Colt 1851 Navy opinions needed

Joined
Aug 26, 2021
I'm in the market for a Colt 1851 Navy to go along with my Colt 1860 but I'm in a bit of a quandary and I would like the opinion of those more knowledgeable than me.

Assuming that the pistols are all matching and condition is similar between the two, would you think a pre-war Hartford addressed Colt or a martially marked (US marking under Colt Patent) would be the better choice?

Here are my thoughts on the choices: (note - whatever I purchase won't be for resale or profit so my thoughts on being "rare" is more for my own knowledge and satisfaction than having to do with appreciation)

Hartford Colt - my understanding (although may be completely incorrect) was that many of the Hartford-marked Colts were shipped south prior to the war. I'm intrigued by the possibility that a Hartford Colt may have been likely used by the Confederacy although I know there is no assurance that that would be the case. I think I read somewhere that the ones shipped south right before the war were in the 95-99k serial number range but maybe I dreamed that. I also understand that the Hartford-marked Colts are more desirable than New York marked ones? (although I guess that would be up to the individual)

US Colt - I am assured that a US-marked Colt would have served in the Army although were would be anyone's guess. Could even be that it was in service even after the war. I understand that there were not many 1851's purchased by the US government (when compared to 1860's and the total number of 1851s produced) which might make it more "rare" or desirable.

So...what would you do (getting both is not an option as nice as that would be)? If you could share the reasoning for your decision as well it would help. Ultimately I know it is my decision but I would like to think I made the "best" and " right" choice.

Thank you
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Well, my guess is that the "serious" collectors will say go for the martially marked ones. They do cost more though (not an exact number but probably 30-50% more).

But I have another question for you to factor in your decision...are you going to shoot it? If yes, perhaps you don't want the 1851s that command a higher price. In my experience you can get a decent looking shooter for $1,700-2,500 (all matching, original parts, tight action that functions, no original bluing, very good rifling, up to about 75% of the naval scene on the cylinder in the $2,200-$2,500 range (none/not much of a naval scene at $1,700), non-martial, dings on the grips but otherwise sound/intact). Mind you, that's a gun show price 2 years ago, with some good bargaining, and much looking around to find a good deal...online sales always seem to be at least $500 more than I would pay at a show for identical condition 1851s. I hope this helps, if that's the sort of ballpark amount you were looking to spend. I can post a picture or two later to give you a clearer sense (please let me know). Others may think I got a great deal or ripped off...dunno....but I think I got a fair deal.
 
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bayonet

Corporal
Joined
Nov 7, 2012
I'm a Connecticut Yankee (or I used to be) so I wanted a Hartford Colt. It's all matching and in good working order cost me $950 the auction hammer price years ago. Hartford serial #s can go from 74,000 to 101,000 or higher since mine is 101,324. Also not "all" Hartfords went South. You want "rare" and in great condition great ready to spend $$$, so If money ain't an issue get one in the serial # range of the low hundreds!
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2021
Good points from both - thank you!

First, no I do not plan to shoot it so while a great bore condition would be nice it isn't a "must have." Second, unfortunately money is an issue (at least until I win that powerball lol) so while I use the term "rare" I think the better term should have been "less common" or "fewer numbers manufactured."

I'm looking at a price range of around $2-2.5k
 

ucvrelics

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Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
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I'm looking at a price range of around $2-2.5k
You can get a whole lot of 1851 for that budget. I would start going to the Civil War shows, in fact the biggest show of the year is 1st weekend in Dec in Franklin Tn. There will be more Colt navies there that you can count.

34th Middle Tennessee Civil War Show
December 4-5, 2021
Williamson County Ag Expo Park
4215 Long Lane
Franklin, TN 37064
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
This is the nicest one I have. I paid approx. $1,800 USD, 2 years ago, to a motivated seller up here in Canad-istan. This gun had no mechanical issues whatsoever. It's non-martial. All matching, Serial # 106,XXX, made mid-1861. Absolutely love this gun. Purists will say "GASP! the top front of the barrel was filed down!!" ...I would say "Oh man, so kewl, the guy who carried it wanted to make sure it didn't catch on the holster as he drew(?) the gun". 6 months after I bought it, I saw a bunch of others in similar condition (non-filed barrel) selling at the Franklin TN show for $2,300 to $2,800 in 2019.

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Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Here's the other one. I paid approx. $1,250 USD, 2 years ago, to a motivated seller at the Franklin, TN show. This gun needed a bit of mechanical tweaking (well within my capabilities to do...learned all I know from a friend of mine named Doug), but is now properly "tuned", and the action is tight and crisp. It's non-martial. All matching, Serial # 131,XXX, made late-1862. If you look at the brass parts, you will see some of the original silver finish is still present...and there's alot more silver beneath the handgrips. Haven't fired this gun yet. Notice that the naval scene on the cylinder is almost completely gone, but the cylinder itself is in great mechanical shape. The original varnish is on the grips, and the serial number is written on the inside of the grips (as per Colt procedures). Personally, I think the price I paid was a real bargain. You should see the junk that sells online for that price. I am thinking comparable guns at a show are in the $2,000 price range, but I'd like to hear what others think about that.

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ucvrelics

Colonel
Forum Host
Regtl. Quartermaster Shiloh 2020
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Antietam 2021
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Ultimately I know it is my decision but I would like to think I made the "best" and " right" choice.
Having been a collector/buyer/trader for 47 years I'm going to make a prediction as I have seen the highs and lows of the CW market. With all that is going on with inflation, economy and all the other stuff under "Lets Go Brandon", people are not going to have the disposable income to afford stuff or if they do they are going to sit on their cash due to uncertainty. The market for the mid - upper yankee items will take a hit as they do not hold the value of CS items. Dealers will start cutting prices for items they have in stock like this just to get their money back and maybe a few dollars. In 6 months you will be able to find just what you want for a LOT less. Heck you may even to get an ID or serial # match for what your current budget is. Take your time do your research and just wait a little while as the prices will be coming down.
 
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Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Did I do well on these purchases? What do you think these would sell for today? The idea here is to collectively get a sense of what fair market is for items in similar condition, and we all benefit from that. I am surprised that there isn't more of that type of dialogue on the Forum. I love seeing other people's stuff and learning the history and technology, but I also want to know if it's an item I can afford, and what ballpark prices might be when I pursue a purchase.
 

bayonet

Corporal
Joined
Nov 7, 2012
This is the nicest one I have. I paid approx. $1,800 USD, 2 years ago, to a motivated seller up here in Canad-istan. This gun had no mechanical issues whatsoever. It's non-martial. All matching, Serial # 106,XXX, made mid-1861. Absolutely love this gun. Purists will say "GASP! the top front of the barrel was filed down!!" ...I would say "Oh man, so kewl, the guy who carried it wanted to make sure it didn't catch on the holster as he drew(?) the gun". 6 months after I bought it, I saw a bunch of others in similar condition (non-filed barrel) selling at the Franklin TN show for $2,300 to $2,800 in 2019.

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Can't see the end of the barrel too well, is it filed down or just holster wear? Both my Army and Navy have a small amount of holster wear at the end of the right side of the barrel. Like it that way, tells me they saw action and most likely in the holster of a mounted soldier worn down from all that galloping of a horse.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2021
Thank you for sharing pictures - beautiful pistols. I hope to find one as nice.

But on the original question - Hartford or US?
 

Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
Your question is similar to asking "BBQ Beef Brisket from Austin Texas" or "Pork Rib Burnt Ends from Kansas City, Missouri?"

And the answer is, I'll have an order of each, please.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2021
If 1851's were as inexpensive as brisket or pork then by all means. Of course if BBQ was $2k a serving you'd probably have to make a choice. :smile:

I'm just looking for opinions on what those more in the know would select give the choice. I'd love to have both but can't afford it. I know it's a personal choice and I'll be happy with either but was hoping I might get some opinions as to which one would be preferable and why.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Can't see the end of the barrel too well, is it filed down or just holster wear? Both my Army and Navy have a small amount of holster wear at the end of the right side of the barrel. Like it that way, tells me they saw action and most likely in the holster of a mounted soldier worn down from all that galloping of a horse
Hmmmm....I never considered the possibility of wear, nor have I seen one that I could compare. I'll post a pic later and maybe you can give me your opinion on whether its worn or filed. Perhaps you could post a pic of your barrel for comparison.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Thank you for sharing pictures - beautiful pistols. I hope to find one as nice.

But on the original question - Hartford or US?
Their nice enough by my standards...and beauty is in the eye of the beholder (e.g. there are people that think Starr's are beautiful!). Re Hartford or US...no preference by me. But I am not the most sophisticated collector, and only got my start in all this about 3 years ago.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
So, here are pics of the front of the barrel. No "file marks" exist, and the metal surface looks very smooth, so perhaps it is wear from the holster? I just never imagined that was possible, beyond the normal wear of rounding sharp edges and such.

More often than not, when i post pics of my guns, people notice subtle things that I otherwise didn't imagine had any significance...a good reason to get some pics posted and perhaps learn a few new things.

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Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
So, here are pics of the front of the barrel. No "file marks" exist, and the metal surface looks very smooth, so perhaps it is wear from the holster? I just never imagined that was possible, beyond the normal wear of rounding sharp edges and such.

More often than not, when i post pics of my guns, people notice subtle things that I otherwise didn't imagine had any significance...a good reason to get some pics posted and perhaps learn a few new things.

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Yes, this is what collectors call holster wear. The wear happens while the gun is resting in the holster, but rubbing against the leather - and maybe there would be some grit or sand down at the bottom of that holster.
I've had a couple old time collectors tell me that the most serious wear happens when the user is driving a wagon, with the holster end resting on the wood seat, and so as that wagon sways and bounces, the barrel end of that revolver is rubbed against that hard wood.
 
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Yes, this is what collectors call holster wear. The wear happens while the gun is resting in the holster, but rubbing against the leather - and maybe there would be some grit or sand down at the bottom of that holster.
I've had a couple old time collectors tell me that the most serious wear happens when the user is driving a wagon, with the holster end resting on the wood seat, and so as that wagon sways and bounces, the barrel end of that revolver is rubbed against that hard wood.
Well, you folks have taught me something new...thanks! :smile coffee: My son will be thrilled to hear that holster wear is responsible...he's a big cavalry fan. When we get around to making a proper display, we'll be sure to display this Colt with the 1860 Cavalry Sabre we have. :wavespin:
 

Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
I once had a Colt Army which was worn down on one side of the muzzle that it was down into the bore - there was a sharp edge there, and slight "scallop" in the metal - that would be some serious wear.
 
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