This is a VERY VERY rare unaltered example of the Colt Model 1892 Double Action Revolver from the US Army's 1st Contract. Today, there are quite literally just a handful of surviving Model 1892 US Army Revolvers still in their original configuration as very few of these escaped the upgrades to Models 1894 and 1901 specs. See below. In my lifetime, I've seen just this and one other example of an original Model 1892...while Robert Best, who wrote the book on the Colt Double Action had found just six examples as of 2004.
Standard 6" barrel with walnut grips and blued finish. Caliber .38 Colt. Low serial number is 1,300 range which is stamped on the barrel, cylinder, inside of frame, cylinder yoke, latch, sideplate, and is just barely visible on the base of the grip. Unfortunately, the model and US Army markings were removed from the butt...which is not uncommon. However, we were able to read the serial number and the good news is that the 1892's from the first contract had assembly numbers that are one and the same as the serial numbers. This was not the case on the later Army and Navy contracts. That side, while the number on the base of the grip is very faint (but legible through careful study), the number located inside the frame is perfectly clear as well as on the other parts throughout the gun. Another bit of good news is that there is a clear "RAC" (Ronaldo A. Carr) inspector stamp on the left side of the frame, rear face of the cylinder, and on the bottom of the barrel. The latch and barrel have "K" sub-inspector initials. There is a very slight hint of a borderline for one of the original cartouches on the left side of the grip. Original barrel has just the early 1884 and 1888 patent dates. Left side of barrel stamped COLT D.A. 38.
History: The US Army purchased 8,000 Model 1892's but by 1893, a potential problem was reported from the field concerning the fact that the action could be operated while the latch was not fully closed and the cylinder out of battery. As a result, the Army asked Colt to remedy the problem which it did by installing a small safety block device just under the latch which blocked the cylinder when the cylinder was not fully locked in the frame. Some of these 1892's were upgraded by Springfield Armory, thus keeping their original markings while most went to Colt where they were upgraded, re-marked "Model 1894" and refinished. If you have a Colt that's still marked US ARMY MODEL 1892, there is an easy way to tell if it's still in its original configuration. From the left side of the frame, the safety block is easy to spot as there will be a screw present just underneath the latch. An original unmodified Model 1892 will not have this screw as is the case with this revolver. See photos.
A memorandum concerning the upgrade of the Model 1892's was located in the National Archives several years ago that indicates that the Army was successful in upgrading more than 95% of these revolvers with the improved hammer block device, thus bringing them up to Model 1894 specs. From page 106 of Robert Best's book, A Study of Colt's New Army and Navy Pattern Double Action Revolvers 1889 to 1908, 2004, reads the following:
As this book was going to press, a memorandum was located in the National Archives by Mr. C. Kenneth Moore. This memorandum from the Office of the Chief of Ordnance dated February 2, 1898 indicated that Springfield Armory had altered all but "about 375 Colt's revolvers, cal. 38 Model of 1892..." The memorandum requested all commands to check for unaltered revolvers and if any were found to return them to the Springfield Armory. Through Mr. Moore's efforts, 42 more revolvers were found that were returned by various commands to the Armory. It is now estimated that 333 of the Model of 1892 revolvers were never modified by the Springfield Armory. Some of the remaining 333 revolvers are believed to have been issued to various state militias and were not returned for modification, the remainder were either lost or stolen. Finding one of the 333 remaining original unmodified Model 1892 revolvers for your collection will be extremely difficult. I know of only six unmodified Model of 1892 revolvers in existence today.
To find an original 1892 is kind of a small miracle and it probably took one to survive. But how? Could this revolver have escaped the upgrades by being issued to a state militia, taken home by a retiring officer, or perhaps a disgruntled cavalryman who deserted? Or was it on some distant outpost the never got the memo to send it back to Springfield? Lastly was it simply lost? We would love to know the story but whatever the reason, it took some type of unusual circumstance to keep it from the grasp of the US Army Ordnance Department and being upgraded. We went through all four editions of Springfield Research in hopes there was a record of 1,303 in the National Archives to no avail. However, we did find a few serial numbers of Model 1892's in fairly close proximity to ours:
SN#1106 is listed as a 1901 (upgraded) as belonging to the US Dept. of Agriculture as of 6-21-1929
SN#1108 is listed as a 1901 (upgraded) at the Raritan Arsenal on 6-14-1920
SN# 1183 is listed as a 1894 (upgraded) at the Raritan Arsenal on 6-14-1920
SN#1137 is listed as an 1892 and recorded as being issued to Troop A of the 4th US Cavalry as of 7-22-1896
SN#1690 is listed as an 1892 and issued to Troop A of the 10th Cavalry (a.k.a. Buffalo Soldiers) 8-19-1896
SN#1438 is listed with no Model # as being "LOST" by the 24th Infantry on 8-01-1899
SN#1543 is listed with no Model # to "Oregon" on 10-31-1906
SN#1545 is listed as an 1892 issued to the 14th Infantry as of 4-24-1899
SN#1613 is listed as an 1894 that simply states "Capt Cook" 8-26-1926
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Good+ with original 5-10% original blue remaining in protected areas. Balance of metal has turned to a mostly smooth brown patina with some areas on right side where some corrosion (from poor storage which makes me wonder if this was lost in the field) was cleaned...now turned to gray. These areas are a bit textured from poor storage that I would describe as "frosty". There is some light pitting on the backstrap and upper right portion of the frame. The markings are Very Good overall with the exception of the lower gripstrap which were removed. As mentioned earlier, the serial number is visible (but barely) which matches the numbers on all other components including frame assembly number. Good screws throughout. Original front sight is intact and unaltered. Action is in good working order. Bore is frosty...could use a good cleaning but Good Overall. This super rare 1892 has been in my personal collection for a number of years. During that time, I've seen one other example that was priced around $4,500. These US Army 1892's are even rarer than an original Colt Model 1889 Navy, the Colt Paterson, Colt Walker, The Ainsworth Single Action, and the Model 1900 Sight Safety Model. The best part is that compared to the others, they are not as well-known and therefore affordable...at least for now.