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Second -vs- Third Generation Colt reproduction cap & ball revolvers?


Blu Nos Dav

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Besides the ability of 2nd Gens to be "lettered" by Colt, why do 3rd Gens seem to get less attention?

 

I happen to own both 2nd & 3rd Gen 1861 Navies, and I have to say that my 3rd Gen looks nicer.  My 3rd Gen has a much deeper blued finish, including the end of the muzzle, and the case-hardened frame has more vibrant colors.  While my 2nd Gen has a duller case-hardened frame, a watery blued finish, and an unfinished muzzle.  Both guns have the same quality of fit & function, but, my 2nd Gen came from the "factory" with pocket pistol sized nipples!  Even the box that the 3rd Gen came in, is superior to the flimsier 2nd Gen box.  Anyway, I'm just trying to understand the obvious preference of some shooters for the 2nd Gen Colt reproductions?

 

Thanx, Dave

 

P.S. - As I continue to shop for more cap & ball Colts, I've also noticed that fewer 3rd Gens are offered up for resale.  Interesting?

 

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They are both Made from Uberti-manufactured  revolver parts, but I believe they were assembled and finished by different companies.

If I remember correctly.

—Dawg 

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Someone will also volunteer info, especially Fingers McGee as he has been collecting them for a while. 
I believe the 2nd Gen are Uberti and possibly Colt parts that were assembled at the Colt Factory, where as the 3rd gen (Colt Signature Series) were assembled and modified by a company whose name escapes me but was owned by the father of the man that owns Henry Rifle. They assembled the team aiming parts that colt had and also contracted with Uberti for additional parts in different materials and finishes and even had someone do engraving on certain models. Some were made out of stainless steel and are valued way higher then the 2nd Gen counterparts due to scarcity. I am at my office but there are other pards that will certainly add and possibly correct my narrative. There is an excellent book out there as well on both. 

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The Third generation were manufactured under an authorized licensing agreement with Colt Firearms by Colt Blackpowder Arms Company (CBAC). I believe CBAC also did most of the work on the second generation but those were then finished at the Colt factory.

 

I have a 2nd generation and a 3rd generation 1851. The latter has a rougher action and the grip color is not quite to my taste but I still like it.

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I have a pair of 1851 Colt Navies with nickel square back trigger guards and I can't remember if they are 2nd or 3rd generation. How can I determine which generation they are?

Scout

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El Hombre Sin Nombre

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Since folks seemed interested in the history of the colt black powder guns, I thought I would post a bit more in addition to what Larsen posted. Enjoy:

 

(This is an excerpt from Dennis Adler's latest book, 'Second Edition Blue Book of Modern Black Powder Values', published by Blue Book Publications.)

 

Throughout the storied history of Colt's, there has been a succession of illustrious models, from the innovative Paterson revolvers of the late 1830s to the 1860 Army--the principal sidearm of Civil War Union officers--to the 1873 Peacemaker and Model 1911A1, the most distinguished military sidearm in American history.

One of the more interesting footnotes in the company's story, however, began in 1971, when it made the unprecedented decision to re-introduce a model it had last built in 1873. With the reintroduction of the legendary 1851 Navy--a gun made famous by James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok--Colt's embarked on an 11-year odyssey that would result in one of the most popular and collectible series the Hartford, Connecticut, armsmaker would ever produce.

The tale of the 2nd Generation Colt black-powder line actually began in the late 1950s with Val Forgett, founder of Navy Arms, and Italian gunmakers Vittorio Gregorelli and Aldo Uberti. They chose the Colt 1851 Navy as the first percussion revolver to be reproduced in Italy in 1958.

After a dozen years and thousands of Colt reproductions, the success of the Italian-made '51 Navy--which Aldo Uberti frequently supplied to filmmaker Sergio Lione and Clint Eastwood for early spaghetti westerns--had finally come to the attention of the company that invented it.

There have been countless tales how Colt's dusted off the old tooling from the 1851 and began manufacturing new guns at Hartford, which would have been very interesting had the tooling not been destroyed when a fire razed most of the factory on Feb. 4, 1864.

As for the tooling used to make the later percussion models produced through 1873, it was simply discarded over the years, so Colt's could never have brought back the 1851 Navy, or any other percussion era model had it not been for Forgett, Uberti and, ultimately, Lou Imperato.

 

Imperato, who founded Colt Blackpowder Arms Co. in 1993 (which produced the 3rd Generation Colt Blackpowder line through 2002), recalls that Forgett sold Colt's the components (rough castings) to build the first 2nd Generation 1851 Navy revolvers, which were completed at the Hartford factory from 1971 through 1973. The first C Series 1851 Navy repros included the now collectible Grant and Lee Navy sets.

However, late in 1973 Colt's decided to seek a new supplier of components and the following year Lou Imperato, its largest American distributor, took over.

The company's enthusiasm for the percussion revolvers was obvious in its decision to place the new Third Model Dragoon on the cover of its 1974 sales catalog.

The Dragoon and Navy models were listed along with the Python, Detective Special, Cobra, Agent, Diamondback, Trooper MKIII, Official Police MKIII, Lawman MKIII, 1873 Peacemaker Single Action Army models, and semi-autos. Unfortunately, labor disputes delayed the Dragoon in 1974, causing Colt's to take the unprecedented step of re-announcing the Dragoon model in 1975, when deliveries actually began.

The relationship with Imperato continued until Colt's discontinued the first series of percussion revolvers in 1976. This, however, was not the end of the black-powder line.

In 1973 Lou Imperato had purchased the Iver Johnson Arms Company in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. A year after Colt's discontinued the black-powder line, Imperato moved the Iver Johnson works to Middlesex, New Jersey, and approached Colt's with the idea of producing an entire line of black-powder pistols, which the Italians had been doing successfully since the late 1950s.

He came in with both barrels blazing, so to speak, reprimanding Colt's management. "[They're] your guns and everyone else is getting rich on them and you're not out there."

He showed them a display of various black-powder models and they were once again intrigued--but as before, had no way of manufacturing. The timing could not have been better for Imperato. He signed a deal with Colt's and Iver Johnson to produce a new line of black-powder models.

It was in Middlesex that all F Series standard production models were manufactured as The Authentic Colt Blackpowder Series. These new F Series 2nd Generation models came in black cardboard boxes with dark gray foam rubber inserts and featured Sam Colt's portrait and signature on the lid and end label.

Unlike their first arrangement, Imperato was now responsible for the entire production of Colt black-powder models. "They were all hand-fitted. There was no way to do mass production," explains Imperato. "We had the barrels, cylinders and backstraps cast in Italy (as Forgett had done), but we finished them off in-house. We made the frames, the center pins, nipples, all of the screws, springs, and built every F Series gun at Iver Johnson Arms. We even used the old style color-case hardening method with the charcoal and bone meal, and Colt's exclusive Colt Blue Finish. They turned out pretty good. In fact, I think our finishes were actually better than Colt's single actions being done in Hartford."

 

Under the subcontractor agreement to produce 2nd Generation percussion models, Imperato's responsibilities were to manufacture the revolvers to Colt's strict specifications, then ship the finished product to its Hartford facilities. Colt's then performed final inspection and shipped the revolvers to distributors.

This is why Colt historical letters for 2nd Generation percussion revolvers contain exactly the same type of information one finds in letters for original percussion models, Single Action Armys and other models.

Somewhat out of historical sequence, Colt's skipped the First and Second Model Dragoons (later introduced in 1980), and following the 1851 Navy and Third Model Dragoon, next brought out the popular 1860 Army model in November, 1978.

Sam Colt designed the original 1860 Army to be nearly the same size as the 1851 Navy, but in .44, with nearly as much punch as a Dragoon. Colt used the same basic frame as the Navy, but with a slightly longer backstrap and grip, a new rebated cylinder (milled larger in diameter approximately three-quarters of an inch forward of the breech to allow for the larger caliber), and a beautifully contoured, round 8-inch barrel. Bearing the same roll-engraved battle scene as the '51 Navy, it was an immediate success.

"Approximately 129,000 Model 1860 revolvers were issued to U.S. troops for Civil War service--several thousand of them equipped with an attachable shoulder stock, an accessory to allow firing the arm as a carbine," says Colt historian and author R. L. Wilson. "The U.S. government purchased more 1860 Army revolvers than any other model of Colt or any other make of black-powder revolver. This was the staple handgun of the Civil War, and played the same role in the Plains Indian wars, until succeeded by the Colt Peacemaker .45...in 1873."

Some 200,500 1860 Armys were manufactured, making it the third-highest production Colt up to that time.

The Colt black-powder 2nd Generation reprise of the 1860 Army remained in production until 1982 and was offered in a variety of models. The original 1860 style with rebated cylinder was manufactured from November 1978 to November 1982; also with an electroless nickel finish in 1982; with a fluted cylinder from July 1980 through October 1981; and in stainless steel from January 1982 to April 1982.

Colt's also produced a number of special edition Army models. One series was commissioned by the Hodgdon Powder Company in 1979 to commemorate the Butterfield Overland Stage. This was limited to 500 guns with a shortened 51⁄2-inch barrel, and came with an extra cylinder in a French book-style case. Another dozen 1860 Armys were finished in bright nickel and fitted with ivory stocks in 1984. A total of 3001 U.S. Cavalry 200th Anniversary double pistol sets, cased with a shoulder stock and accessories, were produced beginning in 1977. In 1979 a series of 500 cased 1860 Army models were built, and in 1980 a special Interstate Edition of 200 guns, making the Army the most varied of the 2nd Generation.

The Colt 1862 Pocket Navy and 1862 Pocket Police were the next additions to the black-powder line, introduced in December 1979 and January 1980, respectively. The last percussion models introduced by Colt's prior to the 1873 Peacemaker, original pocket pistols were scaled down versions of the 1851 Navy and 1860 Army.

Notes Wilson "Both actually appeared in 1861, just months before the inventor's death, Jan. 10, 1862. Stocks and frames were identical on these revolvers, as was their serial range, caliber and number of shots (.36, five-shot rebated cylinder), and barrel lengths, (41⁄2, 51⁄2 and 61⁄2 inches). A few 1862 Police models--approximately 50--were made in the 31⁄2-inch barrel length Trapper version without the loading lever and with a separate brass ramrod."

The 1862 Pocket Police model was distinguished by its semi-fluted and rebated cylinder, round 1860 Army-style barrel and creeping lever for loading. The Pocket Navy featured a rebated round cylinder, roll engraved with stagecoach holdup scene, and octagonal barrel with hinged-type loading lever.

"The .36-caliber chambering of these medium size revolvers made them highly prized pocket sidearms. As also true with the 1849 Pocket, a number were carried by Civil War soldiers as backup to their single-shot muskets," wrote Wilson in a Colt black-powder sales booklet published in 1978. That 24-year-old booklet is itself (in mint condition) a collectable item today. A rare first printing had a page of Dragoons pictured backward, but most copies were destroyed.

The 2nd Generation Pocket Navy was produced through November 1981, and the Pocket Police through September 1981. With few exceptions, Navy models are found with serial numbers only in the even thousands (48,000) while the Police models are typically found with serial numbers only in the odd thousands (49,000). Both Pocket models were also produced in a limited edition of 500, each in a fitted presentation box with bullet mold, powder flask, percussion cap tin and combination tool. The beautifully styled presentation boxes were affixed with a brass medallion mounted in the lid featuring a cast bust of Samuel Colt and the legend "COLT AUTHENTIC BLACKPOWDER."

The series was produced in 1979 and 1980 within the production serial number run. In addition, a very limited edition of Pocket Navy and Pocket Police revolvers was produced in bright nickel finish with ivory stocks in 1984.

The 1980 Colt black-powder catalog featured yet another historic reproduction, the 1861 Navy, which was added in September and produced through October 1981. The original 1861 Navy was Colt's update on the 1851 and was again chambered in .36 caliber. Interestingly, Colt's did not discontinue the 1851 Navy when the 1861 Navy was introduced--both remained in production through 1873.

The 2nd Generation 1861 Navy followed the original design, fitting the 1851 frame and cylinder with a streamlined Army-style round barrel and loading lever. For sheer style and balanced proportions, the 1861 Navy is often considered the most beautifully designed Colt percussion revolver.

A new line of First, Second and Third Model Dragoons was added in 1980, all of which were introduced in January. The distinguishing characteristics between the three are minor, however one can easily spot a First Model Dragoon by its square back trigger guard and oval cylinder stop slots. The Second Model has rectangular stop slots, and Third Model Dragoons have rectangular stop slots and a rounded trigger guard. All three share a half-round, half-octagonal barrel, 23⁄16-inch cylinder and roll-engraved Texas Ranger and Indian fight scene.

The 1847 Walker was first issued in June 1980, as the Colt Heritage, a limited, cased model complete with a leather-bound and gilt-edged edition of R. L. Wilson's book The Colt Heritage. A total of 1,853 were produced through June 1981. Each Heritage Walker was serialized from 1 to 1,853 with the book, signed by Wilson and numbered to match the gun. A striking presentation, the Walker was set into a fitted case with the book placed in a removable shelf, allowing both the pistol and book to be displayed.

Among the last black-powder models to be reintroduced by Colt's was the 1848 Baby Dragoon, a pocket-sized version of the First Model Dragoon and a throwback to the very first Paterson No. 1, chambered for .31 caliber, limited to five shots and conspicuously absent of a loading lever. (In its place, the cylinder pin doubled as a loading ramrod). Standard barrel lengths for original guns ranged from 3 inches to 6 inches. The 4-inch model was the most popular and that was the barrel length chosen for the 2nd Generation Colt, introduced in 1979 as a limited edition of 500 presentation models each in a fitted case with powder flask, bullet mold, percussion cap tin and combination tool.

Between February 1981 and April 1982, another 1,352 Baby Dragoons were produced for general sales. Old time collector James B. Smith, of Connecticut, lent the original revolver to Colt's that was used to produce this series of 2nd Generation pistols.

Enter The Colt Custom Shop
While Imperato was turning out black-powder Colts by the thousands, a handful were being diverted to the Colt Custom Shop for use in a limited series of factory engraved editions; guns that would become the most rare and valuable members of the 2nd Generation.

"We would ship the guns to the custom shop in the white [an unfinished gray] and they would be completed by factory engravers or, on occasion, sent to American Master Engravers Inc., (including A.A. White, John Adams, Sr., Andrew Bourbon and Denise Therion), or one of the other leading artisans of the day like Howard Dove," says Wilson.

Much of the enthusiasm for finely engraved 2nd Generation Colts was created in 1980-81 by then-Colt Industries chairman, George A. Strichman, who commissioned the most elaborately embellished and costly 2nd Generation models of all. He challenged Al De John's Colt factory engravers and the staff at American Master Engravers to do their best work. The result was a remarkable collection of guns which were the inspiration for Colt Custom Shop limited editions. Most of the Strichman collection is now part of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles, California. Many of them can also be seen in 'Colt Blackpowder Reproductions & Replicas, A Collector's & Shooter's Guide', available from Blue Book Publications, and in Wilson's 'Colt, An American Legend'.

As shown on the cover of Second Edition Blue Book of Modern Black Powder Values, this U.S. Cavalry Custom Engraved 1860 Army is part of a two-gun set with shoulder stock. Part of the limited edition Cavalry Commemorative model produced from 1977 to 1980, the guns were embellished with class A vine scroll engraving on the barrels, class B engraving on the frames and stock mount, and wolf's head engraving on the hammers. The pair was further embellished with gold barrel bands, gold stars inlaid between each chamber of the cylinder, and the serial number 1 of 40, 2 of 40, etc., engraved on the left side of each frame. Only 23 sets were engraved. The remaining 17 had only the gold embellishments.

Within the Colt custom shop series of engraved 2nd Generation Colt percussion pistols there are a number of variations, some produced in sets of from 20 to 50, but most limited to 10, and a few to single examples.

Among the most desirable are the Colt 150th Anniversary Engraving Samplers produced in both high polish blue and bright nickel finishes, and in a variety of popular models 1860 Army; Third Model Dragoon; 1862 Pocket Navy and Pocket Police. The Samplers featured four different B engraving styles on each revolver, three depicting the work of different engravers from the 19th century and one with contemporary technique. All are mounted with ivory stocks featuring the engraver's names and dates of their work scrimshawed in script on the left grip R. Henshaw 1831, L. Nimshke 1850 -1900, C. Helfricht 1871-1921, and the word "Contemporary." The Colt Custom Shop continued to produce limited editions through the early 1990s from remaining 2nd Generation inventory.

The 2nd Generation (C Series and F Series) lasted for over a decade and included a total of 11 different designs 1851 Navy; 1847 Walker; First, Second and Third Model Dragoons; 1860 Army with rebated cylinder and fluted cylinder; 1861 Navy; 1848 Baby Dragoon, and 1862 Pocket Police and Pocket Navy.

"The best seller was the 1860 Army, just slightly ahead of the 1851 Navy in popularity," recalls Imperato.

The 2nd Generation production came to an end in 1982, bringing to a close another interesting chapter in the history of Colt's.

 

 

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Ok so mine do not have signatures so 2nd generation and I also found serial numbers for the "C" series 1851 Navies.  One of mine is a "C" series and the other is an "F" series.  The blue is supposed to be different between the two series but I cannot really see much of a difference in mine.

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I saw my first 2nd Gen 1851 Navy Colt at a match in Ft. Collins, CO in 2003.  One of the local shooters was using a pair of C series Navies.  I bought a pair of them as soon as I could off of GunBroker.  I've been buying 2nd Gens ever since.  

 

The Adler refecence is a good source for information on 2nd and 3rd generation Colts.  A more recent publication "Collecting Modern Colt Blackpowder Revolvers" by Eric Deaton (2019) is an excellent reference that discuses manufacturing, packaging, marketing, and warranteeing and hits on the lack of production numbers for the Sig series guns.  Apparently the records were destroyed. Can't letter something you can't identify. Table 2 in Deatons book lists the models cataloged for the Sig Series production.  Most of the models listed say unknown in the quantity column.

 

C series 1851 Navies and 3rd Model Dragoons were finished in the bright Colt Royal Blue while F series 2nd Gens and Sig Series guns were finished in a more durable dark Colt Blue.  The Sig series guns were were highly polished where the 2nd Gens were not. 

 

The most recent "Blue Book of Modern Black Powder Arms" is the ninth edition, dated 2016. 

 

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16 hours ago, Waxahachie Kid #17017 L said:

Duelist1954, on YouTube, has a segment on this, and he goes over what is what, very clearly. 

 

Lots of rumors, and stories, going around about the Colt re-issue cap & ball revolvers.

 

My Two Bits.

W.K.  

 

Great video.

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I think a lot of the old time C&B shooters in SASS liked the Colt 2nd gen in the 90's because they were a much better built gun than the ASM. Petta and Uberti.  Today the build of Petta and Uberti are as good or better than the Colts.  Today CNC machining will hold tolerances so close that they can be assembled without any gunsmithing.  A little gunsmithing brings the guns made in Italy to such a degree that they become boring waiting for something not to go bang.  Most problems is cap related on the new guns.  I remember when a cap would not stay on their guns, today the nipples are the size where most brands of caps will work.

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8 hours ago, Pee Wee #15785 said:

I think a lot of the old time C&B shooters in SASS liked the Colt 2nd gen in the 90's because they were a much better built gun than the ASM. Petta and Uberti.  Today the build of Petta and Uberti are as good or better than the Colts.  Today CNC machining will hold tolerances so close that they can be assembled without any gunsmithing.  A little gunsmithing brings the guns made in Italy to such a degree that they become boring waiting for something not to go bang.  Most problems is cap related on the new guns.  I remember when a cap would not stay on their guns, today the nipples are the size where most brands of caps will work.

I still like mine for that reason.  I have two "C" series 1851s for my main match guns, a back up in a Signature Series and and OLD ASM marked one that was made with parts from the batch produce by Uberti.  All have been reworked to have Manhattan gates, Ruger plunger and hand spring, Slix nipples and as long as I do my job, as reliable as my cartridge guns.

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I've got a 2nd Gen Dragoon.   Got a conversion clyinder for it, but I got the kind you need to take the barrel off for.  I would not cut the frame for a gated conversion cuz "it's a real Colt."

I understand the 3rd gens are not considered to be "real" Colts.   Maybe I'd cut one of those if I had one.

My cylinder had to be custom fitted to on the Colt cuz they are not the same as the contemporary Uberties.   It's my understanding that some of the cylinder makers won't do the customizing anymore.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was cleaning my two Navies and discovered an interesting "twist" to the 2nd -vs- 3rd generation saga.

 

The rifling of the 2nd gen barrel is a RIGHT HAND twist, while the 3rd gen has a LEFT HAND twist!

Both barrels have 7 lands & grooves and a rifling twist rate of 1 turn in 32 inches.

 

The Official Uberti USA Rate of Twist Chart shows 1-in-32" LH rifling for black powder .36 caliber revolvers.  So, that matches up exactly with my 3rd gen Navy, which is widely reported to have been made using 'unfinished' Uberti parts.  The 2nd gen Colts reportedly began with rough Uberti castings for only the barrel, cylinder and backstraps.  So, the folks working at the old Iver Johnson factory under license from Colt, must have rifled those rough barrels in the opposite direction?

 

P.S. - Original 1st generation revolvers were reportedly rifled with a gain twist, but, I'm not sure whether it was right or left hand?

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I used VTI services to convert a C-series 1851 to utilize 38 Long Colt.  VTI sends the work to Bill Kelly in TN.

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On 4/23/2021 at 7:35 PM, Pee Wee #15785 said:

 

 

 

 

El Hombre Sin Nombre

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Since folks seemed interested in the history of the colt black powder guns, I thought I would post a bit more in addition to what Larsen posted. Enjoy:

 

(This is an excerpt from Dennis Adler's latest book, 'Second Edition Blue Book of Modern Black Powder Values', published by Blue Book Publications.)

 

Throughout the storied history of Colt's, there has been a succession of illustrious models, from the innovative Paterson revolvers of the late 1830s to the 1860 Army--the principal sidearm of Civil War Union officers--to the 1873 Peacemaker and Model 1911A1, the most distinguished military sidearm in American history.

One of the more interesting footnotes in the company's story, however, began in 1971, when it made the unprecedented decision to re-introduce a model it had last built in 1873. With the reintroduction of the legendary 1851 Navy--a gun made famous by James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok--Colt's embarked on an 11-year odyssey that would result in one of the most popular and collectible series the Hartford, Connecticut, armsmaker would ever produce.

The tale of the 2nd Generation Colt black-powder line actually began in the late 1950s with Val Forgett, founder of Navy Arms, and Italian gunmakers Vittorio Gregorelli and Aldo Uberti. They chose the Colt 1851 Navy as the first percussion revolver to be reproduced in Italy in 1958.

After a dozen years and thousands of Colt reproductions, the success of the Italian-made '51 Navy--which Aldo Uberti frequently supplied to filmmaker Sergio Lione and Clint Eastwood for early spaghetti westerns--had finally come to the attention of the company that invented it.

There have been countless tales how Colt's dusted off the old tooling from the 1851 and began manufacturing new guns at Hartford, which would have been very interesting had the tooling not been destroyed when a fire razed most of the factory on Feb. 4, 1864.

As for the tooling used to make the later percussion models produced through 1873, it was simply discarded over the years, so Colt's could never have brought back the 1851 Navy, or any other percussion era model had it not been for Forgett, Uberti and, ultimately, Lou Imperato.

 

Imperato, who founded Colt Blackpowder Arms Co. in 1993 (which produced the 3rd Generation Colt Blackpowder line through 2002), recalls that Forgett sold Colt's the components (rough castings) to build the first 2nd Generation 1851 Navy revolvers, which were completed at the Hartford factory from 1971 through 1973. The first C Series 1851 Navy repros included the now collectible Grant and Lee Navy sets.

However, late in 1973 Colt's decided to seek a new supplier of components and the following year Lou Imperato, its largest American distributor, took over.

The company's enthusiasm for the percussion revolvers was obvious in its decision to place the new Third Model Dragoon on the cover of its 1974 sales catalog.

The Dragoon and Navy models were listed along with the Python, Detective Special, Cobra, Agent, Diamondback, Trooper MKIII, Official Police MKIII, Lawman MKIII, 1873 Peacemaker Single Action Army models, and semi-autos. Unfortunately, labor disputes delayed the Dragoon in 1974, causing Colt's to take the unprecedented step of re-announcing the Dragoon model in 1975, when deliveries actually began.

The relationship with Imperato continued until Colt's discontinued the first series of percussion revolvers in 1976. This, however, was not the end of the black-powder line.

In 1973 Lou Imperato had purchased the Iver Johnson Arms Company in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. A year after Colt's discontinued the black-powder line, Imperato moved the Iver Johnson works to Middlesex, New Jersey, and approached Colt's with the idea of producing an entire line of black-powder pistols, which the Italians had been doing successfully since the late 1950s.

He came in with both barrels blazing, so to speak, reprimanding Colt's management. "[They're] your guns and everyone else is getting rich on them and you're not out there."

He showed them a display of various black-powder models and they were once again intrigued--but as before, had no way of manufacturing. The timing could not have been better for Imperato. He signed a deal with Colt's and Iver Johnson to produce a new line of black-powder models.

It was in Middlesex that all F Series standard production models were manufactured as The Authentic Colt Blackpowder Series. These new F Series 2nd Generation models came in black cardboard boxes with dark gray foam rubber inserts and featured Sam Colt's portrait and signature on the lid and end label.

Unlike their first arrangement, Imperato was now responsible for the entire production of Colt black-powder models. "They were all hand-fitted. There was no way to do mass production," explains Imperato. "We had the barrels, cylinders and backstraps cast in Italy (as Forgett had done), but we finished them off in-house. We made the frames, the center pins, nipples, all of the screws, springs, and built every F Series gun at Iver Johnson Arms. We even used the old style color-case hardening method with the charcoal and bone meal, and Colt's exclusive Colt Blue Finish. They turned out pretty good. In fact, I think our finishes were actually better than Colt's single actions being done in Hartford."

 

Under the subcontractor agreement to produce 2nd Generation percussion models, Imperato's responsibilities were to manufacture the revolvers to Colt's strict specifications, then ship the finished product to its Hartford facilities. Colt's then performed final inspection and shipped the revolvers to distributors.

This is why Colt historical letters for 2nd Generation percussion revolvers contain exactly the same type of information one finds in letters for original percussion models, Single Action Armys and other models.

Somewhat out of historical sequence, Colt's skipped the First and Second Model Dragoons (later introduced in 1980), and following the 1851 Navy and Third Model Dragoon, next brought out the popular 1860 Army model in November, 1978.

Sam Colt designed the original 1860 Army to be nearly the same size as the 1851 Navy, but in .44, with nearly as much punch as a Dragoon. Colt used the same basic frame as the Navy, but with a slightly longer backstrap and grip, a new rebated cylinder (milled larger in diameter approximately three-quarters of an inch forward of the breech to allow for the larger caliber), and a beautifully contoured, round 8-inch barrel. Bearing the same roll-engraved battle scene as the '51 Navy, it was an immediate success.

"Approximately 129,000 Model 1860 revolvers were issued to U.S. troops for Civil War service--several thousand of them equipped with an attachable shoulder stock, an accessory to allow firing the arm as a carbine," says Colt historian and author R. L. Wilson. "The U.S. government purchased more 1860 Army revolvers than any other model of Colt or any other make of black-powder revolver. This was the staple handgun of the Civil War, and played the same role in the Plains Indian wars, until succeeded by the Colt Peacemaker .45...in 1873."

Some 200,500 1860 Armys were manufactured, making it the third-highest production Colt up to that time.

The Colt black-powder 2nd Generation reprise of the 1860 Army remained in production until 1982 and was offered in a variety of models. The original 1860 style with rebated cylinder was manufactured from November 1978 to November 1982; also with an electroless nickel finish in 1982; with a fluted cylinder from July 1980 through October 1981; and in stainless steel from January 1982 to April 1982.

Colt's also produced a number of special edition Army models. One series was commissioned by the Hodgdon Powder Company in 1979 to commemorate the Butterfield Overland Stage. This was limited to 500 guns with a shortened 51⁄2-inch barrel, and came with an extra cylinder in a French book-style case. Another dozen 1860 Armys were finished in bright nickel and fitted with ivory stocks in 1984. A total of 3001 U.S. Cavalry 200th Anniversary double pistol sets, cased with a shoulder stock and accessories, were produced beginning in 1977. In 1979 a series of 500 cased 1860 Army models were built, and in 1980 a special Interstate Edition of 200 guns, making the Army the most varied of the 2nd Generation.

The Colt 1862 Pocket Navy and 1862 Pocket Police were the next additions to the black-powder line, introduced in December 1979 and January 1980, respectively. The last percussion models introduced by Colt's prior to the 1873 Peacemaker, original pocket pistols were scaled down versions of the 1851 Navy and 1860 Army.

Notes Wilson "Both actually appeared in 1861, just months before the inventor's death, Jan. 10, 1862. Stocks and frames were identical on these revolvers, as was their serial range, caliber and number of shots (.36, five-shot rebated cylinder), and barrel lengths, (41⁄2, 51⁄2 and 61⁄2 inches). A few 1862 Police models--approximately 50--were made in the 31⁄2-inch barrel length Trapper version without the loading lever and with a separate brass ramrod."

The 1862 Pocket Police model was distinguished by its semi-fluted and rebated cylinder, round 1860 Army-style barrel and creeping lever for loading. The Pocket Navy featured a rebated round cylinder, roll engraved with stagecoach holdup scene, and octagonal barrel with hinged-type loading lever.

"The .36-caliber chambering of these medium size revolvers made them highly prized pocket sidearms. As also true with the 1849 Pocket, a number were carried by Civil War soldiers as backup to their single-shot muskets," wrote Wilson in a Colt black-powder sales booklet published in 1978. That 24-year-old booklet is itself (in mint condition) a collectable item today. A rare first printing had a page of Dragoons pictured backward, but most copies were destroyed.

The 2nd Generation Pocket Navy was produced through November 1981, and the Pocket Police through September 1981. With few exceptions, Navy models are found with serial numbers only in the even thousands (48,000) while the Police models are typically found with serial numbers only in the odd thousands (49,000). Both Pocket models were also produced in a limited edition of 500, each in a fitted presentation box with bullet mold, powder flask, percussion cap tin and combination tool. The beautifully styled presentation boxes were affixed with a brass medallion mounted in the lid featuring a cast bust of Samuel Colt and the legend "COLT AUTHENTIC BLACKPOWDER."

The series was produced in 1979 and 1980 within the production serial number run. In addition, a very limited edition of Pocket Navy and Pocket Police revolvers was produced in bright nickel finish with ivory stocks in 1984.

The 1980 Colt black-powder catalog featured yet another historic reproduction, the 1861 Navy, which was added in September and produced through October 1981. The original 1861 Navy was Colt's update on the 1851 and was again chambered in .36 caliber. Interestingly, Colt's did not discontinue the 1851 Navy when the 1861 Navy was introduced--both remained in production through 1873.

The 2nd Generation 1861 Navy followed the original design, fitting the 1851 frame and cylinder with a streamlined Army-style round barrel and loading lever. For sheer style and balanced proportions, the 1861 Navy is often considered the most beautifully designed Colt percussion revolver.

A new line of First, Second and Third Model Dragoons was added in 1980, all of which were introduced in January. The distinguishing characteristics between the three are minor, however one can easily spot a First Model Dragoon by its square back trigger guard and oval cylinder stop slots. The Second Model has rectangular stop slots, and Third Model Dragoons have rectangular stop slots and a rounded trigger guard. All three share a half-round, half-octagonal barrel, 23⁄16-inch cylinder and roll-engraved Texas Ranger and Indian fight scene.

The 1847 Walker was first issued in June 1980, as the Colt Heritage, a limited, cased model complete with a leather-bound and gilt-edged edition of R. L. Wilson's book The Colt Heritage. A total of 1,853 were produced through June 1981. Each Heritage Walker was serialized from 1 to 1,853 with the book, signed by Wilson and numbered to match the gun. A striking presentation, the Walker was set into a fitted case with the book placed in a removable shelf, allowing both the pistol and book to be displayed.

Among the last black-powder models to be reintroduced by Colt's was the 1848 Baby Dragoon, a pocket-sized version of the First Model Dragoon and a throwback to the very first Paterson No. 1, chambered for .31 caliber, limited to five shots and conspicuously absent of a loading lever. (In its place, the cylinder pin doubled as a loading ramrod). Standard barrel lengths for original guns ranged from 3 inches to 6 inches. The 4-inch model was the most popular and that was the barrel length chosen for the 2nd Generation Colt, introduced in 1979 as a limited edition of 500 presentation models each in a fitted case with powder flask, bullet mold, percussion cap tin and combination tool.

Between February 1981 and April 1982, another 1,352 Baby Dragoons were produced for general sales. Old time collector James B. Smith, of Connecticut, lent the original revolver to Colt's that was used to produce this series of 2nd Generation pistols.

Enter The Colt Custom Shop
While Imperato was turning out black-powder Colts by the thousands, a handful were being diverted to the Colt Custom Shop for use in a limited series of factory engraved editions; guns that would become the most rare and valuable members of the 2nd Generation.

"We would ship the guns to the custom shop in the white [an unfinished gray] and they would be completed by factory engravers or, on occasion, sent to American Master Engravers Inc., (including A.A. White, John Adams, Sr., Andrew Bourbon and Denise Therion), or one of the other leading artisans of the day like Howard Dove," says Wilson.

Much of the enthusiasm for finely engraved 2nd Generation Colts was created in 1980-81 by then-Colt Industries chairman, George A. Strichman, who commissioned the most elaborately embellished and costly 2nd Generation models of all. He challenged Al De John's Colt factory engravers and the staff at American Master Engravers to do their best work. The result was a remarkable collection of guns which were the inspiration for Colt Custom Shop limited editions. Most of the Strichman collection is now part of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles, California. Many of them can also be seen in 'Colt Blackpowder Reproductions & Replicas, A Collector's & Shooter's Guide', available from Blue Book Publications, and in Wilson's 'Colt, An American Legend'.

As shown on the cover of Second Edition Blue Book of Modern Black Powder Values, this U.S. Cavalry Custom Engraved 1860 Army is part of a two-gun set with shoulder stock. Part of the limited edition Cavalry Commemorative model produced from 1977 to 1980, the guns were embellished with class A vine scroll engraving on the barrels, class B engraving on the frames and stock mount, and wolf's head engraving on the hammers. The pair was further embellished with gold barrel bands, gold stars inlaid between each chamber of the cylinder, and the serial number 1 of 40, 2 of 40, etc., engraved on the left side of each frame. Only 23 sets were engraved. The remaining 17 had only the gold embellishments.

Within the Colt custom shop series of engraved 2nd Generation Colt percussion pistols there are a number of variations, some produced in sets of from 20 to 50, but most limited to 10, and a few to single examples.

Among the most desirable are the Colt 150th Anniversary Engraving Samplers produced in both high polish blue and bright nickel finishes, and in a variety of popular models 1860 Army; Third Model Dragoon; 1862 Pocket Navy and Pocket Police. The Samplers featured four different B engraving styles on each revolver, three depicting the work of different engravers from the 19th century and one with contemporary technique. All are mounted with ivory stocks featuring the engraver's names and dates of their work scrimshawed in script on the left grip R. Henshaw 1831, L. Nimshke 1850 -1900, C. Helfricht 1871-1921, and the word "Contemporary." The Colt Custom Shop continued to produce limited editions through the early 1990s from remaining 2nd Generation inventory.

The 2nd Generation (C Series and F Series) lasted for over a decade and included a total of 11 different designs 1851 Navy; 1847 Walker; First, Second and Third Model Dragoons; 1860 Army with rebated cylinder and fluted cylinder; 1861 Navy; 1848 Baby Dragoon, and 1862 Pocket Police and Pocket Navy.

"The best seller was the 1860 Army, just slightly ahead of the 1851 Navy in popularity," recalls Imperato.

The 2nd Generation production came to an end in 1982, bringing to a close another interesting chapter in the history of Colt's.

 

 

What’s with the picture? Might damn good looking cowboy there. Even if a really slow shooter 

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On 5/4/2021 at 1:17 PM, Blu Nos Dav said:

I was cleaning my two Navies and discovered an interesting "twist" to the 2nd -vs- 3rd generation saga.

 

The rifling of the 2nd gen barrel is a RIGHT HAND twist, while the 3rd gen has a LEFT HAND twist!

Both barrels have 7 lands & grooves and a rifling twist rate of 1 turn in 32 inches.

 

The Official Uberti USA Rate of Twist Chart shows 1-in-32" LH rifling for black powder .36 caliber revolvers.  So, that matches up exactly with my 3rd gen Navy, which is widely reported to have been made using 'unfinished' Uberti parts.  The 2nd gen Colts reportedly began with rough Uberti castings for only the barrel, cylinder and backstraps.  So, the folks working at the old Iver Johnson factory under license from Colt, must have rifled those rough barrels in the opposite direction?

 

P.S. - Original 1st generation revolvers were reportedly rifled with a gain twist, but, I'm not sure whether it was right or left hand?

 

That means you better shoot the one with a RH twist in the left hand and the one with a LH twist in your right hand.  Otherwise your arms will spread apart during rapid fire and so will your shots. 

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