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 LOT 162
Montana Attributed Antique Colt Model 1878 Double Action Revolver with Exceptional Relief Carved Steer Head Grip, Holster Rig, and Factory Letter -
Serial no. 12201, 45 Long Colt cal., 7 1/2 inch round bbl., nickel finish, antique ivory grips. Designed by William Mason and Charles Brinckerhoff, Colt’s factory manager
and Superintendent of Engineering, the Model 1878 revolver was intended to be a
double action alternative to Colt’s legendary Single Action Army revolver. With 51,210 being
produced, the 1878 was never nearly as popular as its single action cousin, however, there were still many that favored it in the west for its firepower, including Captain Jack Crawford, who
replaced Buffalo Bill Cody as “Chief of Scouts” shortly after the Battle of Little Bighorn.
This Model 1878 is linked to Big Sky Country, circa 1880s, in letters written by descendants of the original owner, Frank LaBaron Mayhew Talbot. In 1970 Frank’s son John wrote Colt a letter requesting
information on his father’s Model 1878 serial no. 12201. In this included letter John explained that his father Frank obtained the revolver in “Minneapolis somewhere around 1885.” Frank purchased the gun
out of necessity as he was preparing to travel “across Montana on horseback...and carried this gun for protection from Indian and cattle rustlers.” This was a turbulent and violent time in Montana’s history. Stuart’s Stranglers, a well known vigilante group in Montana, was founded around the
time the revolver left the Colt factory in response to widespread livestock theft. Stuart’s Stranglers participated in extralegal killings of accused/suspected criminals with classic nicknames like
Rattlesnake Jake. The Stranglers were led by Granville Stuart known as “Mr. Montana” and focused on cattle rustlers and either killed them in shootouts or by hanging.
Frank died in 1933 and the revolver remained in the Talbot family until 2014. John’s family story is confirmed by his daughter in two included letters she wrote in 2014 at the time the revolver was sold. She also provided additional details about her grandfather Frank. Frank was born in
      1862 and was around 21 years old when he purchased the revolver just before he traveled to
Montana on horseback across the untamed northern states in the 1880s. Frank was originally from Minnesota, traveled throughout Montana, and eventually settled
in New Jersey. Out East he was a civil engineer acting as an independent contractor in the construction of viaducts for the Pennsylvania railroad. Accompanying the revolver is Frank Talbot’s leather holster rig. Frank’s name is handsomely marked on the inside of the holster flap: “F.M.Talbot.” The leather holster and cartridge belt are
lightly tooled.
The accompanying factory letter states the revolver was one of 91 guns shipped on October 27, 1883 and delivered to Hartley & Graham of New York City and confirms the 7 1/2 inch
barrel in .45 caliber and nickel finish with the type of stocks not listed. The top of the barrel is stamped with the one-line Colt Hartford address, and “45
CAL” is stamped on the left side of the trigger guard. The right grip
panel features a finely detailed relief carved steer head. The
period carving is exquisite and definitely rates as one of the
finest we have cataloged. Both grip panels carry the last three digits of the serial number (“201”) in large hand marked font. The cylinder is numbered to the gun (“201”).
CONDITION: Very fine as a well cared for Model 1878 carried throughout Big Sky Country. The revolver retains 80% original nickel finish with
a smooth gray patina associated with a well traveled sidearm on the balance. The grips are also very fine with a crack on the
right panel near the butt, crisp carving and attractive color. The holster rig is fine. Mechanically fine. The always desirable Colt Model 1878 DA revolver with exciting history linked to Big Sky Country in the 1880s. It is a must have for the serious Montana or Western collector!
Estimate: 15,000 - 25,000

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