Category Archives: WORAD

A Mystery Revolver with its Own Story

Long-time reader and commenter Jim Hall wonders about a revolver that is connected, one way or another, to two Vietnam veterans. “What is it?” he asks, and we have to admit we don’t know. A pistol copied from, or at least inspired by, the Colt .31 pocket revolver of 1849, with cylinder flutes like Colt introduced in 1862. We’re not experts in these, but it’s not a Colt, and it doesn’t have any visible markings.

This image has been straightened and desaturated a little to try to bring detail out.

The best thing about this mystery revolver, by far, is the story that comes with it. We’ll let Jim tell the story:

In 1971, dad had just returned from his 2nd tour in Vietnam, and was assigned as a recruiter in Kentucky. An older man walked in, asked some questions about the war, and was apparently trying to understand what happened to his son, recently KIA.

Dad took him out for a dinner, trying to calm the guy down. As they talk, the man tells him that he and his son had been into collecting antique firearms. This was the latest thing he’d found, and was supposed to be a “welcome home” gift for his son. It was obviously not needed in that role anymore, but he’d sell it and a few other odds and ends from their collection, stipulating that he only wanted them to go to another Army man, and not some idiot that would pawn it off at the first opportunity. Dad picked it up for 25 bucks, and another 20 got him an H&R single action .22/.22 magnum revolver.

The flutes in the cylinder resemble those on the Colt 1862 Police, but the 1862 Police has a rebated cylinder. Here is a pistol represented by the seller as a genuine 1862 Police. We’ll point out some differences between Jim’s mystery revolver and the typical Colt practice of the 1862.

The pistol is badly affected by wear and pitting, but still does not seem to have Colt levels of worksmanship.

Several details are clearly not Colt. One of them is a mainspring tension screw on the front strap. The screw present probably wasn’t the original (the head of the original probably was flush with the front strap), but Colt didn’t put one in this position, regardless. (Remington did).

Some of the nipples appear to have been removed or lost.

The grips of a colt are round at the butt end, and this one is squared off in cross-section. Compare the way a factory Colt interfaces with its trigger guard and grip (the ’62 higher up this post is typical) to the way this revolver does.

The Colt also has screws that also act as axles for the trigger and hammer. Compare the location of the screws on this revolver!

The trigger guard is odd and quite unlike any common Colt.

Now, the pistol that was Jim’s father’s, this heartbreaking “welcome home” gift for a kid who didn’t come home and grow old like his buddies, is Jim’s.

on my return from the sandbox, he presented it to me, along with the story behind it. looking on the net, it looks similar to early colt pocket revolvers, but there are no marks on it other than the scrollwork. it seems similar to an 1841 colt pocket revolver, and I’ve seen some pictures that look similar up until the early 1860s as well. I know it’s not worth a ton, but it’s got an interesting story and certainly is an uncommon find now.

Here’s the underbelly view. 

And here’s the overhead view. 

And a look at the backstrap. 

Finally, here’s a close-up of the right side. Yes, all these images embiggen. 

Naturally, something like this is an heirloom and not for sale. Could it ever be worth as much to anyone as it, and its back story, are to Jim?

Our first guess after looking over Jim’s pictures was that this is some kind of foreign, possibly Belgian, copy of the early Colt . It would have been made, almost certainly, before 1870. But it occurred to us that someone in the commenters may know these pistols better than we do.

We also think we might see the number “14” on the cylinder in some of the shots above.

What Our Readers Are Doing (WORAD): Land Nav

compass-003Teaching the kids to navigate, inspired by posts in this blog:

It was probably months ago that I ordered a topographical map of our immediate area, and bought a modern compass to use with it. With my trying to finish the RR coach, my daughter’s wedding, and other things; I haven’t been able to get serious about the map reading lessons shared at the Weapons Man Blog.

We took the map out into the woods and hills a while back, to see if we could spot the terrain features on the map. That was fun, but this was more serious instruction. I ordered the map with magnetic north lines printed on it; so I didn’t have to compensate (azimuth?) 3 degrees for that. In the pictures below is the story of how our first lesson went, and a few other activities.

We’re humbled, and pleased. The navigation came out a little off — not enough to be off the map sheet, but enough to show how difficult dead reckoning navigation really is. Trust us that, with practice and care, one gets a lot better at it.

The terms used when compensating for the delta between magnetic north and true north are Variation and Declination. These vary by location and time and maps can display them by showing isogonic lines (on a large-scale map like a Joint Operations Graphic, good for planning D-Day, or an aviation sectional chart) or a Declination Diagram (used on small-scale, topographic maps). The Declination Diagram also shows you how to compensate for change over time (in the short term, such change is predictable, and so mapmakers incorporate the trend in the legend of the map). Large-scale maps don’t do this because they’re replaced more frequently — the life span of an aviation sectional chart is a few months.

It is possible to automatically compensate for the true-magnetic angle (or, if using a grid system, grid-magnetic angle) on Google Maps by using Google Compass by the private Barcelona Field Studies Centre. We can’t vouch for its security or likely longevity, and unlike a paper map and compass, you’re not going to have Google Diddly when the grid is down, but for now it’s a useful learning tool.

Go Read The Whole Thing™ (his vehicle-painting stuff is interesting, too).