A sure-shot way to prove the pedigree of your Colt firearm is to have factory documentation.
A Colt Historical Letter has been universally recognized as the last word in authenticating the background of a Colt handgun or longarm. It is a prestigious addition to any Colt that “letters out,” and it is also considered an investment in firearms collecting.
For such a letter request, Colt’s Historical Department staff, headed up by Kathleen J. Hoyt, searches through its vast archives that, in certain instances, dates back to the 1860s. The search brings forth accurate and documented details confirming the original specifications, dates and delivery of your particular Colt firearm. A personal letter with this information is then sent to you, detailing all of the pertinent points of your firearm. This document is typed on the Historical Department’s distinctive stationary, with the official seal and signature of the Colt Historian.
The cost of each letter varies, depending on the model of Colt researched. Prices start at $75 for first-time researched Colts. The $75 Historical Letter fee also applies to the modern-made Reproduction Black Powder Series revolvers and some early auto pistols.
A premium charge will be applied for researching special features such as engraving, or if the records reveal shipment to historically significant persons or destinations. For example, the base price for a Colt factory letter on an 1873 Single Action Army revolver runs $100. Should the ledgers reveal that the gun was originally shipped to someone such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Bat Masterson, Colt family members, company executives or the like, an additional charge ranging from $50 to $200 may apply.
Among the frontier-era Colts covered under the $100 standard fee are the 1877 Double Action, 1878 Double Action, 1889 Navy, Bisley model, New Service and some period automatics such as the Model 1911.
Vintage percussion Colts start at $300, although Colt’s records only cover partial production of these arms—having suffered the ravages of time. These files include mostly 1851 Navy, 1861 Navy and 1860 Army models. A partial refund for guns that cannot be documented will be made in certain instances. A 10 percent discount is offered to all members of the Colt Collectors Association, and quantity discounts are also available for historical documents.
The Historical Department is currently working to about a 90- to 120-day backlog, Kathy tells me. For a quicker response, Colt also offers, for $150, telephone research services on 1st Generation (up to 343,000 serial number range) and all 2nd Generation Single Action Army Colts only. A Historical Letter will follow within two to three weeks.
Regardless of whether your Colt is a vintage piece—perhaps a family heirloom—or a recently purchased firearm, a Colt’s Historical Letter can provide information of interest and real value. To purchase a letter, contact Colt’s Manufacturing Company at 800-962-2658.