View Full Version : Colt D.A. 38

July 10, 2007, 01:05 PM
Hello everyone.
I've been offered a gun, and I don't know anything about it...I was hoping I can give you all some info and maybe you could tell me about it.

The gun is marked on the barrel "Colt D.A. 38" (I am guessing this is .38 Long Colt, as opposed to .38 Special. Am I correct?)

The gun does not appear to me to have any markings that look long enough to be a serial number, and I looked for about 20 minutes. However, it does say some things. The cylinder latch and inside the frame are stamped with "227". At the bottom of the frame, on the butt, "24" is stamped, with "028" stamped beneath it.

The cylinder in this pistol rotates freely counterclockwise when at rest...when I put the pistol into full lockup (hammer cocked, dropped, trigger still back), the gun was locked up tighter than a drum front to back, pretty tight side-to-side, and the cylinder gap was very good (by eye.) However, I seem to recall seeing another similar gun that had the same issue with the rotating cylinder, so I am wondering if they are designed to "roll" when the trigger is not being used to cycle the gun.

The top of the barrel is stamped with two patent dates, one says 8/5/84, and the other indicates 11/6/1888.

There is one almost exactly like it on auctionarms.... http://www.auctionarms.com/search/displayitem.cfm?itemnum=8067165
I did not take pictures as I don't own a camera. This gun has slightly different grips than the one I am looking at... mine say "COLT" in big letters that take up that whole circle, and there is no prancing pony.

The fellow is asking $175. The bore looks pretty good, and the crown looks pretty good...the cylinder latch has a little wear where the cylinder rotates past it.

Is this a good price? Can I resell this easily for more money? (I don't know anything about antique guns, but I want to see an old Colt go to a good home...it's just laying there dying.) Is it safe to shoot? Is 38 Long Colt interchangeable with anything else?

Thanks for all the <anticipated> help!

PS: Here's another auction. Mine looks JUST LIKE this one, but no nickel. Blued.

James K
July 11, 2007, 04:13 PM
First, .38 Long Colt is not made any more, and it is generally not recommended that .38 Special be used in those guns, even though it will fit in most. The .38 Long Colt cartridge is about 0.13" shorter than the .38 Special. Certainly, the "hot" .38 Special loads should NEVER be used in those guns. Some owners of revolvers chambered for .38 Long or .38 Short Colt trim .38 Special brass to the correct length and reload using black powder or a very light load of smokeless.

The serial number on the butt is in two lines so it is 24228, made in 1893.

The patent dates indicate that the gun is the Model 1889 Navy Double Action revolver, the earliest version of the revolver that was later adopted as the standard service pistol by the U.S. government, and which failed spectacularly in the Philippines when the power was insufficient to stop "Moro" attackers.

Since your gun has no Navy markings, it is the civilian model.

If you look, you should see that the cylinder has no locking notches on the outside like newer revolvers; the hand acts on the ratchet to work as a cylinder stop.

The free rotation of the cylinder, which you mention, was the major defect of the revolver and the one the Army insisted be corrected. The problem was that if a soldier or sailor fired one round then holstered the gun, the cylinder could rotate backward and a second firing attempt could result in the hammer falling on the already fired round, an obvious problem. So Colt refined the works to incorporate a new cylinder stop, and a separate part to lock the cylinder with the hammer down. The new model became the Model 1892, and other minor changes resulted in the Models 1894, 1895, 1896, 1901 and 1903.

As to value, unless the gun is rusted or has has been damaged, $175 is a bargain. In average decent condition (60% finish), a fair value would be $600. Even at 10% finish, the books show it at $300 or so. In like new condition (rarely encountered) value would go close to $2000.


July 11, 2007, 05:10 PM
Thanks for the help, Jim. I bought it today. Where should I go to sell this thing? I'm gonna try right here on the boards, first.