Model 1889-1895 Colt "New Navy" Revolver

 By Patrick McSherry
The 1895 Colt revolver with holster and cartridge box (Photo courtesy of the Doug Howser Collection)

GENERAL:

The Model 1889, 1892-95 Colt "New Navy" revolver was the standard sidearm used by U.S. Naval personnel in the Spanish American War.

BACKGROUND:

The U.S. Navy begans its search for a new handgun to replace the aging converted 1851 Navy revolvers in 1887. These revolvers had been converted to .38 cal. center-fire in 1873, but were still outdated. The Navy decided to replace the weapon with the Model 1889 .38 cal. Colt revolver, and ordered five thousand of them. The weapon did have a problem in that the cylinder did not have locking notches, which could lead to misfires. Most of these weapons were reworked to correct this problem. In 1892, a new model of the "Colt New Navy" was issued which no longer suffered from this problem. The barrel was also shortened. Minor improvements were again apparently made in 1895.

ADVANTAGES/DISADVANTAGES:

The major complaint against this weapon, once the cylinder locking mechanism was corrected, was the trigger rebound spring. Often, the spring would not pull the trigger back into position after the previous shot. The gun had a tendency to foul, and it quickly became difficult to force a round into the cylinder.

The weapon was sturdily built however, and showed a good resistance to rusting, a major consideration for the Navy.

Revolver Drill aboard the Battleship MAINE

TECHNOTES:

Action: Revolver, double action, with a swing-out cylinder
which rotated in the counter-clockwise direction.
Total length: 11.5 inches, two bands
Length of barrel: 6 inches
Rifling: 5 grooves
Weight: 2 pounds, 1 ounce
Ammunition: .38 cal. long and short, and .41 cal. long and short.
Magazine capacity: 6-shot
Weight of projectile: 9.6 grains
Muzzle Velocity: 1,100 feet per second
Sights: Knife-blade sight at muzzle, and V-notch in hammer.
Markings: Barrel stamped with patent dates. The butt frame
is marked "S.N. 38 D.A." with the model year.

Bibliography:

Chapel, Charles Edward, The Collector's Handbook of Values. (New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1960).

Ezell Edward C., Handguns of the World. (Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1981).

Gluckman, Arcadi, United States Muskets, Rifles and Carbines. (Buffalo: Otto Ulbrich Co., Inc., 1948).

Howser, Doug, (pistol image)


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