COlt 1917 Info


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jdog42
November 3, 2006, 12:46 AM
I recently purchased a colt 1917 revolver.
it is in good condition, or maybe better. from what I can find so far it was made in 1933, and is not a military issued revolver. the history that I received from the person that I purchased from was that it had been the side arm of police officer in the 40's, and 50's. any way the only one I can find on the internet that is the same date and serial number range is valued at 2,000.
I did not pay near that for the one I have, and was wondering if any of you had more information on this make and style of pistol. It shoots great, and although I have no plans to sell it, would like to know approx Value for insurance purposes. I am sure there would be more info needed, and will supply what I can to any willing to comment back to me. it shoots 45 ACP, and I purchased some nifty full moon clips that make reloading quick, and easy.

any help is greatly appreciated.

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Wiley
November 3, 2006, 07:43 AM
Welcome to THR, jdog42.

First I would write to Colt with the serial number and ask for the history. The will, for a nominal fee, send you a letter giving when it was made, who and when it was first sold to (probably not an individual but a distributor) and other information that they have in their records. Good for documentation.

Next I'd have a qualified firearms appraiser grade the thing and give you a value. Again for a fee.

As it is only 60-70 years old it may not be worth much but the documentation will help on reasale. On the other hand it may be valuable enough to not shoot. I'd caution against doing any refinishing, repair, etc. until you get the value. Folks have prettied up antique furniture to the point the value has been cut by half or more.

Old Fuff
November 3, 2006, 09:48 AM
First I would write to Colt with the serial number and ask for the history. The will, for a nominal fee, send you a letter giving when it was made, who and when it was first sold to (probably not an individual but a distributor) and other information that they have in their records. Good for documentation.

The "nominal fee" these days to get a gun lettered by Colt is around $100.00... :what:

They will tell you the year it was made for free, but nothing else.

You can check the serial nunmber vs. year of manufacturer at: (www.proofhouse.com)

Colt made very few commercial New Service revolvers chambered in .45ACP because the market was flooded with inexpensive war surplus guns. So if you have a commercial model it is worth more then a similar military 1917. In excellet (and original) condition a collector might give you two grand, and I would consider insuring it for that amount.

Deanimator
November 3, 2006, 09:49 AM
First I would write to Colt with the serial number and ask for the history. The will, for a nominal fee, send you a letter giving when it was made, who and when it was first sold to (probably not an individual but a distributor) and other information that they have in their records. Good for documentation.
What do you consider "nominal"? I've got a similar Colt New Service I need some information on, and the last time I checked, I believe the fee was in excess of $100.

If I'm wrong or the fee has changed, feel free to correct me.

jdog42
November 3, 2006, 11:49 AM
Thanks for the Info, I did do a quick search on the serial number, and that is where I got the year it was made. the grade of the gun, I plan to take it to the next Gun show, and get some informed opinions. this gun does not say "New Service" on it any where, and there are very few stamped markings on it. It does not apear to have ever been refinished in any way. If it is "to valuable to shoot" I mayjust sell it, and buy a couple of shooters.

Thanks again, and I may post some pictures as soon as I can.

Jdog42

Deanimator
November 3, 2006, 12:09 PM
Thanks for the Info, I did do a quick search on the serial number,
How and where did you do this? I'd like to find out what caliber my gun was when it was made, because there's some doubt regarding its current configuration.

jdog42
November 3, 2006, 03:34 PM
I had gone to http://proofhouse.com/colt/
If you look up the modle of your gun, it has a date range for the serial number. mine is a 335XXX made in 1933.

I had done a google search on Colt serial numbers, and this was the first site I tried.
I am sure there are sites with more detailed info on your gun...:)

Old Fuff
November 3, 2006, 03:54 PM
jdog42:

New Service Colt's are generally not marked "New Service." You should find patent dates on the top of the barrel. and on the left side, "D.A. 45" Otherwise you may notice some small, individual letters or numbers stamped in various places. These are inspector's marks. Also on the trigger guard there should be a mark looking like the letter "P" in a triangle. This is Colt's commercial proof mark.

All of the military model 1917's were made between 1917 and 1919. A New Service made in 1933 would be a commercial model.

Be careful of gun show advise... It may be designed to get the gun away from you. Be sure the "adviser" isn't a potential buyer.

Deanimator:

Various sources can identify the year a particular Colt was made by the serial number. But the only way you can learn the original configuration (caliber, finish, barrel length, date shipped, etc) is to have Colt letter it, and this service now costs around $100.00. :fire:

Sometimes you can tell that a gun's been rebuilt. There may be a difference between the finish on the barrel and cylinder vs. the frame, or a .357 Magnum may have a pre-1935 serial number.

Deanimator
November 3, 2006, 04:58 PM
Deanimator:

Various sources can identify the year a particular Colt was made by the serial number. But the only way you can learn the original configuration (caliber, finish, barrel length, date shipped, etc) is to have Colt letter it, and this service now costs around $100.00.

Sometimes you can tell that a gun's been rebuilt. There may be a difference between the finish on the barrel and cylinder vs. the frame, or a .357 Magnum may have a pre-1935 serial number.
My gun's been nickeled. It was taken off of a Mexican criminal by a Chicago cop many years ago. I got it for free for doing someone a favor. It's got a commercial type end piece on the ejector rod. It's currently a .45acp

I suspect that the gun may have started life as a .45 Colt, and was then converted to use .45acp with moonclips using an M1917 cylinder. The bore is in decent condition, but it keyholes most every time.

If indeed the serial # takes it out of the WWI period, it may indeed have been backyard gunsmithed from .45 Colt to .45acp, and probably in Mexico.

Deanimator
November 3, 2006, 05:31 PM
Deanimator:

Various sources can identify the year a particular Colt was made by the serial number. But the only way you can learn the original configuration (caliber, finish, barrel length, date shipped, etc) is to have Colt letter it, and this service now costs around $100.00.

Sometimes you can tell that a gun's been rebuilt. There may be a difference between the finish on the barrel and cylinder vs. the frame, or a .357 Magnum may have a pre-1935 serial number.
The left side of the barrel says, "NEW SERVICE 45 COLT".

The SN chart says it was made in 1918. It has no "US Property" markings of any kind. The ejector star is blued, as opposed to the rest of the gun, which is nickeled. It has the old angular cylinder latch.

The person who gave me the gun also gave me six .45 Auto Rim rounds. I chambered a round and noticed more play than I would expect. I took his word for it that the gun was chambered for .45acp and was an M1917, now I'm almost certain it's not. Would .45 Auto Rim chamber semi-normally in a .45 Colt cylinder? I've never owned a .45 Colt firearm. Now, I'm really motivated to try to borrow a .45 Colt round from somebody to see if it chambers.

Old Fuff
November 3, 2006, 05:38 PM
Go to (www.proofhouse.com) and date it by the serial number (most likely stamped on the frame behind the carne. Swing out the cylinder to see it).

It may be one of the pre-World War One revolvers made for the English and chambered in .455 Webley. Many of these were converted to .45ACP by turning down the back of the cylinder to increase the headspace. I would expect such a revolver to be covered with proof and military ownership marks, but they might have been removed when the gun was refinished. If this was the case I'd expect the serial number to date around 1914 - 1916. Barrel length (if not shortened) should be 5 1/2".

=================
Sorry, I didn't fully read your last post. The barrel marking indicates a late commercial .45 Colt barrel. The .45 Colt chamber is much deeper that that of a .45ACP, and a regular (rimless) .45 automatic cartridge will drop down inside the chamber. The .45 Colt's rim is thinner the a .45 Autorim, and if you put a .45 Autorim cartridge in an unmodified .45 Colt cylinder you couldn't close the cylinder. I don't have my reference books handy, but it is possible that with a 1918 serial number it might be one of the made-for-England guns. In any case I'm certain this is some sort of put-together gun. In 1918, Colt didn't make any New Service revolvers in .45 ACP except for U.S. Army 1917's.

Deanimator
November 3, 2006, 05:53 PM
Go to (www.proofhouse.com) and date it by the serial number (most likely stamped on the frame behind the carne. Swing out the cylinder to see it).

See my subsequent post with much more detail. It says "NEW SERVICE 45 COLT" on the left side of the barrel. I'm thinking that it's almost 100% that the barrel at least, is a .45LC. What the cylinder was, and currently is, is anybody's guess at this point. It will chamber a .45 Auto Rim cartridge. I don't have any .45LCs.

I've been trying to find a .45LC cylinder for it for years. No luck.

Deanimator
November 3, 2006, 05:56 PM
Sorry, I didn't fully read your last post. The barrel marking indicates a late commercial .45 Colt barrel. The .45 Colt chamber is much deeper that that of a .45ACP, and a regular (rimless) .45 automatic cartridge will drop down inside the chamber. The .45 Colt's rim is thinner the a .45 Autorim, and if you put a .45 Autorim cartridge in an unmodified .45 Colt cylinder you couldn't close the cylinder. I don't have my reference books handy, but it is possible that with a 1918 serial number it might be one of the made-for-England guns. In any case I'm certain this is some sort of put-together gun. In 1918, Colt didn't make any New Service revolvers in .45 ACP except for U.S. Army 1917's.
I don't see any unusual proof marks, broad arrows or the like.

I'll bet it's a .45LC gun with a .45acp cylinder kimchi rigged to fit. That would also explain the lousy accuracy.

Any idea where I could pick up a .45LC cylinder? I've been looking for years. I've got an extra .476 cylinder for it.

Old Fuff
November 3, 2006, 06:00 PM
Occasionally you'll run into a .38 Special or even .357 Magnum cylinder assembly (including the ejector parts). Colt had a lot of these left after World War Two and sold them as surplus. Both can be rechambered into .45 Colt. For that matter, so can a .44 Special, but they are much harder to find.

Deanimator
November 3, 2006, 06:02 PM
Occasionally you'll run into a .38 Special or even .357 Magnum cylinder assembly (including the ejector parts). Colt had a lot of these left after World War Two and sold them as surplus. Both can be rechambered into .45 Colt. For that matter, so can a .44 Special, but they are much harder to find.
Thanks for the information. Any idea how much the rechamber job would be?

This could turn out to be the most expensive "free" gun in history!

Old Fuff
November 3, 2006, 06:07 PM
Measure the cylinder throats. The bore diameter should be .454" which is only .002" oversided for the .45ACP. Again I don't have my books handy, but the .455 Webley guns had a larger bore and cylinder throats. The barrel is clearly a later replacement, and I'd expect it to be .454". It could even be .452" (same as .45ACP). I think your accuracy problem is in the cylinder.

On rechambering - it's a case of finding a gunsmith who has the reamers. Check with Dave Bennetts at Brownells (www.brownells.com). They sell the reamers and he might recommend someone. A fair number of gunsmiths that specialize in work on Colt Single Action's are tooled to rechamber in .45 Colt.

Deanimator
November 3, 2006, 06:16 PM
I think your accuracy problem is in the cylinder.
I agree.

Of course finding any other kind of cylinder for this gun is going to be a project.

The Ohio Gun Collector's Association Show would have been the best place to look (where I got the .476 cylinder), but they've moved to half-way between Dayton and Columbus. I'm not going to a gunshow where I have to get a motel room unless it's the Shot Show or the NRA convention!

BTW - Do you think that .476 cylinder could be rechambered to .45LC, or are the chambers too big already? Thanks for the information.

Old Fuff
November 3, 2006, 07:15 PM
Do you think that .476 cylinder could be rechambered to .45LC, or are the chambers too big already?

A lot of them were rechambered when most of the .455 Colt's from World War One were re-imported during the 1950's. They cost big bucks then - around $17.00... :eek:

The problem is that most of them have oversized throats for the .45 Colt. That why I suggested you measure the throats in the cylinder(s) you have. You also need to measure the barrel's bore to see what it is - could be anywhere from .452" to .456" - whatever it is the cylinder throats should match for best accuracy.

Try Numrich Gunparts Corp. (www.e-gunparts.com) for a cylinder. Remember the chambers for a smaller cartridge don't have to be perfect because they are going to be reamed. However you don't want one with peened-out bolt notches, and finding one that's nickel plated is possible, but unlikely.

jdog42
November 4, 2006, 01:10 AM
Old Fuff, I found this in an article on the web.

"First Generations-- those made from 1873 to 1941-- have prices that are all over the map. The true collector's items with a majority of the finish still remaining and all original parts still intact command prices that start at around $2,500 and go way up."

Since I am more interested in just shooting, and really enjoy the 45ACP round, maybe I should try to get this one to a collector and just buy a shooter.

what is the best way to make sure it has not been refinished? the pattent and other letters on the barrel are very neat, and crisp. the rest of the gun looks good, except for a small spot where the bleuing has been rubbed off, looks like from a holster rub, or something like that. I am continuing to look up information on the internet, but do get confused by the diference between the army issued and the civilian issued. also, there are very few marks for identification.

Thanks again for your continued kind information... :rolleyes:

Old Fuff
November 4, 2006, 09:56 AM
At the begining of World War One the Army - yet again - found itself short of handguns, and there was no way that Colt could produce enough 1911 .45 pistols to fill the gap. And it was thought that you could not shoot rimless .45ACP pistol cartridges in a revolver because the extractor needed a rim to push the cartridge or fired case out of the chamber. But some bright engineer at Colt's thought of using 1/2-moon clips to hold the cartridges, and the revolver's extractor could push on the clip, rather then the cartridge itself.

The Army quickly bought this idea, and created what became the Model 1917. This was nothing more then a regular New Service model as it was made at that time, but with plain walnut stocks rather the molded hard rubber ones, and a lanyard ring. Of course it was chambered in .45ACP and had a 5 1/2" barrel. The bottom of the butt was marked with Model 1917 markings as well as Uncle Sam's serial number - which might or might not be the same as the company's serial number, that was stamped on the frame benind the crane. You can't see it unless you swing out the cylinder. The frame was also marked with government inspectors' stamps. The bottom of the barrel was marked "U.S. Government Property," or something to that effect. All of these guns were made between 1917 and 1919. Previous to 1917, Colt didn't make any revolvers chambered in .45ACP.

After the war Colt added the .45ACP as an option one could buy in the New Service model. Early guns had black, hard rubber grips, but in the late 1920's or early 30's Colt went to checkered walnut with a nickel plated trademark logo inlayed at the top. The commercial models also had a special "gas oven blue" that Colt used at the time. This was a heat rather then a chemical process, and left a very blue-blue color rather then the more black-blue you see on today's guns. Once you see any Colt with a gas oven blue finish you'll know what I mean. Also the commercial model was not marked with anything on the butt. Most had the lanyard loop, but not all of them.

Because the market was flooded with war surplus 1917 models there was little interest in the more expensive commercial model so Colt didn't make very many of them. Consequently a true commercial model that is totally original and has say 95% or more of the original finish, a good bore, and in mechanically good shape is worth considerably more to a collector then a more common military model 1917 in the same condition.

So far everything that you've posted suggests that you have one of the rare (and valuable) commercial New Service models in .45ACP. Since you are not a collector I would say you should sell it to a collector, get the maximum ammount of money out of it, and then use that money for whatever you might want.

jdog42
November 4, 2006, 10:51 AM
Thanks Old Fuff, that is what I am beinning to think.
Some times we just stumble into a good deal. I saw the gun at a pawn shop, and liked it, and decided to think about it for aweek or 2, went back in 2 weeks, and the owner was as I walked in the store marking all of his older revolvers down 20%. I quickly decided to jump on it. After picking it up from the shop, and doing some research i began to realize that what I had bought was not a military surplus revolver with a value of 600 to 800, but rather a more rare civilian issue revolver that is quite possibly worth 2 to 3 times that.

What is your advice as to how to get a fair price for this pistol. I know that if I take it to the local Gun Show, that I can get many and varied opinions, and that the true worth of the gun is what a person is willing to pay for it. are there online sites where a person can atempt to sell a "collectable pistol".

Your discription of the gun is exact. the grips are checkered walnut, and have the medalion. It does not have a lanyard loop on the butt, and per research the serial number of 335### is falling in the time frame that would be the civilion issue

Thanks again for your patients and kindness in providing this valuable and interesting information. I do truely appreciate it....:)

jdog42
November 4, 2006, 03:18 PM
Here are a couple of pictures that I took to give some perspective.
as you can see, there is a spot on the right side that I can only assume is from a snap, or something rubbing it while in a holster. I guess this would make sense if it was indeed a revolver being carried by a police officer.
The rest of the gun is in excelent condition, and the boar is very clean...

Thanks again for the informative reply's so far:)

Bill73
November 5, 2006, 09:32 PM
Looks something like this.

jdog42
November 5, 2006, 10:26 PM
Bill72, that is a fine looking weapon.
looks like you have a very nice military issue 1917.
Do you shoot it much, or is it more of a collector?
I am really trying to decide if I should continue to use mine, as a shooter, and just enjoy this fine revolver, or if I should try to sell it to a collector and buy a newer "shooter"... I guess that is a nice delima to have..:cool:

jdog42
November 5, 2006, 10:27 PM
sorry, BIll 73

Old Fuff
November 5, 2006, 11:46 PM
jdog42:

I haven't gotten back to you, and won't be able to for about ten days. But after that I'll answer you questions.

bill73:

That is a perfect example of Colt's gas oven blue. Note that it is blue-blue, not black-blue.

Bill73
November 6, 2006, 12:46 AM
It's just one of my collection. I found it in a coin shop when I was there looking for a coin to fill a hole in a set of walking liberty halves. The bore is bright and shiney. It's the only collectible revolver I have.
Thanks for the compliment!

trekp1
November 6, 2006, 07:46 AM
I ran across this thread while doing a bit of research on my own model 1917. A very informative thread, indeed! I'm a bit confused trying to cross reference the serial number. I'm showing 273453 (stamped on the frame...not the butt) which comes up 1920, if I'm doing the cross reference correctly. This was a gun passed along to me many years ago from my grandfather. I had stored it away with my reloading equipment many years ago and just "re-discoverd" it. Like the first poster, I'm questioning the wisdom of shooting this gun or simply passing it along to my family.

Old Fuff
November 6, 2006, 09:34 AM
Again I'm caught without my research books... :uhoh:

If it has Model 1917 Army markings it would be one of those that was finished up after the war. Colt had a lot of left-over parts that Uncle Sam didn't want to buy, so they negotiated a deal. If it doesn't have military markings and does have black hard-rubber stocks I'd say that it was an early commercial model.

Bill73
November 6, 2006, 01:49 PM
The only reference I have is Clawson's book on the Colt .45 Service Pistols. I collect the 1911 and 1911A1 pistols. He has a small bit on the revolvers but not a complete list of serial numbers. The last range is given as Feb. 19,1919 151801-154800 of 3,000 pistols shipped to an Army Reserve Depot in N.Y.

My number is 83-3803 (military) 233,903 (Colt). There was a total of 154,800 produced for the military and 2 on special order. I would assume mine is post WWI even though it has a military number and the Springfield Armory Eagle Head over S28 stamp.

P.S. Jdog42, I think your right on selling yours for max and buying something you can shoot w/o affecting collector value.

Armyphotog
September 15, 2009, 04:47 PM
I have just acquired a Colt M1917 military model .45acp revolver. Everything checks out down to the penciled serial no. on the grips. However, it appears that the cylinder has been replaced. The gun is in great shape with all marks clear and crisp, which makes you wonder why the cylinder was replaced. It does not bear the H mark, but instead carries an E instead. Any ideas as to why and where the cylinder came from? Thanks.

Vern Humphrey
September 15, 2009, 06:17 PM
I suspect that the gun may have started life as a .45 Colt, and was then converted to use .45acp with moonclips using an M1917 cylinder. The bore is in decent condition, but it keyholes most every time.
Those two things probably go together. The standard bore diameter for .45 Colt in those days was .454, and for .45 ACP .451. If you're shooting factory .45 ACP ammo, it's a bit undersized for your bore.

Slug the bore (drive a lubricated, soft lead ball through the bore and measure it.) If the bore is .454, you need to shoot a bigger bullet. I would suggest trying some bullets designed for the .45 Colt and sized properly to see if this helps. RCBS sells the 45-225-CAV, which is nominally .454 and might be just right for your gun.

Another point is to slug the chambers, too -- drive a slug through each chamber and measure the throats. The throats should be bore size or maybe a thousand of an inch over. If they are too tight, they can be opened up.

Old Fuff
September 15, 2009, 07:48 PM
If it has military Model 1917 stamping on the butt it should have a .45 ACP cylinder, and wouldn't have been originally made as a .45 Colt.

This of course presumes that it was sold to Uncle Sam, and if that's so it would have Army inspection stamps. Lacking these, I'd suspect it was made after the war, and the barrel could have been made using a .45 Colt or even .455 Webley blank. Vern is right. Slug both the bore and chamber throats to find out exactly what you are working with.

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