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Old September 9, 2019, 08:43 PM   #1
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Colt DA 38 Identification?

Inherited a couple old Colts from my grandfather. A DA 38 (6" i think barrel) that i BELIEVE to be a New Army? And a 1903 32ACP. They are both in a little rough of shape but I am hoping someone can help me identify the wheelgun since I can not find a discernible serial on it.

The cylinder is stamped with RAC on the inside and it has black chekered grips with the Horse logo. The barrel is stamped with the 1895 etc trademarks. But there is no Colt rollmark above the left grip and no serial on the heel. There is a plug in the bottom of the frame where the lanyard would have been.

The visible line stamps all APPEAR to match each other with 3582. I don't have great quality pics but will try

More edit - if keeps erroring on photo upload
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Last edited by BoredKender; September 9, 2019 at 11:06 PM.
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Old September 10, 2019, 12:38 AM   #2
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Colt 1892 Army/Navy, chambered for 38 Colt (NOT 38 Special!!). Looks like a civilian model. That polished spot on the bottom of the grip used to have a serial number.
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Old September 10, 2019, 06:39 AM   #3
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That was my thought too but all of my google searches have the 1892 with a logo engraved above the grip

Have been reflecting possibilities in my head and want opinions on a spin I cooked up. Given what I know of my family history and the markings on this, could it be plausible that it was originally a military model and had the damning information removed such as the serials and original grips?

It's the RAC stamp and the factory lanyard hole that makes me wonder about this the most but the only knowlege I have is from trolling here before biting the bullet to sign up and ask. What other markings would/should I be looking for?

Last edited by BoredKender; September 10, 2019 at 09:31 AM.
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Old September 10, 2019, 03:37 PM   #4
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Post this on the Colt Forum.
One member actually wrote the standard reference on the Colt New Army & Navy models.

RAC are the initial of Renaldo A Carr the US government inspector of military Colt pistols.
There should be an RAC stamp on the left side of the frame at the top, right in front of the hammer if it's a US military pistol.
If there is no RAC stamp on the frame, it's a civilian model.

All Colt New Army & Navy revolvers, whether military or commercial had the serial number stamped on the bottom of the butt.
Military models would also have the US Army or Navy stamp.

Military models had smooth walnut grips, commercial models had hard black rubber grips with molded in checkering and Colt logos.
Navy models had the COLT name on the top, Army models had the Colt pony at the top.
Colt would install a lanyard loop on commercial guns on order.
Some guns had lanyards added after-market, not by Colt.

In your case I think you have a commercial model Colt New Army with a replacement military cylinder.
The numbers on small parts are factory assembly numbers used to keep fitted parts together during manufacture.
Often the assembly number is not related to the serial number.
All assembly numbers should match.

The problem..... It's a Federal Felony to have a firearm that's had the serial number removed or defaced.
I doubt anyone would be concerned about a 100+ years old revolver chambered for an obsolete cartridge, but an anti-gun cop or prosecutor could put you in jail if you're caught with it.
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Old September 10, 2019, 03:46 PM   #5
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Well balls. I was using this site ( as a reference after a co worker pointed it out and was hoping all the stampings were indeed the last 4 of my serial and that I might be able to get the whole thing from Colt to have engraved on it.

Will have to check out the link you provided after work. Can't get to it on the network here

I Will say that a lot of the "pitting" is cooincidentally in clusters where the RAC stamps would have been on the frame. Will take an up-close of it later but it kind of stands out as an oddity as well.

Edit - of note I have found 8 and K stamps under the grip as well as K and what looks like a backwards p on the barrel

Last edited by BoredKender; September 10, 2019 at 05:44 PM.
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Old September 10, 2019, 09:04 PM   #6
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It's a Federal Felony to have a firearm that's had the serial number removed or defaced.
This thought occurred to me, as well. Now, here's the question, is the pistol an "antique" and therefore not a "firearm" under current Federal law? Does the ser# "requirement" apply?

As I understand the law, while firearms were not required to have a serial number until 1968, if the gun ever had one, and it has been removed or defaced, no matter who did it, or when, you cannot legally possess it.

Whether or not this applies to the Colt you have is a question I cannot answer. Generally, surrendering the prohibited firearm voluntarily (IF that's what it is) doesn't result in prosecution. BUT it could, if the authorities so desired.

It will cost $$$ but the safest thing is to get QUALIFIED legal advice. And, I'd do it sooner, rather than later. Best case, its a legal antique and not a "firearm" under the law, so "possession of a firearm with a removed/defaced serial #" does not apply. Worst case, you're looking at a Federal Felony conviction and all that entails. Also, be aware that even if its a "best case" under Federal law, it might not be, under your state law. It is possible.

Talk to a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of these things. Seriously.
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Old September 10, 2019, 09:12 PM   #7
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"Serial numbers on the military and commercial models were stamped on the butt in two lines, with military models having US Army or US Navy stamps on the butt and military inspection stamps on the frame.

Other parts of the guns were stamped with factory assembly numbers. These numbers were stamped on parts during manufacture to keep fitted parts together until an actual serial number was assigned and stamped on the butt.

These assembly numbers are not serial numbers and had no further meaning once the serial number was stamped.

It's not unusual to see New Army & Navy revolvers with the serial number and military stamps removed from the bottom of the butt, and people assume the assembly numbers are the serial number, which they are not.

It's also common for owners to refuse to accept that the butt stamps were removed without leaving any signs of removal.

Because it was easy to remove stamps from the flat bottom of the frame, Colt began stamping double action revolvers serial number on the frame under the barrel where the cylinder crane seats, on the crane itself, and often inside the side plate"

Am I the only one that this seems super contradictory to? I guess when I get brave enough to dismantle I will check under the side plate. If I can not find anything I may just fill the barrel with some lead or something and render it a permanently non-firing prop.

-edit- don't know if it's a good sign or a bad sign that the numbers under the plate match the same 4 found everywhere else... Maybe I will luck out and that actually is part of the serial. Will try my hand at contacting colt I guess

Last edited by BoredKender; September 10, 2019 at 11:40 PM.
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Old September 11, 2019, 06:43 PM   #8
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Colt will not be able to help you. The serial numbers of many of these models had the same last digits. You have to have the entire serial number.

Colt stamped the serial number on the bottom of the butt of the New Army & Navy until the model was discontinued in 1907.

When the new double action design known as the Army Special was introduced in 1908 the location of the serial number of all Colt double action revolvers was changed to the frame under the barrel and on the inside of the crane.

Colt did not always stamp the serial number inside the side plate.
A neighbor asked me to clean her 1910 Colt Police Positive and there was no side plate number inside.

There is one way to make a gun with an obliterated serial number legal..... Apply to the BATF to have a new serial number issued, and have a FFL gunsmith stamp that number on the frame.
These numbers will usually have "BATF" or "ATF" as the serial number prefix.

I doubt that you'd get into any trouble with this, if nothing else because few local law enforcement or even BATF agents would have any idea that the numbers on the parts are not the serial number.
That this model had a serial number on the bottom of the butt is something few people in law enforcement would have ever heard of.
To most of them, this would just be an old obsolete revolver of no interest to them.

In any case, due to the condition I doubt you'd want to attempt to fire it anyway.
These models have a very complicated, fragile action that breaks or gets out of order rather easily.....treat it gently.
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Old September 11, 2019, 09:52 PM   #9
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Again thank you for the good info. I guess I was kind of holding out hope for better news. I saw another post on here saying when colt refurbed an old gun they covered the plate when they refinished it. How'd that was the case and that explained the odd RAC and year obliteration on the frame. Still won't rule it out entirely but I do acknowledge it as highly unlikely.

Was also hoping to at least narrow it down to the year through the rest of the stamping and roll marks and see if I could brute force from there.

In the minute chance that colt (or another gunsmith in the period) surfaced over it do you think I could just take a dremmel or something and buff the finish off the butt? I know I sound petulant but would really hate to see this thing destroyed. I have been giving it bathes in old 9 and a lot of the tarnish has been cleaning up and looking like it should given its age

Last edited by BoredKender; September 12, 2019 at 09:44 AM.
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Old September 12, 2019, 07:28 PM   #10
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As was shown on the Colt Forum, Colt directly stamped the serial number on the butt.
There was no "plate" or any covering.
Someone just ground off the serial number on your revolver.
It's at least "possible" a police technician might be able to raise the serial number, but how you'd get that done I don't know.

Also, it's not unusual to see older Colt's on which the barrel has been replaced with an earlier or later barrel, and sometimes from a totally different model, since the barrel threads were the same on most Colt revolvers.
This means the 1895 date might be wrong.

Assuming this is a correct barrel, that means it could be a Model 1895, 1896, 1901, or 1903.
Serial numbers started in 1895 at 15100, and ended in 1907 around 291000.
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