Extremely Rare Special Order Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver with 12-Inch Barrel

Currency:USD Category:Antiques / Firearms & Armory Start Price:12,000.00 USD Estimated At:30,000.00 - 60,000.00 USD
Extremely Rare Special Order Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver with 12-Inch Barrel
This completely original revolver is one of only 3 known to exist in this, its 100% original configuration. It is accompanied by extensive documentation to include a copy of a letter from renowned firearms expert R. L. Wilson describing this model as “Among the Most Rare of Colt Percussion Firearms and Civil War Artifacts”. Of the three 12” Navy Revolvers known to exist, one; # 91833 is in the Frazier Historical Arms Museum in Lexington, Kentucky; a second, #63197 that sold at auction many years ago for over $60,000.00; and this revolver #91837, the most extensively documented 12” known is accompanied by an exceedingly rare original holster. After many years of research by many collectors and historians, it is now thought that only eight 12” Navy's were manufactured. Serial #618 was, according to Wilson, ordered by Texas Ranger Jack Hayes and has never been found. #63197 resides in a private collection. Four were shipped to Kittridge & Co. in 1861, and the last two of these rare guns have here-to-fore been unaccounted for. We believe that this revolver #91837 has now been properly identified as one of two 12” navy revolvers ordered by Felix Tait of Wilcox County Alabama. It has complete early Fourth Model features. The special order, 12-inch, octagon barrel is fitted with a dove-tailed, German silver, blade front sight. The top barrel flat is roll-stamped with the legend: "- ADDRESS SAML COLT NEW-YORK CITY-" in the usual location near the breech. "COLTS/PATENT" is roll-stamped in two lines on the left side of the frame. The cylinder is roll-engraved with the Texas Navy battle scene and "COLT'S PATENT No". All serial numbers match and are original. An accompanying volume of research sheds some very interesting light on two 12” navy revolvers not found in factory records. It most importantly includes information on two letters that exist. The first is from Amos Colt on February 3, 1860 from Montgomery, Ala. and addressed to Colt stating “Please make two pairs of navy pistols with 12” barrels, cases, and accompaniments, and holsters to suit if they can be made. Send them to Messrs. Marast & Lee, Mobile, who will send a check or the money as you may direct. Direct them to Felix Tait, c/o the Merchants mentioned above by Adams Express.” The second is a follow-up letter from Mr. Felix Tait, written on State of Alabama Adjutant Generals stationary and dated February 18, 1860, to Colt’s Firearms that requests in part, “I desired Mr. Colt to send me two pairs of pistols, one pair 12” and the other 14” barrels. I desire to test them. I shall need some 25 pairs as soon as my company decides as to which they will prefer. I desired each pair be sent in a double case (two pistols in a case) with all the accompaniments, flasks, wrenches, etc. I also desired Mr. Colt to have holsters suitable for the pistols be sent with them if possible”. On the bottom of this letter is a recommendation by Sam Colt, in his own handwriting on how to fabricate the pistol barrels in such a fashion as to include the length of the cylinders as part of the overall measurement, effectively reducing the actual length of the barrels to 12” and 10” models! An extensive search through the Colt Archives found four 12” Navy revolvers within 10 numbers of #91837, and all four letter as shipped together to B. Kittridge & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio on April 29, 1861. It is thought by many experts that our #91837 and the single known existing 10” Navy, # 91750 are two of the four original long-barreled Navy's ordered by Tait, the other 4 lettered guns never being permitted to venture South due to the outbreak of war. Felix Tait was a large plantation owner and adventurer from Wilcox County, Alabama who served with the First Texas Cavalry (originally Texas Rangers) in the Mexican War with the famed, Colonel Jack Hayes. After building his cotton plantation with the help of over 120 slaves, Tait became part of the Wilcox Mounted Rifles and later became Major of the 23rd Alabama Infantry. He also served in both houses of the Alabama State Legislature. Also included in this research archive is a copy of an early colorized photo of Tait with a sword or side-knife in his belt, presumably Civil War period, several photos of an elderly Tait with family and friends and photos of his mansion. In addition, his full Mexican War and Civil War service records to include muster sheets, regimental histories and pension records are included. Much of the information in this archive comes directly from Tait family descendents who still possess Taits’ Civil War Officers Sword and other artifacts. R. L. Wilson closes his letter on these guns as follows; “The long-barreled Navy's rank among the most fascinating, historic, and best-documented Colt firearms known and are worthy of the most discriminating private or museum collection”. Whatever the case, we believe it to be a truly extraordinary Colt Model 1851, 12 inch “Buntline” Revolver as they preceded the famous Single-Actions that were thought to be the original “Long-barreled Colts” !
BBL: 12 inch
Gauge: 36 percussion
Finish: blue/casehardened
Grips: walnut
Serial Number: 91837
Condition: The revolver is completely original and is in very good plus condition. The revolver barrel, lever, cylinder and frame have a light brown patina. There is some very light flash corrosion on the rear of the barrel lug and on the front and rear faces of the cylinder. The percussion nipples have flash corrosion and the cylinder shoulders are slightly battered. The cylinder retains nearly all of the roll-engraved naval scene. The trigger guard and back-strap retain 50% tarnished silver-plated finish. The barrel address, patent markings and serial numbers are sharp and crisp. The grip is in near excellent condition, retaining 85% of the original varnish. The action is tight. The holster is in good condition and shows a large star carved onto the flap, which shows a partial tear on the fold and has an added exterior compartment and strap to hold a dirk or small bowie, very unusual and definitely a period addition. This is an extremely rare example of a special order Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver with 12-inch barrel and original holster. This gun will be a stand-out piece in any percussion Colt collection.