This experimental Colt Army and Navy Model double action top break revolver is identified by serial number in R.L. Wilson's book "The Book of Colt Firearms" on page 340. Wilson states, "An experimental specimen, Serial #135444, was made in the top break configuration, similar to certain contemporary Smith & Wesson revolvers." At the time of this writing, this revolver is the only known example of its type in existence. Overall, the design is based on the Colt New Army and Navy revolvers with the exception of the top break configuration. The action opens and closes by a sliding latch integrated to the recoil shield located on the left side of the frame, but instead of releasing the cylinder so that it swings out as found on New Army and Navy revolvers, the latch allows the barrel and cylinder to tip forward and down. This latch locks the cylinder in place when the operator is ready to fire the revolver. The ejector is manually engaged to eject the spent cartridge casings. The centerfire hammer is notched to accept the pivoting barrel assembly. The left rear side of the frame is marked with a Rampant Colt. The barrel is marked "COLT. D.A. 38" on the left side and "COLT'S PT. F. A. MFG. CO. HARTFORD CT. U.S.A./PATENTED AUG. 5. 1884 NOV. 6. 88. MAR. 5. 95." on top. The barrel legend is the type of marking found on New Army and Navy revolvers manufactured between 1895 and 1905. If we assume that this revolver is numbered within the New Army and Navy revolver serial number range, then this revolver was manufactured in 1900. The serial number is marked on the butt. The assembly number "260" is marked on the latch and on the back of both grip panels. The revolver has fixed sights: a half moon front blade and a rear sight notched in the top strap which is partially covered by the hardware that secures the barrel to the frame. The grip straps are smooth. It has a high polished blue finish with niter blue finish on the hammer and trigger. Fitted with checkered two-piece grips with the "COLT" and Rampant Colt motif at the top. This is a type of grip pattern that was used on New Army and Navy revolvers. The trail leading to even the most successful designs is often steeped in documented and undocumented trials and errors. Introduced in 1889, Colt was the first to successfully produce a double action revolver with a swing-out cylinder that was released by a sliding latch. The swing out cylinder would dominate Colt revolver design for decades to come. But as this revolver demonstrates, Colt also experimented with a top break design more commonly associated with its rival Smith & Wesson.
Very fine. The revolver retains 75% bright original high polish blue finish with a smooth brown patina on the balance. There are a few dark small spots of mild pitting. The grips are excellent with overall crisp checkering. Mechanically excellent. Quite possibly a one-of-a-kind Colt experimental top break revolver that adds a missing piece to even the most advanced Colt double action revolver collection. No Colt double action revolver collection can be considered truly complete without this revolver.
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