I’ve seen, held, and help document thousands of rare guns, and the mantra is always “buy the gun, not the story,” but this one has a hell of a story to it.
Colt Single Action Army model Serial Number 4552 comes from Colt’s 5th Lot of revolvers shipped to the military in January 1874 and was then shipped from Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois where they sat until June until finally sent further West, to the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment.
You know, Custer’s outfit.
Lot Five revolvers, among which this revolver falls, are noted as issued to companies C, E, F, and L along with the staff and scouts, as well as other U.S. Army personnel in the area. Its serial number mate, 4553, has been documented as being Brig. Gen. Alfred Howe Terry’s personal revolver is recorded in Terry’s personal diary. Terry, of course, was the commander of the U.S. Army column marching westward into the Montana Territory during what is now popularly known as the Centennial Campaign of 1876–77.
The thing is, 4552 kinda dropped off the Army’s radar after that.
After the battle, at least 302 of the 632 revolvers carried into the battle by the 7th Cavalry were reported lost, and “At the minimum 252 and probably closer to 280 Colt Army revolvers were recovered by the warriors during the two day battle at the Little Bighorn” as noted by “Colt Cavalry & Artillery Revolvers.”
The authors noted, “Serial numbers 4507, 4553, 4597, 4949, 4955, 5100, 5128, 5133, 5153, 5147, 5180, and 5416 all have either documented Seventh Cavalry history or some lesser degree of Seventh Cavalry history or battle association. All of these revolvers are from Lot Five.”
Fast forward to a couple of years ago and a family heirloom came into a gun shop in Colorado. An unmodified Colt Single Action with its 7.5-inch “Cavalry” barrel, complete with Ainsworth inspector marks and an early four-digit serial.
The backstory on the gun, as noted by one of the sellers outlining the provenance says the revolver has been in her family since 1915 when it was given in trade to her great-grandfather John Tooker Henderson at his mercantile shop along the Platte River in the Denver area.
She writes, “In 1915, an old Indian came to his store and traded him this revolver for a pair of pants and a blanket. He told my great-grandfather he picked it up off the Custer battlefield.”