Old West revolver at museum showed signs of extensive use

A frontier-era handgun recently researched by the Sweetwater County Historical Museum showed signs of extensive use.

Museum staff determined the handgun to be a .45-caliber, six-shot Colt Single Action Army single-action revolver, perhaps the most iconic handgun in American history. Museum staff assessed that it was manufactured in 1883.

Needing to replace its Civil War era percussion and cartridge-conversion revolvers, the U.S. Army adopted the Single Action Army in 1873. Fitted with a 7½" barrel, it remained the standard issue sidearm until 1892, and a substitute standard for years afterward.

The Single Action Army, which came to be known as the "Peacemaker Colt," was an instant hit with the civilian market as well. Several barrel lengths were made available over time; this Colt is a 5½" model.

Though Single Action Army grips were originally wood, Colt began making rubber grips available in 1882. From 1882 to 1890, a design called "Eagle Grips," featuring an eagle, a shield, and Colt's rampant colt logo was used. The Eagle Grips on this Colt are extensively worn down, indicating a long history of carry.

Also of interest was the Colt's front sight. Depending on barrel length, cartridge, and other factors, out-of-the-box SAAs sometimes shot low. The remedy was to file down the front sight in experimental stages to bring up the point of impact. This sight was so filed, which is consistent with an owner concerned about a high level of accuracy.

The museum offers a special Vintage Firearms Research Program. People with a vintage firearm (or firearms) who would like to learn more about them are encouraged to contact the museum at (307) 872-6435 or via email at blustd@sweetwatercountywy.gov. There is no charge for the service.

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free.


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