Colt Single Action Army SAA 1873 US Artillery .45 LC Revolver, 1874 Antique

SOLD FOR: $2825

LSB#: 230105KF009

Make: Colt

Model: 1873 Single Action Army, 1st Generation, Early Blackpowder Frame, “Artillery”-style

Serial Number: 3983

Year of Manufacture: 1874 (

Caliber: .45 Colt, Black Powder

Action Type: Single Action Revolver with Side Loading Gate Cylinder

Markings: The left side of the frame is marked “PAT. SEPT. 19. 1871 / PAT. JULY, 2. 1872” and with “U.S.”. The markings on the top of the barrel barrel have been polished out, “4184” is marked under the ejector housing at the rear, the bottom has incomplete inspection marks. The underside of the frame at the trigger guard is marked “3983” and the bottom of the trigger guard is marked “2137 / A”. The bottom of the backstrap is marked with “38 / 042”. The rear of the loading gate is marked with an assembly number “352”. The circumference of the cylinder is marked “?FC” (David F. Clark, inspector for Colt, Starr, Remington and Savage revolvers, 1861-1886) and “474”. The rear face of the cylinder is marked “S”, “3” and “K”. The hammer slot is marked “C”.

Barrel Length: The barrel has been cut to 5 1/2”.

Sights / Optics: The front sight is a blade fixed to the barrel. The rear sight is a “V”-notch integral to the topstrap.

Stock Configuration & Condition: The grip is one piece smooth walnut. The grip has some scattered light nicks, scuffs and scratches. The edges are soft and the wood is generally slightly shy to the metal. There are no chips or cracks. Overall, the grips are in Very Good condition as refinished Antique.

Type of Finish: Blue & Case Color

Finish Originality: This revolver was likely refinished at the time of conversion. The parts are not original to the frame, mixing of parts was also common for the “Artillery” conversion. The cylinder bushing is a more modern replacement part.

Bore Condition: The bore is light gray. The rifling is well defined. There is some light erosion and minor pitting in the bore. In this writer’s opinion, this bore rates a 6 out of 10.

Most antique firearms have bores that will show erosion. This is not only due to age but to the use of black powder. When fired, black powder reacts corrosively. NRA Antique Firearm Conditions Standards are quite lenient for bores. In some cases the NRA standards disregarded the bore’s condition for collectors firearms.

Overall Condition: This revolver retains about 5% of its current metal finish. There is some case color visible on the interior of the frame, mostly muted. The exposed surfaces have mostly worn to white or gone to a light patina. Some areas show polishing, most notable on the top of the barrel. There are some light nicks, scuffs and scratches with some spots of minor erosion. The action shows operational wear including turn-wear on the cylinder. The cylinder pin head is tool marked. The screw heads range from sharp to disfigured with usable slots. Some markings are missing, remaining markings range from clear to worn and incomplete. Overall, this revolver revolver is in about Good condition as Antique (see Mechanics).

Mechanics: The hammer does not catch at the safety notch and the cylinder stop does not disengage properly when at half-cock. When at full cock, the hammer has excessive over-travel. Otherwise, the action functions correctly. The cylinder lockup shows a small amount of play on all six chambers. The trigger pull has notable creep. We have not fired this revolver. As with all used firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance standards.

Box, Paperwork & Accessories: None

Our Assessment: This revolver started out life in 1874, the 2nd year of production, as a Cavalry Model SAA revolver with 7 ½” barrel made for the U.S. Army. In their book “Colt Cavalry and Artillery Revolvers”, Kopec and Fenn indicate that between 1900 and 1903, Colt altered and refinished 5,444 revolvers into “Artillery” models (5 ½” barrel). Per Kopec and Fenn, “A single Artillery revolver often will have parts from three or four different Cavalry revolvers”. The “Artillery” moniker is a collector’s term, as the modified revolvers were most notable for their issue to U.S. Artillery units in the Spanish-American war, however the later 1900-1903 altered revolvers saw mixed serial numbered parts and some have been observed with blued frames rather than case-colored as they were rather urgently needed for the Philippine Insurrection.

We believe that this is one of those 5,444 revolvers converted by Colt into an Artillery model for use in the Philippines, though it is possible the revolver has been assembled more recently. The cylinder retains a “DFC” inspection mark, although the “D” is mostly worn away, and the inspection mark indicates it was produced between 1880 and 1887. The frame has some case color showing on the interior, indicating it did not receive the Arsenal Blue finish which was typically applied when these revolvers were altered or refurbished at Springfield Armory. The revolver is in about Good condition with 5% of its current finish remaining. The bore is gray with light wear in the rifling, some light erosion and minor pitting. The cylinder lockup shows a small amount of play. This revolver probably saw service during the Indian Wars when it was in its original Cavalry configuration and may have served later again in the Philippines after being converted to an Artillery model.

This revolver must have a very interesting history, if only it could be told. All of the Colt 1st Generation revolvers are heavily collected, and this very early Cavalry Model conversion to Artillery Model will not be an exception. Please see our photos and good luck!

Colt Single Action Army SAA 1873 US Artillery .45 LC Revolver, 1874 Antique
Colt Single Action Army SAA 1873 US Artillery .45 LC Revolver, 1874 Antique