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Colt Model 1902 Military .38 ACP - Rimless Smokeless

The Colt Model 1902 Military .38 ACP is another of John Browning’s designs manufactured by Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company.  This model was based on the early .38 autoloader design of the Model 1900, and 1902 Sporting Model, with a few significant differences. 

The 1902 Military had a longer squared off butt and is fitted with a swivel lanyard loop on the left side of the frame.  The slightly extended length of the grip increased the capacity of the number of rounds by one, for a total of eight.  Second, the frame was fitted with a slide release that also served to lock open the slide after the last round in the magazine was fired.  These are the major differences between the 1902 Military and 1902 Sporting models.  There were also several variations in slide markings, magazine base plate markings and variations in finish throughout production.

The U.S. Government order 200 of these pistols for testing in 1902.  These 200 guns were ordnance inspected, have the early rounded hammer and the “nail file” type front slide serrations.  Another large contract was for approximately 800 pistols that were ordered by the Mexican government.

The earliest commercial examples were in the same configuration as the military contract guns but for the ordnance marks.  The forward nail file slide serrations were eventually replaced but the rear triangular cut vertical slide serrations.  The early style high polish finish was later replaced with a less reflective more durable finish and the early style rounded hammer was replaced with a low spur hammer.

The Model 1902 Military .38 ACP was manufactured from 1902 until 1928 with just over 18,000 pistols manufactured.  Serial numbers began at 15,001 to 15,200 for the military contract.  Numbers then ran descending from 15,000 backwards to 11,000.  After serial number 11,000, numbers ran ascending from 15,201 to the high serial number 43,266. 

Most pistols were manufactured with a blue finish and black molded hard rubber grips.  Some other factory variations were manufactured including those that are inscribed, engraved and nickel plated.  Factory stocks in smooth walnut, checkered walnut, mother of pearl and ivory were also available for this model.

The Photos and Information link above will provide you with photos and descriptions of some of the other unique characteristics of these early Colt pistols.

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