Old colt, help ID it?


August 31, 2008, 07:37 PM
This's my first post on THR, apologies of this isn't the right place for such things.

This thing's apparently been bouncing around from closet shelf to closet shelf through countless moves for nearly a century since it last saw service. I'm told it was my great grandfather's duty weapon. It seems to be broken - the cylinder turns both ways whether it's snapped in or not and the cylinder alignment's all kinds of messed up.

There was a piece of paper with it, hand-written, that says it was purchased in 1880.

Pictures follow, but first a few questions:
Can anyone tell me what exactly this is?
Obviously this gun is old, but is it old and valuable or just old?
Should I attempt to have it fixed or 'preserve' its current condition?
If I manage to get it fixed, should I fire it, or again opt to preserving its original condition?
And lastly... If it's okay to fire, what do I feed it? 38 s&w? 38 colt special? something I'm not even aware exists?
(Disclaimer and context setter: I know nothing of revolvers. I didn't even know how to take the cylinder off my Taurus until last week)

On with the pictures, I'll take more if need be.
(click for painfully high detail)
http://www.macdamon.net/oldcolt/DSC_0003_small.jpg (http://www.macdamon.net/oldcolt/DSC_0003.JPG)
http://www.macdamon.net/oldcolt/DSC_0004_small.jpg (http://www.macdamon.net/oldcolt/DSC_0004.JPG)
http://www.macdamon.net/oldcolt/DSC_0006_small.jpg (http://www.macdamon.net/oldcolt/DSC_0006.JPG)

If anyone can tell me a bit more about this thing, I'd be very grateful.

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August 31, 2008, 07:44 PM
You're right. That's old. You can tell that most easily by the shape of the cylinder release.

August 31, 2008, 07:50 PM
Its fixable and im sure its shootable. However you would have to take it to a gunsmith. Its not that hard of a fix either. However if your not that knowledgable with revolvers its best to let someone else who is take a look at it. The condition looks pretty good. If i were you i would for sure get it serviced. Maybe even buy a box of shells and fire off one box. After that though id get a display box for it and just keep it safe.

Ala Dan
August 31, 2008, 07:54 PM
a very nice Old Colt~! Heck, if you don't want it, just send it and the badge
too me. I promise, I will take good care of both of 'em~! Enjoy ;) :D

dagger dog
August 31, 2008, 07:54 PM
Looks to be around the 1892 New Army and Navy Civillian Model, Values from $3,500 to $400 depending on condition the dates of manufacture range from 1892- 1907.

Some help from others on caliber; wasn't 38 Colt and 38 S&W the same round? I thought the thing was Colt just didn't want to advertise the S&W name on the bbl of their relvolvers !

I would find a smith that specializes in the older revolvers, just due to the possible value of the old Colt.

Back again here, the 1889 Navy Civillan model was the first swing out cylinder Colt , and it pre dates the New Army Navy Civillian Modl.

August 31, 2008, 07:55 PM
colt new army, is the best I can figure. It's a short barrel version.

Vern Humphrey
August 31, 2008, 07:55 PM
First of all, swingout cylinders appeared about 1889. Colts prior to that time were all solid frames and loaded through a loading gate.

This gun seems to have had its barrel cut at some time in its life I suspect it started life as a Colt New Navy Double Action revolver, chambered in .38 Long Colt, made from 1889 to 1892.

August 31, 2008, 07:59 PM
ammo is 38 long colt


August 31, 2008, 08:03 PM
The butt has no signs of ever having a lanyard ring attatched. Therefore, I would conclude it was never a military firearm. It was civilian from the get go...that's my best uneducated guess. Being civilian from the get go, it may have come new with that short barrel.

Old Fuff
August 31, 2008, 08:38 PM
What we got here is a Colt Model 1889 "New Navy". 38 revolver...

It was Colt's first hand ejector (swing-out cylinder) revolver. Introduced in 1889, it was quickly adopted by the U.S. Navy as a service revolver - replacing cartridge-converted 1851 Navy's that dated back to before the Civil War. Both the converted 1851 Models and the "New Navy were chambered to use the .38 Long Colt cartridge (they will chamber .38 Specials, but don't try to shoot one.) Production continued until 1894, although a newer design came out in 1892. When they stopped some 28,000 revolvers had been made.

The 3" barrel is rare, and can add as much as 40% to the total value of the gun. More common lengths were 4 1/2 and 6 inches. I think the one you have is original to the gun, because the caliber/cartridge stamping on the side is centered - it wouldn't be if a longer length had been cut back.

Those of you who are sharp may notice that there are no locking notches visable in the cylinder. Colt used a not-too-successful method of locking the cylinder using the ratchet that the hand pushed against to rotate it.

This is a black powder gun. Do not shoot it with anything else.

I notice the serial number is 24,222, which would make the date of birth 1893

I only know one gunsmith that might fix it, although he might have to hand-make some parts, and that kind of work is expensive.


Jim Watson
August 31, 2008, 08:40 PM
Best I can tell it is a commercial model 1889 Navy .38. Less common but not unknown with 3" factory barrel. Serial number corresponds to 1893 manufacture. Note there are no bolt notches on the cylinder, lockup was at the rear. That was upgraded in the New Army and Navy, which have not one but two sets of bolt notches.

The action is more fragile than anything else Colt made except the Lightning. As evidenced by the fact that this one is mechanically broken in spite of having a fair amount of blue and only slightly chipped hard rubber grips. Even if you got it fixed, it would not be a dependable or durable shooter.

No, Dagger, .38 Long Colt and .38 S&W are NOT the same. When Colt wanted to use the superior inside lubricated groove diameter bullets S&W brought out, they marked their guns .38 New Police or .38 Police Positive for ammunition equivalent to .38 S&W. But that did not happen until about 1905 when the Colt Positive Lock safety system came out.

August 31, 2008, 09:12 PM
This's all very informative! Thank you!

I don't believe the barrel has been chopped down because the crowning is somewhat rounded, I'd expect a straight cut on a hatchet job.

I'll be contacting that gun smith shortly. I never had delusions of fixing it myself. I had no idea 38 long-colt started off as a black powder load, can someone point me to a place to buy a box (just to keep with the gun, I probably won't ever shoot it)?

Lastly, there's another number stamped on the inside of the cylinder arm: 546, is this the serial rather than the number on the butt? If not, what is it?

Jim Watson
August 31, 2008, 11:06 PM
The serial number is the one on the butt. Anything else is an assembly number used to keep track of parts at the factory.

dagger dog
September 1, 2008, 12:38 PM
Jim thanks for the heads up!

Vern Humphrey
September 1, 2008, 12:51 PM
I'd expect a straight cut on a hatchet job.
A good smith will always crown the muzzle after cutting the barrel.

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