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Discussion Starter #1
Good Morning,
I have a nickel plated DA 38 revolver with a 3 inch barrel and walnut grips in very good condition. The nickel plating is in excellent shape. This revolver was given to my dad (a gunsmith) by a Fed some 50 years ago. I remember the event but not any of the conversation. My 82 year old mom was using the revolver as a self defense weapon and I went to her house to clean it up. I found it loaded with .38 special and immediately unloaded it and brought it home to clean up. The "batch" numbers on the frame and crane are 176. I flipped it over to check the serial number and to my surprise there wasn't a number on the grip frame. There are no file marks on the frame and the nickel plating is intact. I am suspecting it was re-plated at some point. I seem to recall that some military issue arms were not serial numbered but I can't see a nickel plated revolver as an issue weapon. I suspect this may have been a throw down gun. Is there any possibility that there is a serial number somewhere in the works? If not I will remove all of the parts and turn in the frame. Thank you for your input.
 

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Good Morning,
I have a nickel plated DA 38 revolver with a 3 inch barrel and walnut grips in very good condition. The nickel plating is in excellent shape. This revolver was given to my dad (a gunsmith) by a Fed some 50 years ago. I remember the event but not any of the conversation. My 82 year old mom was using the revolver as a self defense weapon and I went to her house to clean it up. I found it loaded with .38 special and immediately unloaded it and brought it home to clean up. The "batch" numbers on the frame and crane are 176. I flipped it over to check the serial number and to my surprise there wasn't a number on the grip frame. There are no file marks on the frame and the nickel plating is intact. I am suspecting it was re-plated at some point. I seem to recall that some military issue arms were not serial numbered but I can't see a nickel plated revolver as an issue weapon. I suspect this may have been a throw down gun. Is there any possibility that there is a serial number somewhere in the works? If not I will remove all of the parts and turn in the frame. Thank you for your input.

Hi Wooten7,

It sounds like you have one of the Naw Army or Navy Model revolvers. Look on the butt of the revolver. The Colt serial number should be on the forward part of the metal between the wooden grips. The other numbers you quoted are assembly numbers or batch numbers as you called them. The New Army and Navy models had the assembly number on the frame inside the crane cutout. The serial number is only on the butt. Hope that helps. Bob
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you for the information. There is no serial number on the butt. Looks like I will get some parts and I will turn in the frame. I don't think there are any other options.
Cal
 

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NO Serial Number

I checked with a friend at ATF. He said in some cases older guns were not required to have serial numbers. He wasn't sure when that was but as long as the gun has not had the serial number illegally removed you should be OK. Call ATF in your area and pose the question. A shame to sell parts from a perfectly good gun. Let me know what you find out.
 

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Serial Number

Checked with COLT The question intrigued me. He said COLT has always put serial number on handguns. Who Knows. Good Luck
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you for the suggestion. I am awaiting a return call. It may be that this revolver never had a serial number. The frame is in perfect shape as is the nickel plating. I hope it turns out that I can keep this old revolver. I will let you know as soon as I hear back from them.
Cal
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I just heard back from the atf. After giving them the history they gave me a number that I can call and get a serial number issued. I have gone over the frame and it is level, the metal is homogeneous (non added), no file or tool marks and the plating is perfect? Could they have missed this one? The ATF thinks it is not a big deal.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Forgot this tidbit. The lady that I spoke with from the ATF said that getting a serial number for a gun that did not have one applied to any firearm made before GCA68 so long as the firearm had not been altered. She actually said before 1968.
 

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cal, bob (colt da guy) might want to weigh in on this, but having recently acquired an old colt .38 da with all the 1901 modifications and no serial number myself. additionally the rinaldo carr acceptance mark was removed from the frame but not from the back of the cylinder.

also, i've seen maybe a half-dozen of these guns lacking sn's in stores & online being offered for sale over the past year or so.

i believe that quite a few of the new army & navy .38 da's were "liberated" by the rough riders, pershing's mexican expedition of 1916 or whoever used them during their original period of use, which lasted until ww2.

removing the sn and govt. markings would make it difficult to say an individual piece was stolen from u.s. stocks. the dealers who've had them generally claim that the assembly number is the serial number.

if my gun had been refinished, especially in nickel, the well-done polishing used to remove the markings would be undetectable, to me anyway, and since the rest of the piece wouldn't have to be polished much if at all the other markings would be preserved.

does yours have the rampant colt on the left side of the frame, just above the rear of the grip panel?
 

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Does one really need to worry about it on an old gun like this?
I can't remember the last time an ATF agent came to my door too
see if all my guns had serial numbers. And if one did (right before
I got struck by lightening) I'd show him or her the batch number on
the crane and say "there's the serial number right there dumbass." :)

Incidentally, I have a S&W topbreak from the 1880s that most of the number has been ground off. Does this count? Oh wait, thats right
its an antique so it's not even a real gun according to the ATF. I couldn't possibly hurt anyone with that thing! :D
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Mike,
Thank you for the information. The rampant colt is not visible which added to my concern about the missing sn. I know the revolver has been heavily polished as some the lower areas of the lettering on the barrel is light. There is a T A on the grip frame under the grips. I have measured the bottom of the grip frame at various places and the difference in between the sides is .005 or less and both square and level. Looks like machine work. Do you think the 3 inch barrel was originally on this frame? The length of the barrel is 2.57 inches.
Cal
 

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cal...betcha a dollar that's an old military gun, properly disfigured to remove the sn and the inspector's stamp where the rampant colt would be, heavily polished, as you say, barrel cut back to three inches or a new barrel put on and plated with nickel (maybe 100 years ago). the fed who gave it to your pops in 1959 or so i think took it off of jimmy "the horse killer" cini, a niagara falls desperado of the era.

just kidding jimmy.

seriously, a lot of gunsmithing work done in those "primitive" times matches or exceeds anything you could have done today, and it's often difficult to tell if you haven't seen a number of examples.
 

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If you can (and you're not too paranoid about the serial number thing)
would you post a picture of this gun? It sounds very cool and interesting.
Its always kind of cool to see a gun that was customized by an owner
100 years ago.
 

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If the side-plate is NOT on the right hand side of the frame, and if the cylinder rotates anti-clockwise when viewed from the rear, it is NOT from the New Army or New Navy series.
 

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Question

I have recently acquired a COLT Da 38 in a group of guns. No grips. Very worn. No serial number on the frame (bottom of grip) in the crane area. But both show signs of filing. Any comments? Any idea on value?

Thank you!
 

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It really has nothing to do with the ATF knocking on your door, but about possessing something that could put you in jeopardy of losing your right to own a firearm. Chances are you would never be charged, but why take any risk at all just to own something you have to keep hidden?
 

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I have recently acquired a COLT Da 38 in a group of guns. No grips. Very worn. No serial number on the frame (bottom of grip) in the crane area. But both show signs of filing. Any comments? Any idea on value?

Thank you!
You really should start a new thread on this rather than revive this one from 8 years ago. One of the commenters here isn't even alive anymore RIP.
 
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