SOLD FOR: $1725
Make: Colt, customized by Eldon Penner “El Rod”
Model: Custom Lightning Magazine Rifle, Medium Frame
Serial Number: 27616
Year of Manufacture: 1888
Caliber: This rifle has been converted to .38 Special.
Action Type: Slide / Pump Action, Full Length Tube Magazine Fed Rifle
Markings: The top of the barrel is marked “38 Spl” at the rear. The left side of the receiver has a Rampant Colt logo. The bottom tang is marked “27616”.
Barrel Length: 26”, Octagonal
Sights / Optics: The front sight is a folding Beech-style sight, presenting either an aperture or a beaded post. The metal portion of the bead is present, but the non-metal portion of the bead has broken off. The rear sight is a folding “U”-notch elevator sight dovetailed to the rear of the barrel. The top tang is drilled and tapped with a folding Marble’s aperture sight installed, adjustable for elevation and windage.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The stocks are walnut with a checkered two-piece slide handle, smooth straight grip, straight comb and steel crescent buttplate. The stocks have scattered nicks, dings, scuffs and scratches. The slide handle has cracks at the bottom-rear on each side. There are small losses at the top-front corner of the wrist on each side. The checkering is generally well defined. The LOP measures 13 3/8″ from the front of the trigger to the back of the buttplate. The plate has mostly worn to white, showing light wear and scattered surface oxidation. Overall, the stocks are in about Very Good condition as refinished Antique.
Type of Finish: Blued
Finish Originality: Remaining finish is original to the parts, the barrel is not original to the gun. It is likely that internal parts have been replaced/modified.
Bore Condition: The bore is bright, the rifling is sharp. There is no erosion in the bore.
Overall Condition: This rifle retains about 15% of its metal finish. Most original finish is in and around the trigger guard and on the slide-handle guide extension. There is some finish on the barrel at the receiver and on the bottom shoulders. Most other surfaces have worn to white or gone to a light patina. There are some scattered light nicks, scuffs and scratches. There is some light erosion on the hammer. The action shows operational wear. The screw heads range from sharp to tool marked with strong slots. The markings are clear. Overall, this rifle is in about Very Good condition as customized and Antique.
Mechanics: The action functions correctly. We have not fired this rifle. As with all previously owned firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance standards.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: None
Our Assessment: Around the 1880s, Colt was looking to diversify but both Remington and Winchester had the rifle market sewn up. Besides their lever-actions, there were also new slide action rifles: the user pumped a moving arm set under the barrel and around a tubular magazine, kicking out a spent round and loading a new one with every “stroke”. Colt concentrated on this design concept and in 1884 introduced a gun with a short slide action that was so slick and so fast; they dubbed it the “Lightning”. The advertising said it all: “Nothing was faster than lightning”. Dr. William H. Elliot, a dentist by trade, designed the gun. Half hobby, half side job, Elliot liked to tinker with things and over the course of his life came up with at least 130 inventions. Since he lived in Ilion, New York, he often walked down to neighboring Remington and showed them the interesting things he was working on and when Remington didn’t bite on his new rifle design, he sent a letter to Colt, who loved it. The handy rifle’s tubular magazine could hold as many as 16 rounds, depending on caliber, which made it very attractive. It came in three varieties: small, medium, and large. Each of these guns had the same set up, with a deep-blued finish, case hardened hammer, American walnut stock and fore-end, and open rear and front sights. They were light, going 6.5-pounds or so. The medium frame guns, chambered for .32-20, .38-40 and .44-40 Winchester calibers, marketed as 32, 38 and 40 CLMR (Colt Lightning Magazine Rifle), were the most popular, using some of the same cartridges as Colt’s Single Action Army and with ammunition already being produced for Winchester’s rifles. Ultimately, the rifle was discontinued as Winchester and Colt came to the agreement that Winchester would produce rifles, Colt would produce handguns, and nobody needed to make the market competition get ugly. This example is an 1888 production medium frame which has been customized by Eldon Penner, also known in the Cowboy Action Shooting world as “El Rod”. Penner is renowned as one of the finest gunsmiths to work on the Lightning rifles since they were still made by Colt and according to this rifle’s consignor, Penner is the one who converted this example to use .38 Special cartridges, making it quite a bit easier to feed today than sourcing original cartridges. This rifle’s new bore is outstanding and the mechanics are strong. This is a nice opportunity at an “original” Colt lightning which can add to a collection and be taken out for a day at the range. Please see our pictures and good luck!