During the 19th century, Colt firearms was one of the leading manufacturers of black powder revolvers. Colt mass produced these revolvers until 1873, when the introduction of smokeless powder and self-contained cartridges made black powder pistols obsolete. The resurgence of these pistols came in 1958, when Italian firearm manufacturers introduced a replica of the 1951 Colt Navy revolver. When these pistols were heavily featured in the Italian "spaghetti" westerns of the 1960s and interest in the revolvers increased, a collaborative effort between Colt and subcontractor Lou Imperato (who was largely responsible for the original replicas) formed and continued until 1993 when Imperato founded Colt Black Powder Arms (which produced the third-generation revolvers until 2002).
1. Establish the model of the revolver that you're trying to identify. Second generation revolvers included the 1851 Navy, the 1860 Army and the Dragoon revolver. Additional models were introduced as third-generation Black powder revolvers, so if your revolver is one of the three models cited above, that narrows it down. The majority of Colt black powder revolvers, produced in the 20th century, are second generation.
2. Examine the revolvers back-strap for an engraved signature from Samuel Colt. If your revolver has such a signature, then it is not the second generation, it is a third generation. The third generation revolvers were also called the Signature Series and were produced by the same Italian manufacturers to Colt's high standards. A large number of third-generation revolvers were produced as commemorative models.
3. Further identify your revolver as "C" or "F" series. If the original box that your revolver came in is black cardboard and features Samuel Colt's portrait and signature on the label, then your revolver is the second generation "F" series. If you have an 1851 Navy revolver with a serial number from 4201 to 25099 or a Dragoon numbered 20901 to 25099, then they are "C" Series models. All 1860 Army revolvers are "F" series.
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