Rare "Thumb Print" Colt Walker coming up for auction: $700,000
Rock Island Auction Company is having their annual Premiere Firearms Auction May 2-4 in Illinois. The company moves thousands of guns a year but this auction is reserved for their "magnificent, diverse, and investment grade firearms. Among the 2800 items up for the gavel are a Fitz Colt owned by Clyde of Bonnie and Clyde fame, an extremely rare Smith-Condit prototype semi-automatic rifle, probably the nicest 1898 Schwarzlose I've ever seen, and a functional US Army Gatling Gun (with carriage). Perhaps the nicest of the lot is the revolver that could be a piece of living history-- the Thumbprint Walker.
The Walker series was rare to begin with, with just 1100 built in 1847 only by Eli Whitney, Jr. at Whitneyville, Connecticut for Mr. Samuel Colt. The gun was a large 'dragoon' horse pistol weighing in at over 4.5-pounds with a 9-inch part octagon barrel and an overall length of almost a foot and a half. It got its name from one Texas Ranger Captain Samuel Hamilton Walker, who had field tested early Colt Paterson holster revolvers and by field testing we mean gunfights with bandits and the Mexican army.
Daguerreotype of Texas Ranger Captain Samuel Hamilton Walker taken in 1846. He would be killed the next year at age 30 while leading his troops in the Battle of Huamantla during the Mexican-American War.
Well Capt. Walker found the .36 caliber balls of the Paterson type revolvers wanting so Colt stepped it up to .44 for the new series.
With a 60-grain load of good black powder and a tight-fitting .454-caliber ball, this hog leg was documented to be able to make 100-yard hits on man-sized targets--, which was something that many of the rifles of the 1840s had problems pulling off.
The first 1000 guns were sold to the US Army to arm the new Regiment of Mounted Riflemen (now the 3rd Armored Cavalry regiment). Each trooper was to receive two of the huge revolvers to mount on either side of the saddle pommel in a pair of specially made holsters. The actual model of these guns, stamped in the cylinder, was the USMR, in honor of the regiment they were designed for.
Besides these military guns, 100 extras were made for Colt to give away as gifts and sell privately. That's where the Thumbprint comes in.
The rest of the story
Found in Mexico in 1958 by Tom P. Weston, a traveling businessman with an interest in small arms, this old Colt Walker revolver was in such good condition when it was stumbled across that collectors were fascinated. Its serial number, 1078, placed it in the last series of 100 Walkers made by Whitney for Colt. However, on close examination over the years, it has been found to have what RIA believes to be military markings and inspector's marks, as well as a modified left side barrel flat and loading lever, which means it, could have been sent back to the Colt factory at some point for repair.
Hauntingly, the gun also has a faint fingerprint smudged into the side of the frame, which was likely placed there by accident during the original production process as the gun is believed to still have the original 1847 factory finish. Speculation on the print can attribute it to anyone from a random employee to Samuel Colt or Eli Whitney, Jr himself.
Nevertheless, it's there, and as such it's a one-of-a-kind in addition to being just 1/100 civilian models and 1/1100 Walkers made.
(Skip to the ten-minute mark for the Walker)
Moreover, it includes the exceedingly rare original holster for the gun. How the hog leg made it to Mexico in the 1950s is a mystery, but they do know where it is now.
On the brightside, although its expected to bring up to $700,000, (although a military-issue Walker sold for $920,000 in 2008) the bidding starts at just $500k so check your couch cushions! If you are still coming up a little short, its free to check out the amazing photo preview or 16-page flipbook of the auction items.
Turn the lights down and get a drink, you won't want to go anywhere anytime soon.