Colt 1877 Lightning Etched Panel 2.5″ Barrel “Sheriff’s Model” DA Revolver

SOLD FOR: $1,375.00

WOA#: 240323WM042

Make: Colt

Model: 1877 “Lightning” .38 LC Double Action Revolver

Serial Number: 46438

Year of Manufacture: Colt’s serial number lookup indicates production in 1883 (

Caliber: .38 Long Colt

Action Type: Single Action/Double Action Revolver with Side Loading Gate Cylinder
Markings: The left side of the barrel has the faded but legible etched panel “COLT D. A. 38”. The top of the barrel is marked “COLT’S PT. F. A. MFG. CO. / HARTFORD. CT. U.S.A.”. The left side of the frame is marked “PAT. SEPT. 19, 1871 / “   “  15, “ 74. / “ JAN. 19, “ 75.”. The underside of the frame at the grip frame, the front of the trigger guard just behind it, and the front underside edge of the backstrap are marked “46438”.

Barrel Length: 2 1/2”

Sights/Optics: The front sight is a blade fixed to the barrel. The rear sight is a “V” groove in the top strap.

Stock Configuration and Condition: The grips are two-piece checkered brown hard rubber with a “Rampant Colt” in an oval at the top of each panel. There is some smoothing and discoloration from years of age and handling. Both grips are surprisingly complete. Overall, the grips are in Very Good Plus condition as Antique.

Type of Finish: Blued

Finish Originality: Original

Bore Condition: The bore is semi-bright with sharp rifling. There is some scattered light erosion and pitting in the bore. In this writer’s opinion, the bore rates 7 out of 10.

Most antique firearms have bores that will show erosion. This is not only due to age but to the use of black powder. When fired, black powder reacts corrosively. NRA Antique Firearm Conditions Standards are quite lenient for bores. In some cases, the NRA standards disregard the bore condition for collectors’ firearms.

Overall Condition: This revolver retains about 45% of its metal finish. Most of the balance is finish loss on the outside of the cylinder and frame. The retention of the original royal blue is pleasantly found on the right side of the barrel, and the back strap behind the hammer above the grip frame. There is some other scattered finish loss. There is handling wear on the face of the trigger and the top of the hammer spur. Some areas of finish loss have surface oxidation. There are scattered minor nicks, scuffs, and scratches, most observable on the cylinder arbor pin. The action shows operational wear. The screw heads range from sharp to tool marked with serviceable slots. The markings are clear on the frame, but the etching on the barrel has faded. We would say the etched panel still remains mostly legible, however. Overall, this revolver rates in Good condition as Antique.

Mechanics: The action functions correctly. The cylinder locks up with minor play when the trigger is depressed. The double action trigger is fairly smooth. The single action trigger is crisp. We did not fire this revolver. As with all used firearms, thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance standards.

Box, Paperwork, and Accessories: None

Our Assessment: The Colt M1877 double action revolver was manufactured from 1877 to 1909 for a total of 166,849 revolvers. The M1877 was offered in three calibers, which lent them three unofficial names: the “Lightning”, the “Thunderer”, and the “Rainmaker”. The principal difference between the models was the chambering: the “Lightning” in .38 LC, the “Thunderer” in .41 LC, and the “Rainmaker” in .32 LC. The M1877 was designed by one of the inventors of the M1873 Single Action Army “Peacemaker”, William Mason, as Colt’s first attempt at manufacturing a double action revolver, and it was also the first successful US-made double action cartridge revolver. None of those nicknames were official Colt designations, nor used by the factory in any reference materials. All of those terms were coined by Benjamin Kittredge, one of Colt’s major distributors. Old West outlaw John Wesley Hardin frequently used both “Lightning” and “Thunderer” versions of the Colt M1877 revolver, and Billy the Kid had a Lightning on him when he fatefully met his end at the hand of Pat Garrett. This scarce Lightning is one of the early, etched panel, shorter barreled, ejectorless guns known as the “Sheriff’s”, “Storekeeper’s”, or “Shopkeeper’s” model. With its 2 1/2″ barrel and lack of an ejector mechanism, it was easier to carry concealed or in a discrete manner compared to the longer barrel versions. It also features the long, checkered cylinder arbor pin that was typical of the ejectorless guns. This allowed the arbor pin to double as an ad hoc ejector rod when removed from the frame. The contents of the etched panel still remain mostly legible, although faded. The etched panel was changed to the more commonly encountered roll-die marking in ca. 1890. This would make a fine addition to a Colt collection as an example of an early M1877. Please see our photos and good luck on your bid. Enjoy the auction. -K.F.

Colt 1877 Lightning Etched Panel 2.5" Barrel "Sheriff's Model" DA Revolver
Colt 1877 Lightning Etched Panel 2.5″ Barrel “Sheriff’s Model” DA Revolver