This is an early Colt Model 1889 Double Action Revolver in caliber .38 Colt with 4-1/2" barrel, nickel plated finish, stocked with a pair of vibrant pearl grips. This gun would have looked stunning back when it was new but in spite of its age, still has lots of eye appeal and displays quite well. The 1889 was basically Colt's first modern double action revolver in its most raw and primitive state. Aesthetically speaking, the design of this gun is timeless so that I'd doubt many people would guess this revolver is actually 120 years old. Being a true (non-upgraded) model 1889, it has no cylinder stops (note the nice long flutes on the cylinder with no external stop notches) nor blocking mechanism to prevent operating the gun when the cylinder is swing open. As most of you know, the first 5,000 Model "89's" went to the US Navy which were later upgraded to Model 1895's with new cylinders, barrels, and added safety features. This one is a very early Civilian gun in the 6,600 range which dates it to early 2nd year production in the year 1890.
The most unique aspect of this revolver is the barrel address which was rolled upside down across the right side of the barrel. This is the third example I've seen over the years. All have been on 4-1/2" barrel guns with low serial numbers. Correct for the early Colt DA's, it has only the 1884 and 1888 patent dates. More than likely, these were among the first non 6" barrel guns to leave the factory. We suspect Colt did not have a roll die made up for these new shorter barrels as all the Navy contract guns (SN# 1-5,000) had 6" barrels. Rather than wait, they used the roll die for the 6" barrel. If you hold this up to an early Colt DA with a 6" barrel (where the address is on top), the barrel addresses are identical. It almost looks like the standard address might fit on the top of the 4-1/2" barrel between the frame and the front sight but for some reason, they decided to run it across the right side instead. Why they applied them upside down remains a mystery but that only lends to the intrigue of this scarce variation. Perhaps some more knowledgeable Colt collector can fill us in with better information that extends beyond my casual observations.
Overall condition grades to NRA Antique Good++ to Very Good. The metal has been lightly cleaned to bright with traces of original nickel plating in protected areas, and a bit more remaining around front sight, along the bottom strap, and inside the sighting channel of the top-strap. Markings are all in fine condition. Barrel address is still crisp with a clear "COLT. D.A. 38" marking across the left side. Nice matching sub-assembly numbers "454" throughout which includes the barrel, inside of frame, crane, cylinder, cylinder latch, and right side plate. The mother of pearl grips are in very good condition with nice figure and color. They are of the same period as the gun. They fit exceptionally well to the frame and have survived without any cracks or repairs. Only notable blemishing are a couple of superficial flecks of pearl chipped out on along the top of the right grip. Mechanics are in good shape with everything working in both single and double action modes. A word of advice: The Model 1889 is a landmark gun and many would say it's the grandfather to all modern Double Action revolvers. However, due to its simple mechanics where the cylinder is held loosely in place by the hand and ratchets on the rear face of the cylinder (no cylinder stops = no positive lockup) we do not recommend these be fired but treated as an historic piece of American history. Every serious collector of Colts and/or American firearms needs a Model 1889 in their collection. Values on 89's have been under-valued for many years but their stock is rising as more collectors are buying them up. This is a good early example, displays well, a super rare barrel address, and beautiful pearl grips.