Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

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Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby GrantRCanada » 02 Sep 2015 03:59

A few months ago I acquired a well-worn but complete and fully functional First Model Colt New Service revolver, chambered in .455 Eley, with a Canadian Department of Militia & Defence property mark stamped on the bottom of the grip frame -

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Yesterday, I received my Colt Factory Letter for this revolver -

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The First Canadian Contingent to South Africa were armed with the Colt Model 1878 Double Action revolvers which had been acquired for the 1885 North West Rebellion (chambered in .45 Colt) but the Dept. of Militia & Defence had to purchase several batches of additional revolvers, opting for the New Service. The first shipment were apparently also chambered in .45 Colt, but subsequent shipments were chambered in .455 Eley at the request of the British War Department, which was in fact supplying all of the troops in South Africa, and understandably preferred service revolvers to be chambered for their own cartridge. All other troops from the rest of the Empire had .455 revolvers, so it must have been a logistical headache to have to supply .45 Colt cartridges also!

Anyway, the first batch of revolvers chambered in .455 was this shipment of April 3, 1900 .... Lewis Brothers and Company were Colt Distributors in Canada, and Captain Benoit was the Militia & Defence Purchasing Agent .... A Lewis Brothers advertisement of that period -

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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby Waggoner » 02 Sep 2015 12:14

A very nice acquisition! Where do you find these treasures?

All the best,

Gary
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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby QSAMIKE » 03 Sep 2015 03:23

Fantastic find Grant......

Can you put me on the trail of one..... LOL

Mike
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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby GrantRCanada » 03 Sep 2015 05:58

Mike:

Actually, I have another New Service in .455 Eley with slightly higher serial number (4087 vs. 3633) so it is also 1900 production, and could well be a Canadian M&D purchase revolver. I have never bothered to order a Colt letter for it because it was heavily buffed (largely effacing much of the original factory marking) and then was re-blued. It also has a mechanical problem (not locking up properly)which I was aware of when i bought it, and hoped to have repaired so I could use it as the "shooter" I originally intended it for when I acquired it - but have never gotten around to it. It "looks good" at ten paces, but of course much its the real collector value has disappeared, unfortunately ....

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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby rd72 » 09 Sep 2015 02:17

Well done Grant. What a fantastic piece of Canadian military history. Maybe we'll see it in action at Richard's next year?
Cheers,
Rob
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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby vainn80 » 10 Sep 2015 19:25

Very nice Canadian New Service revolvers and excellent research; thanks for sharing.
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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby GaryD » 10 Sep 2015 22:16

I can't think of a better privately owned collection of Canadian Military firearms than Grant's. Is there much you're missing now? FWIW I know the whereabouts of a Brown Bess purportedly traceable to the war of 1812. For $4000.00, of course research would need to be done to confirm this.
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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby GrantRCanada » 12 Sep 2015 04:09

Gary,

I have at least one example of all of Canada's primary military-issue rifles and handguns from 1855-1955 ..... and a number of supplementary-issue arms as well ....
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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby Waggoner » 12 Sep 2015 13:43

Grant,

Does that include a Spencer and a Peabody?

All the best,

Gary
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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby GrantRCanada » 13 Sep 2015 01:00

Gary:

Although the imported American breech-loaders of the Fenian Raids scare are "secondary-issue" arms (the primary-issue rifle of the Militia at that time being the muzzle-loading Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle until they were re-armed with Snider-Enfield rifles in 1867) I do have an original Canadian-contract Peabody rifle (.50-60 Peabody rim-fire, with another center-fire breech-block - for that I use shortened .50-70 casings) and a reproduction Model 1865 Spencer rifle (.56-.50 center-fire) -
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Unlike many of the rim-fire cartridges of that era, the .50-60 Peabody round was not an under-powered pipsqueak ... as can perhaps be gathered from the above image showing some of my loads, with an original coiled-case .577 Snider cartridge in the picture for comparison.

As you may be aware, however, the United Province of Canada Militia Department purchased only the shorter .56-.50 Spencer cartridge for use in both Spencer and Peabody rifles, because the single-shot Peabody would chamber and fire the Spencer cartridge, but the 7-shot Spencer could neither cycle nor chamber the longer Peabody cartridge. This was actually an excellent move, from a logistics standpoint - otherwise it could have been a nightmare keeping track of which units had been issued with Spencers and ensuring that they got the correct cartridges. (Not to mention, not knowing in advance where the Fenians might strike, and thus which units were more likely to require ammunition re-supplies ....)

My reproduction Spencer -
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Period studio portrait of a Rifleman of the Queen's Own Rifles of Toronto with Spencer rifle -
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1866 photograph of a company of the QOR armed with Spencer rifles -
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Detail -
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Last edited by GrantRCanada on 13 Sep 2015 03:14, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby Waggoner » 13 Sep 2015 02:08

Grant,

Very nice! Are there any issue marks on the Peabody? Mine was issued to the 4th Battalion Chasseurs Canadiens. Sadly, no marks on the Spencer.

All the best,

Gary
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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby GrantRCanada » 13 Sep 2015 03:13

No unit-issue marks on the Peabody .... just the Canada Militia property mark -

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As I understand it from David Edgecombe's book, none of the Spencer, Peabody or Starr rifles and carbines were supposed to be given any sort of unit mark, since they were temporary issue .... but, of course, most such directives from the Militia Department got ignored or misinterpreted by at least one unit armourer somewhere .... :roll:

If I recall correctly, no Spencer rifles or carbines have surfaced with a "CM" stamp, but some are seen with a War Department mark .... Is yours a rifle or a carbine?

I realize the modern reproduction Spencer rifles are not quite an exact copy of the original Model 1865 Spencer, but I have yet to get a chance at an original Canadian-issue Spencer, and wanted a "shooter" anyway ... not that it was exactly "cheap" to acquire the reproduction! I find it fascinating that of the estimated 3,000 Model 1865 Spencer rifles (as opposed to carbines) ever produced, fully 2,100 came to Canada, in addition to the Spencer carbines acquired for Canadian service ....

One of my favorite period Spencer photos is this one of almost the entire body of Métis scouts/guards who accompanied the British/Canadian 1872-74 North American Boundary Commission party, with the Spencer carbines they were issued from Canada Militia Stores .... and which I understand they were allowed to keep at the end of their service -

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Detail -

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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby Waggoner » 13 Sep 2015 14:44

Grant,

I have seen those photos before...perhaps you posted them earlier? My Spencer rifle came out of the Toronto/Barrie area. Don't know if it was a gunshow or direct-from-family find. It does have an old, non-military looking sling with it.

All the best,

Gary
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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby QSAMIKE » 01 Nov 2017 22:39

Hi Grant.......

Well I got hold of a .455 Colt New Service with the S/N 2901, would love to find out what organization it was sold too...... Can you please advise as to who or where I would send my enquiry.... It fits perfectly in the Strathcona's holster that I have.......

Mike
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Re: Boer War Canadian-Issue .455 Colt New Service revolver

Postby Will Mathieson » 02 Nov 2017 13:36

Interesting post as I too have a Colt New Service in 455. The backstrap has the Canadian offices name engraved on it.
I have it in a period leather holster.
I would let it go if someone is interested, need PAL. Some original finish left and in perfect working order.
Can email pics.
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