As we've reported, Rock Island Auctions is holding a vast and highly impressive auction of antique and collectible firearms this weekend. It is the most comprehensive antique American arms to be offered at auction this year and will be spearheaded by an incredible Civil War collection.
We thought it would be well worth looking at one of the leading examples in detail: This is an extraordinary example of a U.S. Colt B Company Walker Model Revolver that was manufactured in 1847 at facilities owned by Eli Whitney, Jr.
The Walker Model Colt design was developed by Samuel Colt in 1846 and influenced by suggestions from the former Texas Ranger Samuel Hamilton Walker who was serving as a Captain in the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen.
On December 7, 1846 Colt met with President James K. Polk to promote his revolver. President Polk directed Secretary of War William L. Marcy to order 1000 revolvers from Colt through the Ordnance Department.
This order marked the beginning of the relationship between Colt and the U.S. military which exists to this day. Colt made arrangements for the revolvers to be manufactured by Eli Whitney at the Whitneyville Armory.
The original intent was to issue two revolvers per man to the Mounted Rifle Regiment; the revolvers were marked "A Company-E Company" and numbered 1-110. Whitney manufactured 220 pairs of revolvers marked "A Company-D Company" and 120 revolvers marked "E Company" for a total of 1000 revolvers.
The first Walker Model Revolvers arrived at the Ordnance Depot in Vera Cruz, Mexico, in October of 1847. The First Regiment, Texas Mounted Volunteers commanded by Colonel John Hays was issued 394 Walker Model Revolvers marked A, B and C Company on October 19-26, 1847.
The Texas Mounted Volunteers used the Walker Model Revolvers hard in numerous encounters with Mexican guerrilla forces. Only 82 serviceable were turned in when the Texas Mounted Rifles were mustered out of Federal service in 1848.
The huge, hard-hitting Walker Model Revolvers were highly desirable weapons that saw service in the Southwest in the years that followed the Mexican War. This impressive revolver has a 9 inch half-octagon barrel, 2 7/16 inch six-shot cylinder and weighs 4 pounds, 9 ounces.
The revolver has a brass square-back wide bottom trigger guard and one-piece black walnut "Slim Jim" grip.
The loading lever has a rounded end and is secured by a T-shaped barrel mounted spring which slot through a channel in the lever lug. The cylinder has a single locking pin that engages a hole in the base of the hammer. The barrel has a German silver front sight blade.
The rear face of the cylinder is numbered "448". This would make this the 448th revolver made as Colt reportedly made the 220 C Companies first, the 220 A Companies second, thus expending 440 numbers.
Listed at $400,000-600,000, the Colt could well be the top lot at RIA's auction. It is in very fine condition with an attractive silver-gray patina. It counts as a fine piece of Americana from the period as well as a fine firearm.
It's the sort of weapon that General Custer might have been familiar with, though he'd have been a child when this was produced. His memorabilia too is highly collectible to collectors of the period and we're proud to be offering Custer's autograph for sale.
The auction takes place in Illinois and online from December 2-4.