SOLD FOR: $7001
Model: Lightning Magazine Rifle, Medium Frame
Serial Number: 83308, San Francisco Police Issued
Year of Manufacture: 1898 (https://www.colt.com/serial-lookup)
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. / PATENTED MAY 29. SEPT 18. 1883. MAY 26. 85. JUNE 15. 86. FEB. 22. 87.” in front of the rear sight, “44 Cal.” behind. The left side of the receiver has a Rampant Colt logo. The left of each tang is marked “83308” (concealed by the stock when assembled). The bottom tang is marked “S. F. P. 208.”.
Barrel Length: 26”, Round
Sights / Optics: The front sight is a german silver blade in a slotted base, dovetailed to the front of the barrel. The rear sight is a “V”-notch elevator sight dovetailed to the rear of the barrel. The top tang is drilled, tapped and filled for a tang sight (none present).
Stock Configuration & Condition: The stocks are walnut with a two-piece slide handle, straight grip, straight comb and steel crescent buttplate. The stocks have some scattered nicks, scuffs and scratches with more concentrated wear toward the toe. There are no chips or cracks. The LOP measures 13 3/8? from the front of the trigger to the back of the buttplate. The plate has worn to white with scattered minor surface oxidation. Overall, the stocks are in Very Good-plus condition as antique.
Type of Finish: Blued
Finish Originality: Original
Bore Condition: The bore is mostly bright, the rifling is sharp. There is infrequent minor erosion in the bore.
Overall Condition: This rifle retains about 70% of its metal finish. The finish is thinning at all edges. Strongest finish is in the receiver flats, magazine tube and the bottom of the barrel with other areas showing scattered wear going to a light patina. There are scattered light nicks, scuff and scratches with infrequent minor surface oxidation. The action shows operational wear. The screw heads range from sharp to lightly tool marked with strong slots. The markings are clear. Overall, this rifle is in Fine condition as 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 44 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 fascinating one for Colt collectors, one of 401 which were ordered by the San Francisco Police in 1898. Chambered for .44-40, the rifles all had 26″ round barrels and most saw limited use while in SFPD’s care. This rifle is in Fine condition as Antique. It retains about 70% of its metal finish, a nice bore, intact markings and strong mechanics. This will make for a wonderful example of a scarce San Francisco Police Colt Lightning and would be an excellent addition to any safe in America. Please see our pictures and good luck!
Please forgive any typos, I was educated in California -Bud