Is this a Colt Lightning?


January 31, 2003, 01:44 PM
An acquaintance has showed me a revolver he has inherited. It has a vaguely "Peacemaker" look about it, and it is marked Colt DA 38. It has a birds-head grip, and has an ejector like a single-action, but it clearly operates in DA mode as well. He has some .38 Long Colt cartridges with it. A 38 spl will start into the chamber, but will not seat, protruding 3/8" or so. The finish is poor, having been stored improperly in Florida for lord-knows how long. Mechanically, it is excellent, and the grips look fine. It is case-hardened frame, with blued cylinder and barrel. All the roll-stamped markings are sharp, and all the serial numbers match (and there must be 4 or 5). To my eye, it seems a bit smaller than a Peacemaker, p'raps the size of a Single Six (or a skosh larger).

Any clues? Is there a good web site that might shed more light?


If you enjoyed reading about "Is this a Colt Lightning?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
Jim Watson
January 31, 2003, 02:35 PM
He almost certainly has a Colt Lightning.
Their first double action. The Blue Book says 166,000 made 1877 - 1910.
It has the reputation of being complicated, delicate, and prone to getting out of order. I might shoot it a little just to say I had, you can get .38 LC from Cowboy suppliers, but would consider it mainly a curio.

January 31, 2003, 09:16 PM
Here is a web site that has images of many Colt 19th Century, black powder revolvers, including the lightning. Hopefully you will be able to find the revolver your looking for in here.

Jim K
February 1, 2003, 12:11 AM
Having been (mis)fortunate enough to have to fix some of those guns, I strongly recommend against shooting one. That "spooiiiinnng" you'll hear is the breaking of a spring that has to be made or at least fitted at multibucks an hour.


February 3, 2003, 01:24 PM
Is there a commonly available publication, comparable to the Supica and Nahas Standard Catalog of S&W, that allows a novice to look up a data of manufacture for the old Colt revos?

Thanks to all...

February 4, 2003, 10:28 AM
I've seen various pocket guides at gunshows over the years for Colts and other makes.
Also the book COLT An American Legend by R. L. Wilson has serial number tables for all models in the back of the book.

September 8, 2008, 09:40 PM
One just came into my possession. Any idea of born on date by serial # (156239) ? Also, relative value? Who has parts? The double action trigger works, but does not return forward under its own power. I'd like to get it working so I could shoot it now and then. Too bad I can't use in in SASS events.

September 9, 2008, 12:21 PM
Your gun was made in 1905.

Bob's gunshop lists a few parts.

Wisner's makes new springs & such.

But keep in mind, parts do not just drop in, fit, and work in these guns.

It takes hours & hours of delicate fitting to restore one to working order.

And then, often as not, something else breaks!

Were I you, I would make a nice shadowbox, hang it on the wall, and look at it!


September 11, 2008, 02:39 PM

September 12, 2008, 03:15 PM
Jim Keenan and rcmodel are correct about the hand fitting needed to get parts in a Lightning or Thunderer.

Practically all the parts need hand fitting and parts from one Lightning don't drop in to another one.

GOod Luck

Old Fuff
September 12, 2008, 05:32 PM
Starting during the late 1880's/early 1890's Colt put an end-label on all 1877 model revolver boxes, that said in effect:

Warning! Do not shoot this revolver using cartridges loaded with smokeless powder. Only use ammunition loaded with black powder.

Usually when you find one of these guns a check of the serial number will show that it is over 100 years old. Yet there are some who can't resist the urge to go out and "shoot a few rounds," without having the slightest idea if using modern ammunition is or isn't safe. Well in this case (and also many others) it isn't.

It is truely sad when a historical relic or antique falls into the hands of someone that is willing to ruin it, and maybe themselves, just to go out and shoot a few rounds because they want a thrill or the experience of doing it.

Too few of these guns are left as it is, and there is no good reason to reduce the number.

If you enjoyed reading about "Is this a Colt Lightning?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!