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Extremely Rare Confederate First Model Cofer Revolver

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Buck Conner

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Extremely Rare Confederate First Model Cofer Revolver - Serial No. 7

Estimate: $75,000 - $150,000
Sold: $95,500


A .36 caliber, 7.4375" octagonal barrel, S/N 7. Brass frame, blued barrel, case hardened hammer, checkered two-piece walnut grips. Single action, spur trigger, 6-shot percussion revolver with unique two-piece cylinder that uses Cofer's patented percussion ignition brass cartridges.
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Top strap marked in two lines: T.W. COFER'S PATENT / AUGUST 1861.

Barrel marked in a single line: PORTSMOUTH VA. Bottom of butt marked No 7. No other markings present externally or internally. Sand cast brass frame with removable side plate on reverse, secured by two screws, allowing access to the action. Frame shows some minute casting flaws on the exterior and rougher workmanship and tool marks on the interior and on the bottom of the top strap. Iron barrel screwed into the solid brass frame with about 3.5 threads exposed inside the frame shows some minute apparent flaws under strong light and magnification. Fixed notch rear sight cast integrally with the frame, brass cone front sight about .25" from the muzzle. Seven-groove bore with extremely slow rate of twist, appearing nearly straight. Checkered round, spring-loaded push button release on front right side of frame allows withdrawal of the cylinder arbor pin to remove the cylinder for loading and unloading. Cylinder shows some minute streaky flaws and measures 2" in overall length, not including the .135" ratchet on the rear, with the removable section measuring .5". The main body of the cylinder is nominally 1.43" in diameter with the the slightly rebated removable rear section measuring nominally 1.42" in diameter. Cylinder chamber mouths vary slightly but nominally measure .393". Barrel measures nominally .368" at the breech and muzzle. Includes 6 brass empty Cofer percussion cartridges with percussion cone bases, two with conical lead bullets press fit into the brass cases. These appear to be museum quality replicas produced from original Cofer cartridges in the same collection. The empty cases measure nominally 1.53" in overall length, including the percussion cone, are nominally .393" in diameter, with a nominal internal diameter of between about .35" and .36" at the case mouths, as most are not completely round due to dents and dings. To date only two examples of the Type I, "split cylinder" or "patent cylinder" Cofer revolvers are known.

This exact revolver is pictured on page 145 of William Albaugh's Confederate Handguns with the photograph noted as courtesy of the National Rifle Association. When the revolver was discovered it had previously experienced a catastrophic failure that resulted in the forward portion of the topstrap and the top portion of the frame where the barrel screws in being blown away. No barrel was present in the photo. The frame showed a diagonal break through the topstrap that extended from just to the right of the letter "U" in "August" and traversed the letter "R" in "Cofer." The only original stamping present in the photograph was "T.W. COFE" with a partial "R" on the top line and "AUGU" on the bottom line. The photo does include the balance of the frame and mechanism, the cylinder, cylinder arbor pin and catch, grips and a single Cofer cartridge. The revolver was also pictured in this original, damaged condition in M. Clifford Young's groundbreaking research presentation to the American Society of Arms Collectors entitled "The Legacy of a Tidewater Gunsmith - Thomas W. Cofer." The revolver was subsequently restored with exquisite quality and workmanship, replacing the missing barrel with a nearly perfect copy that is appropriately marked, and having the forward portion of the topstrap and frame repaired. The restored gun is pictured on page 146 of William Gary's Confederate Handguns, along with 1st Model Cofer Revolver #1, which no doubt provided the model from which to copy the missing parts, correctly recreate the contour of the frame and correctly mark the gun.

Thomas W. Cofer (1828-1885) was a Portsmouth, VA based gunsmith working for his cousin P.D. Gwaltney prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War. Sometime ca 1860 or early 1861 Cofer appears to have started working on his own, under his own name as a very small number of arms, primarily shotguns are known with his name and his Portsmouth, VA address. Cofer later moved across the Elizabeth River and worked in Norfolk, so post-war Cofer arms are Norfolk marked. Cofer was one of the first recipients of a Confederate States patent, and one of the very few to receive one related to weapons or small arms. On August 12, 1861 he received CS Patent #9 for a unique percussion ignition cartridge revolver with a two-piece cylinder. The patent primarily covered the two-piece cylinder design described above and the cartridges which the revolver would utilize. To students of firearms history the design appears to be either a brilliant evasion of the Rollin White or a clear violation of it. However, in either case, as a Confederate patent in a different "country" the point is moot. Total production of the Cofer Type I "Patent Cylinder" revolvers is not known, but to date only two examples, are known to exist, #1 and #7. Cofer went on to produce two other types of revolvers that were not directly related to his patent. The Type II was also a bored-through cylinder revolver using a percussion cap ignited cartridge, but this revolver used a one-piece rather than two-piece cylinder. This variant was of a smaller caliber and only one example exists, making the Type II variant an anomaly. The final version, or Type III revolver was a conventional percussion revolver with attached loading lever. All three used the same basic construction of a brass frame, octagonal iron barrel and spur trigger, and a single action mechanism with the overall appearance being that of a Whitney Navy revolver.


Provenance:
ex-Fred Slaton Collection

Condition:

Very good as restored. Retains no finish on the replacement barrel with a lightly oxidized pewter gray patina showing some scattered age discoloration and evenly distributed pin pricking. Barrel marking remains mostly clear and legible with only the letter "M" in "Portsmouth" mostly obscured. Bore extremely dirty, moderately oxidized and evenly pitted. Hammer with traces of case coloring, most visible with the side plate removed. Brass frame and side plate with a wonderful, untouched deep mustard patina with hints of ocher. Side plate shows no remarkable prying or tool marks along the sharp edges. Both the original and restored markings on the repaired top strap remain very crisp and clear, as does the serial number on bottom of grip. The repair itself is all but undetectable. Revolver remains mechanically functional and times, indexes and locks up as it should. Grips remain in about good condition with wear and age and some old repairs. A small piece of reinforcement wood has been inlet into the interior of the left grip around the screw escutcheon and a triangular piece of wood has been repaired on the right grip along the back strap measuring about 1.5" along the base at the back strap with the two legs measuring roughly 1" in length and meeting at the grip screw escutcheon. Otherwise the grips show the bumps, dings and handling marks expected on a Civil War period revolver's grips. A wonderful restored example of one of the rarest of all revolvers of the Southern Confederacy.
Cofer revolvers remain among the scarcest and most desirable of all Southern manufactured revolvers, and this is essentially a once in lifetime opportunity to acquire a Type I Patent Cylinder Cofer revolver, as only one of a few known example survives today.

WRONG

2017 Cabela’s store in Lehi Utah bought one of these revolver for $200.00, the reason so cheap will be explained. The night crew in the Gun Library purchased the revolver and marked it “Unknown Manufacturer”.

I came in the next morning and everyone was waiting to see if I knew what this little dandy was. I looked at the revolver, then went to my desk and search through a few of by reference books on Southern Revolvers. After an hour I found what I was looking for, it’s a “Thomas W. Cofer Revolver”. The reason nobody knew was the barrel had been cut off and the sight was nicely replaced. All the markings were on the piece cutoff leaving the ID unknown to the average appraiser. Being chop down destroyed the collector value. Man if it hadn’t been cut down who knows what the value would be. Having been raised around these old clubs as my father called them I knew to start digging. I was a hero to the other appraisers that day.

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A customer saw the revolver and fell in love with it and put it on lay away until we put a price on this little guy.
A gentleman comes in (looks like he works construction). He tells me he sold his grandfather’s revolver to Cabelas (gun just mentioned). He shows us a newspaper clipping from “The Provo Daily News – dated 1896. His grandfather was the local sheriff of Provo Utah, the city had a few trouble maker in the low rent district. He was told that a drunk was shooting out street lights, the sheriff rides down to stop the shooting. To make a long story short: the sheriff gets shot off his horse and the bad guy gets away (never caught). This little pistol was carried by the sheriff, he never got a shot off.

I would have never sold this one if it was my grandfather’s revolver.

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toot

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as P.T. BARNUM ONCE SAID, THERE IS A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE! SO TRUE!
 

Buck Conner

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.
For the price I should have bought this one.

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