledgers were lost over the years and some found their way into the Connecticut State Library and others are even in personal hands. The current group of records was "found" many years ago and are what supplies the information you get today on the older models (before the gov't got involved). So the records are NOT complete and many times a gun will come back as a "No Record" gun.

You also stated: "The US on the frame is a mystery. If the gun is an origional Calvery Model it would have inspectors stamps on the grip. In 1882 the grips would have been stamped with JEG for Greer on the left side and DFC for Clark on the right side. If it was a civilian model made in 1882 it would not have the inspector stamps but then how do we explain the US stamp on the frame.

The metal areas on major components was stamped the the ordnance sub-inspectors initials... in this case DFC ... JE Greer was the Accepting officer for the Army and that is why his initials only appeared on the left grip panel along with the date of acceptance. There was a rather strict set of instructions for marking US weapons laid down in Ordnance regulations that governed how these guns were marked.

The US on the frame could be found on civilian production revolvers. Generally these guns were either contract over runs or were rejected frames. Colt would generally make them into another caliber (not a military .45 Colt caliber) and most (but not all) were nickel plated. There was another incident where Colt bought back weapons ordered through the US government for the state of South Carolina ... Colt offered them back to the US Government to fill another contract request at a discount... needless to say there was another scandal and federal investigation! Check out Kopec's book on the SAA or the Natiuonal Archives if you want to read the whole story! It's interesting reading... Bob Best
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Bob,
I just read your very interesting comments on my SAA...thanks.

My original message contains a link to my photo site where I have posted pix of the gun. If you click on #7 a larger picture of the bottom of the grips will appear, click on that larger picture and a closeup will appear. In the close up you will see (although not as clear as I wish it was) a DFC stamp. This mark looks to be identical in size to the DFC on the frame. I know about the larger markings on the sides of the grips, I suspect that my grips were refinished at some time as those stamps are not visible. I'm wondering if the smaller stamp on the R flat is a standard marking as I haven't heard mention of it before.

Many years ago I saw a 7 1/2" .45 US marked SAA with a full inspection format that had the letter C stamped over the inspectors mark on the frame, I understand that stood for condemned.

As for a letter, I dug around in my piles of files and found the "no record letter" I received. Its dated Aug 16, 1978, signed by M.S Huber, and says ".... " We are sorry to inform you we will not be able locate shipping records or any information pertaining to this arm. The records apparently were lost or destroyed years ago"... Any opinion on weather additional records have been found since 1978? Think it would be worth a shot at trying agan?

Thanks to all who have responded to my posting,

Arbee
 

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Thanks Coltdaguy:

Interesting read. I was under the impression that the SAA records were almost complete. Shows you how wrong I can be.

I had a 44-40 SAA with a 43/4" barrel dated in 1903. It did not have the "Colt Frontier Six Shooter" or a front sight on it. I assumed the barrel had been changed but then this last weekend at the gun show several friends of mine that are deep into SAA's told me that starting in 1889 some 44-40's came from the factory without the etching.

I did not know that.

The Factory Letter did not indicate one way or the other about the etching or the front sight.

Wish I had not gotten rid of the gun now.

It can be very interesting collecting Colt SAA revolvers. I just wish I knew more about them. There is so many varaitions that overlap, it's hard to know them all.

Thanks again,

djh
 

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djh; there is an old and very valid saying in gun collecting:"Buy ONE GOOD BOOK for EVERY ONE GUN YOU BUY--especially when a novice.

For Colt SAAs,and Lugers,and probably a few other "high priced" types,I'd say make it 2 -3 BOOKS for EVERY ONE YOU purchase.

Yes,they are pricey books,certainly not as "cheap"(in more than price!)than the "coffee table books at Barnes&Noble,Borders,etc.-BUT- they will pay for themselves a multitude of times over,especially if you find out you have bought a "fake",or sold a rare specimem for way below its value.

Bud
 

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Hi Arbee,
I suspect the DFC on the right grip flat was Clarke's inspection marking that indicated the grip passed inspection. The Sub Inspector would normally inspect both grips and place his small initials on the bottom of the grip panel that was to receive the Accepting Officer's cartouche. The sub inspector then placed his cartouche on the opposite grip's facing panel (side, not bottom) to indicate he had approved the gun for final acceptance... That's why there is only one small set of initials on an original un modified set of grips. If you see a small set of initials on each grip then most likely the gun has been reworked by either the Army or Colt.... Marking styles changed in 1902...

As for the letter, if your "no record" is that early, I, personally would try again... more info may have been located in the intervening time... Call them and ask about it and about any costs associated with it... Hope that helps. Bob Best
 

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Hi djh,

You wrote: "...several friends of mine that are deep into SAA's told me that starting in 1889 some 44-40's came from the factory without the etching."

I have never found that to be the case???? Colt did the acid etched CFSS panel on the left barrel side and then changed to a roll marked CFSS marking... Colt did vary the placement and use of the caliber marking on the left front or rear trigger guard bow during that perion and did leave it off completely for a short period of time... They used "44Cal" and "44CF" and nothing for a short period ... and they placed them on either the front bow or rear bow depending on the time frame... I would have to pull out my research material for a detailed look at exactly what they did and when... But I have never heard of or seen any non-CFSS marked barrels installed by Colt in the 1889 period??? I would inspect the barrel very carefully to determine originality before buying ... JUst my opinion... Bob Best
 

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Hello COLTDAGUY:

I love these forum discusions, one can learn a bunch.

The guys at the gun show also put me onto a small pocket book written by Keith Cochran copyrighted in 1991 and 1994 called COLT PEACEMAKER COLLECTOR, POCKET COMPENDIUM. I was able to find one at the show, little pricy, but I bought it..

On page 10 under the year 1889 it say's:

44-40 "COLT FRONTIER SIX SHOOTER" etchd on left side of barrel terminated.
44-40s observed without "COLT FRONTIER SIX SHOOTER" on left side of barrel.
44-40 "COLT FRONTIER SIX SHOOTER" rolled on left side of barrel.

Is Mr. Cochran incorrect?

I get from this that there was some barrels, possibly between the termination of the etch barrels and the rolled stamped barrels that were not marked.

What do you think?

djh
 
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