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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello experts;
I am looking to purchase a US Army model 1896 made in 1901. The barrel is marked "COLT. D.A. 38". Everything looks to be original but......I can fully insert an empty .357 mag case in every chamber. My question is were the chambers cut with a throat for the .38 cartridge or were they originally bored straight thru? The chambers are fairly clean and shiny. The Blue Book indicates a huge decrease in value if these revolvers have been altered.
Thank you for your help;
Mike
 

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It is frequently said (Bob Best alludes to it too) that the reduction in barrel diameter happened primarily so that the guns achieved better accuracy when shooting the new .38 Special load. Being bored through, that was not only no problem, Colt actually advertised it as such, in an effort to head off the competition.

When Smith & Wesson introduced the Special, for several years the barrels of the K-frame Hand Ejectors actually said "38 Special & US Service ctg" to emphasize its dual use. Of course, those frames were designed for Special pressures, so shooting the weaker 38 LC was fine.

With the 38 DA Colts, the reverse is a different proposition entirely. Many folks shoot .38 Spl cases handloaded down to safe pressures, but generally, I'd stick to .38 LC.

PS: Just curious about your "1896 made in 1901". So it's a serial above 148000 that has not had the lanyard installed (the 1901 upgrade)?
 

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A U.S. Army Model 1903 was my first Colt revolver. .38 Colt was still fairly common ammunition in stores back then, but if I couldn't find any I used factory .38Spl. target wadcutter ammo without a hitch. I'm not advising you do this, back then we took responsibility for our own actions without suing the pants off somebody if things went wrong due to our own dumbness.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
PS: Just curious about your "1896 made in 1901". So it's a serial above 148000 that has not had the lanyard installed (the 1901 upgrade)?
Yes, that is correct. SN 154XXX
 

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Interesting notes in the thread - I have a New Army S/N 133XXX; my research suggests it was manufactured in 1900. I thought it was missing the lanyard -- there is a hole in the base of the grip frame, but no loop attachment.
 

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Your Colt probably went through the 1901 rebuild and was fitted for the lanyard swivel. The 1896 would not originally have the hole for the lanyard swivel.
Jim

Interesting notes in the thread - I have a New Army S/N 133XXX; my research suggests it was manufactured in 1900. I thought it was missing the lanyard -- there is a hole in the base of the grip frame, but no loop attachment.
 

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Interesting notes in the thread - I have a New Army S/N 133XXX; my research suggests it was manufactured in 1900. I thought it was missing the lanyard -- there is a hole in the base of the grip frame, but no loop attachment.
Your Colt probably went through the 1901 rebuild and was fitted for the lanyard swivel. The 1896 would not originally have the hole for the lanyard swivel.
Jim
That depends on what the butt looks like now. If the lanyard hole was just drilled through the original stamping, it's an unofficial bubba job or at best done by some unknown military armorer. The ones officially retrofitted after August 1901 with the lanyard hole and swivel usually had their butts re-stamped with Model 1901, if I understand Bob Best's book correctly.

The swivel itself missing isn't uncommon. I believe those can be found as replacements, but I don't know how easily.
 

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Not all of the rebuilds were restamped. On page 178 of Best's book shows the hole drilled through the markings as done by Springfield armory.

Jim

That depends on what the butt looks like now. If the lanyard hole was just drilled through the original stamping, it's an unofficial bubba job or at best done by some unknown military armorer. The ones officially retrofitted after August 1901 with the lanyard hole and swivel usually had their butts re-stamped with Model 1901, if I understand Bob Best's book correctly.

The swivel itself missing isn't uncommon. I believe those can be found as replacements, but I don't know how easily.
 
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Not all of the rebuilds were restamped. On page 178 of Best's book shows the hole drilled through the markings as done by Springfield armory.

Jim
That's a possibility. One would need to look for traces of the Horney cartouche and the 1901 or 1902 stamping on the grip panel.

It doesn't sound like Springfield did many. The way I read Best's text, Springfield installed the swivels on guns it received for general repair and refurbishing, no more than several hundred, and 141080 non-withstanding, one would normally expect a gun manufactured in 1900 not to need that in 1901/02 already.

And as I said earlier, field modifications by military armorers were quite common.
 

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More interesting information -- my gun does have the 1901 stamped on the butt frame. What do the cartouche and stamping on the grip panel look like?
 

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Basically, a rectangle with slightly rounded sides and OCH for Odus C. Horney inside in cursive script. Pictured on P. 174 of the Best book.

But if your gun has the 1901 butt stamping, it was likely upgraded by Colt after August 1901; that went on for some time. Only Springfield Armory did not change the butt when upgrading.
 
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