Two Special Dragoons

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Few names evoke as much history as firearm names, and just hearing the words "Colt" or "six-shooter" can conjure up a time when the American West was a lawless place where justice came sometimes only with the backing of a good gun. On the early western frontier, one of the few handguns that became widely revered as a "peacemaker" was the Colt Dragoon revolver. A heavy single-action percussion revolver in .44 caliber, the Dragoon models produced by Colt were esteemed by both civilian and military users.

A recent bequest by the George R. Repaire and the N. Butonne Repaire Trust has given the National Firearms Museum a chance to showcase three outstanding Colt Dragoons. The first of these revolvers is an excellent condition Colt First Model Dragoon, one of only 7,000 made in Hartford, Connecticut in the late 1840s. With its production beginning in 1848, many First Model Dragoons were quickly purchased by gold-seekers making their way to California. Others, like this U.S.-marked example, were part of military contracts issued by the federal government after the Mexican War.

But this bequest also included one of the most significant sets of Third Model Dragoons ever manufactured. A consecutively numbered pair, both of these revolvers were embellished by master engraver Gustave Young with an elaborate scroll and border style that also included dog, eagle, and wolf motifs. The brace of fine Colts bears an inscription as being awarded to the Prize Shot of Company C, U.S. Mounted Rifles - George Hess.

While this group of revolvers had been originally intended from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, this institution deferred to the National Firearms Museum to allow these items to be immediately exhibited as the Repaire Trust had desired. Currently these Dragoons reside in the NFM's "Gold Rush" exhibit, where they have joined a London-engraved Dragoon and several other pieces that share the historic heritage of a bygone era.