SOLD FOR: $1899
Model: Lightning Magazine Rifle, Medium Frame
Serial Number: 12679
Year of Manufacture: 1886
Caliber: .44 CLMR (.44-40 Winchester)
Action Type: Slide / Pump Action, Full Length Tube Magazine Fed Rifle
Markings: The top of the barrel is marked “COLT’S PT. F.A. MFG. CO. HARTFORD CT. U.S.A. / + ELLIOT’S PATENTS MAY 29. 1883. SEPT 18. 1883. +” in front of the rear sight, “44 Cal.” behind. The left side of the receiver has a faint Rampant Colt logo. The bottom tang is marked “12679”. The inside of each forend panel is stamped “27”. Each side of the wrist is stamped “27”, the left of the stock has “77” below the comb, the right has “27” at the heel, and the belly has “F P L” stamped behind the bottom tang.
Barrel Length: 26”, Tapered Round
Sights / Optics: The front sight is a brass blade in a slotted base dovetailed to the front of the barrel. The rear sight is a fixed “U”-notch with a slightly taller folding “U”-notch in a base dovetailed to the rear of the barrel. The top tang is drilled, tapped and filled for a peep sight (none included).
Stock Configuration & Condition: The stocks are walnut with a two-piece checkered slide handle, straight grip, straight comb and steel crescent buttplate. The stocks have several scattered nicks, dings, scuffs and scratches. The left panel of the forend has a crack at the front edge and a much thinner crack at the bottom-rear. The right panel has filled losses at the top-front and bottom-rear corners and a thin crack in the checkering in front of the front mounting screw which does not appear to extend to any edges. The buttstock has small losses to each side of the top tang in the front of the wrist, a thin crack at the rear of the top tang which terminates next to a more visible scratch under the tang, and a crack at the toe. The LOP measures 13 3/8″ from the front of the trigger to the back of the buttplate. The plate has gone to a mottled light patina with some minor nicks and scrapes. There is a small hole in the buttplate which appears to be from a forging/casting inclusion as there is no surrounding damage or visible cause of the hole. Overall, the stocks are in about Good condition as antique.
Type of Finish: Blued
Finish Originality: Original
Bore Condition: The bore is dark gray with well defined rifling. There is light-moderate erosion scattered through the bore with some light pitting.
Overall Condition: This rifle retains about 25% of its metal finish. Remaining finish is in protected areas such as the bottom of the barrel, the top of the magazine tube, around the sights, and the corners where the trigger guard meets the body of the bottom tang. Most other surfaces have gone to a light-moderate patina. There is some scattered light surface oxidation and infrequent erosion. There are scattered nicks, scuffs and scratches. The top of the barrel has wear from a previously installed rear sight. There are tool marks on and around the bolt-lock-switch in the trigger guard as well as around most screw heads. The screw heads range from sharp to disfigured with useable slots. The markings range from clear to worn and faint. Overall, this rifle is in about Fair-Good condition (see Mechanics).
Mechanics: The bolt-lock-switch in the trigger guard is very stiff, not readily moved by hand. Otherwise, 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 a fairly early production medium frame made in 1886 and chambered for .44-40. It has some neat early features including the “ELLIOT’S PATENT” barrel address as well as the slide-lock-switch in the trigger guard which would be later discontinued. It is an honest rifle, showing wear consistent with its age of more than 130 years. It has some intriguing markings in the stocks, possibly seeing use by law enforcement or just for some business which expected to encounter dangerous animals, or people. This will make for a nice example of the Colt Lightning and would be an excellent addition to any safe in America. Please see our pictures and good luck!