If you follow our series covering the major US firearm auctions, then you probably remember that about a month ago, we took a look at some of the most interesting, rare and unusual firearms consigned to the September 2019 Rock Island Premier Firearms Auction. As usual, shortly after the end of the auction, RIAC published the list of prices realized. And as always, we browsed the list to find out what lots were the most expensive firearms sold during the auction.
Our list goes in the price ascendancy order with the most expensive lot being the number one and shown at the end of the article. Names of the lots also link to the corresponding Rock Island Auction catalog pages where you can find more photos and more detailed descriptions of the firearms. Without further ado, let’s see what made into the top 5 list this time.
#5 – $316,250
Doubtlessly, the Gatling gun is an iconic piece of American small arms design and was one of the most advanced weapons of its time. Just imagine having basically a machine gun chambered in .45-70 Government in the era of muskets and single-shot rifles. This particular one is a Model 1877 “Bulldog”, one of 17 such Gatling guns purchased by the US Army. Having five 18″ barrels, this is a rather compact and lightweight iteration of the legendary gun. This sample survived until our days in an excellent condition. No wonder why collectors are ready to pay for it over $300K. To learn more about the Bulldog, watch the below embedded Rock Island Auction video.
#4 – $345,000
Well, if it is a Winchester rifle engraved and inlaid by John Ulrich then it is already a one of a kind masterpiece. But the fact that this rifle belonged to American author Zane Grey makes it even more valuable for the collectors. Zane Grey is known for his novels about the American Western frontier such as the “Riders of the Purple Sage”. The engraving on this Winchester Model 1895 lever-action rifle was a really top grade job that included custom elements such as Zane Grey’s name gold inlaid on the receiver sight and the engraved magazine. That’s why it cost Zane Grey $335 which back in the day was over ten times the price of a standard Winchester Model 1895.
Made in 1915, this Winchester Model 1895 is chambered in .30-06 Springfield. As you probably know, the reason why it is possible to chamber cartridges with spitzer bullets in this firearm without risk of detonation in the magazine is that unlike the majority of other lever-action rifles, the Model 1895 does not have a tubular magazine located under the barrel. Instead, it has a non-detachable box magazine right in front of the trigger guard. This layout also allows having a better balanced rifle. Who was the genius to design such a lever gun in the 19th century? John Moses Browning himself!
#3 – $402,500
This is a Colt U.S. Army contract Cavalry Model Single Action revolver made in 1880 and chambered in .45 Long Colt. What makes this revolver unique is its condition – with 99+% of blued and color case hardened finish retained, it looks like it just left the factory. There is a high likelihood that this revolver wasn’t even ever fired. It was probably never issued before it was sold to a private buyer in 1920.
#2 – $431,250
Generally speaking, there is no such thing as a Winchester revolver. Well, with the exception of this prototype that never saw production. This revolver was initially designed by William W. Wetmore and Charles S. Wells, two former Smith & Wesson employees who were hired by Winchester in 1872. It was introduced to the public at the Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of signing the Declaration of Independence. Later, the revolver was improved by the swing-out cylinder and ejection mechanism designed by Stephen W. Wood. Out of 13 Winchester revolvers ever made, only four had the swing-out cylinder design. This particular color case hardened sample was submitted to the U.S. Navy Ordnance Bureau in December 1876.
This revolver was presumably designed as a response to Colt’s entry into the rifle market with 1883 Burgess lever-action rifle. With its solid top strap and swing-out cylinder, this revolver was an advanced design ahead of its time and no doubt that it caused some serious concerns at Colt. It is believed that Colt and Winchester officials met and achieved a “gentleman’s agreement” which led to Colt ceasing the Burgess rifle production and Winchester stopping the development of revolvers.
#1 – $1,035,000
If you have been following our series telling about the most expensive guns sold in the US auctions, then it should not be a surprise for you to see a Colt percussion revolver, particularly, a Colt Walker occupying the first place of our list with over one million US dollars paid for it. In fact, the current record holder of single firearms ever sold in an auction house (sold for $1,840,000) is also a Colt Walker known among the collectors as The Danish Sea Captain Walker.
Ordered by Texas Ranger Captain Samuel H. Walker the Colt Walker revolver is what saved Samuel Colt’s venture from bankruptcy and basically gave a start of a truly legendary American company with many more iconic firearms to be produced by. This particular one is the very last, 1,000th of 1,000 Walkers made for the US government. It marks the completion of probably Colt’s most important military contract. This Colt Walker revolver is also in an excellent functional condition and its all parts have matching serial numbers. It may be the finest military contract Colt Walker revolver to exist.
The combined value of our top five lots is $2,530,000 and the total sum of lots sold at September 2019 Rock Island Premiere Auction was $18 Million. Tell us in the comments section which one of the top 5 most expensive lots is your favorite.