This is a very unique example of an early Colt Double Action Revolver in caliber .38 Colt. For starters, it is completely untouched like it just came out of an attic with this great unpolished nickel which has frosted nicely. This is a Model 1895 with an antique serial number in the 72,000 range and was built in 1896. It has a standard 6" barrel and hard rubber checkered grips which are the Navy style with the plain "COLT" logo. Nickel-plated finish with fire blued appointments on screws, trigger, and hammer. Barrel has 1884, 1888, and 1895 patent dates which is correct for this vintage of Colt Double Action. Left side of barrel is marked "COLT. D.A. 38." designating it in caliber .38 Long Colt. The Model 1895 was based on a series of improvements that started with the Colt's first Double Action revolvers with swing-out cylinders, namely the Model 1889 Navy Revolver and Model 1892 New Army Revolver. The 1895 employed double sets of cylinder stop notches as well as a safety device which kept the hammer from being cocked when the cylinder was out of battery. It is important to note that while the Colt New Army and New Navy Revolvers were well-built and had many improvements in their designs, they were from the era of black powder and not equipped to handle modern loads with smokeless powder.
Optional reading: If you're strictly interested in a Colt with high percentages of finish or one with a uniform look, be it finish or patina, this gun is probably not for you. Just skip to the last paragraph. I travel all over looking for antique weapons and have probably seen thousands of Colt DA's from 1877 Lightnings to an ultra rare pre-1898 New Service, but I've never seen one quite like this before. It's hard to know where to start but simply put, there is a LOT going on over the surface of this revolver which disrupts the smooth flow this gun originally had. The metal surfaces are quite literally an accident of contrasts...both man-made in the form of aged nickel, copper (yes, copper which I'll explain shortly), fire blue, and Mother Nature's, in the form of patina and tarnish of the nickel. It is pure serendipity. That said, there is nothing you'll find in the Blue Book of Gun Values about appreciating a gun like this but in my eyes, it's a piece of art on a gun acting as the canvass. Sure, there is art in guns in the form of engraving and fancy deluxe wood, but some of the most amazing guns I've seen are aesthetically pleasing simply from how they're aged and worn. Almost all antique guns start at 100% and quickly go downhill from there. The few that remain in those 99-100% percentage ranges often command huge price tags but there is something about the journey downhill into those lower grades of condition that become interesting...an inadvertent form of art based on human and natural events. There are no books out there you can read to appreciate a gun like this....it either hits you or it or doesn't. If it doesn't, it probably never will but this gun has such a fantastic look with a pureness about it, that I thought I'd share it with you guys. That said, there are things about this gun which go against the grain about how a Colt is supposed to wear and age. As strange as that may sound, the results (at least in my eyes) are MAGNIFICENT!!!!
For starters, this gun is in incredible condition...meaning it shows very little use but not necessarily high percentages of finish. Yes, it shows age,...that dull nickel has taken over 100 years to mellow and chalk to a shade that isn't far off from tin or pewter. For nickel to acquire this look, it requires that a gun has to be left alone for a very long time as it's never in a hurry to oxidize like silver or iron. Instead, it takes its time and even when it does reach this color, this subdued look is fragile. For example, if someone fusses with it by rubbing it down with a cloth or oil...it will brighten back up very quickly. So here is the first shade of paint on the canvas...this dull untouched original nickel. Then there is the fire blue which should be the most fragile finish on a Colt Model 1895 and Colt's special fire blued or nitre finish on the screws, trigger, and rear face of the hammer. This finish mainly formed by heat so it's very microscopically thin. Under normal circumstances, this fire blue would be long gone before the more durable nickel plated finish starts to deteriorate. However, that is quite the opposite on this gun. The fire blued finish on the small parts of this gun are pristine and and would rival those on many Colt DA's in 98% condition or better. The irony here is that much tougher nickel finish shows significantly more loss on the frame, cylinder, and barrel. Why is that? Where the nickel has worn away, there is a dark natural patina formed but there is also copper....quite a bit of it in fact. Why is there copper in places there should be nickel? Well, in electroplating, nickel does not adhere very well to raw steel but it does stick pretty well to copper which happens to like both steel and nickel...making it quite literally, the middle man. Thus, a thin layer of copper is first laid down over the metal in an electrolytic bath. Next, the part is placed in a solution containing nickel, which adheres to the copper. While in solution, the nickel is allowed to build up over the part until it reaches a certain thickness. Something must have gone wrong in the plating process when this Colt was in the bath. My best guess here is that there was a mishap in the plating process on this revolver and the gun received a very thin coating of nickel. Perhaps there wasn't enough electrical current in the bath or the parts were simply not kept in solution long enough. Whatever the reason, the nickel wore or flaked quickly from sections of this revolver exposing the copper plating which is probably only a couple of atoms thick which is why it is highly unusual to even see the copper substrate beneath nickel plating. Even when it's exposed, it usually rubs right off or flakes with the nickel yet this gun probably has quite a bit of copper showing. This is very rare to ever see. That it survived like this is even more curious. The fact that the owner never sent it back to Colt to be re-plated or stopped using the gun before the thin layer of copper was worn away is even more amazing. The copper, which is mostly towards the back of the frame, along the edges of the backstrap, and on the cylinder yoke, has turned to an even gold-brown tone. Where the nickel has worn on the cylinder and barrel, there is a nice patina formed...which is what would normally be seen. The result in these contrasts between the frosty nickel, dull copper tones, and patina stand in direct contrast to the vivid fire blue on the screws, hammer, and trigger. It's quite amazing to see such fragile forms of finish...being the copper and fire blue outdoing the main theme of this gun...which is supposed to be a shiny and very tough layer of nickel. As much as I'd like to oil this gun up, I'm afraid anything beyond a careful layer of protective wax, rubbing it with much of anything would alter the look of this very unique Colt. We will let the buyer decide whether to let this revolver continue its journey, clean it up, or work a balance in preserving it.
Overall Condition grades to NRA Antique Fine Plus with 90% nickel on the barrel and 80% on the cylinder with the balance patina. On the frame and straps, there is 40% nickel, 50% copper sub-plating, and 10% patina. The trigger rear face of the hammer and screws show 95% bright original fire blue. I don't believe a single screw on this gun has EVER been turned. There is even an untouched layer of "belly button lint" consisting of dust and dirt down in the right grip escutcheon. The checkered hard rubber grips are Excellent with no chips, cracks, or repairs. Under the cylinder yoke, the assembly number match with the letter "N" stamped inside the frame. According to Best's book on double actions, the author has observed that all Colt DA's with this letter have had the "New Navy" style grips instead of the "Army" style grips with the rampant Colt. The action cycles nicely in double and single action modes. Bore is Fine+ with nice lands and grooves. Whether you like this Colt based on it being an untouched gun from the 19th century or a piece of art, it is fantastic either way.