Rare VIRGINIA FRACAS US Colt Single Action Army .45 SAA 7 1/2” Nickel Ivory
Early, AINSWORTH Inspected; Purchased Under Militia Act of 1808
Here we present an antique US Inspected Colt Single Action Army Revolver, made in 1874 in Hartford, Connecticut. This is one of 2,307 Colt Army revolvers that the state of Virginia ordered “for the militia” in 1874 under the Militia Act of 1808. In fact, it was two separate orders, one for 769 and the other for exactly double the number: 1,538. Even before the receipt of these pieces word got round to Colt’s Mfg. that someone claiming to have the revolvers was in New York City trying to sell them for significantly less than Colt’s: $8.00 rather than $14.40. Their angst would seem to be justified as none other than General George Edward Pickett (of Confederate general Civil War fame) confirmed that they had ordered the weapons and that made arrangements to sell them on behalf of the Governor of Virginia, James L. Kemper. For the full story read Chapter XLIV entitled “The Virginia Fracas” in A Study of the Colt Single Action Army Revolver by Graham, Kopec, & Moore as well as Chapter 12: The Condemned, Overrun and Buy-Back Revolvers in Kopec & Fenn’s book Cavalry & Artillery Revolvers…A Continuing Study.
This was a well-documented scandal that eventually would bring changes in the law surrounding state requisitions for their militias; inquiries at the time would go all the way to the Secretary of War as well as the United States Attorney General. In short, these revolvers were eventually supplied to Virginia (though they were initially delayed), who immediately sold them to their agent without them ever having been issued. The agent sold them, in turn, and it appears that Colt’s bought them back at a discount from what they had initially sold them for with the intent to sell them commercially themselves. It made sense from a business perspective to buy something and have a ready mark-up for resale, but it also made sense for them not to let the market be flooded with their product, also government inspected and marked, for nearly half of the going price. However, there was some consternation in simply turning around and selling these revolvers in their current format with all their government markings on them, the concern being centered around private ownership of government property and the very real possibility that someone could get in trouble for such. Therefore, many of these SAAs were nickel plated and some were restocked in ivory.
This revolver is fully Ordnance inspected with the sub-inspector initial being “A” for Orville W. Ainsworth. His marking can be observed on the barrel, frame, cylinder, and top of the grip frame. The left side of the frame is marked “U.S.”. This revolver has the nickel finish and the ivory grips of those buy-backs and falls in the correct serial number range for the Virginia contracts: 11700-14300.
The overall condition is good+. Strong traces of nickel finish can be found throughout. The numbers match on the barrel, frame, trigger guard, cylinder, and grip frame. The action is excellent with the hammer holding all 3 notches and the cylinder indexing and locking up. The bore is patinated with nice rifling and in good overall condition. The ivory grip shows use and age and remains solid. This SAA is early and very difficult to acquire. It is a fantastic piece of history and a true rarity in the field of collecting Colt Single Action Armies.
Barrel is 7-1/2 inches.
Caliber: .45 Colt
Overall condition as seen in photos.
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