UNITED STATES REVOLVER
CALIBER .38
M1889 SERIES

Background Information

Table of Contents
I   Basic Statistics
II   Development History
III   Service History
IV   Revolver Picture
V   Conflict Use
VI   References

I - Basic Statistics

STATISTICS
United States Revolver, Caliber .38, M1889
Date Adopted: 1889
Length: 292mm (11.50")
Weight, empty: 0.94kg (2.07 lbs.)
Caliber: .38 Long Colt
Muzzle Velocity: 239mps (785FPS)
United States Revolver, Caliber .38, M1892
Date Adopted: 25 April 1892
Length: 292mm (11.50")
Weight, empty: 0.94kg (2.07 lbs.)
Caliber: .38 Long Colt
Muzzle Velocity: 239mps (785FPS)
United States Revolver, Caliber .38, M1894
Date Adopted: 1894
Length: 292mm (11.50")
Weight, empty: 0.94kg (2.07 lbs.)
Caliber: .38 Long Colt
Muzzle Velocity: 239mps (785FPS)
United States Revolver, Caliber .38, M1895
Date Adopted: 1895
Length: 292mm (11.50")
Weight, empty: 0.94kg (2.07 lbs.)
Caliber: .38 Long Colt
Muzzle Velocity: 239mps (785FPS)
United States Revolver, Caliber .38, M1896
Date Adopted: 1896
Length: 292mm (11.50")
Weight, empty: 0.94kg (2.07 lbs.)
Caliber: .38 Long Colt
Muzzle Velocity: 239mps (785FPS)
United States Revolver, Caliber .38, M1899
Date Adopted: 1900
Length: 292mm (11.50")
Weight, empty: 0.94kg (2.07 lbs.)
Caliber: .38 Long Colt
Muzzle Velocity: 239mps (785FPS)
United States Revolver, Caliber .38, M1901
Date Adopted: 1901
Length: 292mm (11.50")
Weight, empty: 0.94kg (2.07 lbs.)
Caliber: .38 Long Colt
Muzzle Velocity: 239mps (785FPS)
United States Revolver, Caliber .38, M1902
Date Adopted: 1902
Length: 292mm (11.50")
Weight, empty: 0.94kg (2.07 lbs.)
Caliber: .38 Long Colt
Muzzle Velocity: 239mps (785FPS)

II - Development History

Background
This section is intended to give the reader some basic insight on the overall design and development of the double action revolvers made by both the Coltís Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, and the Smith & Wesson Arms Company of Springfield, Massachusetts during the final years of the Nineteenth Century and the beginning years of the Twentieth Century. A double action revolver uses a long trigger pull to both turn the revolverís cylinder to align a fresh round with the barrel and to cock and release the hammer to fire the round. A very simple weapon to be sure, but in the infancy of its development, the double action revolver was not as reliable as its single action ancestors.

Colt directly developed their line of revolvers from their Single Action Army, better known as the Peacemaker. The Peacemaker was(is) a very durable and simple gun. Its main distinguishing characteristic is a closed frame, which encompasses and holds the revolverís cylinder. Indeed, Coltís first double action revolver, the New Model Double Action, better known as the Lightning in .38 caliber and the Thunderer in .41 caliber, was simply the Peacemakerís frame and barrel mated to a revised "birdís head" grip with a double action trigger mechanism. The main problem with this arrangement was the trigger mechanism's complexity was teamed with weak parts, making simple repair by gunsmiths in the American West nearly impossible.1

Smith & Wesson developed their revolvers during this time period in an effort to recapture some of the Western American market lost to Colt while filling orders for revolvers for many foreign governments, most notably Czarist Russia. In 1896, the first swing-out cylinder revolver Smith & Wesson developed, the .32 caliber Hand Ejector, paved the way for the appearance of the .38 caliber Hand Ejector three years later. This .38 caliber design had a thumb-activated cylinder latch and proved to be so popular, the basic design has survived to this day, first as the Military & Police and now as the Model 10.2

U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1889
This revolver was Coltís first swing-out cylinder design. A spring-powered latch on the left side of the revolverís frame retained the cylinder. The cylinders rotated in a counter-clockwise direction and, as wear occurred, tended to force the cylinder out of exact alignment with the barrel. In spite of this shortcoming, the U.S. Navy purchased 5000 M1889 revolvers between 1889 and 1890.3

U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1892
The Army liked the Model 1889, but wanted a small, separate bolt to hold the cylinder in firing position. The change was made and the Army purchased over 11,000 Model 1892s between 1892 and 1893. But the M1892 also suffered from the counter-clockwise cylinder rotation problems of the Model 1889.4

U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1894 (Army)
U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1895 (Navy)
U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1896
All these revolvers were externally indistinguishable from the earlier Model 1892. The main difference lies in the incorporation of a safety mechanism developed by Frederick Felton into the lockwork. Feltonís innovation prevented the revolver from being fired while the cylinder was not fully closed and secured in the weaponís frame. Many Model 1892s were modified by the addition of Feltonís lock. The Model 1896 was virtually identical to the Model 1894 and the Model 1895, save a few minor alterations. The Army and Navy purchased approximately 144,000 Model 1894s, 1895s and 1896s between 1894 and 1900.5

U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1899
Smith & Wessonís first .38 caliber design basically mirrored the contemporary designs of Coltís, but the Army and Navy only purchased 1000 each in 1900. The .38 Long Colt caliber in use by the military at the time was not very effective in defending against attackers during the Philippine Insurrection.6 (Authorís note: During the Philippine Insurrection, the standard .30 caliber Krag round was also proving not to be as effective as the military hoped for at stopping charging Moro tribesmen who were normally encased in tightly wound leather chestplates, under the influence of a narcotic or both. If a rifle canít "stop" an attacker, a handgun surely wonít...)

U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1901
A derivation of the Model 1894 again, it used a lanyard swivel and slimmer grips. Earlier guns were modified by the military as needed.7

U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1902
Smith & Wessonís second variation of the Hand Ejector included improved lockwork and frame modifications. The Navy purchased 1000 units in 1902.8


III - Service History

The most remarkable thing about the M1889 series revolvers was the fact the military hung onto them for so long. The most major piece of information about the M1889 series is Lieutenant Colonel Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt carried one during his famous charge up Kettle Hill during the Spanish-American War. This particular revolver was recovered from the sunken battleship, the U.S.S. Maine, and given to him by his brother-in-law, Captain W.S. Cowles. These revolvers also served as secondary sidearms during World War I, as directly ordered by General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing.

In summation, the M1889 series revolvers were not really very good. This can be attributed to the fact double action revolvers were just being developed at the time and the .38 Long Colt caliber was nothing to write home about.


IV - Revolver Picture

U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1889 United States Revolver
Caliber .38
M1889
Adopted: 1889
U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1892 United States Revolver
Caliber .38
M1892
Adopted: 1892
U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1894 United States Revolver
Caliber .38
M1894
Adopted: 1894
U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1895 United States Revolver
Caliber .38
M1895
Adopted: 1895
U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1896 United States Revolver
Caliber .38
M1896
Adopted: 1896
U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1899 (Army) United States Revolver
Caliber .38
M1899 (Army)
Adopted: 1900
U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1899 (Navy) United States Revolver
Caliber .38
M1899 (Navy)
Adopted: 1900
U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1901 United States Revolver
Caliber .38
M1901
Adopted: 1901
U.S. Revolver, Caliber .38, M1902 United States Revolver
Caliber .38
M1902 (Navy)
Adopted: 1902

V - Conflict Use
Conflicts Used
Conflict Date
Spanish-American War1898
Philippine Insurrection1898 - 1902
Battle of Tagalii, Samoa1899
China Relief Expedition
(aka The Boxer Rebellion)
1900
World War I1917 - 1918

VI - References
Footnotes:
1   Hogg, Ian V., Pistols of the World, Third Edition, DBI Books Incorporated, 1992.
2   Hogg, Ian V., ibid.
3   Hogg, Ian V., ibid.
4   Hogg, Ian V., ibid.
5   Hogg, Ian V., ibid.
6   Hogg, Ian V., ibid.
7   Hogg, Ian V., ibid.
8   Hogg, Ian V., ibid.

Figures:
1   McQuiggan, Warren Junior, received via the Internet.
2   Velleux, David L., from personal collection.
3   Velleux, David L., from personal collection.
4   Velleux, David L., from personal collection.
5   Velleux, David L., from personal collection.
6   Velleux, David L., from personal collection.
7   Velleux, David L., from personal collection.
8   Velleux, David L., from personal collection.
9   Velleux, David L., from personal collection.