Dixie Tuskers

Starting out at dawn, Vinson's party in North Carolina hunted Hooper's Bald Mountain area for European wild boars. GUNS • MAY 1959 21

By WILLIAM B. EDWARDS

Author, "The Story oj Colt's Revolver"

Kenya police officer handles Coif .44 bought by Chicagoan.

FOR YEARS PAST, RUMORS OF A WALKER COLT "IN DARKEST AFRICA" HAVE MADE U.S. COLLECTORS DREAM OF A NEW KIND OF BIG GAME SAFARI

By WILLIAM B. EDWARDS

Author, "The Story oj Colt's Revolver"

WHEN THE MACHINES of Eli Whitney chopped out the big "Walker Model" revolvers which he had subcontracted to make for Sam Colt in 1847. they chopped out more than just guns. This four-pound-plus chunk of history is now worth at least $1,000 and fine specimens with proved backgrounds may be worth much more.

The legends, myths, stories of fabulous hidden caches of these revolvers, and the ultimate discovery of the collector when he tracks down such a myth, often do not coincide. A friend whose grandfather was Commissary General of Subsistence during the Civil War (Union) told me of a pair of "big Colt revolvers Grandfather had during the Mexican War and the Gold Rush." He positively identified these guns, from photos of revolvers of the type made by Whitney for Colt, as the rare and valuable "Walker" model. Eagerly I waited for the package in which he promised to send me the guns. My disappointment was not too great on opening the box and finding—of course— two nice pocket Model 1849 Colts of considerably less value. I had not really expected to find a Walker—or at least so I told myself, now that the box was open.

Walker revolvers are brought back by collectors from

Mexico as if they grew there. In the museum of the Mission Churubuscu, near Mexico City, is a glass wall case or panel. It contains, well lighted, a rusty revolver. The card speaks of this as a. "Colt Revolver of the American model used in the War of 1848." If rust and scale do not deceive me, the gun is, or was in 1951, a crumbly old Starr Model 1858 revolver, more frequently associated with the Civil War nearly two decades later. Where the Walker revolver is now, which once graced that case, only some Texas collector might be able to say.

Meanwhile, Walkers by the bushel come out of Mexico —as 1 said, "like they grew there." Some, indeed, did grow there—out of old railroad iron and cold rolled steel, in Monterey blacksmith's shops. These fakes, which also include Paterson type revolvers, are crudely done and fool no one except the unwary Gringo tourista who is eager to think he is getting a prize at a low price. He is: a booby prize.

Yet Walkers do turn up in strange places. John duMont owns one, somewhat pitted and with a replaced pair of grips, that was pulled out of a burning ash can by a small boy in his home town. Larry Sheerin's unique cased

Barrel is marked in one-line stamping Address Saml Colt New York City but has London proof marks on cylinder.

Big Dragoon was rare prize; has vertical lever catch and brass handle straps.

Etymology Booby Prize

Number stamped on barrel some believe to be old police registration, but gun could not be traced. Serial number identifies gun as being of London origin.

C^olt Dragoon is shorter in barrel, cylinder, than legendary Walker (shown in phantom)

Walker, a virtually mint specimen, came by devious routes home to Texas, from Denmark. And one collector friend tells of the day he bought a pig in a poke and found it to be the Walker's little brother, the desirable though not so valuable Colt M1848 Dragoon. He walked into a local antique shop where he was a steady customer in the days when pocket Colts brought $3 and $5 and fine Army 1860's went for $8 or $10, and found his dealer friend with a wood chisel, struggling with the lock on a polished warmred walnut box about 15" long and three or four inches thick. "Lost the key," explained the dealer. My friend grabbed the box, hefted it once to feel the weight and, like all collectors, being somewhat of a gambler, said "I'll give you $20 for it without opening it." The dealer, who had found it in a chest of drawers bought at a sale, agreed. The money and unopened box changed hands, and my friend, after picking the lock, found he possessed an almost new Dragoon, fully cased with all accessories including the rare Dragoon Colt bullet mould. The wood around the lock shows the marks of the antique dealer's wood chisel to this day, to lend flavor to the story.

Fed in my childhood on such tales, I was naturally ripe for any rumor of rare guns. Once, in a blinding rain storm, myself and friend Harold Whelpley of West Haven drove miles out of our way to look at "Two square-handled pistols made in New Haven." Thinking that "Whitneyville, where the Walkers were made, is near New Haven," we plunged on through the night, seeking the address. We found the house, and found the guns. Recalling the experience, I'd say they were the two nicest Volcanic pistols I've ever seen, in showroom condition. But not Walkers.

Then one day, while working with John Amber on "The Gun Digest" a few years back, (Continued on page 63)

Antique Collecting

Antique Collecting

ABOUT fifty years ago, when the subject of English furniture first began to be studied and to be written about, it was divided conveniently into four distinct types. One writer called his books on the subject The Age of Oak, The Age of Walnut, The Age of Mahogany and The Age of Satinwood. It is not really quite as simple as that, for each of the so-called Ages overlaps the others and it is quite impossible to lagt down strict dates as to when any one timber was introduced or when it finally, if ever, went out of favour.

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