[Guest post] How I acquired my Colt Single Action Army revolver

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[ This guest post was written by Steve ]

Hi folks, I’d like to share the story of how I acquired my Colt Single Action Army revolver. The gun’s history has a peculiar background that will probably forever remain a mystery. While the gun is in great shape for its age, I have others I can shoot more. This one is special to me because of where it came from.

In 2003, my great-grandmother turned 100 years old. She had lived by herself for nearly 10 years, but it was now time for her to move out of her house and in with relatives. At her one-hundredth birthday party, my Nana called me over and asked me if I was still interested in guns and shooting. I told her that I was, and she asked me to come over to her house the following week.

When I arrived at her house, I saw several distant relatives carrying away all of the valuable furniture, artwork, jewelry, and pottery. Inside, nearly every item was marked with nametags and when I rested my hand on a nightstand, I was asked to remove it by a very possessive third cousin. I finally found my great-grandmother looking out her windows for the last time. She looked up at me, and motioned me into her den with a twinkle in her eye.

She opened an old dresser drawer that creaked with dried paint and pulled out three packages wrapped in butcher paper and twine. I carefully opened the largest package and found this Colt SAA. (The other packages had smaller revolvers in .22 that she and my great-grandfather used for plinking in their backyard.)

As I held the Colt in my hand for the first time, she told me that the gun was my great-grandfather’s. He had been in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, and had learned to fly a plane in order to do supply drops and mail runs. As the Depression eased, he found a job with Western Airlines out of Los Angeles. One day, he was going through the cabin after dropping off the mail and passengers, and found the old Colt just sitting in one of the seats!!

Today, the airport would have been shut down due to suspected terrorism, but my great-grandfather just asked the ticket counter if anyone had reported anything missing. The answer was no. He said he waited and waited for someone to claim the gun, but nothing was ever heard. I don’t know what the laws were in the late 1930′s or early 1940′s regarding carrying a handgun on an airplane, but even if legal it must be embarrassing to lose such a fine weapon.

My Nana said that the gun had been put away since the day it came home. She didn’t think it had ever been fired by them. She and my great-grandfather enjoyed plinking with .22s but were not deeply involved in the shooting sports.

Needless to say, I thanked my Nana profusely. I don’t think any of my greedy cousins realized what I walked out of that house with, and I had to stifle a grin as my third cousin reminded me again that he had already marked the nightstand with his name and that I was not to touch it.

I took the Colt to a local gunsmith who specializes in cowboy shooting, and he said the gun was in great shape and should be fine to shoot with black powder. It has a nickel finish, a 7.5” barrel, and is chambered in .45 Colt. The serial number dates the gun to 1891.

I have considered getting a Colt factory letter, and I still might, but I am more curious about where the gun was from 1891 to approximately 1940. It rode for 50 years with a total stranger, 60 years with my great-grandparents, and I have had the Colt for just under 10 years now. Where will the next 50 years take it? I do know that it will stay in the family, and that I hope I am able to pass it on to someone who appreciates it as much as I do when my time comes.

(Note: The holster is what the gun was found in. It almost looks homemade. The grips are not original – the SAA had the original black rubber prancing pony grips. One side was chipped, so I added these stag grips that I found at a gunshow. The knife came from my great-grandfather in his sea-chest from the Coast Guard. It also looks homemade, but feels very sturdy. The sheath is, oddly enough, marked USN. I wonder if he won it, or if any of his friends served in the US Navy? He died before I knew enough to ask him all these questions, so it will always remain a mystery. I do know that the knife and gun will always be special to me and will be passed down in my family as well.)

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  • http://mjm.luckygunner.com MJM

    I am happy for you, but green with envy.

  • atmiller

    Incredible story.

  • Lon

    Interesting story and write up, on a side note is your great grandmother still alive? Non-sequitur question, but it’s based on the fact that 100 years old is quite a mile stone.

  • “gunner”

    steve,
    that scabbard looks very much like the issue scabbard for a marine/navy “kabar” knife, though the knife itself is not a kabar.

  • 54Bravo

    Great story about your heirlooms! I believe that sheath is for the Ka-Bar type knives and I would guess there must have been a USN issue version (all of the ones I have seen say USMC on them)

  • http://yahoo.com mica

    very sweet i know what you mean a large part of the wepon,s i own are hand down,s and i tresuer each one it,s very sadd that in this day and age more people are not able to pass down thire fav rifle or pistol with the next gen i know in my case as granpear put it to me mica im giveing you the rifel,s and pistol,s when i do pass and yes that,s in my willl and the gun locker key,s is with my lawer cuse i know if i passed any of these off to your cousen,s thay willl end up in the local pawn shop in under a week i can telll you right now you know less then 9 month,s latter my couse,s did not even wait for him to be in the ground and were trying to pop the lock on his gun safe good thing he belived in reinforced gun safe,s it took me and dad and and memer to pulll em off thire and wait tilll to lawer anounced who get,s what you know some of em i stilll don,t talk to me no great loss but a word to the wise you got something you want to pass on do it befor st peter calll,s ya home

  • SteveN

    Thanks for the comments guys. Lon, my great-grandmother passed away at the age of 105. She saw an amazing amount of things change during her lifetime, and I’ll always remember and treasure the time I got to spend with her.

  • “gunner”

    @ 54bravo,
    the kabar was most commonly issued to and used by marines, but was in the navy supply chain, with knives and scabbards marked both “usn” and “usmc”. there was also a navy “deck knife”, smaller and patterned after, i believe, a commercial model marble knife. my dad was a merchant marine sailor in ww2 and had one. i got my hands on it and managed to slice open the base of my thumb. even after all these years i can still see a very faint straight line scar, that knife was SHARP!

  • “gunner”

    @ SteveN,
    i’m happy to hear your grandmother had a long, and i hope, happy life. i’m closing on three quarters of a century this december and its a completely different world now than the one i grew up in, but i’ve enjoyed the ride, but i’m still waiting for that flying car “popular science” magazine promised me long ago.

  • Jeff

    That is a great story. Those were simpler times. I am so glad your grandmother recognized how significant this would be for you.

  • charles222

    Wow, your cousins sound like giant tools. Cool about the SAA though-always kinda wanted one.

  • Emo

    Great story, and for God’s sake get a Colt letter! Who knows where that magnificent Colt’s been–the letter will explain at least some of its past. As early as that one is, I can only guess at its value, both monetarily and sentimentally. Good for you–and never sell it!