Model 1860 Colts, characteristically, had large brass trigger guards and blued steel backstraps. The frame, hammer and loading lever were casehardened, but the remainder of the metal parts were blued. Stocks were one-piece walnut. Early Model 1860s were stamped with “ADDRESS SAML COLT HARTFORD CT,” on the top of their barrels, although most are stamped “ADDRESS COL SAML COLT NEW YORK U.S. AMERICA.” Barrel lengths of 7 1/2 inches or 8 inches are found below serial number 3500, but most above 3500 were equipped with 8-inch barrels. Fluted cylinders are found on about 4,000 revolvers with serial numbers below 8000, and the fluted cylinders had the patent date of Sept. 10, 1850, stamped in one of the flutes. After number 8000, the rebated cylinder took its place. The rebated cylinder was rolled with the Texas Navy and Mexican battle scene, and its rear surface was equipped with six safety locking pins. The rebated cylinder was stamped “COLT PATENT NO” with the last four digits of the revolver’s serial number. The frame’s left side was stamped: “COLT/PATENT.”
A three-screw frame was standard, but many of the first 50,000 were equipped with four-screw frames to take an attachable shoulder stock, and a few of those had two-leaf folding rear sights mortised into the top of the barrels at the breech.
Colt’s first deliveries went to dealers below the Mason-Dixon line; between December 1860 and April 1861, 2,230 Model 1860s were sent south. Serial numbers on the Southern deliveries are believed to be below 3,000, and the guns were equipped with fluted cylinders. Dealers had to return some of the revolvers due to “bursting cylinders,” and the cylinders were drilled at a slight taper, increasing the supporting metal without reducing the powder capacity to solve the problem. The last 500 southern Model 1860s (serial numbers in this delivery range from 161 to 1812) were sent from the factory on April 15, 1861, to Peter Williams & Co. in Richmond, Va. Confederate forces used those revolvers and thousands captured from Union forces in their struggle for independence.
U.S. Navy Procurement And Sea Service
In May 1861, the U.S. Navy placed orders for 750 new .44-cal. Colt “New Model Holster” pistols (Model 1860s) at a cost of $25 each. The guns received were of the fluted-cylinder design, with 500 received at the Boston Navy Yard and the balance at the New York Navy Yard. The final delivery of 200 was sent to the Washington Navy Yard in August. During the inspection of the August delivery, one revolver exploded three charges at one pull of the trigger. The problem was a flaw between the chambers. The Navy exchanged several of its Model 1860 Armys for .36-cal. Model 1861s. No further Navy orders were placed for Model 1860s.
The Navy issued the .44-cal. revolvers to ships assigned to the Atlantic and Gulf blockade duty. One such ship was the sloop Oneida, which listed 40 Model 1860s on board. In 1862, Oneida saw action in passing the New Orleans forts and later at Vicksburg, Miss. On Aug. 5, 1864, the ship was damaged in the battle at Mobile Bay.
The Army had responsibility for the operations on the Mississippi River and the inland rivers until October 1862, while the Navy supplied the officers and sailors for the vessels purchased by the War Department for operations there. The Army supplied the vessels with small arms, including the Model 1860 revolvers. On Oct. 1, 1862, the Navy took over responsibility for operations on the inland waterways, and the Army gunboats and their ordnance stores were transferred to the Navy.