Question about a Colt 1903


August 28, 2007, 12:33 AM
Hello all,

Well was at the local gun shop and was browsing around and in their used display case I noticed a few older type guns. One caught my eye and I asked to see it. It was a Colt in 32ACP and noticed the patent date 1903. Came home and looked it up on the internet. Cool little pocket pistol. I was amazed on just how thin it was.

The condition of the finish seemed to me roughly 85 to 90% No rust. Forgot the price but are these guns collectible? Can you still get replacement parts if something were to break? None of my guns are safe queens so if I got it, it will be shot on occasion. Thinking about if I should pick it up. Anyone have any knowledge on these guns?

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August 28, 2007, 12:36 AM
It's a colt so yup it's collectable and it's also designed by John Browning that helps to. I've got one that I shoot I love it--not much for accuracy or stopping power but a fun little gun. Parts are available but it's a pretty hearty design. Also check out the 1908's basically the same in a .25 a pocket full of fun.

August 28, 2007, 01:57 AM
Thanks 2RCo,

I just might have to seriuosly think about getting it. Like you said not much for stopping power but that is not why I would get it. Like you said a fun little gun with history behind it. Thanks

August 28, 2007, 01:57 AM
the 1903 is a neat gun. its the grandfather to many prolific pistols. like the M1911 and the Russian TT33.

August 28, 2007, 02:02 AM
Not quite, 2RCO. The 1903 .32 evolved into the up-bored 1908 .380 Pocket--the 1908 .25 Vest Pocket is a whole 'nother design lineage, although The Great One probably applied ideas from older projects to newer ones...

August 28, 2007, 02:02 AM
Thanks Hoppy. Yeah it caught my eye and I was impressed on how it felt in my hand and I just like the look overall.

Snake Eyes
August 28, 2007, 02:10 AM
These are great little pistols and a lot of fun. I always found mine to be adequately accurate and never felt naked carrying one. That slim, slim profile works really well in hot weather clothes.

There ARE actually replacement parts available. Old Fuff posted a link to a parts house some time back that had all sorts of goodies, including replacement barrels. I'm too lazy to go search for it, so maybe Fuff will drop by and remind us.

(Or, you could search THR for 'Old Fuff' and 'Colt 1903')

August 28, 2007, 02:17 AM
Thanks Snake Eyes,

I will do the search. You know, when I held the gun in my hand it made me smile. I guess that in of itself is good enough to get! And your not kidding about slim. I was like wow!

August 28, 2007, 02:28 AM

Pull them apart and look at them and if you can't see the similarities you might be on something. I said basically I didn't say exactly. I left out a detail or two given. Either way I love my 1903 and it's little buddies the 1908 .25's I happen to have quite a few of the little guys. They all keep my 1911's happy all in the same lineage.

August 28, 2007, 02:36 AM
Tony check this out--

Old Fuff
August 28, 2007, 09:12 AM
Parts are available at (Numrich). But most of them are salvage, and used. They may or may not work in your gun. If you order parts be sure to specify your serial number (use xx for the last 2 numbers).

From the point of view of shooting, the big problem is that good magazines are hard to find. Original ones when available can be very expensive, and aftermarket ones often aren't very good.

Depending on condition they are collectable. They are in all ways, a classic.

I have found that most are very accurate, provided the shooter does his/her part. Part of the problem is that most of these pistols have very small sights that some find hard to see.

August 28, 2007, 09:40 AM
I have had very good luck with this shop for obsolete parts:
They have both used parts and they also make some of the more common and hard to get parts for out of production firearms.

The most common replacement items needed for 1903 and 1908 Colt pocket pistols are springs and firing pins.
These pistols were very well made of good quality steel and the cartridges they fire are of fairly low pressure so most parts don't generally and completely wear out.

As Old Fluff said, magazines are the biggest issue with the guns.
Colt made magazines are far and away the best option.
They were well made, tailored to the guns, and short of replacing the occasional easy to obtain magazine springs and maybe having to fix the occasional bent feed lips, they don't wear out that easy.
There were hundreds of thousands if not millions, made but they are becoming increasingly hard to find as collectors snap up available magazines at every opportunity.
Avoid aftermarket magazines. Plain and simple, they are junk.

August 29, 2007, 06:37 AM
I have shot the COLT 1903 and it has good and bad points. It is a brilliant design as far as slimness, reliability and handling. The bad points are the sights and you need a holster.

The sights are just too small to allow accurate combat/defensive shooting. Even plinking will be hard if you do not have good eyesight. I am hitting fifty and the small pre-1980 sights on many older guns really are a handicap when shooting.

Also, the 1903 is a large gun in length and height for a .32ACP. If you just want to own and play with it, great. As a carry gun, it will need work.

Still, I liked shooting the 1903 and it will last your lifetime. If COLT would bring out a new version with good sights, an aluminum frame, half inch grip and barrel and double action only or GLOCK like safe action, they would have a winner.


Old Fuff
August 29, 2007, 08:20 AM
Well back when the pistol was being made the clothes folks wore were slightly different then now.... :eek: and the pistol was indeed pocket sized. But anyway... :D

Many owners aren't aware of it, but the dovetail at the back, and the slot that holds the front sight were the same as those on the Government Model .45 being produced at the same time. If your pistol isn't collector-grade this opens up some interesting possibilities, because there are all kinds of sights offered for the 1911. I have seen examples where a large gold (brass) bead was mounted at the front, while a larger "U" notch was opened at the back. Both alterations were done during the 1930's by the way.

"Fine" sights (thin blade/small notch) sights seem to have been a way of life during the 1920's and backwards on pocket pistols and revolvers. It tends to confirm my thought that users were more often likely to point rather then aim this class of handguns. It is not unusual to find 19th and early 20th century guns where the barrel was sawed off, and the front sight not replaced.

August 29, 2007, 08:24 AM
As the OP said.. You pick one up and just makes you smile.. I have 3 and I thoroughly enjoy them.. Colt knew how to make a pocket pistol with some class.

Flame Red
August 29, 2007, 09:07 AM
My brother-in-law has one that he shots on occassion. Very neat little gun with a lot a character. Very reliable, but not a great carry peice as more modern guns are better choices. Safety kind of hard to manipulate. A little bit different to field strip as you rotate the barrel to take it apart. Good mags are hard to find. He never had a problem with it which is a testimate to the craftsmanship of it given it's age.

I have one too but it is a safe queen and never shot. No collector or Colt shooter should be without one.

August 29, 2007, 05:54 PM
Heres an earlier thread about this model and a pic of mine made in 1905. Bought it 2 years ago and enjoy shooting a 100 year old gun. Carried it for awhile too. :)

August 30, 2007, 01:36 PM
Thanks everyone for their replies and information. If I bought this gun it would not be a carry piece because in Hawaii while it is a may issue state, the chief of police has never issued a CCW permit in quite a few years. I am still undecided as if I will buy it because in the last month I already bought two Though I could swing the cost of another purchase, I may decide to wait a bit and hope they still have it later. I am single so I only have to worry about me. Still sometime you gotta know when to say to yourself STOP!

I must say I love this hobby of owning and shooting guns. So many to own, not enough money to buy them Still I really want that Colt so may be next month if is still there, I will just have to let it follow me home!

August 30, 2007, 01:48 PM
i actualy just stumbled upon a 1903 today, in .32 not nearly 85-90% but not bad considering its probibly 100 years old. i tried to talk the guy down on price. only to find out its a consignment piece. well im 20$ short right now. but i think im gunna go get it tommorow

anyway. anyone got a blue book and give me an estimate for about 65-70%

Snake Eyes
August 30, 2007, 02:27 PM
The current Blue Book of Gun Values lists the Colt Model 1903 as $225 @ 60% and $275 @ 70%, with notations to add 20% for a Type I (mfr 1903-1911) in this condition and add 10% for nickel finish.

For what it's worth, I find the Blue Book prices for old Colts to be substantially below actual market. I'm usually ecstatic to buy at the prices they have listed.

August 30, 2007, 02:30 PM
cool. the one im looking at is proibibly closer to 60% and is a few bucks cheaper than 225! ( 200$ is the price to be exact) is there any way to tell the type w/o serial number. iirc the first 3 of 6 digits in the serial were 279 or 272

Old Fuff
August 30, 2007, 02:48 PM
1918 = serial numbers 264,000 to 289,999 (.32, not .380's). ;)

August 30, 2007, 02:50 PM
These guns were the most popular pocket pistol here for actual shooting as they had the best sights (compare the hump-and-bump ones on the 1910 Browning for a more typical example of how bad they could be in those days)

Snake Eyes
August 30, 2007, 02:55 PM
272XXX or 279XXX would be manufactured in the year of 1919, squarely into the 2nd series. The easiest way to identify the Type I (or first series) is that they had a longer barrel that sticks out the front of the slide an extra 1/4".

(ETA--I was really hoping to beat Old Fuff with this info, but one of my girlfriends called and distracted me. A problem Fuff doesn't have at the ripe old age of 147.)

Old Fuff
August 30, 2007, 03:18 PM
According to R.L. Wilson, they started the year 1919 at serial number 290,000. :confused:

And I'll have you know that them 147 year-old kids don't know zip... :neener:

And ya' deserve what ya' git... them wimmin are a distraction... :D

August 30, 2007, 03:45 PM
numrich has parts, if you ever were to need them... as do others...

at the gunstore I worked at partime, more volunteered I guess,

one came in with extensive rust... I mean seized slide, and grip safety, and trigger... used a hammer to beat the gun loose. Draw filed and bead blasted, and draw filed some more... wire wheel... etc... reblued, and gun is functional after being put back together... all the original parts were used, no replacements!

My Dad has one on his permit back home; It was my Granddads backup when he was a police officer from the 40's to 70's... He also carried it as a primary when he was a detective for his dept...(or so I've been told)
It has only been cleaned and oiled for the past 60+ years (it was second hand when he got it) no new springs, no new mags, etc... shot a box of 25+ year old ammo through it one of the last times I was home... no misfeeds, jams, stovepipes...
Colt 1903's are awesome. I need one... Maybe today is the day to go looking...
If you buy it and don't like it, I'll buy it off you if the price is right... (meaning fair)

August 31, 2007, 12:03 PM
I just picked up this one yesterday. .32 cal 1903 from 1921. The end of the barrel is slightly damaged from a drop. Nothing too serious and I think a gunsmith could clean it up. I paid $300.

August 31, 2007, 12:15 PM
Mine was made in 1904.
I bought it many years ago for less than two hundred bucks.
The three original spare magazines I managed to find cost me nearly as much as I paid for the gun!

August 31, 2007, 02:26 PM
just got mine today. Seriel 272XXX no camera at the moment but its close in finish to Onmilo's probibly not the 60 % i previously guesed. but still nice for 200$

September 1, 2007, 10:30 AM
Those contemplating the purchase of these guns should note that some design changes took place over the years and that it may be essential to quote the serial # when inquiring after parts.

September 1, 2007, 10:47 AM
Go to ( and use the drop down menu to access Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless. You will get more info than you can shake a stick at. Use the password "" to open the PDF file containing the original instructions. They have many many pictures of these fine little shooters to salivate over.

Unless I'm mistaken,there are actually five distinct types of the Colt 1903/1908 Hammerless. Here is mine, a Type 3 produced in 1912. I paid $275 a couple of years ago.

Jim K
September 4, 2007, 10:10 PM
Break? Wear out? Those words just don't apply to the M1903 or the M1908 .380 caliber. The major problem with those guns is owners who just can't resist taking them apart, breaking or losing parts, or not being able to reassemble them. Leave the darned thing alone, just shoot it, and it will last just about forever.


September 8, 2007, 11:42 PM
heres a question. anyone know where i can get another barrel? mines got some light pitting. nothing to make it unsafe. but it be nice to get another barrel anyway

added. would a barrel& slide swap make my .32 a .380?

Old Fuff
September 9, 2007, 08:04 AM
Parts can be obtained from Numrich - The Gun Parts Corporation at

They have some new, aftermarket barrels, but there are several styles and you need to know which one fits your gun. If you order a barrel be sure to include the pistol's serial number. You can use xx for the last two numbers.

People who try to convert from .32 to .380 have mixed success. Besides the barrel there are differences between the magazine well dimensions, and the magazines themselves. Add to that the ejector and sometimes the extractor.

September 9, 2007, 12:00 PM
thanks for the info old fluff. i think il skip the converstion.

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