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In 1896, at serial number 164,100, a spring-loaded base pin latch replaced the cylinder pin retaining screw and by 1900, at serial number 192,000, the Colt Single Action was certified for use with smokeless powder.In 1920, larger, highly visible sights replaced the original thin blade and notch. Newer Colt production could be fired without the half-moon clips, but the empty cartridge cases had to be ejected with a device such as a cleaning rod or pencil, as the cylinder extractor and ejector would pass over the rims of the rimless cartridges. Later production Colt M1917 revolvers had headspacing machined into the cylinder chambers, just as the Smith & Wesson M1917 revolvers had from the start.The Colt Single Action Army revolver, along with the 18 Smith & Wesson Model 3 "Schofield" revolver, replaced the Colt 1860 Army Percussion revolver.The Colt quickly gained favor over the S&W and remained the primary US military sidearm until 1892 when it was replaced by the .38 Long Colt caliber Colt Model 1892, a double-action revolver with swing-out cylinder. 16,000 was reached; 12,500 Colt Single Action Army revolvers chambered for the .45 Colt cartridge had entered service and the remaining revolvers were sold in the civilian market.The Colt New Service was a popular revolver with British officers and many of them had privately purchased their own Colt New Service revolvers in the years prior to World War I as an alternative to the standard-issue Webley Revolver.

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government service revolver trials of 1872 by Colt's Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company — today's Colt's Manufacturing Company — and was adopted as the standard military service revolver until 1892. After World War I, the revolver gained a strong following among civilian shooters. During its lifetime, the Colt New Service was the most popular revolver made by Colt, surpassing 150,000 units.The Single Action Army became available in standard barrel lengths of 4¾ inch, 5½ inch, as well as the Cavalry standard, original 7½ inch.

The shorter barrelled revolvers are sometimes called the "Civilian" or "Gunfighter" model (4¾ inch) and the Artillery Model (5½ inch).

A "Target Model", "Shooting Master" and "Deluxe Target Model" were offered as well. The Colt M1917 Revolver was a New Service with a cylinder bored to take the .45 ACP cartridge and the half-moon clips to hold the rimless cartridges in position.