COLT D.A. 38 ?

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by audor, Sep 15, 2007.

  1. audor

    audor New Member

    Sep 15, 2007
    I am trying to find out everything I can about this: year manufactured, civilian/police/military (branch), type of round, and any other information you may have. It was a gift from my Grandfather, a gift to him from his uncle and something I plan to keep for a long time. I'd also appreciate any advice on preserving it, removing corrosion, and can it still be fired?


    Top of Barrel:
    PATENTED AUG.5.1884 NOV.6.88. MAR.5.95.

    Side of Barrel:
    COLT D.A. 38

    Trigger guard:
    Star with "I" in the middle

    Chamber release lever:
    Star with "I" in the middle
    With the numbers 1689 below the star (I assume serial #)

    Inside of arm holding the chamber (only visible with chamber open):
    Star with "I" in the middle and 1689

    Body underneath the arm (only visible with chamber open):

    COLT molded in grip

    There are no other marking.

    Attached Files:

  2. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    Hi audor......welcome to TFF.

    What a neat old Colt! :)

    Got two questions:

    Are there any markings on the butt of the gun?

    Looking from the rear of the gun (thru the sights), when you cock the hammer, does the cylinder revolve to the right (clockwise), or left (counterclockwise)?

  3. audor

    audor New Member

    Sep 15, 2007
    Now that you mention it, I can see the faint outline of numbers in the butt, but they are illegible. The cylinder rotates counterclockwise.
  4. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    OK.....that nails it down.

    What you have is the Model 1895 New Army and Navy. Yours is the civilian version.

    Those numbers on the butt are the serial #. I'd need that to tell you the manufacture date. The 1689 numbers are assembly numbers.

    The caliber is .38 Colt.....NOT .38 Smith & Wesson or .38 Special. .38 Colt is no longer made by the major manufacturers, but is loaded by some of the "Cowboy Action" ammo makers such as Black Hills Ammunition:

    CAUTION: If you plan to shoot this fine old gun, please have it checked out by a gunsmith to make sure it's safe to shoot!

    To clean the barrel & cylinder, do as you would do with a modern gun.

    To clean up the surface rust, get some 0000 steel wool and some good gun oil (such as Hoppe's or Rem Oil), put some oil on the steel wool, and very lightly go over the rusty spots. Do a little at a time, then wipe the gun down with a soft rag (old tee shirts work great)....make sure you're not taking any of the bluing off. When you've removed most of the rust, just give the whole exterior of the gun wipedown with a light coat of gun oil.

    If the interior lockwork needs cleaning & lubrication (and it probably does), best leave that to the gunsmith.

    That's a fine old Colt you have there.....have fun! :)
  5. Boone

    Boone New Member

    Nov 13, 2007
  6. LogicalSon

    LogicalSon New Member

    Feb 23, 2012
    I have a Colt 38 D. A. that has two patent dates on the top of the gun. Those dates are Aug. 5, 1884 & Nov. 6, 1888. The cylinder rotates counter-clockwise and there are no cylinder notches. The serial number on the butt is 20-076. This gun was issued to my Great-Great Uncle Walter Coffey who worked for the rail road. I have 29 bullets that were with the gun when my Grandmother gave it to me. The bullets say they are 38 long REM-UMC. I would love to hear any information you can tell me about this gun as far as manufacture date, value or any history. When ever I search the internet or at gunshows, I see guns that are similar but never exactly like mine. Thanks for your help.
  7. Lanrezac

    Lanrezac Well-Known Member

    Sep 18, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI
    Colt's early swing-out cylinder revolvers had a variety of problems, so the design was changed often in the first few years of production.

    The power of Colt's name at the time was enough to gain public acceptance anyway, and even the US Army adopted the design while it was still in the process of evolution.

    Your gun does have cylinder locking notches, for instance - they are just in the rear face of the cylinder, along with the cylinder ratchet. This was a dubious feature carried over from Colt's earlier double action revolvers.

    The history of these guns is quite involved, and I don't know it off the top of my head. Colts are so popular that there are certain to be books that have the whole story, and people here who either know it or know what the books are. Welcome to the Forum!

    BTW, those same people would probably like to see pictures of your gun, and would be able to tell you more about it from them.
  8. LogicalSon

    LogicalSon New Member

    Feb 23, 2012
    Thanks for your help! I'll post some pictures tonight or tomorrow morning.
  9. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

    Dec 6, 2009
    "Your gun does have cylinder locking notches, for instance - they are just in the rear face of the cylinder..."

    Not really. The Colt New Navy of 1889 has no cylinder locking notches anywhere; the cylinder was locked by the hand, same as the Model 1878 New Double Action (sometimes called the New Double Action Frontier).

  10. Lanrezac

    Lanrezac Well-Known Member

    Sep 18, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI
    Oh, darn. I thought it was like the Colt "Lightning". I had just seen a picture of the cylinder-rear locking notches on one of those. Sorry, LogicalSon. I guess free advice is worth what you pay for it. :)
  11. LogicalSon

    LogicalSon New Member

    Feb 23, 2012
    Here are the pics of my Colt DA 38

    Attached Files:

  12. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

    Dec 6, 2009
    Boy, talk about "rode hard and put away wet"! That is a civilian gun, not a Navy contract, but it sure has been around and about. Due to the condition, it is not of high value ($400 or so, maybe) but they are interesting guns. Most of the Navy contract guns were called in and returned to Colt for conversion to the later configuration with the double cylinder locking notches; as a civilian gun, that one was not converted.

    Those revolvers had a rebounding hammer, but no means of keeping the cylinder from rotating when the hammer was down, a major defect in design, since it meant that the cylinder could turn when holstered after firing, not a condition desirable in a military revolver. That necessitated the later conversions.

    About 31,000 were made, of which the first 5000 went to the Navy. Ejector rod heads and repro grips are available, but I would leave that one just as it is. The cartridge was the .38 Long Colt, the same cartridge case diameter as the modern .38 Special, but .38 Special will not fit in those early guns and should not be fired in them anyway.

    Last edited: Jun 16, 2012
  13. Slowhand

    Slowhand Member

    Jan 7, 2011
    Irmo, SC

    Here's a 1877 Colt Thunderer, 41 Caliber. The Colt being discussed in a much later production type.
  14. dartswinger

    dartswinger Member

    Jan 6, 2010
    SE Pa.
    This poster mentions markings of a star with an I inside it, can someone tell me what this marking is as I have a S&W M1899 USN marked .38LC with these markings on the cylinder, under the bbl. and on the frame visible only when cyl. is swung out. I have an NRA letter dating my gun to 1900 and saying that star and I indicates return to factory for work, that; however, couldn't possibly apply to this mans Colt. What is this marking???
  15. LogicalSon

    LogicalSon New Member

    Feb 23, 2012
    Thanks for the info Jim. Do you think the year of manufacture is 1889 or so? This gun was carried by my relative everyday. I think that is the reason for the shabby condition. I have his shoulder holster and the ammo. I'm thinking about making a display of some sort and mounting it on my wall. I'm looking for as much info about this gun as possible to ad to my display.
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