Colt Model 1903 U.S. Army
"U.S. Army Model 1903"
1903 S/N 205097

This Model 1903 was actually manufactured in 1903 and the total delivered to the Army was reported by Springfield Armory at 12,500. This model was the last variation in the New Army/Navy Model family (Model 1892 series) and serial numbers for the Model 1903 ran from 200,000 to 212,500.

The Model 1901 and 1903 were the only New Model Army and & Navy revolvers shipped from Colts with the lanyard loop, earlier models found with the lanyard loop probably received upgrades at Colts or Springfield to bring them up to the Model 1901 specifications.

The Model 1903 had two major changes from its predecessors:
    1) Bore diameter was decreased from .363 inch to .357 inch to increase accuracy. This was to accommodate the new more powerful S&W .38 Special Cartridge, though it could still shoot the .38 Long Colt cartridge.
    2) Grips were narrowed to provide for a better grip

The example shown here is the Army marked model, there are also Navy and Marine Corp marked variations but these are much rarer and demand a premium price. This revolver is in roughly 70% condition and has not only survived with original parts and finish but the original serial numbered grips as well. This is a neat example of the last primary issue revolver in .38 caliber as it was replaced by the .45 caliber bullet which was re-introduced in the Model of 1909 (45 Long Colt). The cartouche information that appeared on the left side of the grip panels on previous military models was moved to the frame in 1902 by the Army and first began appearing on the Model 1901 Army model. You will find the Model 1903 revolvers with "1902", "1903" or "1904"  on the frame depending on when they were received by the Army.

The Philippines Insurrection was a huge failure of performance for the .38 caliber revolvers and was the last conflict they participated in as the U.S. governments primary sidearm. In 1909 the Colts M1909 in .45 Long Colt was adopted as the primary sidearm of the U.S. Army and was subsequently replaced by the Colts M1911 semi automatic pistol in late 1911. The M1917 came to be as a interim revolver due to the needs of World War I not being met by M1911 manufacturers. The M1911 was updated in 1924 and became the M1911-A1 which was then produced through 1945.

Left profile

Right profile

Model and S/N

R.A.C. markings on cylinder

Inspectors mark left frame

Grip R.A.C. mark

J.E.H. Inspectors cartouche
and S/N on Cylinder latch

Model 1903 Frame mark
(double stamped)

Colt Barrel Legend

Bottom of barrel with "
K" mark and "P"

Chambered in .38 Long Colt

Fire blue on the hammer

Grip serial numbers

S/N on crane recess

S/N on crane with "
K" mark


Markings under grips with "
K" mark
From the collection
of T. Moore
  • R.A.C. = Rinaldo A. Carr who was a civilian employee of the War Department and was the sub-inspector on the revolvers. Mark is found on the Cylinder, left frame, and bottom of grips.

  • J.E.H = Captain Jay E. Hoffer - Inspector of Contract Arms, Colt revolvers and Colt Gatling guns. Oct. 31, 1903 to Mar. 6, 1906. Commanding Officer at Springfield Armory from Mar. 15, 1918 to Sept. 16th, 1918. Retired as a Colonel on Jan. 1919. There were other inspectors that accepted the Model 1903 as well.

  • Serial numbers are found on grips, butt, cylinder latch, crane recess and crane.

  • No serial numbers on the barrel or cylinder just as the Colt M1909 revolvers.

  • "K" mark on Latch release, grip frame, cylinder crane, and barrel match in size and font.

  • It has also been reported that these pistols saw use as late as World War II. Refer to documentation presented in Charles W. Pates "US Handguns of World War II, The secondary pistols and revolvers". However, this book does not address these revolvers on any detail.

  • Special thanks to Johnny Peppers and Bob Best for their correspondence on this topic.

  • Reference Bob Best "The Army Contract Models" Fall, 2001. The Rampant Colt

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