May 18, 2022 Extraordinary Firearms
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 5/18/2022
The following Colt revolver, known as the "Ordnance Sample Revolver of 1875" played a significant role in the development of the iconic Colt Single Action Army. On January 23, 1875 Lt. Colonel James G. Benton, Commanding Officer of the U.S Ordnance Department wrote a letter to Colt Manufacturing Company Vice President and General Agent, General W.B Franklin U.S.A. (Ret), notifying Colt of a problem, which Col. Benton referred to as "throwing-by". Benton reports in the event of rapidly cocking Colt's revolver the cylinder would rotate past its intended lock position. General Franklin replied saying "The reason the cylinder does not catch in the bolt slot when quickly revolved is, the bolt-spring is too limber. If therefore you will return at our expense those that are defective in this respect we will at once have the springs changed, and the pistols returned to you.". Colonel Benton replied saying "I have the honor this day to return to you forty-four (44) Colt's Army revolvers, for such alteration will prevent the 'throwing-by' of the cylinder when the pistol is brought to a full cock. I retain the spare parts furnished, which will answer for the new pistols you may send". What transpired next is unclear because no letter of reply from Gen. Franklin has been found, nor do we know the outcome of the 44 guns mentioned in Benton's letter. However we do know, shortly thereafter on January 27, 1875 the Ordnance Department placed an order with Colt for 200 new revolvers that would incorporate Colt's solution for the "throwing-by" problem. This order is documented in records as the "Seventh Contract Extension". General Franklin acknowledges the order with the following reply: "Your letter of 27 inst. ordering 200 Army Revolvers has been received. We are ready now for a sub-inspector. The fact is noted that 1 pistol of the 200 has already been delivered. If you could send an Officer here to confer with our experts on the 'throwing-by' questions perhaps good may result.". General Franklin had a sample revolver made up with a stronger bolt spring sending it ahead of the remaining 199 guns. This revolver, with its improved bolt spring partially alleviated the problem, it did not entirely solve it. Col. Benton responded to Gen. Franklin's request of sending an officer to confer with Colt's experts to resolve the "throwing-by" problem by ordering Captain J.P. Farley to the Colt factory in Hartford. The singular pistol mentioned in Gen. Franklin's reply is the "Ordnance Sample Revolver of 1875" being offered in this lot. Through a collaborated effort with Capt. Farley the "throwing-by" problem was solved. The last correspondence that mentions "throwing-by" is sent from Colt's General Franklin to Colonel Benton dated February 25, 1875 shedding light on a solution: "I send to you by mail today a cylinder with the channel for the bolt enlarged according to a suggestion made by Capt. Farley. The bolt in this case does not reach the cylinder until it gets within the bevel and attains the end that is desired. But with the last two hundred pistols I think the end of preventing throwing by was attained, (stronger bolt springs) and this bevel is so large that I think a little scaring of the cylinder would look better than this large cut (the stronger bolt spring caused radial scaring on the cylinder). A close examination shows where the bolt first touches bevel. But if you think it best to have the larger bevel, we can easily arrange it for any future orders." Hence the larger bolt stops and approaches we know today and can be found on every Colt Single Action Army revolver, both military and commercial manufactured since this significant event in 1875. This important Colt revolver, "The Ordnance Sample Revolver of 1875" is pictured on page 305 of Kopec, Graham, & Moores 30th Anniversary Edition of their definitive book "A Study of The Colt Single Action Army Revolver". The book provides additional and valuable information regarding this revolver and the events that solved the "throwing-by" problem. The subject revolver has all the characteristics of a standard U.S issued Calvary revolver of 1875. 7 - 1/2" barrel. Chambered in .45 LC cartridge. 1st Model ejector housing. Italic script barrel address with no die breaks. 2-line patent dates and "U.S." marked on left side of the frame. 1-piece walnut grips with Ordnance sub-inspector Samuel B. Lewis cartouche found on the left side. Balance of gun is fully Ordnance sub-inspected with the Lewis single "L" marks found in all appropriate places. Cylinder and barrel display "P" proof marks. Cylinder remains unimproved with small locking notches and without approaches however revolver is outfitted with a stronger locking bolt spring, providing General Franklin's recommended solution. Interestingly this special revolver bears no serial numbers (intended to be a "test gun" not a service revolver?). Only the mark "O" is found on its barrel, cylinder, and grip positions. The Ordnance Sample Revolver of 1875 is nickel-plated. Several other S.B. Lewis inspected Cavalry revolvers are found nickel-plated including serial numbers: 15360, 15770, 16129, 16294, 16336, and 16352. Possibly all from the 200 guns ordered on January 27, 1875. CONDITION: Excellent overall with approximately 75% original nickel remaining showing scattered freckling. Excellent unmolested screws. Action is tight and crisp. Bore is turning dark with moderate abrasions. Grips are sound showing modest wear with rounded corners and scattered dings and scratches. A unique opportunity to acquire an important, revolver that significantly contributed to the successful development of the Colt Single Action Army. Worthy of the most advanced collections. PROVENANCE: From the Dick Burdick collection. -MKS-
Barrel Length
7 - 1/2"
.45 LC
FFL Status
Serial Number
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $15,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium:
Estimate: $30,000 - $60,000
Number Bids: 3
Auction closed on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.
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