Model: 1871-1872 Open Top Frontier .44 Rimfire
Serial Number: 5118
Year of Manufacture: Production of this model spanned from 1871-1872, with a total number of 7,000 units, putting the DOM in 1872.
Caliber: .44 Henry Rimfire (Black Powder)
Action Type: 6-Shot, Single Action, Side-Gate Loaded Rimfire Revolver
Markings: The top of the barrel is marked “ADDRESS COL. SAML COLT NEW-YORK U.S. AMERICA”, the rear of the lug is marked “8”. The underside of the barrel lug, cylinder, underside of the frame, underside of the trigger guard plate and underside of the cylinder pin are marked with matching serial number “5118”. The left of the frame faintly reads the two line “PAT.JULY.25,1871 / PAT.JULY.2,1872”.
Barrel Length: 7 ½”
Sights / Optics: The front sight is a rounded blade, fixed to the barrel. The rear sight is a shallow “U” notched rise on the rear of the barrel.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The grips are a one piece smooth walnut stock. The stock has some larger losses that look to have been smoothed out by sanding a very long time ago; there are other areas where chip losses were not smoothed; some areas of the wood are bowed out from the grip frame. The surfaces have deep scrape and compression marks. The grips rate in about Fair overall condition.
Type of Finish: The revolver has some very odd surface anomalies. The underside of the frame almost looks to have been painted a silver color, with some bubbling and clumping of the material, however there are other areas on the frame, its components, grip frame and barrel that indicate the item was all nickel finished. The non nickel areas show evidence of having been touch-up cold blued at some point, though these areas may also be dark patina, please see our pictures for a better understanding.
Finish Originality: There is dishing around the frame screws and cleaning marks on the barrel, however the cylinder pin’s finish looks to be original and is serialized to the pistol. Whether the rest of the revolver was cleaned, touched up with blue and re-nickeled at some point is very difficult to discern, please see our pictures.
Bore Condition: The bore is dark and the rifling is still highly defined. There is moderate depth erosion the length of the bore.
Overall Condition: The underside of the the frame almost looks to have been painted a silver color, with some bubbling and clumping of the material, however there are other areas on the frame, its components, grip frame and barrel that indicate the item was all nickel finished. The non nickel areas show evidence of having been touch-up cold blued at some point, perhaps to stop the erosion, this looks to have been done a very long time ago. The surfaces have heavy pitting and divots from tool marks. The cylinder has heavy compression on some of the chambers. The majority of the surfaces show very dark patina and spots of pin prick erosion. With the cylinder removed, the firewall face, cylinder pin and protected areas of the loading gate definitely show some nickel finish, the lines are still sharp in these areas. There is dishing around the frame screw heads and muting of some of the exterior metal edges. The screw heads are heavily disfigured. The serial numbers still have crisp definition, the barrel and frame markings are heavily faded. Overall, this handgun rates in about Poor Plus to Fair condition.
Mechanics: The cylinder skips to the next chamber when hand wiggled in full lockup. The hammer has a semi-strong mainspring with a spongy trigger. The cylinder has about 1/8” back play. We did not fire this handgun and do not recommend firing this handgun. As with all used firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance requirements.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: None.
Our Assessment: From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colt_Model_1871-72_Open_Top “When Rollin White’s request of extension for his breech-loading revolvers patent was rejected by the American Government in January 1870 the Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company started working on its own metallic cartridge rear-loaders. Up until then, it had been only practicing the so-called Richards-Mason conversions. The Colt company continued converting muzzle-loading percussion revolvers into rear-loaders until 1878, but in 1871 Colt’s had patented at least two rear-loading revolvers using metallic cartridges: the Colt House Revolver and the Open Top. The House revolver went into production the same year in 1871 but the Open Top didn’t start production until 1872, although a pocket version of the Open Top, a completely different design, went on sale as of 1871, theColt Open Top Pocket Model Revolver. While the House and Cloverleaf revolvers were chambered in the .41 caliber, relatively well-known at the time, William Mason, the engineer working on the design of the Open Top, chose the more powerful .44 Henry cartridge. The trigger and revolving mechanism were based on the same design as previous Colt revolvers, the well-improved cap & ball percussion guns that made the Colt’s company prestige status. Mason brought some innovations to his gun: apart of the breech-loading cylinder, he designed unique frame, cylinder and barrel for the first Colt revolver with non-interchangeable parts with the older percussion pistols and moved the rear sight to the rear of the barrel as opposed to the hammer or the breechblock of the earlier efforts. Chambered in .44 caliber, the gun was submitted to the US Army for testing in 1872. The Army rejected the pistol and asked for a more powerful caliber with a stronger frame. Mason redesigned the frame to incorporate a topstrap, similar to the Remington revolvers, and placed the rear sight on the rear of the frame; he consulted with Richards on some other improvements. The first prototype of the new gun was still chambered in .44 rimfire, but this new gun was chambered for the newest caliber known as the .45 Colt. This new design started production in 1873, giving birth to a new model, the Colt Single Action Army, and a new serial numbering. The frame of early Open Top revolvers were marked COLT’S/PATENT, later models sported the so-called “Two July” patent marking, also found on the 1851 Navy-, 1861 Navy- and 1860 Army-conversion revolvers. The “Two July” patents were also found on very early Colt Single Action Army revolvers.” This revolver’s serialized parts are all matching, making it a great find for collectors. There are some oddities with the finish, thought it looks like this piece was originally all nickel and was cleaned, touched up and restored a very long time ago to prevent the spread of more erosion. Whatever the case may be, this is an historic firearm that just barely pre dates the most popular revolver in this history of American gun making, the 1873 Single Action Army. It is interesting seeing this pre-Peacemaker certainly shows evidence of having been involved in some intense times and should make for a great addition to your collection. Please see our pictures and good luck.