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Old November 3, 2012, 04:51 PM   #1
mark clausen
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Colt New Army and Navy

A friend of mine asked me to research this revolver for him. I believe it is a Colt New Army and Navy. Patent dates are 1884, 1888, and 1895. Serial # on the butt is 2434xx. I have a couple antique firearms books, one is old and the newer one doesn't describe civilian models which this obviously is since it has no martial stamps of any kind. I think this was made in 1905, am I correct? Could anyone give me a ballpark value? He isn't going to sell it, it came from his great uncle through his dad and is going to one of his sons. My friend asked me to research the gun, not find out it's value, but I am very curious. I have a 1990 Flayderman's book that lists it for $275 in excellent cond. I realize how long ago that is and the gun isn't in excellent condition, but it is in very good condition. Any help would be appreciated. Here is a fairly representational pic of the gun.
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Old November 3, 2012, 05:27 PM   #2
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You can probably add $100 or so to that 1990 figure, but the condition keeps the gun in the low price range. (It also appears to have been polished and cold blued, which would lessen the value more than if it had been left alone.)

When Colt made those guns for the civilian market, they kept pace with the military production in regard to changes and updates, but never gave them new model names or numbers. The civilian production guns were called the "New Army" and the "New Navy" but at any given time they were identical except for the grip design, in this case the "New Navy."

Those guns by that time had barrels sized to the .357" bullet of the .38 Special and can fire that cartridge with good accuracy. Note, though, that only standard velocity .38 Special should be fired in that gun; no +P and definitely no +P+. The chambers are bored straight through and even .357 Magnum can be chambered, but certainly should not be fired.

The barrel marking was not changed, at least in part because the .38 Special was properly called the ".38 Smith & Wesson Special and there is no way Colt would put that on their guns.

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Old November 3, 2012, 06:05 PM   #3
mark clausen
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James, thankyou for your reply. I have to say I was a little suprised at such a low estimate but have absolutely no real ground to stand on in an arguement with you having never bought or sold one. As I said this gun will never come up for sale but I may have suggested a higher value based on what any Colt sells for here locally at an auction. However I will argue with you on the cold blue subject for two reasons. I know the family very well, three generations back. They ain't reblueing no guns. Also while I have little experience with antique Colts, I do alot of cold blueing. Old .22s and shotguns mostly but I do have an eye for it. Perhaps I could have posted a better picture but it is not my gun and well you know. Thanks again for your input. Do you think I was correct on the manufacture date?
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Old November 3, 2012, 07:39 PM   #4
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2434xx was made in 1905.
The numbers started that year at 241000. 1906 started at 256000.
Production ended in 1907.

I'm not an expert on these, but only the Model 1889 New Navy models did NOT have locking notches on the outside of the cylinder.
The New Army models had the double locking notches like the one shown.

The Blue Book lists values as follows, but this is only a estimate sicne prices change so fast. Value depends on how much ORIGINAL factory finish remains, and on the gun being in proper working condition:

60%--$300
70%--$400
80%--$500
90%--$700
95%--$1,150.

Tell your friend to treat the gun very gently. These are very complex actions and have a history of getting out of order or breaking easily .
If damaged, the chances of repairs are about non-existent due to the lack of parts and any gunsmith who will even attempt repairs.
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Old November 4, 2012, 01:22 AM   #5
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Things get real confusing on the names of those revolvers. The first New Navy was adopted by the Navy and called by them the 1889 model. Colt called it the New Navy in their advertising. (Presumably the "Old Navy" was the Model 1851.)

Then the Army demanded changes to the New Navy, and adopted it in 1892 as the Model 1892; Colt called it the New Army. (The "Old Army" I assume was the 1873, but who knows the mind of an ad writer?)

Then the Navy decided to adopt the New Army as the Model 1895; Colt kept calling the civilian version the New Navy, even though they stopped production on the old New Navy and all the civilian guns were like the New Army. To satisfy requests for the New Navy, they simply used the old Navy type grip pattern (COLT in an oval) on the "Navy" guns, and the rampant Colt on the "Army" guns. Advertising used the words "New Army and New Navy" or sometimes "New Army and Navy", the term commonly used by collectors.

Then, around 1903, the chamber shoulders on both contract and civilian guns magically disappeared and the barrel dimensions were changed. The change was made to the service guns with the Army Model of 1903, to civilian production in early 1904. Now the Colt guns could the new .38 S&W Special cartridge, but Colt, of course, never used those hated initials or changed the barrel marking. (Needless to say, those old revolvers should be fired only with .38 Special standard loads, not +P or +P+.

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Old November 4, 2012, 09:51 AM   #6
mark clausen
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Interesting, I really was curious as to specific caliber. Flayderman's book says "38 Colt and 41 Colt calibers; 38 S&W made in lesser quantities." The right side of the barrel only says COLT. D.A. 38. I don't know one from the other but a 38 special slips in the cylinder. I dont have any 38 colts laying around. Not that I have any intention of firing this gun as it isn't mine. Thanks
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Old November 4, 2012, 01:36 PM   #7
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I think Flayderman is in error. The New Army and New Navy civilian models were made in .38 Long Colt*, .41 Colt, and .32 W.C.F. (.32-20). Perhaps it is the latter the writer was thinking about. I can find nothing, in any other document, that indicates Colt ever made that revolver in .38 S&W.

By the serial number, your revolver would have the straight chambers and was made to fire the .38 Special as well as the .38 Short and .38 Long Colt cartridges. It might also accept .357 Magnum, but please don't fire that round in it.

*They will accept .38 Short Colt as well, in the same way a gun may be described as using .22 Long Rifle, while it will also shoot .22 Short and .22 Long.

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Old November 4, 2012, 06:44 PM   #8
mark clausen
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It would appear you are correct sir as the cylinder is bored parallel straight thru. Reference books are not stone tablets handed down from above. I collect mainly old Mossberg 22s and our main reference site...Damguy... has items we have found to be incorrect. The search for new and more correct info is one of the great things about this hobby, would you agree?
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Old November 4, 2012, 09:25 PM   #9
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Another way to look at it is that books like the Blue Book, Flayderman's and others get 99.9999% right. That there are errors doesn't surprise me; I am surprised there are not more. Also, what would we do without those books and the other more detailed books on every kind, make and model of gun. The books on Colts alone would fill a couple of book cases and, while there are trash books there also many to which real experts have literally devoted a lifetime.

In view of the above, I will note that while much of what I write on those revolvers comes from my own knowledge and experience, more comes from several Colt books, especially Robert Best's A Study of Colt's New Army and Navy Pattern Double Action Revolvers 1889-1908.

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Old November 4, 2012, 10:04 PM   #10
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Thank you sir for your time, input and wisdom. You are an asset to this whole community.
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Old November 5, 2012, 09:59 AM   #11
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Ok, count me confused, these were originally chambered in 38 LC, a 12,000 CUP round. A 38 Special is a 17.000 CUP round, is that safe to shoot?
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Old November 5, 2012, 03:07 PM   #12
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38 LC is a 12000 cup round, 38 special is a 17000 psi round. Not the same thing. I have not found a chart that shows cup to psi for both rounds, but was able to find some conversion formulas that made my head hurt. I think I will work on them later this evening unless someone can jump in here sooner with an answer.
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Old November 5, 2012, 05:21 PM   #13
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If you look at the Hodgdon data, it's 17,000 CUP for the 38 Special (the PSI values are in the same ballpark btw).
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Old November 5, 2012, 05:29 PM   #14
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"Ok, count me confused, these were originally chambered in 38 LC, a 12,000 CUP round. A 38 Special is a 17.000 CUP round, is that safe to shoot?"

Yes; that gun is overengineered and more than strong enough for the original .38 Special. The cylinder is the same as the OP and is actually thicker than that of a K-38. For many years, there have been dire warnings about not shooting .38 Special in those guns put out by folks who apparently were not aware that Colt actually made the later ones to take that round.

I will say that I don't recommend any extensive shooting of those old guns with .38 Special or even .38 Long Colt. They are old guns and further are prone to parts breakage with few parts available and few gunsmiths who can work on them.

At that time, the .38 Special was the "new thing" (we all know about that!) and Colt didn't want left out, but at the same time considered S&W and S&W cartridges to be beneath contempt. Still, customer demand could not be totally ignored, so Colt sort of "snuck" its .38 Special revolver onto the market by modifying the barrel and cylinder of its New Army and New Navy revolvers; AFAIK, they never advertised the new "feature" letting dealers and customers find out for themselves. Later, of course, that model was revamped internally and became the Army Special, the Officers Model, and the Official Police.

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Old November 6, 2012, 07:54 AM   #15
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"For many years, there have been dire warnings about not shooting .38 Special in those guns put out by folks who apparently were not aware that Colt actually made the later ones to take that round."

The big question is, though, did Colt heat treat the cylinders when they started officially chambering the guns in .38 Special?

I don't believe the Army-Navy models had heat treated cylinders.
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Old November 6, 2012, 03:05 PM   #16
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Quote:
The big question is, though, did Colt heat treat the cylinders when they started officially chambering the guns in .38 Special?

I don't believe the Army-Navy models had heat treated cylinders.
I don't know that in of itself is a concern. S&W made a ton of 38 specials before the heat treating of cylinders. With appropriate ammo, those pre-heat treat guns can still be fired safely. I think the concern is what type of ammo should be used, in this case standard velocity 38 specials (assuming the gun can chamber them) moreso than whether or not the heat treating was done. Even if heat treated, I think standard velocity 38 specials are the only choice for shooting such a gun.
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Old November 6, 2012, 03:15 PM   #17
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The concern is to what level of pressure the steel in the cylinder will support. We can't just assume that if it will handle.38 long pressure out will automatically be able to handle .38 special pressures.

That is never a winning assumption with any revolver of this age.
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Old November 6, 2012, 04:04 PM   #18
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Quote:
The concern is to what level of pressure the steel in the cylinder will support. We can't just assume that if it will handle.38 long pressure out will automatically be able to handle .38 special pressures.
My statements were assuming a gun which was designed for 38 special, but the manufacturer (Colt) did not mark the gun that way. You have a point if the gun was designed for 38 colt but re-chambered for 38 special. I didn't look at it that way in my previous post.

Keenan mentioned that 38 special versions would be marked 38 colt:

Quote:
The barrel marking was not changed, at least in part because the .38 Special was properly called the ".38 Smith & Wesson Special and there is no way Colt would put that on their guns.
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Old November 6, 2012, 04:19 PM   #19
Mike Irwin
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It is my understanding that, if the gun is marked Colt D.A. .38, which that one is, it is chambered for .38 Long Colt and .38 Short Colt, but not .38 Special.

Regarding marking the gun for .38 Special, as far as I know, Colt used that phrase -- .38 Special, or .38 Colt Special -- to denote those guns so chambered.

I may be wrong about that.

I do know that Colt only made this particular model in .38 Special for about 3 years, and apparently in quite limited numbers
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Old November 6, 2012, 09:36 PM   #20
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Those guns were all marked simply "Colt D.A. .38" even though the later ones would take (and were intended to take) .38 Special.

The Army contract Model of 1903 was chambered for the .38 Special and the civilian models from 225xxx ("Navy") and 222xxx ("Army") were also made for .38 Special; that was from about mid-1904. So since production of that model series finally ended in 1910, production of .38 Special guns lasted around 5 1/2 years.

Colt was not noted for customer oriented caliber markings. Their .32 Pocket revolver was made in both .32 Colt and .32 S&W/.32 Colt New Police, but the marking is just "Colt D.A. .32" with nothing on the gun to indicate which .32. The New Service .45 was marked "Colt D.A. .45" for .45 [Long] Colt but the same marking was used for the Model 1917, which was made for .45 ACP.

Another example is the Colt "Marine Corps" Model. A 1905 Colt ad says specifically that it is for the .38 Long Colt AND the "38 S.& W. Special". A 1906 ad for the same model says it will "take the following cartriges: .38 Long and Short Colt, .38 U.S. Government, and .38 S. & W. Special." Yet, all those were marked "Colt D.A. .38."

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Old November 7, 2012, 09:44 AM   #21
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Intersting. That does not mesh up with what I understand about these early guns, but I'll be the first to admit that I don't have nearly the depth of knowledge about Colts that I do with S&Ws.
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Old November 7, 2012, 12:04 PM   #22
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Mike, there has been a fair amount of misinformation about those guns, and very little real research except by the aforementioned Mr. Best.

Then, as this thread well shows, Colt added to the confusion by calling two different revolvers by the same name, then calling the same revolver by two different names, using the terms Army and Navy on civilian guns, deliberately obscuring the caliber change, and so forth. The army did its part in the confusion by using new model dates for minor changes. Add in an element of panic ("those old guns will blow up") and you have a lot of "mythinformation".

They do have fragile parts, springs especially, but as far as strength goes, they are more than adequately strong for the .38 Special ammunition of the period.

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