Vintage 1903 Colt--Practical?


September 24, 2004, 02:45 PM
All issues regarding .32 ACP aside, what are your opinions on the practicality of an 80-year-old 1903 Colt hammerless? I found one in good condition for $200. Bore looks fine, and the action is tight but with some play from side to side on the slide. I'm thinking of getting it for plinking, but may carry it CCW from time to time.

Are these reliable semis? Do they go "kaboom" with modern European fmj ammo?

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September 24, 2004, 02:54 PM
I have two and am considering a third (mainly to get the extra magazines which are scarce as hens teeth). For $200 I would seriously consider it.

You will have to get it and check out it's reliability and shooting qualities. Generally they are well-made guns and reliable. With the proper ammo it should be okay unless you subscribe to the bigger is necessary theory.

Try Sam Lisker's website for more information on these.

September 24, 2004, 03:23 PM
For $200 I'd be on it like a duck on a June bug!

Tim L
September 24, 2004, 04:12 PM
I remember seeing a website for a company a year or two ago dedicated to the 1903/1908 series. the site covered some modifications and their use for current ccw. APW ( lists one, but I think there is another company covered the subject better.


Old Fuff
September 24, 2004, 05:34 PM
The Colt 1903 .32 Pocket Automatic has a well deserved reputation for reliability, partly because it has built-in cartridges guides next to the magazine well and so is less dependant on the magazine lips to control the cartridge's feeding. On the left side the guide also functions as the ejector. These guns were also built during a time when compromises in material and workmanship simply didn't happen.

While the pistol is a little large for a .32, it is also very slim, which aids in concealment. The pistol is also "clean" in that it doesn't have any parts that might snag while being drawn from deep cover. On the negative side, some parts, good magazines, and carry rigs (holsters) can be hard to find.

One strong proponent of this pistol was a friend of mine who was an officer in the Brit. SAS, which shouldn't need any introduction here. He prefered the .32 over the .380 because in this particular handgun he believed the smaller cartridge, around which the model was originally developed, was more certain and reliable. The supposed difference between so-called "stopping power" didn't concern him at all, and he always carried ball ammunition - not hollow points.

Good ones are getting hard to find, and they are a classic Colt from one of that company's golden ages. I would not hesitate to put $200.00 into a good one. Frankly, I think you may have waited too long as it is. There are always a fair number of people who are looking for them.

September 24, 2004, 06:51 PM
Plus, nice old guns are Cool

September 24, 2004, 07:20 PM
$200 is good for a "shooter"1903. I wouldn't hesitate to use one. Check the safety and don't rely on it.


September 24, 2004, 07:34 PM
I have one and really like it, but I would not consider it for CCW.

My P-3AT or even my P-32 in the picture are much better adapted for concealed carry. They fit nicely in my pocket, are much lighter, smaller in every dimension and are DAO. I would not want to carry the single action 1903 with a round in the chamber like I do my KTs.

September 24, 2004, 09:26 PM
I never carry any SA pistol with one in the chamber. I hope I'm not too late! It's likely gonna be another week before I can get over there.

September 24, 2004, 11:20 PM
I've got a 1921-manufacture 1903 that I've carried from time to time in a custom-made shoulder holster. I've never had any malfunctions with the pistol (having used Winchester and Aguila FMJ), and I've found it to be surprisingly accurate, once I got used to the itty-bitty sights. It's slim enough to conceal well, but tall enough to allow a solid four-finger grip. Muzzle climb is slight, and I can do quadruple-taps pretty well (being a .32, I practice 3 or 4 shots rather than 2).

Having shot a P32, I feel much more comfortable with my 1903, because I find it much more shootable. I'd rather have that then the smallest piece around.

Also, $200 for a 1903 sounds like a really good deal to me. Most of the ones I've seen have been in the $350 range.

September 25, 2004, 12:26 AM
I carry mine built in 1918. Its a sweet shooter

September 25, 2004, 01:50 PM
Are they practical for concealed carry? Well, there are better choices on today's market. However, NONE of the choices offered today (with the possible exception of the PPK and the Seecamp) have the class and "cool factor" of the 1903. I have LONG wanted to have a set of J-frame S&W sights installed on a Colt 1908 .380. Practical? Nope? Cool? YOU BETCHA!!

September 25, 2004, 02:10 PM
I have one. It is a very cool handgun. However, as was mentioned, there are better guns out there for concealed carry. However, if this was your only option it certainly isn't a bad choice.
I would certainly buy one for $200, but I have other choices for concealed carry.

September 25, 2004, 10:21 PM
How come I never find a 1903 for $200??

Some guys have all the luck.

September 25, 2004, 10:51 PM
How come I never find a 1903 for $200??

Ya see...ya got to be on the list...I just sold a LNIB one for $429 with papers, two mags...a 90% one should be around $250, if its less than 90% that price is too much

Cool as they are, Ive seen a bunch of em and they usually are pretty reasonably priced......espcially since most of them have been reblued

There is a bunch on Auction Arms. Most of em are overpriced

But this one is nice

And htis one is probably a few bucks too high, but still reasonable


September 25, 2004, 11:03 PM
"How come I never find a 1903 for $200??"

There was one on THR about 4 (?) months ago. IIRC I got it for $225. And it's in pretty good shape.


September 26, 2004, 01:48 AM
My story is worse. I saw one of these on consignment, in great shape, looked like a shooter-but I was utterly broke; I couldn't even afford to borrow. I went back today, and of course, it's gone.

The kicker: They wanted $100. :banghead:


Jim K
September 26, 2004, 02:02 AM
To those who miss out -

Don't despair. They made over 550,000 of them in .32 and another 138,000 in .380, so there are plenty around. And a surprising number are in excellent condition, since they were often "sock drawer" guns, bought for home defense and never used.

The main drawback is those "itty-bitty sights" (quoting Ian), but they are snag free. As to safety, the safety is not as easy to use as that of the Model 1911, but both it and the grip safety are positive and reliable. Unlike the Model 1911, the grip safety actually blocks the sear.


September 26, 2004, 10:44 PM
I took my 1918-built .32 Hammerless back to the range today. It still shoots well, flat trajectory as far as I can tell. Groups Silvertips very well. I shot a target at 25' and then put a few shots onto the far berm, about 100'. While it would not be my first choice among my guns I would not feel defenseless if I had it.

September 27, 2004, 07:02 PM
Great pistols...the rub is the sights...I think if I found a $200 copy, I'd toy with having a dovetail milled into the front of the slide...nah, ain't happnen'...

September 27, 2004, 07:58 PM
For a shooter I would say most definitely. As for ccw I would say yes also but I would invest in new springs and check it extra well for reliability. Just because its old does not mean it cant serve you very well. Myself I like to be a little differnt with some guns. Why carry what every one else does. Just because a lot of people carry a certain gun doesnt mean they have the best.

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