View Full Version : Found! Colt Model 1900
November 17, 2006, 06:32 PM
I have a friend who said that an old lady that he knew years ago gave him a pistol that belonged to her late husband. He said that he didn't know anything about it and that it was an old Colt of some sort. I got to take a look at it today (he brought it to me at work). I was blown away at what I saw. It was a near mint condition Colt Model 1902. It has a little holster wear along the ridges of the slide but other than that, the blueing is what I would call Excellent. It even has the original magazine. I looked in a couple books and found that this colt was originally sold to the Navy. Colt made 3500 of this pistol and sold 200 to the Navy, 200 to the Army and the other 3100 to civillians. The only book I have that lists a value is an old Modern Book of Gun Values 1995 edition. That book lists this pistol at $5500, but I imagine that number is probably about only 2/3 of its value now. I would be interested in hearing any estimates anyone has. He is unsure if he wants to sell it. He told me "...it's probably worth about $1500 and who wouldn't like to have $1500...":rolleyes: Anyway, I don't want to take advantage of him so I would like to find out a somewhat definite value. I took some pics, but at work, all I had was my camera phone.
November 18, 2006, 12:57 PM
Latest I have is 2004 Ned Schwing's Standard Catalog of Firearms. It lists the 1900 Standard Civilian Model at $750 poor through $7500 for Excellent. From your photos I would judge it from $2250 Good to $4000 Very good.
November 18, 2006, 01:11 PM
Nice find! Here's what I've got on it according to updated BB values:
MODEL 1902 SPORTING
- .38 ACP, 6 in. barrel, blue, fixed sights, checkered hard rubber grips, no safety, high spur hammer and round hammer. Mfg. 1902-08.
This model is serial numbered approx. 4,275-11,000 and 30,000-30,190.
MODEL 1902 MILITARY
- .38 ACP cal., 6 in. barrel, blue, similar to 1902 Sporting, hammer changed to spur type in 1908, checkered black hard rubber grips, lanyard swivel on bottom rear of left grip. Mfg. 1902-29.
Add 30% for front slide checkering.
Add 20% with original box and instructions.
This model is serial numbered approx. 11,000-16,000 and 30,200-43,266.
MODEL 1902 MILITARY-U.S. ARMY MARKED
- similar specifications to 1902 Military, only serial number range 15,001-15,200.
November 18, 2006, 01:35 PM
Hey it looks really good but also looks all finger printed up. Since it is so valuable the first thing I would do is try to keep it in that condition, preserve it. I would maybe give it a good thin coat of some kind of gun oil or rust preventative made for guns. And try to keep it off the grips, unless they are easily removable, and then you could protect the steel under the wood too. Actually maybe it should go to a gunsmith for a thorough inside and out cleaning and preservation. Some collectors might prefer it untouched, dried up grease and crud inside left alone, but I go all out on old guns I get. It is probably valuable enough that would justify an expert for the job, if there are any hitches, but at least wipe off the fingerprints and get some kind of container that will not affect long term storage. A zip up pistol case can work OK if it is kept in a dry warm place, but the fabric insides will sort of soak off protective films. THe worst are the plastic foam lined cases. If they have open cell foam inside, they suck away the oil like a sponge, and can hold moisture likewise. I only use them for short term transport. Short version: give it TLC asap.
November 18, 2006, 03:13 PM
If you guys decide to shoot it, absolutely DO NOT shoot it with .38 Super ammunition!
November 18, 2006, 06:58 PM
Thanks guys. And it is very important to note that this pistol is NOT a model 1902 or '02 Sporting. This gun is a model 1900. The '02s had checkered rubber grips and dovetailed sights. It is serial number 143 of 3,500. From what I can find, it was of the production run that was sold to the Navy, that would make this the U.S. Navy Military Model 1900. It has "US" stamped on the left side of the upper trigger guard. As for the fingerprints in the pictures, they are the resulting prints left on a thin layer of gun oil that the gun has been coated in while I was handling it for examination. The blueing underneath is actually quite beautiful and in-tact. I spoke with a Colt collector and he estimated the value somewhere in the $7,500 - $9,500 range depending on market conditions. I still would like to hear any comments you all might have about this piece. I believe it belongs in a museum somewhere, but that is just me. As an aside, Mike, I have no plans on shooting this pistol. I get all warm and fuzzy just looking at it. :)
November 18, 2006, 07:46 PM
OK as long as your friend understands the importance of proper storage and handling to protect his rather sizeable investment there. We will never see another one posted on here, I suspect. IF he is gonna set on it for a long time the value will just grow as long as it stays that way. Good luck and lucky you to handle one of those! It would be fun to take to some Colt collectors get together and play "dumb" just to see what they would say and watch them drool.
November 18, 2006, 08:28 PM
This gun is a model 1900.
Well now... THAT changes things just a bit!!
- .38 ACP cal., 6 in. barrel, blue, plain walnut grips - checkered hard rubber grips after S/N 2,450, high spur hammer, sight safety. Mfg. 1900-03.
Add 60%+ for USN marked.
Add 50% for US marked with inspector initials.
Subtract 30%-50% for sight safety altered (factory refinished).
This model is serial numbered approx. between 1-4,274.
Somewhere between serial number 2,200 and 2,450, Colt began altering the sights to fixed sights in the production process, shipping both types. By approx. serial number 3,300, most guns shipped were altered during production. Guns altered during production are not refinished. Altered guns below serial number 2,200 were refinished, or at least had the slides refinished.
November 18, 2006, 10:16 PM
Thanks for the post KC. I am sorry that I stated it was an '02 in my original post, musta been a type-o. This one is US property marked on the trigger guard on the left side just before the trigger guard meets the slide and definitely a 1900. I don't recall seeing initials other than 'US' but I couldn't have seen all the details in just a few short minutes. I would consider this gun to be between 95% and 98%, and based off what you posted about the 'US' property mark. That would make it's value around $12,000 ($8,000 for the grade and then add 50% for the 'US' mark?) Now, I just have to decide how to proceed from here... This is the kind of guy that keeps it in a box under the bed if you know what I mean. I would love to have it, but more than that, I would love for everyone to be able to see it. What an important piece of American firearm history.
November 19, 2006, 04:32 PM
Wow! John Browning's first large caliber pistol design.
The first one that I have ever seen was in year 1950, at a small grocery store. The owner took guns in pawn and always had several for sale in the display window.
I was a 8th or 9th grader, but a real student of firearms.
Zipped by one day, and what did I see? A model 1900 Colt with the old bright Colt blue finish. Rating would be 98% finish. Much better than the pistol shown in this discussion. Price listed was $20 dollars! Went to my Dad and said "Pop, I have found this rare pistol for a great price. I need a little money to add to available funds and your approval to sign for the gun". He said, "You will not spend any money for an old pistol, which has no value at all".
I almost cried.
November 19, 2006, 07:25 PM
It is an expensive enough item, that in case the owner gets nervous about having that kind of burglar bait lying around, or wants a new car(you said he is no gun nut) I would refer him to one of the big time gun auction houses. That will get it alot of exposure to the big time Colt collectors and when they all want it, it will go well above estimated price in many cases. Then since you are his pal and helped him make a sweet deal, maybe he will buy you some nice custom 45 or a big screen TV or something. Shame if he packs it away. Then it will pop up on some gun forum(if they still exist) 40 years from now, having gone wildly higher in value. Or be crushed and melted down in some kind of totalitarian gun buyback scheme.
November 20, 2006, 10:41 PM
ONE THING! PLEASE, PLEASE, don't try to disassemble that pistol by pounding on the front "wedge" (Colt called it the "slide lock"). To get it out, the takedown plug (below the muzzle), has to be pushed in, then the slide lock comes out to the left.
Now, off the "Don't" rant. The gun is a Model 1900 First Army contract. The Navy contract guns had the serial on the right and "USN xxx" on the left.
There should be or should have been an inspector's cartouche on the left grip; the initials are "JTT" (John T. Thompson - yes, THAT Thompson). The sight acts as a safety, being pushed down to block the firing pin.
FYI, there is a picture of number 141 in Edward S. Meadows' book "U.S. Automatic Pistols, 1894-1920." It is identical to the one shown here. It is identified as having been issued to Capt. George W. Getchell; it is in the Connecticut State Library. Most of the info given here is from that book.
Incidentally, the contract was for 100 guns, but the Army sales didn't start at number 1 or run continuously, so serial numbers go up to 207. Numbers 11,12, 59, 60 and 87-132 were shipped May 16, 1900, 133-157 on May 23, 183-207 on June 1.
The latest Blue Book I have shows that gun at $9000 for 98%, $7000 for 95%
$12,000 for 100%, but that doesn't apply here. If I were selling, though, I would ask $10,000.
November 20, 2006, 10:45 PM
Hopefully before the long weekend, I will get to see it again. Thanks for the info.
September 18, 2007, 09:39 AM
I do not know if anyone is still looking, but I recently acquired an old Colt Model 1900 myself, although much later in the production run. Mine is serial number 4141. Several unusual things about it: the serrations on the slide are on the front rather than the rear as is typical of this model, and the hammer is round rather than the typical high-spur type. The rear sight is fixed, but according to my research, they were factory-altered in this way later in the production run. I have attached a picture if anyone is interested in commenting. As far as the original weapon mentioned in this thread, a Colt letter & some investigation as to whom the pistol was issued to would be in order to establish provenance & secure more value.
September 19, 2007, 07:47 PM
jim: you shot me down I was going to mention the rear sight safety.I had one when I was in navy in Trinadad.picked it up for work I did for native trinadadian.he was a machanic.I got permit from police to get ammo.shot the 50 rds and went for more NO!! one box a month.was I suprized.that was in 1944.but I did get a ladysmith and 3 browning 25 autos.
September 19, 2007, 10:00 PM
BroGeo's gun is one in which a plain rear sight was installed in place of the sight safety They are often called "conversions" and some may have been, but mostly Colt just kept using up existing slides and installed the plain sight in production.
Browning never seemed to favor manual safety devices on guns with hammers, evidently feeling that the half-cock and/or an inertia firing pin provided a perfectly adequate safety for carrying a loaded gun.
FWIW, with three exceptions (the military Model 1902, military Model 1903, and the Model of 1911, all so marked at the request of the Army), those model numbers like 1900 and 1908 were NOT used by Colt and the guns were NOT marked that way. They are names given to the guns by collectors so as to have a "shorthand" method of reference, but Colt usually called them by names like simply "Automatic Colt Pistol" or "Automatic Colt Pistol, Military Model, Calibre .45" (the "1905").
September 21, 2007, 05:34 PM
BroGeo, what you have there is a Colt 1902 Sporting Model.
And only the early models 1902 Sporting and 1902 Military models had the forward serrations. By 1904 the serrations were once again positioned at the rear of the slide where they remained until those models were discontinued in 1907 (Sporting) and 1928 (Military).
The round hammer was discontinued on all pistols in 1908 with a long spur hammer was incorporated.
September 21, 2007, 06:05 PM
Browning never seemed to favor manual safety devices on guns with hammers, evidently feeling that the half-cock and/or an inertia firing pin provided a perfectly adequate safety for carrying a loaded gun. EXACTLY!!!
If you look at all of the pistols that Browning designed for Colt, all of the pistols that featured an internal hammer (or striker) had both a manual safety AND a grip safety.
While the pistols with an exposed hammer had no manual safeties at all.
Until a grip safety appeared, in 1907, on the experimental pistols being developed for the military trials, at the request of the Army.
It wasn't until 1911 that a production Colt pistol had both an exposed hammer and a manual safety.
And the magazine disconnect "safety" that appeared in 1916 on the 1908 .25ACP and in 1926 on the 1903 .32 ACP & 1908 .380 ACP was entirely Colt's idea. They were not part of Browning's original design.
September 21, 2007, 08:13 PM
with three exceptions (the military Model 1902, military Model 1903, and the Model of 1911, all so marked at the request of the Army), those model numbers like 1900 and 1908 were NOT used by Colt and the guns were NOT marked that way. They are names given to the guns by collectors so as to have a "shorthand" method of reference, but Colt usually called them by names like simply "Automatic Colt Pistol" or "Automatic Colt Pistol, Military Model, Calibre .45" (the "1905").
True, the guns themselves were not marked that way. But that's because they had NO name or model marked on them.
It was the 1902 models that made it necessary to rename the original "Colt Automatic Pistol" to the Model 1900 since it was no longer THE Colt automatic. It may have not been called the 1900 in 1900 was it certainly was by 1902.
And while the Colt catalogues and advertising usually did not use "dated" model names, nontheless Colt did use them internally and quite often on parts lists.
Even the 1902 Sporting such as BroGeo pictured, which is notably different from the 1902 Military, was referred to as the "Model 1902 Seven Shot" on the parts list, in the original instruction sheet.
It's the "variations" of the different models that were "invented" by collectors to distinguish the changes made to the models through the years.
Also; I know of no 1903 Military? Are you thinking perhaps of the Model 1905 Military?
There was the 1903 Pocket Model and 1903 Pocket Model Hammerless.
The 1903 Pocket Model was a smaller version of the 1902 Sporting and was likewise chambered in .38 ACP.
The 1903 Pocket Model Hammerless (also known as the Model M) was chambered in .32ACP and really wasn't hammerless. The hammer was simply completely enclosed by the slide.
The later Model 1908 Pocket Model Hammerless was the Model M chambered in .380 ACP.
And the 1908 Vest Pocket Pictol chambered in .25 ACP was truely hammerless since it was striker fired.
September 21, 2007, 09:18 PM
The Model 1903 military (so marked) was a .41 caliber version of the Model 1902. It was strictly experimental, though at least one was submitted to the Army, and they asked for the different marking. AFAIK, it was never given any serious tests, but at least five were made. A picture is in Goddard, Page 82. (I included it simply because it was marked and just to see if anyone would pick up on it. I was a bit astonished to find that someone did! ;) )
True, Colt at times used those model dates, but not consistently and not, as you say, in their catalogs. They were basically unknown until rediscovered, or invented, by modern collectors. Even factory terms like "Model M" were not commonly known or used until the mid-1900s.
September 23, 2007, 12:51 AM
If your friend wants to sell his Colt Model 1900, I would be willing to extend a fair offer.
October 15, 2007, 08:57 AM
According to my research & the Blue Book of Gun Values, the pistol I have, serial number 4141, is a Colt Model 1900, not a 1902 Sporting. The Model of 1900 ended with serial number 4274 & the Model of 1902 started with serial number 4275. According to Spencer Hoglund, whom I contacted about this pistol, he stated, "...as far as the hammer goes, Colt produced 1900's and 1902's with 3 hammers. Some were the high spur hammers, some were round (bobbed) hammers, and some were more normal looking (the shape is somewhere in between). The high spur hammers were found on the 1900's and the early 1902's, so it is expected to find round hammers on the later guns. The round hammer was not used for long, and after the round hammer Colt went to the standard shaped hammer seen on the majority of '02s. This hammer is an earlier version of the standard 1911 hammer. As far as the serrations go, John Browning moved them several times to find the optimal location. He feared that placing them in the rear would cause the gun to rock backwards in your hand and be pointing right in your face. This is why he tried them towards the front of the slide. What he found here is that you are more likely to shoot yourself in the hand, so he eventually moved them back. I would recommend the book by Douglas Sheldon called the COLT 38 AUTOMATICS. Best of luck and I hope this helps..." This explains the rounded hammer & front slide serrations that certainly make this particular pistol appear to be a 1902 Sporting, but the serial number confirms it is a late 1900.
1456 pistols were produced in 1900, 1694 pistols were produced in 1901, & 1124 pistols were produced in 1902. Total serial number range for the Model 1900 is 1 - 4274. Also, the Colt Model 1902 Sporting had "September 9, 1902" added under the legend ""Browning's Patent"/ Pat'd April 20, 1897" on the left-hand side of the slide, which mine does not have.
October 15, 2007, 04:19 PM
For anyone who is interested, there is more information, pictures showing variations, etc. of the Colt Model 1900 at http://www.coltautos.com/default.asp. See attached pictures of a similar pistol of the same variation as my 1900. Production dates listed on this site vary from what I previously posted. Here are those numbers: Serial numbers 1 - 1449 (1450 produced in 1900), serial numbers 1450 -3499 (2049 produced in 1901), & serial numbers 3500 - 4274 (775 produced in 1902).
October 18, 2007, 01:50 PM
VUPDblue... If your friend's pistol is for sale, I am an interested buyer. Please ask your friend to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if he would like to talk more about this. Thank you.
October 18, 2007, 04:36 PM
I am glad you all find this pistol desireable. Actually, if/when it ever comes up for sale, the buyer will (hopefully) be me. I have been hounding him to sell it to me for quite some time now. Maybe he'll cave soon...
March 24, 2008, 03:26 PM
Just as a footnote, I received my Colt Archival Letter on the Model 1900 certifying the firearm I have mentioned before - here are the details:
Colt Model 1900 Automatic Pistol
Serial Number: 4141
Barrel Length: 6"
Type of Stocks: Not Listed (They are Hard Rubber)
Special Features: Stub Hammer
Shipped To: A. Combaluzier
Address: Mexico City, Mexico
Date of Shipment: May 24, 1902
Number of Same Type
Guns in Shipment: 5
I am wondering if these guns were shipped to Mexico as test guns prior to the larger orders (@800 guns) being placed for the 1902 Military Model starting in 1907. Does anyone have any suggestions for where to research that information?
April 16, 2008, 02:04 PM
BroGeo, is your 1900 for sale? I live just up the road from you. Don't have any of that instant messaging stuff though. Thanks! -DC
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