Restoring and repairing a classic Colt double action revolver.
by Mark Hollensen
I recently had the opportunity to service an original Colt Model 1877, a double action .38 Long Colt revolver dubbed the “Lightning.” This particular piece was manufactured in 1902 and arrived in fairly decent shape but wasn’t functioning properly. When the gun was cycled in double action the cylinder would start turning as it should with the hand but then the bolt would disappear or jump back, causing the cylinder to drop backwards. Continuing with the double action cycling, the hand still pushed the cylinder up but the cylinder bolt would not lock into the cylinder lock notches as the hammer would fall. So, the gun was out of time. I also found that the trigger would not return after being pulled back either in double or single action. Finally, the hammer would not cock or stay cocked when pulling it back.
I was well aware of other gunsmith’s reluctance to work on this particular revolver, mainly due to its intricate design. Being Colt’s first double action gun, I wanted to see just what went wrong with it and decided to have a try. I began by going through my extensive library of service manuals, gun books, Colt literature, and my gunsmith school files from my days attending Trinidad State College. I happened across a service manual I purchased years ago entitled iiTroubleshooting the Colt Lightning – Model 1877 Double Action Revolver by Clifford W. Mills. This ended up being the only source manual I could get my hands on to get me up to speed on the 1877 design. The manual provides an in-depth history of Colt’s first double action revolver as well as great detail about troubleshooting it. The manual has lots of great information, however, have it did not answer a few of the problems this gun was experiencing.
Read more in the February 2016 issue.