Original or Reproduction Percussion Revolver ?

by Darryl Choy

Is it an original cap and ball revolver or a modern foreign reproduction? To the true collector of original 19th century percussion revolvers this is an elementary no brainier. For those of us new to cap and ball revolvers it’s a lot more difficult and compounded by the disinformation, including incorrect information from reproduction retailers and wholesalers such as Cabela’s, EMF etc.

1. Virtually all reproduction revolvers are marked “Black Powder” or “Black Powder Only” No original revolvers have this marking since smokeless powder did not commercially exist in the mid-1800s and such a warning would have been meaningless. Such a warning on a revolver is a dead give away that it is a modern reproduction.

2. Virtually all reproduction revolvers are made in Italy (and are so marked) and have a host of Italian proof markings. Two upper case letters in a box is the code for the year the revolver was proofed. “Star over a shield” is the proof house coat of arms and the “star over PN” is the actual Italian black powder proof marks. If these marks appear on the revolver anywhere on the barrel, frame and/or the cylinder it is a modern Italian reproduction most likely made by Uberti, Pietta, Armi San Marco or Armi San Paola.

3. Any brass framed Colt or Remington are reproductions. The only original brass cap and ball revolvers are the CSA Griswold and Gunnison in .36, Spiller and Bur in .36, T.W. Cofer in .36 and Schneider and Glassick in .36. The Remington New Model Pocket first type in .31 with a spur trigger was also of brass.
4. Serious Civil War reenactors have been “defarbing” reproduction arms. This entails carefully removing all modern markings and imparting a worn patina finish to a modern reproduction firearm. Some are done so well it is difficult to determine if it is a copy at first examination. However, virtually all reproduction revolvers are metric.
5. Revolvers marked with model names such as 1847 Walker, 1860 Army, 1851 Navy, 1849 Pocket, 1858 Remington are reproductions. Original revolvers do not have such markings.
6. Modern reproductions have been manufactured since the late 1950s. A great may were well used and poorly cared for. Improper cleaning resulted in considerable rust and lost of bluing. They may look old and original, but are not. Look for the tell tale signs.

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