This is a unique example of an early production Colt New Pocket revolver with a very rare 6" barrel. It has a desirable pre-1898 antique serial number in the 9,300 serial range. Made in 1897. This is the only example of a New Pocket with a 6" barrel that I have personally seen. Usually, the longer barrels were ordered on the Colt New Police models which shared the same caliber and frame as the New Pocket but had longer grip handles more suitable for target shooting. These long barreled New Police revolvers were designated as the "New Target Police". So why would someone order a Colt New Pocket with a 6" barrel when they could have gotten a New Police Target instead? Well, here's what happened. In 1897, the year this New Pocket was made, the New Police had just been introduced. All or nearly 100% of the 4,200 New Police Revolvers produced in that first year were shipped to the New York Police Department who had a contract with Colt for 4,600. Chances you could have even ordered a New Police in 1897 would have been slim at best. After all, the New Police was designed exclusively for the NYPD. That said, if you wanted a .32 Colt DA with longer barrel, you would have ordered the Colt New Pocket which had been in production since 1893. More on the New Police later.
Configuration: Standard blued finish with checkered hard rubber grips with plain Colt logo. Caliber is .32 Colt with a six-shot cylinder. The barrel has only the early 1884 and 1888 patent dates. Note: It's always important to look at the patent dates on these early antique New Pockets as many have later production replacement barrels. The tell-tale sign: an additional patent below the Colt Address dated "1900". Please see the following two paragraphs if you'd like to know more. The left side of the barrel is marked "COLT D.A. 32" while the side of the frame has the rampant colt with a circular logo around it that reads "COLT'S NEW POCKET".
The New Pocket followed the introduction of Colt's first large frame Double Action revolvers known as the Model 1889 Navy and Model 1892 New Army Navy. These were the first Colts with a swing-out cylinder (with most of these early ones going to the US Navy and US Army)...a design concept that is still found today on all modern day double action revolvers. The New Pocket was scaled from .38 Colt down to .32 Colt and was Colt's first pocket model using this modern design. The New Pocket was made from 1893-1905 with 30,000 units produced. The gun was well ahead of its time both mechanically and stylistically. Most casual observers would never guess this revolver was designed and produced during the early half of the 1890's. In fact, a slightly elongated version based on the New Pocket frame and .32 Colt cartridge known as the Colt New Police revolver. The Police Commissioner of New York City received the first one and ordered several thousand for his officers. The Colt New Police became the first standardized revolver of the NYPD. BTW, that Police Commissioner was a little known civic reformer at the time named Theodore Roosevelt.
Only the first 11,900 New Pocket revolvers qualify as pre-1898 antiques and while that's not what collectors would consider to be a small number, they are unusually hard to find. The culprit appears to be the barrels which have thin forcing cones which would often split or chip. Furthermore, I have my doubts that in 1893, the designers had completely envisioned or understood the coming age of smokeless powder ammunition. For example, the Winchester Model 1893 introduced the same year as this COLT Pocket was found too weak to handle smokeless shells causing one of the first EVER product recalls in the United States. This wasn't discovered of course until several years later when smokeless shells began to dominate the market. Interestingly enough, both the Colt New Pocket and Winchester 1893 had production runs of 30-33,000 units before being replaced with improved models. Could this be the reason why early antique production New Pockets are so difficult to find? Furthermore, even when located, many I've seen are now wearing replacement barrels. Two guns come to mind! Years ago, I found a very early New Pocket in the 200 serial range. The backstrap had US Cartridge Company stamps indicating it was probably one of their test guns...so we could surmise that it was probably fired more than the avg. gun. Not surprisingly, the barrel had already been replaced at least once about 100 years before...matched the gun perfectly EXCEPT that it gave itself away with the later 1900 patent date. Just saw another beautiful example at the Tulsa show last November..it too had a replaced barrel. Well, this of course is all loose speculation based on informal observations with no concrete evidence to support it...plus you're reading this on the Internet. So bear in mind, it's just a "theory". Who knows though, maybe someone out there will devote some time to researching this and get something more substantial about the New Pocket published in the form of an article published someday. In 1905, the New Pocket design was improved with a more robust frame and barrel. It was renamed the Colt Model "Pocket Positive". Sharing the same serial range with the New Pocket, an additional 130,000 Pocket Positives had been produced when production ceased in 1940.
Condition: For starters, the photos of this gun don't do it any justice...so if you even "sorta like" the photos, then chances are good you'd really like this gun in person. It shows much more original blue than the camera wanted to convey and while it's far from perfect, the blemishes in the photos are far less noticeable in person. Overall condition grades to NRA Antique Fine with 75% original blue overall with some light scattered pits here and there from poor storage...most likely from being kept in a leather holster. Otherwise, this would grade up to NRA Antique Excellent. Trigger, rear face of hammer, and screws retain an avg of 70% original vivid fire blue. Side of hammer have 80% of their original bright polish. The action is in Excellent condition. Bore is Good...still fairly bright but like the outside of the gun, it has some light scattered pits here and there. Grips are Excellent with sharp checkering and no chips or cracks. This is a good solid, unaltered, and antique example of an important early Colt Double Action design with a super rare 6" barrel length. There were probably no more than a handful of these long-barrel antique New Pockets built prior to the introduction of the New Police Target around the turn of the century.