Early Colt Model 1877 & 1878 Double Action Revolvers
|Model 1877 DA's, click to enlarge (Colt Lightnings & Colt Thunderers)||Model 1878 DA, click to enlarge|
The earliest Colt double action cartridge revolvers, the small frame Model 1877 and the large frame Model 1878, were patterned on the Colt SAA- they were loaded through the loading gate, and empty cases are punched out one at a time with the ejector laying under the barrel. The common chamberings for the 1878 were the 45 Colt and 44-40, and for the 1877 were 38 Colt (known as the Lightning) and 41 Colt (also known as the Thunderer)
With the Old West romance attached to the Single Action revolvers, it's easy to overlook the significance of the Double Action designs in the late 19th century. Production figures suggest that the large DA's were at least as popular as their SA counterparts during the 1880's and 1890's. From it's introduction in 1878 through 1900, Colt made about 43,000 of its big 78 DA revolver. During this same period, they produced slightly over 150,000 SAA's. However, the Colt 1877 DA somewhat splits the difference in size between full size revolver and "pocket revolver". If we include the 112,000 1877 DA's made during that time frame, the Colt DA holster revolver production slightly outpaces that of the venerable SAA.
The S&W market also appears to have slightly favored big DA's over big SA's during that period. The bulk of Model 3 production occurred during the 1870's. I would guess that during the 1878-1890 time period, around 40,000 large frame single actions S&W's were sold compared to around 50,000 large frame DA's.
Photos & for sale listings of Colt 1877 & 1878 DA's
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Last updated 02/03/06.
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