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Old October 22, 2008, 11:43 AM   #1
01Apache
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Colt New Army/Navy

I recently picked up a Colt New Army or New Navy .38 revolver. I believe this is a civilian model, but I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure it is chambered for the .38 Long Colt and not .38 special, but again I'm not sure. According to the S/N (2XX 4XX) it was made in 1904 (per a web search). After getting it home and cleaning up a bit; it dosen's look like it's ever been fired!

Should I keep it as is; or would it be OK to put a few rounds through it? Black Hills makes .38 Long Colt if it is indeed chambered for that round. Any advice?
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Old October 22, 2008, 12:02 PM   #2
Jim Watson
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In the absense of a cash offer, I would have a hard time resisting the temptation to shoot such a nice old gun, but bear in mind that these old left-wheelers are not real sturdy. I wouldn't shoot it much.
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Old October 22, 2008, 02:54 PM   #3
Chipperman
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Wow, that's a beautiful finish!
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Old October 22, 2008, 04:32 PM   #4
01Apache
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One thing I forgot to mention on this is that when the hammer is at rest, you can rotate the cylinder counterclockwise like you would a SA at half cock. When cocked SA, everything locks up tight. DA with my thumb controling the hammer seems to be fine also.
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Old October 22, 2008, 04:51 PM   #5
James K
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Two pieces of bad news, I am afraid. The first is that that "beautiful finish" is a reblue job. The gun has been heavily polished and reblued, removing any collector value. The second item is that the cylinder rotating with the hammer down probably means the bolt* spring is broken or missing or the bolt is missing, common problems with those guns. Few parts are available and there ever fewer gunsmiths who understand those guns and are willing to undertake the frustrating task of fixing them. Since it seems to work OK with a bit of care, I would just leave it as is.

The Black Hills .38 Long Colt should work fine. Some of those guns will accept .38 Special and low velocity .38 Special loads would be OK, but definitely avoid any "hot" or +P/+P+ loads.

Value in that condition is in the $200+ range.

*The bolt is the small part that engages the front set of cylinder notches and keeps the cylinder from rotating when the hammer is down.

Jim
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Old October 22, 2008, 07:56 PM   #6
01Apache
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Thanks Jim. The bolt is there; should I take it apart (remove the plate on the right side) and check the condition of the spring? If the spring is broken, would it still be safe to shoot? If there's no collector value, I'd like to buy a few boxes of ammo and take it to the range. This is my first old Colt and I'm pretty happy with it regardless.
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Old October 23, 2008, 12:50 PM   #7
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First, a warning. Those revolvers are very complex and parts, especially springs, are easily broken or lost, and parts are hard to get and expensive. Most gunsmiths won't touch them for that reason.

You can remove the sideplate, but be sure to take the tension off the mainspring first. And when re-installing, watch not to hurt the hand spring, which is also a bear to replace. Note the way the stud in the inside of the sideplate works to keep the hand spring in place when installing the sideplate.

If you are lucky, the problem will be dirt or crud, but the bolt spring is very fragile and they often break. Gun Parts had some, but I think now they only have the whole bolt assembly at $25 or so. Also, many replacement bolt springs are also broken. The back end has a little curve where the spring bears on the rebound lever; that part is often broken off and the spring doesn't work right. Bolt springs can be made (and I have made them) but it takes a lot of patience and a knowledge of how they work.

The gun can be safely fired with the bolt inoperative. As I noted earlier, the first models did not have the bolt, leading to the possibility that a soldier would fire a couple of shots, then holster the gun. If the cylinder turned while the gun was being holstered or drawn, the next round up might be a fired cartridge, not a good situation in combat.

Jim
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Old October 23, 2008, 03:42 PM   #8
01Apache
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I took the sideplate off and put it right back on. Like you said; theres a lot of delicate looking stuff in there. It didn't look like anything was broken or missing but I probably don't really know exactly what I'm looking at. Anyway, thanks again! When my ammo comes in I'll take it to the range and post a report.
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Old October 23, 2008, 08:35 PM   #9
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Jim Keenan has given you very good advice. I speak from experience as to the difficulty of finding parts and then working on these revolvers. Parts might be found, but there is no guarantee they will work, presuming you can get them in place and the piece re-assembled. I broke two flat springs before I got mine working, but I may never fire it.

The best, and only book about these fine early Colt New Army & Navy revolvers is: A Study of Colt's New Army and Navy Pattern Double Action Revolvers 1889-1908 by Robert (Bob) Best. He used to hang out on the Colt forum. I believe he was working on an update to his 2004 book.

HTH
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Old October 23, 2008, 09:42 PM   #10
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If you want to chance removing the sideplate again, the bolt sits on the right side (on top) of the trigger. The rear has a sort of a half moon shape and the top right goes through a slot in the frame and into the front cylinder notches. The bolt spring is a kind of "U" shape that goes into a slot in the bottom of the bolt then curves up around the bottom of the bolt to the rear and bears on the rebound lever.

Here is a picture. The top arrow points at the bolt, the bottom one at the bolt spring. You can see the tip of the bolt sticking up through the bottom of the cylinder window in the frame.

Jim
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Old October 24, 2008, 10:26 AM   #11
01Apache
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Thanks for the book info HTH, and thanks for posting a picture Jim. I've attached one of mine after taking the plate off; luckily I took it before I put it back together. Maybe my bolt spring is worn out as it dosen't look as tight as the one in your pic. I'm not going to mess with anything and just leave it like it is. I surely appreciate all the help!
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Old October 31, 2008, 09:27 PM   #12
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Yours looks OK. I realize in looking at my picture that I photographed the wrong gun, and that one has the little "S" tip broken off the spring, though it still works OK. It is easy enough to check the bolt and be sure it springs back up if pushed down. If it will engage the front cylinder notch when it is in the right position, then the bolt and spring are OK.

But also involved in keeping the cylinder from rotating when the hammer is down is the cylinder latch. Many have the little lip worn off.

I say again, those guns were not good designs and trying to work on them is like herding cats. Just when you think one problem is solved, another crops up.

Jim
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Old November 4, 2008, 11:19 AM   #13
01Apache
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Thanks Jim. Buying this revolver was a learning experience and I don't feel I got "taken" even though I did pay twice what you mentioned should have been paid. The guy I bought it from didn't appear to know too much about it except that it was an "old Colt" and that it was in pretty good shape for it's age. Now that I've been looking; those guns are going for between $800.00 and $1500.00 and they look their age. I'll be better prepared for my next purchase.
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