This is something that we've been after for several years...a Colt Bisley with an antique serial number. Introduced in 1894 (around sn# 156,000 in the SAA series range), the Bisley was basically a refinement of the popular Single Action Army models with improved trigger, hammer, and grip shape especially suited for target use. They were produced from 1894-1915 but trying to find an early antique one made between 1894-1898 provides a narrow serial range of 26,000 guns which are well over 90% Single Action Army Revolvers. From personal experience and years of looking, most Bisleys seem to show up in the 200,000 and 300,000 ranges.
Well, we finally found this one and it was well worth the wait. The serial number is in the 177,000 range which dates its manufacture to 1898. Caliber is .38WCF with a 4-3/4" barrel, blued/case color finish, and checkered hard rubber grips. The numbers are all matching including the grips. The sub-assembly numbers on the loading gate and interior of the frame also match. This gun is all original with the exception of the cylinder pin...I can provide an original if desired. Left side of barrel is stamped "(BISLEY MODEL) 38 W.C.F." .38 WCF a.k.a. 38-40 was really a .40 caliber cartridge that was almost identical to the 44-40 which was really .427"...just necked down. The cartridge was first introduced around 1880 in the Model 1873 Winchester and quickly became popular with target shooters due to its flatter trajectory over the 44-40 which packed almost the same amount of punch on the business end. It was later offered in the Model 1892 Winchester as well as the Marlin Models 1888, 1889, and 1894. It is fitting to find this cartridge in the target-oriented Bisley Model and the production numbers prove it. Its popularity resulted in more Bisleys produced in this 38-40 than either 44-40 or .45 Colt. Top of barrel has the proper two-line Colt Hartford address. Right side of frame has two lines of patent dates from 1871, '72, and '75 next to the Rampant Colt logo. This same logo is repeated at the top of the grip panels.
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Fine with 60% original blue remaining on the barrel with the balance turned to a plum patina. 50% blue on the ejector rod housing. The cylinder has good original blue in the flutes with the outer circumference a mixture of patina and age-darkened blue. Frame has about 35% original case colors which are mostly along the right side, front beam, and recoil shield. The colors range from faded in the open areas up to vivid in the more protected areas. Trigger guard shows 50% original blue while the backstrap retains 40% original blue. Several screws (grip screw, ejector rod housing screw, tg screws, etc, show significant amounts of original fire blue. Even the trigger has most of its original fire blue present. Original hard rubber grips are Fine with nice checkering and have never been chipped, cracked, or repaired. The last four digits of the serial number are lightly inscribed on the inside of each grip. The mechanics on this gun appear to be completely untouched and all original. By the time a Colt reaches 100+ years old, they generally have gone through two or three stop bolts...the one in this gun I believe to be the original one. The action cocks nicely (all four clicks), however I would suggest replacing the bolt if you plan to cycle it frequently. The inside of the frame still has most of its original case colors (see photos) indicating relatively little usage. Bore is Good overall...decent rifling with streaks of original blue in the grooves indicating little use but it was properly cleaned as there are a few pits from black powder residue. Chambers in the cylinder also have much of their original blue present. All in all, this would be an impressive example of a Bisley in any serial range but the fact that it's antique makes it a very special gun.