That Kenya Walker Colt

(Continued from page 23)

withdrawals, deaths of owners, minor thefts, and rust deplete the lot. But at present it numbers some 28.000 firearms, including such rarities as 1899 Smith & Wesson .38's of U.S. Navy pattern, first and second model, plus double rifles and shotguns, and modern and semi-modern firearms of all kinds.

In January of 1957, Bud Lindert was travelling in Kenya. He and his host, Dr. Thomas of Nairobi, were guests of the Kenya a letter came in from friend Milt Hicks, then Sales Manager of Colts. Milt wanted to know what the value would be of a Walker revolver "with a man's name on it," which had turned up in Kenya Colony, Africa, during the Mau Man disturbance. At Camp Perry that summer, Milt had nothing more to say about the Kenya Walker except that "someone" from Africa had written into the Colt factory asking about a gun in their possession.

Neither Amber nor I nor any of the few other people Hicks may have mentioned the Walker to were in a position to do anything. Not at all surprisingly, the Kenya Walker grew into a full blown myth that turned up in odd parts of the U.S. as I had occasion to chat with gun collectors in my travels. Milt Hicks, in a later letter, told me with some surprise that the story made the transcontinental trip across the U.S. faster than he did that summer by airplane.

Finally, it occurred to me to write to my friends at Parker-Hale, Ltd., in England, and see what they could do about locating the Kenya Walker. After several months, during which their Nairobi commercial agents advertised in the local papers for "Wanted: Big Old Revolvers," I learned that the results of their search had been zero. They had turned up one British pepperbox, and wanted to know if that was of any interest to me. The Kenya Walker, I gradually came to believe, was the same as many other Walkers—a myth.

And then a Chicagoan bought the Kenya Walker. Only, as of course it had to turn out, the Walker was actually the later and less desirable M1848 Dragoon. But how A. W. "Bud" Lindert of Homewood, 111., discovered this long-lost collector's prize is in itself a story of collecting adventure.

The ownership of this legendary Colt was always obscure. It became still more difficult to trace—there was doubt the pistol even existed—when white civilians were asked to place their gun collections in police stores at Gil Gil. This fabulous arms depot is another of those British government caches of citizens' guns that will remain locked up, possibly for a half century, until gradual

Military Police, who arranged a visit for them to Gil Gil. The inspectors and native police stationed at the lonely depot rolled out the red carpet for their visitors, a rare break for their solitary post. One of Lindert's first questions was whether any "large Colts" were among the 28.000 guns in storage. Surprisingly, of all the American collectors who had heard of the "Kenya Walker," Lindert was not one. His question was just the routine gambit of the visiting collector. To his surprise, the inspector replied that there was one, and after a search, picked it off the racks and handed it to Lindert.

Bud identified the gun correcLly as a London Dragoon, numbered in the London series with New York City barrel marks, though London proved. It was serial #584, and collectors generally consider that about 600 Dragoons were made at Colt's Hartford plant for London sale. These are of the Third Model type, round guard, and Lindert's "find" had the vertical loading lever catch. Later Hartford Dragoons, made toward the end of Dragoon production after about 1856, usually have horizontal or "Navy" style latches. The identifying tag bore a number and the name, "Johnston." Of all the guns Lindert observed, this was the only one which was tagged with a name.

Originally the inspectors indicated they would give Lindert the name of specific gun owners, by checking the registration tag numbers with their files. At the time he left, they advised it would be impossible to give out such information, and he came away from this treasure trove empty handed.

Back in Nairobi, Lindert called all of

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the Johnstons listed in the phone book. None of them knew what he was talking about, and the Dragoon Colt seemed lost forever in the Gil Gil arms cache.

The day before flying home, Lindert saw the Commissioner of Trade and Commerce, to get an export permit for the few items he had bought, He told the Commissioner he was leaving with but one regret—he had been unable to locate the owner of a large old Colt he'd seen at Gil Gil. "I'll bet I know him," exclaimed the Commissioner. "His name is Johnston, and he lives at an apartment hotel here in Nairobi. He's away now on a mineral survey trip in the mountains."

Elated at his fortunate coincidence, Lindert left some money with his friend, Dr. Thomas, to offer to Johnston when he came out of the "bush." In October 1957, Lindert received a cablegram: "Johnston accepted offer. Advise wishes on shipment." And at last, over a year after he had first sighted the big Dragoon, it finally reached Lindert in Homewood.

Johnston had obtained the Dragoon from the Nyasaland police, as payment for doing some gunsmithing for them. How it came to Nyasaland it not known.

The interior of the gun is in excellent condition and it shows no evidence of wear on the exterior, only surface pitting. The usual Dragoon-Indian battle scene is partially visible on the cylinder. On the wood grips, the name j. l. crompton is stamped. British military records have no data on this man. It is believed that number P4138, punched into the right side of the Dragoon's barrel lug, is a police serial number applied sometime in the past when the gun was registered somewhere.

Although the big Colt is a Dragoon and not the rarer Walker, the coincidence of the name stamping leaves little doubt that this is the legendary African "Walker" which eluded American collectors for several years. If you aren't convinced, it might be nfl fun to continue the search. UB

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