This is a fine condition and all original Colt Model 1902 Military Automatic Pistol chambered in .38 rimless, smokeless, with its original magazine. This pistol was manufactured between 1917 and 1919.
Automatic pistols were being designed in Europe as early as the 1880s by such firearms luminaries as Hiram Maxim (an American who was working in Europe), Andreas W. Schwarzlose, Hugo Borchardt (also an American), Ferdinand R. von Mannlicher, Peter Paul Mauser, and George Luger. American designers in the U.S. quickly caught up with their European counterparts and the first United States patents for automatic pistols were issued in 1896 and 1897. The 1897 patents are interesting because automatic pistol patent number 580935 was issued to Carl J. Ehbets, an employee of Colt, and four patents, numbers 580923 through 580926, to John M. Browning, all of which were issued on the same day, April 20, 1897.
John Browning’s designs not only heavily influenced all Colt automatic pistol designs, but Colt was able to manufacture Browning pistol designs under license from the beginning. In addition to Colt, John Browning also worked closely with Remington and Fabrique Nationale in Belgium. One of Browning’s designs became a prototype developed by Colt in 1898, which was submitted to the U.S. Government for military trials. Within two years, the Colt Model 1900, chambered in .38, was in production. The Model 1900 was Colt’s firs production of an automatic pistol and only about 3,500 were manufactured from 1900 to 1903. The Model 1900 was purchased and evaluated in limited numbers by both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army, and there were some design deficiencies that needed to be addressed. These issues led to the production of the Model 1902 Military, of which this pistol is a beautiful example.
One important change from the Model 1900 was a shorter firing pin for the Model 1902. The Model 1900’s firing pin was too long, which allowed for an accidental discharge if the hammer was struck while a cartridge was in the chamber. The new Model 1902 design featured a firing pin that was shorter than the distance between the hammer and cartridge, which now required the inertia of the hammer falling on the face of the firing pin to travel internally and strike the primer. The 1902 also did away with the problematic rear sight safety of the Model 1900.
The Model 1902 Military was the most popular and best-selling Colt Automatic Pistol prior to the introduction of the Model 1911. The Model 1902 was in production from 1902 until 1929, with about 18,000 manufactured. Serial numbering by Colt for the Model 1902 was unusual, in that numbering began for the model at serial number 15,001, then receding back to serial number 15,000, then beginning again at serial number 30,200 in 1908, finishing at serial number 47,266 in 1929. This particular pistol, serial number 39710, was manufactured sometime between 1917 and 1919. The serial numbers for Model 1902 Military Models during WWI are incomplete, but only 1,400 pistols were manufactured at Colt during that three year period.
The Model 1902 Military is a short recoil operated pistol chambered for the .38 rimless, smokeless cartridge (now known as the .38 ACP) and has an 8-shot magazine and a 6” barrel. The weight of the pistol is 2 pounds, 5 ounces. The very earliest Model 1902 Military Pistols had slide checkering on the front portion of the slide. This was quickly moved to the rear of the slide with standard serrations beginning in 1906. Slide locks on the Model 1902 Military had a split configuration until 1906, when the slide lock was a solid component. Sling Swivels were standard on Model 1902 Military Production. Hard rubber grips with stylized Colt logo were also standard on Model 1902 Military production.
The Slide retains 90% plus of the original, bright polished blue finish. There is wear, noted at the high points at the front of the slide and on the sides at the front and adjacent to the ejection port as well as at the right rear. The right side of the slide has the serif “AUTOMATIC COLT/CALIBRE 38 RIMLESS SMOKELESS,” stamping. The left side of the slide has the later two-line patent and address that reads “PATENTED/APR. 20. 1897 SEPT. 9. 1902,” and “COLT’S PT. F. A. MFG. CO./ HARTFORD, CT. U.S.A.” At the rear, left side of the slide is the Rampant Colt logo without the circle. The bottom of the slide on the slide rail the matching partial serial number “716.” The vast majority of the original blue finish is retained on the slides interior surfaces.
The Rear Sight is the original fixed type that is dovetailed into the rear of the slide and has the early, rounded shoulders. The Front Sight is the original half-moon type. Both sights retain considerable original blue finish with wear on the top and sharp edges.
The striking surface of the firing pin at the rear of the slide retains the majority of its original straw finish and it still retains its bright yellow coloring. The Slide Bar Lock retains 98% of the original polished blue finish.
The Receiver, or Frame, is in fine condition. The full serial number, with serifs, “39716” appears on the left side of the Frame above the trigger guard. On the upper portion of the trigger guard bow is “VP” in a triangle Colt Verified Proof stamp. The Frame retains 95% plus of its original bright blue finish. The Slide Lock is the later solid type, and it retains 95% plus of the original blued finish with wear on the outer edge of the thumb piece. The original sling swivel assembly is present on the left, bottom side of the frame and it still rotates easily.
The interior portions of the Frame retain the vast majority of its original blued finish. The Sear Spring retains the majority of its original heat tempered finish. The mainspring and the clip release latch both also retain the majority of their original blue finish. The Trigger Bow retains 95% plus of its original blue finish and the trigger itself retains 98% of the original blue finish with the minutest of wear on the sides where the trigger enters the frame. The Hammer retains 95% of its original, but faded, case colors with minor wear noted on the impact face. The Hammer is the correct, later type with a pointed spur. The hammer checkering remains crisp. The Disconnector remains correctly in the white as does the ejector. The Recoil Spring remains in the white. The spring dent button retains 98% of the original blued finish.
Both the front and rear grip straps retain generous traces of the original blued finish with a few minor scratches and wear on the sharp edges and the central portions thinning to a pewter patina. All of the frame screws have slightly marred slots and retain considerable original bright blue finish.
The Barrel ramp is correctly polished to the white. The rear face of the barrel retains considerable original blued finish. The Muzzle of the Barrel remains correctly in the white. The area over the chamber remains correctly in the white with the balance of the barrel retaining 95% of the original blued finish. The bore is in fine condition with a mirror finish and strong rifling and only minor frosting in the grooves.
Both original Colt hard rubber grips are present. The Rampant Colt medallion and “COLT” script are both sharp with only minor wear noted on one of the panels. The checkering on the grips remains in excellent condition. All four screw bushings are present. There are no cracks in the grip panels.
This pistol comes with the original Colt 7-round Magazine that is correctly marked with sans serif script, “CAL. 38/COLT.” The Magazine is in very fine condition and retains 95% of the original Colt blued finish, to include the follower.
This Colt Model 1902 Military Automatic Pistol is highly desirable as a direct predecessor of the Model 1911 Pistol. This pistol functions perfectly.