This is an interesting and rather scarce variation of the Colt Model 1895 Revolver purchased (probably in a heck of a hurry) by the US Navy for the Spanish-American War. Serial number is in the 93,300 range which dates its manufacture to early 1898, just months before the outbreak of war between the United States and Spain over the island of Cuba as well as the Philippines. The bottom strap at the base of the grips is marked with the serial number as well as a Navy property marking, "N63", and a small trident symbol indicating inspection by the US Navy's sub-inspector assigned to the Colt plant in Hartford, CT. A few years ago, we had a very similar revolver with the same set of markings in the low 94,000 range. At the time, I identified that revolver as one issued to the United States Revenue Cutter Service...which later became what we know today as the United States Coast Guard. I was incorrect. The guns with only the trident on the bottom are Revenue Cutter Service and the ones with the N"XX" numbers and tridents were actually issued to Naval Reserve units and states with naval militias. That's not to say that some may have ended up later in the hands of the Coast Guard, but not originally. Here is the one we sold a few years back. See link:
One of the great things about antique guns is that we have the opportunity to grow as collectors. Without new challenges and experiences, we would get bored and move onto other things. You can never run out of road learning about old weaponry and along the way, I've realized that there is a great deal of American history intertwined right there alongside some of these old guns. The more I've learned, the more I've realized that my small area of interest is frighteningly small in the scheme of things. A few years back, a wise and very-well-read dealer said, "every time you buy a gun, you should buy a book" to expand your knowledge. Well, one day I was at a show when I came across a book on Colt Double Action Revolvers by Robert Best. My hat is off to anyone who could write such a concise and definitive book on such a complicated and confusing subject as Colt DA Army and Navy Revolvers. In it, I learned the correct history of this scarce and infrequently encountered variation and right there, in just a couple of paragraphs, that this gun had its own unique place in American history. Mr. Best said it..well "best" when he wrote:
As war approached, the Navy was also short of trained personnel and not prepared to equip all the additional naval militia units that were activated. Due to the small size of the Navy, many civilian merchant ships and small craft had to be procured for naval service. The merchant ships were used to transport Army units and their supplies to Cuba, as well as to the Philippine Islands after Commodore Dewey took them. Concern was raised by several Atlantic and Gulf coast states about the safety of the coastline from Spanish bombardment and invasion. Many small craft were leased or purchased by the Navy to be used as patrol boats. Naval militia units, with a sprinkling of regular Navy personnel, crewed most of the newly acquired boats and ships.
The Navy did not have a large reserve supply of small arms to equip this expanded force. Additional orders were placed with Colt, and a number of the civilian New Navy revolvers were purchased to meet the Navy's needs.
Several small shipments totaling about 235 New Navy Model of 1895 revolvers destined for various states with naval militia units were shipped by Colt between March and May, 1898. These revolvers were marked with "N" prefixed registration numbers and inspected by the unidentified civilian naval sub-inspector using the Trident stamp as his identification marking. These revolvers came directly from civilian model revolver production... pages 158-159, A Study of Colt's New Army and Navy Pattern Double Action Revolvers 1889 to 1908.
So there you have it. This Colt played its part in the Spanish-American War in helping transport troops to Cuba and the Philippines as well as protecting US coastal areas from the Spanish navy. From there, many of these Colt DA's saw further use on various assignments and service in through both World Wars. A brief check of Springfield Research revealed a Colt 1895, SN# 94,330 as shipped by Colt to (CONN)...Connecticut? on 4-8-98. Another one in the 94,000 range at a USRCS Depot in 1910, another at a depot in Oakland, several more issued to US Coast Guard vessels in the 94,000 range (these may be the ones with just the tridents), as well as one in the 93,000 range aboard the USS San Francisco in 1936.
Overall Condition is NRA Antique Fine++ to Excellent with 85% original blue overall with some brown patina tones beginning to mix in. The trigger retains 75% original bright peacock blue as does the back of the hammer with its profiles showing about 50% of their original brightly polished surface. Many of the screws still have original fire blue. Grips are Very Good Overall with sharp checkering and excellent fit to the gripstraps. There are a few small scuff marks on the left panel. They have the early style plain "COLT" logo...just like the one we sold several years back. Right grip has a small repair; a chip at the front edge of the right grip panel broke and someone did a very nice job of placing it back into position. I never even saw it until we were looking at the giant mega pixel photos of close-up shots. To the naked eye, it is barely noticeable. Nice barrel address includes the Colt 1884, 1888, and 1895 patent dates. Nice working action. Fine bore. A scarce variation of a US Naval Militia Colt DA Revolver purchased specifically for and used in the Spanish-American War of 1898.