Original Colt Peacemakers--How Customized Could You Order Them From The Factory?

Looking at a thread on pistols here got me to thinking on a question that has occasionally popped into my head when reading about some of the old time gunfighters of the west.

I’ve read about some of them ordering their Colts from the factory with special grips, custom engraving, custom barrel lengths and stuff like that.

My question is just how much could they spec out that revolver? For instance, could they order a brass frame, blued barrel and cylinder, solid cylinder (no cutouts/indentations), maybe a 7.75-inch barrel with a laser sight? (OK, just kidding about the laser sight)

Or would the factory tell the average Joe that he wasn’t no Wyatt Earp, go pound sand?

Legend has it that pulp author Ned Buntline gave extended barrel “Buntline Special” revolvers to Earp and several other noted gunfighters. This article debunks that, but does seem to establish that Colt did produce 10" and 16" barreled revolvers, as well as detachable shoulder stocks. It also mentions details of a custom order by Bat Masterson for a shortened barrel, nickel finish, and gutta percha grips.

I suspect that there were a range of unusual options that Colt could have accommodated, but that it would have been more common to take a production gun to a third-party gunsmith for most custom tweaking.

Gunmakers were very accommodating back then. I have Colt: An American Legend by R.L. Wilson, and it goes into Colt firearms and options available. I don’t have time to go through the book to post here, but I can tell you it’s full of information and lots of excellent photos.

Basically, someone ordering a Colt could order it any way he liked. I’ve never heard of a brass-framed Peacemaker (incidentally, the cap-and-ball Colts were steel-framed – some Confederate copies and some cheap modern copies use brass), but you could get different barrel lengths (7-1/2" and 5-1/2" being the common ‘stock’ options) and a variety of engraving and finishes. I don’t think anyone fluted barrels back then. Some cap-and-ball Colts had fluted cylinders, though unfluted cylinders (with a Naval scene ‘engraved’) were more common. As mentioned, shoulder stocks could be ordered. Stocks (‘grips’) were normally walnut, but you could order ivory, pearl, or other materials.

In short, if you had the money you could have the gun delivered just about any way you wanted it.

We should bear in mind that most people in the Old West didn’t have a great deal of disposable income to spend on fripperies.
The factory would accommodate special orders, if the customer was willing to pay, and if it was technically possible to do it. Labor, even skilled labor, was cheaper, and engraving of a time-consuming type is relatively common on arms of this period.

Ah,** fluted** was the word I was trying to remember for that option, thanks!

And thanks to all for the info provided so far. I’m interested somewhat in this topic, but haven’t done much research into it, so this is good stuff you’ve provided and is much appreciated.

<<Edited to add, that is interesting about the brass frames. I’d have thought it to be something desirable since it would be more corrosion resistant than blueing or nickel plating. Hadn’t thought about the strength aspect, though. Thanx again.>>

Wilson’s book seems like a bargain to me for $27. (I think I paid $30 for mine in the early-'90s.) Or your library may have a copy. There are loads of photos of ‘highly-embellished’ guns, and it covers most or all of the firearms available. (Wilson has a separate book on the Peacemaker, which I also have. I have his Winchester and Beretta books as well.) There are a couple of photos on the Amazon page.

Thanks Johnny. I will check that out. Wilson seems to be a font of knowledge on these old “hoglegs.”

Hmm…wife has a birthday coming up. Wonder how it’d work if I got it for her and then borrowed it…naw, I think she’s gotten wise to that move.