View Full Version : Colt Model 1901 DA 38 - Need info...

September 27, 2006, 07:53 AM
My father has past on to me a quite old revolver, and I am just trying to find out its heritage.

It is a Colt Model 1901 DA 38 revolver. 6-shot, .38 Long Colt from what I can tell. Wood grips, 6" barrel, fixed blade type front sight. Marked with U.S. ARMY Model 1901 on bottom of grip. Lanyard swivel, and serial number in the 140XXX's

It has R.A.C. stamped in several places on the grip and frame.

It appears to be in tremendous condition, with the blueing solid, the wood is without scratches or wear, and all markings are clear.

Can anyone provide any information on this for me? I am not looking to sell, just would like to know its history, and value beyond it being from my father.


September 27, 2006, 03:31 PM
I'm NOT an expert on the earlier Colt DA revolvers but here's what I can offer:

The Colt 1901 was a slightly modified version of the Colt 1892 "New Army and Navy" revolver.

The first model in this early DA revolver was the Model 1889 "New Navy" which went through several modifications, including the Models 1892, 1994, 1896, 1901, and finally the 1903.

These were the first Swing-out cylinder double action revolvers ever made, and Colt revolutionized revolvers with the new design. S&W wouldn't get their first swing-out DA on the market until 1896.

These were the "grand daddy" of all the Colt DA revolvers that followed, and the basic design was made up until the Colt Python was discontinued in 2004.
These early series guns were discontinued in 1907, with about 291,000 produced for all models.

Your 1901 is a genuine US military issue model, as indicated by the stamps on the butt.
Original grips on the 1901 were hard, black (Gutta Percha) rubber with molded checkering, the Colt Pony in a circle at the top, the word COLT, and sometimes a date.

R.A.C. are the initials of Rinaldo A. Carr, the US Army officer who inspected the guns.
Your gun, with serial in the 140,000 range was made in 1900.
In 1900 the serials started at 131,000, and ended at 147,999.

The US Army and Navy bought large quantities of these revolvers in a now obsolete .38 Long cartridge.
It was this design Colt and the .38 Long cartridge that failed in the Philippines and led to the adoption of the Model 1911 .45 Automatic.

Values on these guns range "Around" $1000 for one in 90% condition, with a premium for a genuine issue military model.

On word of warning: These early Colt's often have chambers bored straight through with no "step" in the chamber.
As such, they will chamber the .38 Special and even the .357 Magnum.
They should NOT be fired with ANY .38 Special loads, and certainly not the .357 Magnum.
These guns were made for early low-pressure loads, and WILL NOT safely shoot even low-power .38 Special ammo.

September 27, 2006, 05:57 PM
Thank you sir, for all of the detail. It means a lot to know its history. It meant a lot to receive this revolver from my father, who got it from his father.

Attached are a couple of photos.


September 27, 2006, 07:23 PM
It's unusual to see a New Army in that good of original finish.

One in that condition would bring higher prices.
In 95%, value would be "about" $1200. In 98% $1450.
The original holster also adds to the monetary value since the survival rate for holsters was lower than for the guns.

If you want to spend about $75.00, Colt will research the gun and issue you a Colt Historical Letter.

This high-quality, frameable letter will detail everything Colt knows about the gun, including:
When it was made.
Who it was shipped to.
The original finish, barrel length, caliber, type of grips, etc.

These letters add to the historical value of older guns.

September 27, 2006, 08:35 PM
Again, thank you very much. Can I contact Colt directly, through their website, or is there a particular contact I should make. I would love to be able to put together a letter of history, in a shadow box of some sort, for placement with the gun and holster.

Thanks again!!!

September 28, 2006, 12:32 AM
Here's Colt's web site:

Here's the link to their Historical Letter info:

You might also ask about the "Identification Service" listed on the second page of the price sheet. This is the general history of a specific model, would include a much better general history of the Model 1901, and it's use by the military.

September 28, 2006, 06:02 AM
Thanks very much! I am off to see the Wizard... ;)

June 8, 2011, 08:28 PM
This is an old post So I Hope someone is still around to help me out. I am looking at purchasing a 1901 but I would like to make sure it is all original. Does anyone know where all of the serial number locations are? Also is there anything else I should look for? Thanks in advance for the help!

June 9, 2011, 06:48 PM
First, I need to modify my first post above.
Like all Colt military revolvers of that time, the grips were smooth walnut, not hard black rubber as I stated.
The hard black rubber grips with molded in checkering and Colt logos were used on the commercial models.

If your 1901 New Army & Navy is a military revolver, the actual serial number is on the butt, in two lines
You'll find other numbers on various parts. These are factory assembly numbers.
During manufacture some parts are fitted as assemblies before a serial number was assigned and stamped.
In order to keep these fitted parts together during manufacture, an assembly number was stamped on them.
Once the gun had the official serial number stamped, the factory assembly numbers ceased to have any meaning.

If original, the barrel length will be 6", the grips will be smooth walnut, the finish will be blued, and the caliber will be in .38 Long Colt.
NOTE: Even though these guns will usually chamber the .38 Special, they were not made to handle the higher pressures of the .38 Special, and the gun should NOT be fired with modern .38 Special ammo.
If you want to shoot it and it's in good enough condition to allow it, you need to buy .38 Long Colt ammo from the cowboy ammunition makers, or make up special very light loads with .38 Special cases.
Note too that the .38 Long Colt bullet is a larger diameter than .38 Special with a "heeled bullet" similar to the .22LR.

These Colt New Army & Navy revolvers have complicated, fragile actions and they break and get out of order easily. Virtually no gunsmith will even attempt repairs, and no new parts are available. Due to the complicated, hand fitted action, used parts will usually not be able to be used for repairs.

Bottom line, due to the fragile action and cost of suitable ammo, these old Colt's are better as historical display guns, not shooters.

June 9, 2011, 06:55 PM
Great Thanks for the info...... I am very much into shooting collectable firearms. I might look for something different. Thanks again for the help!!!