Revolver Options

I’ve owned several .38 Colt handguns (to the best of my memory, none were stamped “.38 Long Colt”). They’ve ranged from a couple of little Colt Model 1877 DAs to one U.S. Model 1903 and a modern conversion done on one of the fine 2nd Generation Colt 1861 cap-and-ball revolvers (I understand the gunsmith no longer does them, so I won’t mention names). And of course any .38 Special or .357 Magnum revolver can safely fire .38 Long Colt.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the .38 Colt/Long Colt story: It was introduced in the early to mid-1870s for several types of Colt revolvers. Some were cap-and-ball conversions, others small pocket pistols.

In 1877 it was one of the introductory calibers of Colt’s double action, soon nicknamed the “Lightning.” Case length was 0.88" and heel-type bullet weights were 130–150 grains over about 18 grains of black powder. Now get this: Bullet diameter was actually about .375 to .378" — not .357" — as was the later .38 Special.