Colt Army Special


May 4, 2003, 09:27 PM
I just inherited this gun and I am interested in learning a little bit about it.

It is chambered for 32-20 and says W.C.F. beside that.

SN is 481XXX.

It functions but has a tendency to lock up evbery now and then and the trigger squeeze and hammer will not move mpre than half an inch. If I mess with the cylinder I can get it going again and I have no idea what may be wrong with it.

The gun is in great shape other than that. I can't find any rust and the grips are in good shape.

One thing that is wrong with it is that the screw that holds the grips on is not the original screw.

These guns had to be sent to me from Alaska and the shop there told my Mom that this gun was "priceless". But I found it in a book already at Academy Sports and they had it listed I think at $450.

I am just wondering what I have here and how valuable is this thing?

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May 4, 2003, 09:40 PM
OK, I probably asked my question a little early.

I found it on auctionarms for the high bid of $450. So I can kind of see the worth but that was one in excellent condition.

May 4, 2003, 10:54 PM
I'm currently away from my reference books, so this is what I can offer right now:

The Colt Army Special was developed from an 1890's Colt DA revolver frame that was known as the Colt "41 caliber" frame.

In the early 20's the Army Special was basically renamed the Colt Official Police and was made until 1969.

The "Army Special" name was a marketing ploy, since no army ever officially adopted the model.

They were available in a number of calibers, including the 38 Special and your 32/20 W.C.F., which stands for Winchester Center Fire.

The Army Special is not particularly rare, and prices aren't usually as high as the one on the auction site.

As to your problems, it's very likely the gun is out of time, and needs to be repaired by a QUALIFIED gunsmith who is trained to repair the older Colt revolvers.
The problem is, truly qualified Colt 'smiths are tough to find.

Fortunately, the Army Special can use most, if not all Official Police parts, and any good Colt 'smith can repair it to working shape.

Unfortunately, these 'smiths don't work cheap.
For an idea of costs, contact somebody like Cylinder & Slide Shop, who do first quality work. They are expensive but they also do it RIGHT, and stand behind their work.

May 5, 2003, 11:03 AM
Outstanding. That is exactly the kind of information I was looking for.

I had read some threads somewhere about timing and I found the parts to fix it I think for around $15. I wouldn't think of fixing it myself so I'll look around like you said.

Thank you very much dfaris for your response. That helps me out alot.

Old Fuff
May 5, 2003, 10:22 PM
The previous answers covered most of what you wanted to know, except the date of manufacture - which is 1922. The Army Special/Offical Police is a good revolver, and if the cost wasn't too great I'd get it fixed. While .32-20 (,32 WCF) guns are not uncommon, those that don't have bad bores are.

Jim K
May 5, 2003, 10:49 PM
One thought. Before spending any money on a gunsmith, get a can of a good spray cleaner and penetrant. WD-40 will do if that is all you can get, but I prefer G-96 Gun Treatment, which will not mildew or gunk up.

Take off the grips, cock the hammer and spray the stuff into the action. Then spray the back of the cylinder and down in front of the trigger. Work the action while spraying. Let the gun drain, and spray it again, working the action while doing so.

This might not help, but very often those Colts hang up because of old caked in grease, not because of parts failure. The spray is a cheap fix if it works.


May 6, 2003, 04:50 PM
Old Fuff, thanks for the information. Is that the only year that these were made?

Jim, that sounds like a good idea. I'll give it a try.

4v50 Gary
May 13, 2003, 07:14 PM
Go to The Firing Line and do a search in the Smithy forum using my name and "Python" as search variables. You'll find a discussion on the action of those older Colts as well as disassembly instructions there.

May 13, 2003, 08:34 PM
OK, I sure will, thank you very much. :cool:

January 28, 2005, 01:02 PM
I have been googling like all over everywhere trying to find out what is the year of mfg. of my Colt's Army Special in .38 After about 8 pages of googling, I end up at the good old THR.

It appears that somebody here knows. The piece is 3716XX. Does that mean it's older than 1922?

It's got slick walnut grips and a lanyard ring. On the butt is stamped "EB and the greek letter sigma (sorta looks like a backward 3) on one side of the lanyard ring and on the other is 53XX. 5" barrell.

I can find no markings to indicate that it was in the military orther than the stamping on the butt. Can anybody out there tell me anything?

It just looks like the old S&W victory model that I used to carry as a USN aircrew. That's why I bought it.

January 28, 2005, 07:11 PM
Looks like it was made in 1914.
Okay,now the interesting part:
From "Colt an American Legend" by R. L. Wilson,pg 209 in the Sesquicentennial Edition:
"Large orders came from police,military, and naval clients,usually specifying .38 or .41 caliber(the model was also available in .32-20 and 6" barrel and with 4" barrel).
Some of the intriguing rollmarks known on Army Specials are:
N.J.S.P.(New Jersey State Prison),N.O.P.D. (New Orleans Police Department),F.W.P.D. (Fort Worth Police Dept.),and
EB(sideways M),
(government of Greece,which bought 25,500 so marked).
So,it looks like yours was sold to Greece!


January 28, 2005, 08:47 PM
Mr. gamachinist,

Thanks a lot. Who'da thunk? Do you know or does it say if these pistols went to the Greek Military? That would make the piece a C&R.

January 28, 2005, 09:23 PM
That was a direct quote from the book,so I don't know how you would know if it was for the miltary or not.
I would guess it was for the Greek Army or Navy,with that quantity.25,500 is a lot of guns for the Greek Police!
I'm a little confused about the 50 year,rule,does that only apply to military guns,or all guns?

Jim K
January 29, 2005, 12:31 AM
The 50 year C&R rule applies to all guns.


January 30, 2005, 11:21 PM
Hi, ho, Mr. Keenan, thanks a lot.

Just outa curiosity....... I have a CZ-52 in 7.62 x 25 built in 1953 that ATF says is C&R.

On the other hand, I have a CZ-52 built in 1953 that has a 9mm barrell. I am told that the 9mm version is NOT C&R. It is still 52 years old.

What gives? If I rebarrell my Army Special, does it lose it's C&Rity?

March 12, 2007, 01:16 PM
I'm curious if you also inherited some ammo with this 32-20 DA (I have one my self by the way).
The reason I ask this, is that I had the same problem with a S&W Model 36 (predecessor to the Model 60).
I was able to figure out what the problem was. I had loaded it with .38+P. As a result, the casing not only expanded more than normal, it was also forced rearward and interfered with the wheel.
So, I ask again, did you inherit ammo too or have you done your own reloads?.
It's possible that they were reloads that either had too much powder and/or the couldn't handle the new fangled powders that we have today.
Hope this helps,

P.S. Check out Guns and Ammo April 2007 pp.75-77. It looks like they are going to do away with 32-20 WCF period!

March 12, 2007, 04:12 PM
ought8, No, it did not come with ammo and I have never fired it because of the action problem, and I still have not bothered getting it fixed.

I sure hope they don't do away with that round though, I may have to get busy and see if I can find some before they do, just in case I do decide to try and get this thing going.

Thanks for the info.


March 12, 2007, 07:50 PM
I'm an old 32WCF shooter in a Colt Army Special and various long guns. I wouldn't worry about the 32 WCF/32-20 being discontinued any time soon. It's a very popular round with the Cowboy Action crowd, Marlin and several of the reproduction firearms makers are producing rifles and handguns in the caliber. Starline, Black Hills, Remington, Winchester, and maybe a few other concerns produce brass or loaded rounds. The same case is used to form 25WCF/25-20 and 218 Bee cases. If you check with or you'll find lots of info on the 32-20. Be advised this is a very loud combination in a revolver. Ear protection is absolutely necessary. Get your Colt fixed, buy some factory loads and see how she does. If you handload be advised the brass tends to lengthen at an uneven rate and sometimes it even shortens for some reason, so case trimming is needed. Most cast bullets for the 32WCF will need to be .312 .313 +. Again, try the cast boolit website and you can get a lot of good info there.

March 12, 2007, 08:32 PM
Oh that's cool. I actually do plan to find a gunsmith around here to work on it and I am really glad to hear that the round does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Thank you very much for the information Bret4207, I appreciate it.

It's amazing, I haven't been on this board in a long time with all the things I have going on now, and since it changed from TFL, but it is sure good to see that it hasn't changed a bit. Still the same great place to find reliable information without having to be talked down to or feel like an idiot. I'll have to start coming back here more often again. :)

March 12, 2007, 11:30 PM
Careful on the 'gunsmith around here' on THAT gun! I'd send it to Nebraska- Cylinder and Slide!;) ;) ;)

March 13, 2007, 02:11 AM

Your arguments are sound and I hope you are right. I still encourage you to check out this feature: Guns and Ammo April 2007 pp.75-77.

I too really like this DA 32 WCF. It has a kick of between a .38 and a
.357. The DA that I have had been stored away for 30+ years and I've had it for about 15 years. It's in great shape and I plan to pick up a case or 2 of ammo tomorrow (just in case)(or just in 2 cases).

If they decide not to eliminate this round (by the way, it's the first one of many that are slatted to go bye-bye.

Another reason I hope that it not going to happen, I'd like to get a lever action carbine. It makes sense to match your firearms because then you only have to carry one size of ammo.

HukeOKC, I miss understood what you were saying. I thought that you did fire it, and that problem occurred after firing. Good luck on finding a good Smith.

I encourage all 32-20 WCF'ers to write Remington and let them know that there is a allot of Carbine, SAA's and DA owners who would be highly disappointed if they were to stop.

The Rem Express and the 700 aren't the be all that they once were. There are some real nice Shot Guns and Bolt Actions out there.



March 13, 2007, 05:45 AM
I take it G+A says Remington is going to discontinue the 32-20? I don't get G+A, but I suppose the management at Remington could be out to make more mistakes. I don't but much in the way of factory loads and Winchester, etc still produce the brass, although Starline is my choice. This round really excells when handloaded with proper cast bullets.

March 13, 2007, 12:23 PM
Ok, you peaked my interest and I picked up a copy of G+A. Hacker piece is nothing that hasn't been written at least a dozen times before in my 47 year old memory. Pure fluff piece designed to elicit reader response. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It sells mags for them I suppose.

Many don't seem to realize we're living in the golden age of reloading. These days you can get cases for cartridges that haven't been produced in decades, custom cast and jacketed bullets, specialty powders, primers and the data and test sytems to work with them. We never had it so good! There's 3.8 billion spent on golf and 3.5 billion spent on outdoor sporting goods each year. The market is there. That why outfits like Starline, Graf, Black Hills, Bearthtooth Bullets, etc,etc,etc exist.

So I wouldn't put a lot of stock in Hackers article. If he was right we'd have about 5 calibers- 22LR, 30-06, 375H+H Mag, 45 ACP and 44 Mag. Add the 12 ga and what else do we really NEED?!

March 14, 2007, 05:45 PM
I hope your right (it does make sense) Bret4207. I've ordered a couple of cases just in case.


July 27, 2007, 07:54 PM
Hey huke,

Whats the finish on you Colt Army Special? I bought a 32-20 Colt Army Special from a local gun store about a year ago for about 350$ and some of the people I've shown it to think it might have been deblued. I honestly don't know I've always assumed it was nickle plated. I can't seem to find a single damn picture of one online and these posts on this fourm is the only good information I've ever come across reguarding this model. Oh just out of curiosity... does your your model still have the horse above the grips? You can see mine very faintly in the second pic.

Heres a few pics of mine...

Old Fuff
July 27, 2007, 08:15 PM
The Army Special was offered in both blue and nickel plated finishes. Take the grips off and see if there is any sign of the original finish under them. If you still can't tell, touch the side of the frame under where the grips would be with a Q-Tip and a drop of cold blue. The cold blue will darken plain steel, but not that which is nickel plated.

July 27, 2007, 09:56 PM
My dad has a .32-20 with the 6in barrel in blue from 1922 too! Very nice gun to shoot, took a while to get used to the sights, but once I did it was very accurate. The DA trigger was nice and crisp, but I did most of the shooting in SA.
BTW we purchased new WWB 50 rounders from a local store for $54.95, the only box they had. The guy at the counter had never even heard of the round in 3 years working there!

Old Fuff
July 28, 2007, 09:45 AM
BTW we purchased new WWB 50 rounders from a local store for $54.95, the only box they had.

:what: :what: :what: :what:

If you still want to shoot your revolver (which is a very good one) consider either reloading, or buy cowboy loads from outfits like Blackhills. The cost will still be high, but not that high.

July 28, 2007, 04:48 PM
Oh yes indeed, reloads in the future. It was a last minute decision to take the gun with us on that particular range trip, so we were limited on available ammo choices. We do plan on shooting with the gun again, but not much and not often. I've also talked Dad around to my POV on ammo, that it's unwise to NOT have ammo for any particular gun you own. It's a little harder for him, since out of his 20 some guns, only 2 share ammo, and 4 of them are expensive, very hard to find, and usually both.

July 29, 2007, 01:13 PM
Pyramid head,

Mine is blued and yes it has the colt above the handle.


July 29, 2007, 05:51 PM
Pyramid head,

I agree with your friends. This Colt in the photo is not in original condition.

This looks like it's been acid dipped (washed) and then sealed in some sort of matte finish. The grips look like they're from a newer Colt. It looks too clean. Like an old Twenty Dollar Gold piece or a Morgan Dollar that's been dipped. These look too clean also.

As for original finish, my guess is it was probably blued.

Some Photo's:

The serial #104XXX (first series).

$54.95 for fifty rounds? See photo's.


P.S. Sorry that the photos are of poor quality. I assure you that I'll get this digital camera down. "First the powder, ...then the shot"

August 2, 2007, 05:20 PM
Thanks a bunch!

That pretty much seals any doubt I've had about this gun. I always wondered why the grips covered up half of the horse, as it never dawned on me that the grips werenít original. Fortunately the main reason I bought the gun was because it reminded me of a Colt Python and not exactly for its history and originality otherwise I'd be pissed. Out of a hunch I did a search for Colt Python to refresh my memory and voile la!

So thatís where my grips probably came from. The Pythonís design looks like it was somewhat influenced from the army special now that I compare them.

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