Intro from Mike the Mook: Ian McCollum takes us back to a version of one of our favorite Colt revolvers in an incarnation that most so-called gun experts get wrong: the 1902 Philippines Model. We don’t particularly care for this version of the 1878 Double Action Frontier Revolver, as we have an original made in 1897 chambered in .44-40. Yet we still see people incorrectly identifying this one by the wrong name. Read on, and watch.
Today we’re taking a quick look at a gun designed to kill Filipinos. You may have heard that after the Filipino insurrection, Colt .38 revolvers just didn’t do the trick and the army had to go back to the .45. This led to .45 Auto eventually being chosen for the M1911 and the return of the revolver in .45 Colt to take care of Moro fighters, but that revolver was not the Single Action Army. Some officers certainly preferred the Colt SAA, so they dusted off some old revolvers to bring them back into service.
[Colt SAA (top) dwarfed by the larger framed Model 1878 Frontier (bottom); the cylinders are the same size, however]
But what the military actually bought were these:
[Note the longer trigger and oversized trigger guard]
Model 1902 Colt Revolvers
First introduced as the Colt 1878 Double Action Frontier Model and chambered in .44-40 or .44 WCF, Colt eventually offered them in various calibers from .32-20 to .476 Eley, but mainly offered them in .45 Colt. The Army tested these in 1879 and found out that they weren’t all that good, most notably because the light hammer spring caused failures to strike and set off primers. When Colt realized there might be a market for these in terms of a military contract, they increased the size of the hammer spring to give it more power to strike the primer and set it off properly. The problem was that it made for a heavy trigger pull, so to fix that they increased the trigger length.
[Original Colt M1878, destined to become the M1902]
Then the trigger wouldn’t fit inside the trigger guard, so they fixed that by adding this oversized and rather goofy looking trigger guard to go with the nice bird-handled grip. That became the Philippine Model of 1902, and the US Government bought 4600 of these to arm the Philippine Constabulary Corps. This was the gun they specifically purchased to deal with the Moro problem in the Philippines.
These revolvers became incorrectly known in common parlance on the civilian market as the Alaskan Model based on the idea that this trigger guard was designed for shooting in cold conditions while wearing gloves. That is incorrect as these guns came from the Philippines.
Thanks for watching.
Mook’s end note: But it’s not just the 1902. The other commonly repeated misconception is that the Army went from the .38 Special to the .45 ACP. As Ian points out in this article, this was a revolver to revolver change. The original revolvers in question were Colt M1892’s chambered in .38 Long Colt, which was a bit shorter and far less potent than the .38 Special.
About the Author: Ian McCollum is considered a gun nerd even among gun nerds. He’s probably best known for his work as the founder and editor of Forgotten Weapons. McCollum is also a producer and co-host of InRange TV. As if these chops weren’t enough, he’s a technical adviser for the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners and a professional researcher for Armament Research Services. Somehow he manages to balance such academic work with private consultation and practical shooting competition. He’s been published in publications such as Strzał Magazine and Popular Mechanics, and he has excellent taste in rare and obscure camouflage. If you’d like to support Ian’s goal of creating a comprehensive firearms encyclopedia, support him here: https://www.patreon.com/ForgottenWeapons. (Yes, we know he looks like someone crossed a beatnik with a Civil War cavalry officer — idiosyncracies, eccentricities, and peculiarities are the first requirements to write for us. He’s gonna fit in perfectly.
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