This is a good example of an early production Colt Lightning Revolver. This one I bought years ago...it was found in Florida inside an old sideboard dresser or chest along with a Colt 1860 Army Revolver and a 3 Band Sharps Percussion Rifle that to my surprise actually ID'd to a US Volunteer in 1865. Can't remember his the name but always wondered if this little Colt didn't belong to the same fellow in later years. Of course, like most lightnings, it refused to work properly so as a result, there it sat for years on my shelf until I found some time to get it fixed. My gunsmith did a nice job and it works quite well now.
Introduced in 1877, this was Colt's first Double Action revolver with a 3 1/2" barrel aka "storekeepers model". There weren't too many Double Action cartridge revolvers on the market back then....and Colt charged a whopping $15.00 for one these...that was a lot of money back then! Offered in .32, .38, and .41 Center Fire Calibers and a variety of barrel lengths, this particular gun is in .38 Centerfire with nickel finish. The serial number is in the 18,000 range. Mfd in 1879. Billy the Kid is often rumored to have used a Model 1877 Colt...which would have to be from this era...as he died in the summer of 1881...Colt was at 28,000 to 34,000 Model 1877's during that year. The left side of the barrel still has its early (and fragile) factory acid-etched panel which reads "COLT D.A. 38". Front sight is also the early style made of German Silver (later ones are steel). Most early Lightnings you see out there have checkered rosewood grips into the low to mid 20,000's serial range. This is one of the earliest ones I've seen with the checkered hard rubber grips (18,000 range). At first, I somewhat questioned these grips but they fit the gun with such absolute perfection, show wear like the gun, and were almost encrusted to the inside of the gripstraps with 130 years worth of dried grease, dirt, and light surface rust....it left me confident these are in fact, original to the gun. After doing a little more checking just to be sure, I found a similar Lightning, also with hard rubber grips, with even lower serial number down in the 14,000 range. So apparently, Colt must have been building 1877's concurrently with both Rosewood and hard rubber grips during 1879-80.
Overall condition is NRA Antique Good+. This is what some of us collectors affectionately term a "dirty nickel gun". To some they're ugly...but to those who appreciate the look, they are all works of art that mother nature leaves no two alike. Back in 1879 when this was new, it started off its life as a beautiful nickel plated revolver with fire blued screws and appointments. Since then, time has reduced the nickel down to a contrasting mixture of dark patina and hazed nickel. This one has a rather interesting look to it as the trigger guard and backstrap retain about 90% of their original nickel while in contrast, the frame and the barrel have flaked almost entirely to a rich patina with just traces of nickel in protected areas. The cylinder can't seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be like the straps or the frame/barrel as it shows 50% nickel. Markings are excellent throughout with a perfect barrel address and caliber marking on the left side of the triggerguard. The etched panel is also in good shape and is fully legible. Thanks to my gunsmith, it now has good working mechanics with instructions to leave this one as "undisturbed" as possible. If desired, the bore will clean up to very good...it has nice lands and grooves...just dirty. Grips are in very good condition with strong checkering and perfect fit to the metal. All in all, just a good example of an 1870's era Colt Lightning revolver.