With the impending success of Colt’s program to develop new .45 caliber pistol for the US military (the 1911), the company began to look for ways to exploit the work that had gone into it. They had previously sold lots of .38 caliber automatic pistols, so why not offer a .38 caliber version of the 1910? In addition to a potential US commercial market, a new rimless .38 caliber cartridge might be just teething to get some foreign military contracts. So about 5 pistols were handmade by Colt’s tool room around both the old .38 ACP cartridge and a very similar 9.8mm cartridge (which was tested in both semi-rimmed and rimless variations). These guns were not conversions of the .45 caliber frame, but rather wholly new guns built around the smaller ammunition. They are slightly smaller in scale across all dimensions compared to the now-familiar M1911.
At the same time, Colt’s relationship with FN was getting tense as FN was selling more guns into Central and South America. Colt decided to send their new 9.8mm prototype (in the hands of Eugene Reising, then a Colt employee) to pistol trials in England and Romania. While winning a contract would be great, just appearing would let FN know that Colt was still paying attention. In the end, Colt didn’t win any contracts – but they were able to negotiate a new marketing agreement with FN from a stronger position.
The experimental .38/9.8mm pistols gathered dust in storage, as they were never ultimately put into production. In 1929, someone remembered them when Colt was releasing the M1911A1 in .38 Super. Serial number 3 (this pistol) was given a nice new finish and put into Colt’s factory museum (from whence it later was sold into the collector market).