Does anyone shoot their Dectective Special?


October 17, 2004, 10:04 AM
I'm planning on getting a Colt Dectective Special 3rd generation. Does anyone actually shoot these guns a lot or do you just leave them in the safe?

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Old Fuff
October 17, 2004, 10:24 AM
I have owned various Detective Special's since the late 1950's. I presently have a 3rd. generation, and will soon aquire a 2nd. made in 1963. During my mispent youth I occasionally dropped six rounds into the "K-Zone" of a silhouette target at 100 yards (measured distance) using a 2nd. generation revolver with the round barrel and high front sight. Doing this with a 3rd. generation gun is a bit harder because of the ribbed barrel and low front sight.

If I was to obtain a pre-World War Two piece in absolutely mint/like-new condition it would probably become a safe queen. If it was a 2nd. or 3rd. generation in the same condition - and especially if it was in the original box with papers and accesories, I might consider doing the same. These are becoming to be worth serious money and the value will increase as time goes by. But anything in less condition is a shooter, and a darn good one too. Standard velocity/158 grain loads are recommended because they are most likely to shoot point-of-aim/point-of-impact, but do experiment.

October 17, 2004, 10:57 AM
Have shot my 2nd gen. Very accurate.

October 17, 2004, 11:02 AM
Old Fuff,

Where is the break between 2nd and 3rd generation? 1970's sometime?

I am reasonably sure mine is a 3rd generation early 80's gun. Mine likes both the 158 gr loads and the 125 gr loads. I haven't spent enough time shooting it to sort out which works best. My wife likes this gun a lot and if she is with me I usually don't get more than a cyclinder shot through it, so my evaluation is less than scientific.

Great gun, if it is real cherry, in LNIB condition, it is semi collectable now, I would preserve it. If not I would shoot it and enjoy it, and take good care of it. These are very nice pistols and it is a shame to leave it in the safe collecting dust.

My wife has semi permanently glommed mine, she had a 38 super Colt Commander of mine that I got back in the deal which she never really handled well. I was a lot happier when she adopted the detective special, I never had confidence with her handling of the auto, and her performance between the two is night and day.

October 17, 2004, 11:26 AM
I'd like to be able to shoot the one I'm going to buy. I probably don't know about the guns enough to know the quality but this was owned by another gun dealer who gave it to the shop where I'm buying. From a novice standpoint, it looks to be in good/very good condition but I personally don't like to acquire guns for the safe -- they're meant to use. I did notice the low front sight on my gun but then again, most incidents targeted at women at close range anyway so I can't imagine I'd miss at that distance.

October 17, 2004, 11:52 AM
I shoot mine with light target loads regularly. I usually put 3-6 defense loads through it at then end of each range session.

Old Fuff
October 17, 2004, 11:55 AM
I may be off on some of this because I'm not where my reference book is.

Colt introduced the Detective Special in 1927. It was nothing more nor less the a Police Positive Special with a 2 inch barrel, but it quickly became popular, and provided Colt with sales that were desperately needed during the Great Depression (1929-40). These were made up to 1946, and are the 1st. issue guns.

The post-war 2nd. issue guns were made from 1947 through 1972, but in 1966 Colt changed all of the D-frame revolvers to the "short frame" configuration used on the Diamondback, that had been introduced in 1966. I therefore I classify the the 2nd. issue guns as either "full butt" (1947-1965) or "short butt" (1966-1972). This can be important if you need to order/buy grips.

The 3rd. Issue guns started in 1972 and were made until 1986. This is when Colt introduced the heavy barrel with an underlug that shrouded the ejector rod. I find that this is the better configuration when shooting out to 25 yards or so, but the older barrel with a higher front sight is better if you go beyond that (most folks don't).

All of the D-frame guns made after 1966 have the short butt frame and the grips wrap around the bottom. Consequently you can buy all sorts of larger or smaller grips depending on your need.

I wouldn't care to tangle with your wife ... :D :D

Peter M. Eick
October 17, 2004, 12:43 PM
I have a 3rd generation. It is nice, shoots well and is kind of fun to play with. It is definately more accurate then I am and kind be kind of a handful with hotter reloads. I kind of regret getting a nickled one, but I will probably buy a blued eventually.

I think it is a good gun to practice technique on. If you do not hold it the same way and pull the trigger the same way, have a good sight picture and have the same grip strenght, (etc) you will get crappy groups. It is a good gun to practice with because it "amplifies" your faults.

Definately not a safe queen.

October 17, 2004, 12:58 PM
I wouldn't care to tangle with your wife ...

She's a sweetheart no fear.:D :D

October 17, 2004, 01:01 PM
I own a 3rd generation (mfd. 1973) and I carry it as my BUG (backup gun) in an ankle holster. I load it with 110 grain Hydrashocks. It's very accurate and I never have a problem qualifying with it. My department has a different course for BUGs. It is a working gun and consequently that beautiful Colt blueing is starting to wear. I'll probably have it refinished in the near future. That might hurt it's collectors value, but so what? I'm interested in how well it works. I have other safe queens.

October 17, 2004, 01:05 PM
Yep I shoot it - often.

Someone special wanted me to have one before he passed - we had a running joke about him buying one, we being S&W folks, " That gun was backwards" .

A THR member helped me find one, I still have the black Bakalite grips on it. Darn thing might be " backwards" , but hits where aimed, everytime, any distance.

Now the bluing is worn, has character , sentimental to me....but I'm going to shoot it. I also keep it handy as a HD firearm as well.

Can't afford a set of wood grips, nor a holster , but it gets toted as a CCW every now and then.

Put it this way, I let a couple shoot it, and the Beretta Tomcat they had was sold to someone that wanted it real bad....the Replacement was a Dick Special. They are tickled ....gonna have to buy another one...they fight over it. :p

That way the nightstands in the Bedroom will match...dang women that decorate :D

October 17, 2004, 01:48 PM
I too have a 1973 DS in nickle 3" and it is my version of a Diamond back .38. Because of the guns rarity I DON'T shoot it much, but it IS a tackdriver shooting 158 grain loads to point of aim and 3" 25 yard groups (probably less). I like the lugged 3rd generation guns once they are tuned properly. I regulary carry such an Agent (1978) Sadowski tuned, that will also put 158grain LSWCHP into 3" at 25 yards. My older Colt D frames won't doi this, even Police Positive Target models!;)

October 17, 2004, 02:45 PM
I'm looking forward to taking the gun out to the range when I'm finally able to pick it up. I do wish Colt were allowed in this state. I'm at the mercy of what's ever available. I'd love to have the option to buy from as many different names as other states enjoy. What can I say, Massachusetts stinks. At least now I have a Federal job so after I finish up some courses, I'll look for my first ticket out.

Old Fuff
October 17, 2004, 03:51 PM

I know what you’re saying about “Messed-up-chusetts,” but in my opinion that little Colt you are about to get is as good as they come. I live in Arizona, where I can buy almost anything I want, but most new guns don’t hold a candle to what you’ll have. I passed up several to get an older Detective Special, and was absolutely delighted to find it. So far as this gun’s concerned you’re not a second class citizen.

Lone Star
October 17, 2004, 06:32 PM
Keep in mind that butt wasn't rounded until 1933, and that the longer extractor rod dates from 1958.

Lone Star

October 17, 2004, 08:29 PM
I have a 2nd issue(1952) that shoots point of aim, love it, just picked up a 3rd made in 1973, can`t wait to find the time to try it out.

Standing Wolf
October 17, 2004, 09:25 PM
I take my third generation Detective Special to the range now and then; for the most part, however, she's a bank box queen: the .38 special just isn't quite enough cartridge for me to carry on a regular basis.

October 17, 2004, 09:28 PM
Nice gun. I can relate to the carrying issue. I'd prefer to grab my Glock 19 or my Beretta type M. If I had a Lady Smith 65 -- that'd do as well....:D This is a gun I'd like more for range, sheer fun and some measure of protection if I'm unable to have the others for whatever reasons. Something is always better than nothing...

October 18, 2004, 06:29 AM
I carry a 3rd. Gen. blue "Dick Special" every day as my CCW........during the summer I load it with Fed. 125gr. standard pressure Nyclads and during the rest of the year 158gr.LSWCHP+p. Although I might switch to the new Speer 38 Spl. 135gr+p Gold Dot.

I find the heavier bullets shoot better groups......for target use Fiocchi 148gr JHP are very accurate.

I love the Det. Special. I have another one in the safe that is mint and also a NIB 3" SS DSII I picked up last year because the price was right. Something about those D frame Colts get me every time....did I mention I have a few Diamondbacks too ?


October 18, 2004, 08:39 AM
I carried a DS on and off for a lot of years while in LE. They always shot and served very well.
When I retired in '97, I found myself with no DS but didn't give it much thought, semi autos were in vogue now, until a used one came along in '01 at a small FFL that I use.
A simple phone call to Colt showed that it was made in '65.
It was dirty inside, real dirty but, it was mechanically in very good to excellent condition. The grips are a little worn but okay.
After cleaning it up, I took it to the range one day and found it to be as good a shooter as any that I've had in the past.
It cost me $100.
Last year I decided to have it refinished. I contacted Colt and was quoted $165.00 for the job. Total cost w/shipping was $194.00. The job took only about two weeks. I was pleasantly surprised at that.
What I was more pleased with was the condition in which I received the DS back from Colt.
What Colt described as "standard blue" was more like the royal blue that they used on the Python revolvers of the '60's and '70's. They did an outstanding job.
So good infact, I haven't fired it since it came back or has the DS been cocked. I don't want any lines apperaing on the cylinder. It resides in my safe in it's own Pelican case. :D

The original question... Does anyone shoot their Dectective Special?

No, I don't mine any longer. ;)

October 18, 2004, 12:01 PM
Yup....that's a beauty Jim !


October 18, 2004, 12:05 PM
Thanks Diamondback.
I like it a lot. ;)
The original owner, a Chief of police somewhere here in NJ, carried it more than he shot it I think.
He never took it apart to clean it. It was devoid of any lube and for a long time.

October 18, 2004, 01:04 PM
Nice looking gun Jim. Good to know about Colt service -- I didn't realize they did refinishing. The DS I'm planning on getting looks about as blue, it's in beautiful shape but dirty. I imagine it'll clean up nice though.

October 18, 2004, 02:21 PM
>>I don't want any lines apperaing on the cylinder.<<

Ah, thus the tie-wrap!:)

October 18, 2004, 02:42 PM

Very nice !

Well , you just told me how much it would run me to have my '28 model refinished. Thanks - I think. :)

Looks like mine, 'cept I have them genuine Bakalite Black stocks on mine, yours is nicer looking....and I don't have a cable tie on mine. :D

October 18, 2004, 05:46 PM

Wish mine looked like that - it your's is timed like mine, it won't ring the cylinder, as mine doesn't drop the bolt until it is under the notch lead. - JM.

October 19, 2004, 01:35 PM
I had an alloy frame Agent from the 2nd generation. Same gun as DS except alloy. It shot very well. I think you'll like your new DS. :D

October 20, 2004, 05:30 PM
The Det Special I had was an old police carry gun, probably 1960's, and was "well used". It was also a great carry revolver, good fit to my hands, 6 shot, not 5, and pretty accurate with good ammo. It just was worn a little
too much and out of time, and I traded it for something else.

I would carry it unless it was near perfect - it was made to be used and is a solid, reliable gun.


Ky Larry
October 24, 2004, 11:15 AM
I used to shoot my Colt DS until my wife took it away from me. Lately she's been lusting after my CZ-83 .380 ACP so maybe I'll get my Colt back. The only complaint I had about the DS was the wood grips. They just didn't fit me so I got a set of Hogue wrap-around finger groove grips. Shoots very well.

October 28, 2004, 07:37 PM
I've got the colt cobra airweight 38.

I love having 6 shots compaired to 5.

But my toy has a HEAVY:cuss: trigger pull. took alot to get used to.

I bobbed my hammer, that spur can tear some clothes up.

I will never sell it, its my baby.:D

Old Fuff
October 28, 2004, 07:59 PM

That extra-heavy trigger pull can be corrected. Consider returning the revolver to Colt for a trigger pull job.

October 29, 2004, 10:14 PM
Have owned several over the years that I did shoot. Currently own one that I was told is a 1975. It is like new, and I have the original box. Beautiful gun, and too nice to shoot.

October 30, 2004, 09:35 AM
What should a 3rd Gen Detective special go for now? I've been wanting a small snub nose for awhile and a local shop has one but it has trouble with the cylinder locking up. I Wanna be able to factor in repair costs when haggling ;)

Old Fuff
October 30, 2004, 10:39 AM
The answer depends on "what is wrong," and "why?" Repairs could be simple and inexpensive, or if someone screwed with the insides it might require new (and costly) parts and an experienced gunsmith to fit them. Unless you can determine the answers I'd pass on this one and spend more for a revolver without problems. In the long run you'd probably be ahead.

That said, I bought my personal 3rd generation Detective Special for a substantial savings because the owner didn't want to go to the trouble of having it fixed - but I knew what was wrong (a short hand) and had the necessary part to fix it - along with the knowledge of how to do it.

October 31, 2004, 10:11 PM
I picked this up like new; it now has a slight cylinder ring. :D A great little 38.

November 1, 2004, 12:55 PM
Wow! That's exactly what the gun looks like that I'll be buying. Sharp, isn't it? :D

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