I recently obtained (this afternoon) this older Colt revolver from a local gun store. It is a Colt Officer's Model 38 Heavy Barrel, and I was told it is a 3rd edition (I have no idea). The counter guy said it was chambered in.38 Long Colt, but I don't think so. I think it's a.38 Special.
I hope so, so I don't have to reload yet another caliber. But I can do it if I have to.
Colt Serial Number look-up Colt. OFFICERS MODEL 1951. SINGLE ACTION ARMY & BISLEY REVOLVERS '.45 COLT CALIBER, STANDARD' 1876.
The revolver has King front and rear sights and a King Cockeyed hammer. I read that it may have also had a trigger job and other internal modifications for bullseye shooting. It's a bit worn in spots and has a few scratches but the trigger feels really nice! It needs a good cleaning, the cylinder is filthy and hasn't been scrubbed in years. The rifling looks very good.
The grips are sharp with no chips or cracks. The cylinder locks up nice. There is a pretty good wear line in the finish on the cylinder. The serial number is 606XXX which I think puts the date of manufacture as 1937 but the serial numbers for this model seem to be a bit confusing. I found this serial number explanation out there on the net: 'Prior to 1949, 38 caliber Officers Models were serial numbered with the base model of the day; that is, the New Army/Navy, Army Special and Official Police.
From 1949 through 1952, the 38 caliber Officers Model Specials were numbered in a uniquely assigned range identified as Officers Model Special in the Proofhouse charts. Starting in 1953, the 38 caliber Officers Model Match was serial numbered with the Troopers.' And a serial number chart from Proofhouse: Official Police & Marshal Year Serial Number 1927 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 7 7 7 799 1947 799 1948 700 1948 799 1948 7 707 1949 716 1949 783 1949 750 1949 7 7 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 9 9 9 963 1969 J1001 1970 J8601 Numbers continued from Army Special serials. Marshal Model serial numbers are in the 833352 - 845317 range and have an 'M' suffix, 2500 or less were manufactured from 1954-1956. So I think it was built in 1937. And I think it's a.38 Special.
Any ideas or info you guys can provide is greatly appreciated. It's a.38 Special. The only Officer's Model in.38 Long Colt was the First Issue Officer's Model of the Colt New Army & Navy revolver and was made from 1904 to 1908. After that, everything was.38 Special.
Your gun is known as the Colt Officer's Model Target, Third Issue. The Third Issue was made from 1927 to 1949. It was available in.22LR and in.38 Special.
The Heavy Barrel version of the Officer's Model Target was introduced in 1935. The grips are not correct for the gun. Colt stopped using the hard rubber type grips in 1924 and the correct grips for your Officer's Model would be the standard Colt service type checkered walnut with silver Colt medallions. The Officer's Model Target was Colt's premium quality revolver and was specifically made for formal target shooting.
It's accuracy was legendary, only bettered by the super-premium Colt Python. In the days when the revolver was King of the Matches, all the top shooters used the Officer's Model and it held all the records. Your Colt was built in the 1930's when quality was at the very top for the gun industry, especially at Colt. A revolver with the King's custom work would have been owned by a real competitive shooter who was willing to spend money during the Depression to get the absolute most out of the gun he could.
Your Colt was the finest Target revolver of it's time and should still produce accuracy at a near Python level if you hand load wadcutter Mid-Range Target loads. It was built to shoot the 158 grain lead bullet and should not be shot with +P ammo. Here's my instructions on how to check the timing of your Colt. To check Colt timing: BOLT RETRACTION AND 'SNAP BACK'.
Open the cylinder and look at the small 'lug' in the bottom of the cylinder window. This is the cylinder locking bolt. Cock the hammer, and watch as the bolt retracts into the frame and pops back out. The bolt MUST begin to retract THE INSTANT the hammer begins to move. There MUST be NO (ZERO) hammer movement possible before the bolt starts to retract.
The bolt should retract smoothly with no hesitation until it's fully retracted, then it must pop back out with a clean 'snap'. There should be no hesitation, and no amount of 'creeping' back out. CYLINDER UNLOCKING. Close the cylinder.
Use your left thumb or fore finger to again cock the hammer, closely watching the cylinder bolt as you SLOWLY cock the hammer. As the hammer comes back, the bolt will retract away from the cylinder. The bolt must retract far enough to unlock the cylinder BEFORE the cylinder begins to rotate. If the bolt is still slightly engaged with the cylinder lock notch, the cylinder will be attempting to turn while still partially locked.
This produces a 'catch' or 'hard spot' in the trigger pull and will damage both the bolt and the cylinder lock notches. This often appears as metal 'pulled out' of the lock notches, with rounded off and burred notches. BOLT DROP TIMING. Continue to cock the hammer, LIGHTLY laying your right index finger on the cylinder just enough to prevent 'free wheeling'.
Watch for the bolt to drop back onto the cylinder. WHERE the bolt drops is CRITICAL. The bolt MUST drop onto the leade or ramp in front of the actual cylinder notch. If the bolt drops too soon, (in front of the notch ramp), it will mar the finish of the cylinder. The bolt should drop into “about” the middle of the ramp.
If the bolt drops late, (farther toward the actual locking notch) the revolver may display 'cylinder throw-by'. In this condition, during double action shooting the cylinder may rotate PAST the locking notch, and fire in an unlocked condition. It's the nature of the Colt action, that a hesitant or jerky trigger pull by the user can induce throw-by in even a properly tuned Colt. The Colt trigger should be pulled with a smooth, even pull, with no sudden jerks at the beginning. CYLINDER LOCKUP. Continue to pull the hammer back and both watch and listen for the bolt to drop into the cylinder lock notch. The bolt must drop into the actual lock notch before or just as the hammer reaches full cock.
The most common Colt mis-time situation is the hammer cocks before the bolt drops into the lock notch. (Hammer is cocked, but cylinder isn't locked). In this condition, with the hammer fully cocked, you can push the cylinder slightly, and you will hear the 'CLICK' as the bolt drops into lock. In my experience, most Colt's leave the factory with the bolt dropping a little late into the leade, but usually wear in to correct timing. If the bolt drops onto the cylinder early, no real problem, but there will be extra finish wear. If the bolt drops late (closer to the lock notch) the cylinder may 'throw by' or rotate TOO far in double action and this can cause off-center primer hits and firing while unlocked. Each of these checks should be done on EACH chamber.
All of these checks are better done individually. In other words, do the bolt retraction check on all six chambers, then do the bolt drop test, and so on. A properly tuned Colt will: Have a smoothly functioning bolt with no sticky or hesitant movement.
Unlock before the cylinder begins to turn. The bolt will drop onto the middle of the ramp. The bolt will drop into the lock notch just before or as the hammer reaches full cock. Have a smooth trigger pull, which does 'stack' or get heavier as the trigger is pulled.