Serial Number: 3922
Year of Manufacture: Early 1902 (“COLT’S 38 Automatic Pistols” by Douglas G. Sheldon)
Caliber: .38 A.C.P.
Action Type: Single Action Semi-Auto Pistol with Removable Magazine
Markings: The left side of the slide is marked “”BROWNING’S PATENT” / PAT’D APRIL 20.1897”, “COLT’S PATENT FIRE ARMS MFG. CO. / HARTFORD, CONN. U.S.A.”, and at the rear with a circled Rampant Colt logo. The left side of the frame and the flat on the left underside of the slide are marked “3922”. The right side of the slide is marked “AUTOMATIC COLT / CALIBRE 38 RIMLESS SMOKELESS”. The forward part of the slide retaining groove on the right side of the frame is marked “K”.
Barrel Length: 6”
Sights / Optics: The front sight is thin rounded blade fixed to the top of the slide. The rear sight is a semi-buckhorn with a “V” notch at the bottom that is dovetailed into the top rear of the slide. The rear sight is probably not original to the pistol, but a modified sight WAS originally used on this pistol. Sheldon indicates production of the sight-safety pistols ceased in Dec. 1901 at about serial number 3499.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The grips are checkered black hard rubber with “COLT” in a banner across the top and a circled Rampant Colt logo near the center. The left grip shows light marks around the upper screw escutcheon, in the ring around the Rampant Colt in the center and at the bottom of the grip, which also shows a compression mark. The right grip shows two tiny compression marks near the bottom edge and a few light marks. The checkering shows light wear without mars. The grips are in about Fine overall Condition.
Type of Finish: The pistol has a bright blue finish. The trigger has a fire blue finish and the hammer is case colored. .
Finish Originality: The finish is original.
Bore Condition: The bore is gray with a few dark spots near the muzzle. The rifling shows moderate wear. There is light erosion the length of the bore with a few spots of moderate erosion near the muzzle.
Overall Condition: This handgun retains about 15% of its metal finish. There are remnants of the fire blue finish left on the trigger and the blue finish on the sides of the frame. The remainder of the surface shows surface loss with a mottled patina forming. There is pinprick surface erosion scattered over the slide, front strap and the sides of the frame with several spots scattered over the underside of the frame, trigger guard and backstrap. There are a very few light handling marks in the metal, with two areas of scratches from aggressive polishing: one spot on the top of the slide in front of the port and another area on the front strap. The serrations at the front of the slide and the hammer checkering show light wear. The grip screws are sharp but show light marks of a screwdriver. The markings are readable, but those on the slide are slight obscured by erosion. clear. Overall, this handgun rates in about Good condition.
Mechanics: The action functions correctly and the slide is tight to the frame. This pistol does not have a safety other than a half-cock position on the hammer. The magazine release is on the bottom of the butt. This pistol has a spur hammer which was used on the early pistols and on pistols with even serial numbers from June 1901 until May 1902 (Serial NO. 4274) when all of the slides machined for the sight-safety were finally used-up. We did not fire this handgun.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: This pistol comes with one blued magazine. The body magazine shows minor thinning and light handling marks while the floorplate shows thinning, light handling marks and a small spot of erosion. The magazine is in about Very Good condition.
Our Assessment: From “A Collector’s Guide To Colt’s 38 Automatic Pistols by Douglas G. Sheldon: “The Colt Model 1900 was the first automatic pistol manufactured in the United states and marketed in an environment still oriented to revolvers. Self- loading pistols had been manufactured for several years in Europe but were hardly accepted in the year 1900 when Colt began selling this John M. Browning designed pistol. Browning was nothing short of a genius in firearms design and associating with the marketing and manufacturing abilities of Colt’s Firearms insured the eventual acceptance of the automatic pistol design. The Model 1900 was only made for three years, 1900-1902, and only 4274 were produced. The early pistols had the slide serrations at the rear and were equipped with a spur hammer and a sight-safety mechanism. It was found hard to grasp the slide by the serrations, and they were moved to the front at about serial number 2001. The rear sight was too small for effective use and it was difficult to engage and disengage the safety. Eventually, it was decided to eliminate the sight-safety mechanism and replace it with a sight dovetailed into the slide. A plug was added to fill-up the hole at the front of the dovetail. In order to use up the existing slides, it was first decided to modify odd numbered pistols with the new sight and a round hammer, and to continue manufacturing the sight-safety mechanism with a spur hammer on the even numbered pistols. At about serial number 3500, all production shifted to the modified sight and at serial number 4274 all of the original slides built for the sight-safety system were finally used-up. Colt referred to pistols made after this point as the “Sporting Model” to distinguish it from the 1902 Military Model which came out later in 1902.”. What an interesting pistol! A new pistol designed from the ground up to use a new cartridge not based on an existing cartridge. That says a lot for Browning’s skill as a designer and Colt’s faith in him. However, with the Army’s desire for a .45 caliber weapon firmly set because of the stopping power problems of the .38 Colt brought to light during the Philippine-American War, the .38 ACP cartridge had no chance for adoption, even if it was quite a bit hotter than the .38 Long Colt revolver round. The design of the Model 1900 allowed minor modifications to become the Model 1902 and finally to the M1911 which was finally adopted by the Army. This pistol was made in early 1902. It was made with a modified rear sight with a plug in the slide and because it had an even serial number, it was given a spur hammer (or, perhaps because it had a spur hammer, it was given an even serial number). The pistol is in about Good overall condition with about 15% of its metal finish remaining. There is surface loss on the slide, underside of the frame, front strap and backstrap, with thinning on the sides of the frame. The surfaces are developing a mottled patina with pinprick surface erosion. The checkered hard rubber grips show light wear in the checkering and a few handling marks in the smooth areas. The bore is gray with a few dark spots near the muzzle and moderate wear in the rifling. There is moderate erosion in the bore near the muzzle. The Colt Model 1900 pistols are VERY collectable. Not only for their vintage and rarity, but because they were THE first semi-autos made in the United States, and the forerunner of the 1911. It doesn’t hurt that there are several variations: serrations in the front or back, spur or round hammer, sight-safety or dovetailed rear sight, etc. The variations create several combinations and this has inspired some collectors to collect them all. Others are content with collecting one of the Model 1900 variations to place along-side the pistols it spawned: the 1902, 1905 and the infamous 1911. If you are just getting started collecting Colt pistols, you will have lot of choices to make, but the one gun you must have is the Model 1900.