A Gun Light from 1912?

This unique prototype shows that mounting a flashlight on a firearm is hardly a modern concept.

A wire ran from the flashlight to the batteries in the grip through an inlet under the cylinder.
A wire ran from the flashlight to the batteries in the grip through an inlet under the cylinder.photo from NRA Museum

From the vaults of the NRA Museum comes proof that weapon lights aren’t a new concept at all, not by about 105 years.

This rare Colt Police Positive Special revolver includes a “night sights for firearms” that was patented by George Seely of San Francisco in 1912. The patent application says it could be adapted for rifles or revolvers, according to NRA Museum.

The batteries that ran the light were mounted under the somewhat odd-looking grip panels, but the wire that ran to the light was inlet into the frame under the revolver’s cylinder, meaning it was about the opposite of a quick-detach system.

The long metal lip on the grip acted as an on/off switch for the flashlight, which was spring buffered to help it absorb recoil.

The other side of this experimental revolver.
The other side of this experimental revolver.photo from NRA Museum

This particular handgun was chambers in .32-30 and produced in 1914.

So why weren’t flashlights more common on firearms if they’d been combined so long ago? Well, it comes down to a couple things. The light output of an old-school incandescent flashlight like this wasn’t that great, but it was better than darkness.

They also required a large amount of battery power, and batteries of the day of useful size didn’t hold that much output.

Today, high-intensity LED lights paired with modern batteries and polymer construction means weapon lights are lightweight, high-output devices that run on small batteries that last a relatively long time.

As for the revolver, the Colt Police Positive Special was introduced in 1908 as small frame, double-action revolver with a six-round cylinder. They were usually chambered for the .38 Special cartridge and were intended primarily for sale to law enforcement. It is Colt's most widely produced revolver, with over 750,000 rolling off the assembly line.