A Most-Heinous Offense

Friendship Only Goes So Far …
38

This is the 1899 vintage “COLT FRONTIER SIX SHOOTER” that caused the alleged heinous offense against Duke.

A friend, to whom I have bestowed the nickname “Shrapnel” for reasons too involved to cover here, recently accused me of a most
heinous offense. This column is my attempt to clear my sterling reputation from the smear of his accusation.

In order to make this affair clear we must go back to a Montana gun show in February, 2018. Another fellow and I were visiting behind his table when Shrapnel suddenly appeared and waved a very fine Colt Frontier Six Shooter under my nose.

Bottom barrel , initially Colt acid etched their “COLT FRONTIER SIX SHOOTER”
logo on the left side of .44-40 barrels.

Background

For the uninitiated, Colt Frontier Six Shooter was a synonym used by Colt for their Single Action revolvers ONLY when chambered for .44 WCF — commonly known today as .44-40. The cartridge was originally introduced with Winchester’s Model 1873 rifles and carbines and by 1878 (some sources give 1877), Colt realized having their popular six-shooters also chambered for it would be a grand marketing idea. Hence frontiersmen could pack one type of ammunition for both revolvers and lever guns.

Soon thereafter, someone at Colt decided to have “Colt Frontier Six Shooter” acid etched in a rectangular box on the left side of .44-40 barrels. Also tiny “.44 C.F.” stamps were put on the left rear of trigger guards. As time passed, acid-etching the marking changed to roll stamping the barrels’ left side in large-case letters. The small “.44 C.F.” disappeared entirely. Later in the 20th century after .44-40 supplanted .44 WCF as the cartridge’s most popular moniker, the large-case roll stamp evolved into “COLT FRONTIER SIX SHOOTER .44-40.”

When my friend handed me the Colt, I noticed the roll stamp lacked the .44-40 and a glimpse of the serial number showed it dated from 1899. Moreover I nearly gasped in surprise at the Colt’s condition. Perhaps high-dollar collectors would rate it as “very good.” To a modestly paid gun’riter such as myself, it was downright exquisite. Overall I’d say finish was 90% plus. There was the tiniest bit of holster wear to the bluing at the muzzle, the colors of the frame’s case-hardening had faded some with age and likewise on the hammer. The grips fit perfectly but showed very minor wear. Bore condition was nigh-on perfect.

Eagerly I asked how much. This is when the excitement died. Its owner was also a dealer at the show but he refused to put a price on the fine .44. To verify it, I even returned to the gun show the next day to ask the dealer one last time for a price. He wouldn’t do it.

Now fast forward to December 2021. Shrapnel had a table at another town’s gun show and as usual, I used it as a base for resting and to mooch sodas from him. We both had pretty much forgotten about the nice Colt Frontier Six Shooter.

Top, a 44-40 was added to the roll stamp in the 20th century.
Tell-tale: Duke’s 1899 .44-40 was roll stamped this way.

Wander And Win

On the show’s second day I decided to wander and browse, whereupon a mere 20 feet or so from Shrapnel’s table I found the display of the same dealer who wouldn’t price the fine .44-40 nearly three years past. Much to my surprise the “COLT FRONTIER SIX SHOOTER” lay there with a price tag! It was a high price but not prohibitive so I did the old gun show routine and said the following, “Give me your lowest price. No BS and if I can handle it you have a sale.”

He dropped the price significantly and I began emptying every pocket of my clothing, and searching every crease in my well-worn wallet. I was $500 short. Yvonne was with me and instantly hot-footed to an ATM machine but this deal needed to be sewn up before something went wrong. So I returned to Shrapnel’s table and said, “I’ve found something I really want and I’m $500 short. Yvonne went to an ATM but I’d like to finish the deal now.” With no questions asked, Shrapnel handed me the money and I finished paying for the .44. By the way, I had conveniently forgotten to tell him what I needed the money for.

When I returned with my new treasure clutched tightly in my mitts, Shrapnel recognized it immediately and nearly hit the ceiling. He exclaimed, “That’s mine! I found it first! You bought that out from under me and even borrowed money from me to do it.”

My defense was, “You found it three years ago. I found it this time. If you had just wandered from your table a mere few feet you would have seen it. It’s mine fair and square.” He retorted, “But you should have told me about it.” To which I replied, “Would you have told me about it if you saw it first?” He said, “No, of course not, but in my mind that .44 should always be mine.”

We’re still friends. In fact we just came back from another gun show together. On the 300-mile drive home I practically begged him to come down on his price for a factory-restored Bisley Colt SAA .38-40 from 1905. He didn’t budge an inch all the while reminding me how I “stole” his .44.

In the end I paid his price.

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