Originally featured in Points West magazine in Fall/Winter 2017
Colt Model 1877 Thunderer double-action revolver, embellished by Robert Wielgus
The Cody Firearms Museum is home to a unique collection of firearms engraved and modified by art collector and conservator Raymond Wielgus. In 1975, a decision to improve one of his revolvers stylistically started him on a journey reimagining firearms embellishment. Firearms curator Ashley Hlebinsky calls the Wielgus Collection one of the most stunning she has ever seen. Because Wielgus was not a firearms engraver, he made the firearms inoperable to conduct some of the design.
This Colt Model 1877 Thunderer is one of Wielgus’s works of art. Produced between 1877 and 1909, the Model 1877 was Colt’s first production of a double action revolver. Standard calibers included .38 (called the “Lightning”) and .41 (the “Thunderer”). Wielgus used several historically significant guns like this as subjects for damascene decoration, an ancient process—originating in Damascus, Syria—of inlaying gold and other precious metals into metal objects. Wielgus also hand carved the ivory grips.
Colt Model 1877 Thunderer double-action revolver, embellished by Robert Wielgus, 2004–2006. Gift of Raymond J. Wielgus. 2010.17.36.1