Wheelgun Wednesday: Creating a Replica of Gustave Young Engraved Colt Dragoon Revolver

    Wheelgun Wednesday Replica of Gustave Young Engraved Colt Dragoon Revolver (23)

    My good friend John Lyons is a big fan of American Old West history and a collector of percussion firearms. I remember when his collection started several years ago with an acquisition of a Uberti replica of Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver. Fast forward a couple of years and now he has about a dozen old Colt wheelguns – both replicas and real ones. His latest purchase was a Uberti Colt Dragoon replica. Shortly after getting this gun, he told me that he is thinking about sending it to an engraver to recreate a Gustave Young engraving. That sounded like a really exciting project and a perfect Wheelgun Wednesday story!

    Wheelgun Wednesday Replica of Gustave Young Engraved Colt Dragoon Revolver (41)

    The frame, hammer and loading lever were color case hardened after engraving. The brass parts (trigger guard and backstrap) were silver plated or as it was said back in the day, silver mounted. Other metal parts were blued after engraving.

    Gustave Young was one of the most renowned American engravers of the 19th century. His work can be seen on many firearms of the era. Just search his name in premier auction catalogs of Rock Island Auction Company or Morphy Auctions and you’ll find dozens of gems created by the master engraver. One of his most prominent works that was sold during the May 2019 Rock Island Premier Firearms Auction is the revolver known among the collectors as the Millikin Dragoon. This is a Colt Dragoon revolver engraved by Gustave Young for Union Army Colonel John Minor Millikin, Jr. at the beginning of the second half of the 19th century. The engraving motif of this gun is what John was planning to replicate on his revolver.

    Wheelgun Wednesday Replica of Gustave Young Engraved Colt Dragoon Revolver (25)

    The backstrap of the revolver with John’s name engraved on it. This element was also inspired by the Millikin Dragoon.

    After the decision was made, now it was time to find a master who could actually do the job. Some web research brought John to the social media pages of a gentleman named Tony Lee Frost, whose engraving works were really impressive. After examining the Millikin Dragoon engravings, Mr. Frost told that he can handle the project. They sealed the deal and the gun was shipped to the master. At this point, all you need is patience. Thankfully, Mr. Frost was posting the images of the process which made the wait quite a bit less tedious. About a month later, John received the package back and right after the unboxing, it was clear that he is holding an absolutely beautiful work of art.

    Wheelgun Wednesday Replica of Gustave Young Engraved Colt Dragoon Revolver (36)

    You can order the engraving without the master’s stamp but John opted to have it as a gratitude to the creator of this beauty.

    It’s amazing where the journey of collecting firearms and studying history can lead us. This rather conventional replica gun is now a wonderfully engraved masterpiece and will become a Lyons family heirloom that will be passed from generation to generation. Hopefully, this story will inspire you to get into collecting and studying this incredibly interesting era of firearms development and American history.

    Wheelgun Wednesday Replica of Gustave Young Engraved Colt Dragoon Revolver (37)

    Before and after

    Lastly, here is a set of photos showing the different stages of engraving and closeup views of the finished work.

    Wheelgun Wednesday Replica of Gustave Young Engraved Colt Dragoon Revolver (14)

    The metal canvas.

    Note the animal heads integrated with and somewhat hidden in the engraving pattern.

    As Tony Lee Frost noted on his Facebook page: “This type of lettering is backwards from what you normally see. The letters are raised – the background is carved out around them leaving them slightly higher than the cross-cross pattern you see here.”

    Wheelgun Wednesday Replica of Gustave Young Engraved Colt Dragoon Revolver (3)

    Even the smallest details like the font of the letters were engraved to have an era correct appearance.


    Images courtesy of Tony Lee Frost (www.tonyfrost.com)

    Hrachya H

    Being a lifelong firearms enthusiast, Hrachya always enjoys studying design, technology and history of guns and ammunition. His knowledge of Russian allows him to translate and make Russian/Soviet/Combloc small arms related information available for the English speaking audience. Hrachya also writes for SilahReport.com
    Should you need to contact him, feel free to shoot him a message at [email protected]


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