Welcome back to another installment of TFB’s Wheelgun Wednesday. Today we’ll take a look at a legendary custom Colt Single Action Army target revolver – Elmer Keith’s No. 5. Although Elmer Keith owned a number of revolvers, this particular one is the most well-known Keith wheelgun and is considered by many the best custom SAA to exist. This revolver was featured in Guns & Ammo and The American Rifleman articles as well as in the “Sixguns” book written by Keith. Currently, this wheelgun is consigned to Rock Island Auction Company and will be sold during their September 2021 Premier Firearms Auction.
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Elmer Keith’s No. 5 revolver was customized by a team of talented gunsmiths supervised by Harold Croft. It incorporates a number of Croft design improvements along with some special features added by Elmer Keith.
Harold Croft used a Colt Bisley backstrap that he bent to the same angle as a standard SAA and paired it with SAA trigger guard and front strap. Neal Houchins made the adjustable target sights and installed the 5-1/2″ barrel as close to the cylinder as possible minimizing the cylinder gap. Reginald Sedgley modified the frame with a flat top extending back over the hammer, made a wider trigger, new base pin with enlarged and serrated hourglass-shaped head and swinging catch, fitted a new mainspring and did a number of other tweaks. Keith particularly praised the Croft-Sedgley spring calling it “fastest in action of any S.A.A. spring“. The gun was also previously fitted with a Bisley-style hammer by J. D. O’Meara.
After all the works were finished, they gave the revolver a name, No. 5, as it became Harold Croft’s fifth custom SAA design. Overall, Keith was extremely pleased with the final result. Describing Croft’s work, Keith notes: “Croft has designed the changes necessary to convert an ordinary S. A. Colt into the finest trigger single-action imaginable“. He also said “To my notion this is the finest and best Colt in existence” and “For general excellence of grip, balance, sights, trigger and hammer, I do not think this gun can be improved upon“. The only change Keith did after the customization was the addition of the carved elephant ivory grips that replaced the original walrus ivory grips.
Elmer Keith’s No. 5 revolver is chambered in .44 S&W Special. The gun is embellished with floral engravings and has a beautiful high polish dark blue finish. The top of the frame has a Masonic square and compass engraved in as Elmer Keith was a Freemason. The backstrap is engraved with Elmer Keith’s name and No. 5 is stamped on the frame as a serial number. Although this gun was not a safe queen and Elmer Keith used it quite a bit for hunting dozens of small game species, it is preserved in an excellent condition retaining 95% of the blueing and showing minor wear signs.
To learn more about Elmer Keith’s No. 5 revolver, watch the below embedded Rock Island Auction video.
Elmer Keith’s No. 5 Colt SAA will be auctioned on September 11, 2021. The estimated price range that this lot will likely be sold at is $65,000 – $130,000. Click here to head over to the lot page in Rock Island Auction catalog where you can find a more detailed description as well as more and higher resolution pictures. Thanks for stopping by to read the Wheelgun Wednesday!