Colt Detective Special info?


November 3, 2007, 10:32 PM
My husband gave me a Colt .38 for Christmas last year and I'm now wondering about it's mfg date and average worth (insurance). From what I have found online it is a Colt .38 Detective Special, the serial number is
Any info is appreciated.


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Old Fuff
November 4, 2007, 09:09 AM
Apparently your revolver was made after 1978, which is the latest date that serial numbers are published. You can learn the date by calling Colt's Customer Service Department.

Values range from around $250 to $450 for a "like new in box" revolver. Given that prices keep going up, I would insure it for at least $400.

The model should be marked on the side of the barrel.

November 4, 2007, 11:51 AM
I took a photo of my Colt and attached it. My husband was told it was from the 1950's and possibly earlier than that. Unfortunately the original grips were warped, so these are aftermarket. This colt seems to resemble first generation Detective Special's, but I'm no expert. There is no model number on the barrel, but the stamps read on one side:
and on the other:

Does this provide better info to date it with?

Thanks again,

Jim Watson
November 4, 2007, 12:09 PM
It is, as marked, a Cobra, NOT a Detective Special. Same size, but the Cobra has an aluminum frame - hence the "LW" serial number prefix for Light Weight - and the DS is all steel. says LW24866 is from 1953.

It looks in good condition; those aluminum frames show wear badly when the black anodizing gets worn or scratched. But the replacement grips hurt the collector value. Advertisers on Gunsamerica think they are worth $400 to $600+ with original grips.

November 4, 2007, 12:10 PM
According to my referance, Colt, an American Legend, by R.L. Wilson:

Colt Cobra production started in 1950 with serial # 1LW
Colt Cobra serial number 20200LW started in 1953.
1954 started with 26150LW.
The LW serial number range ended in 1969.

They then started using an A prefex, (A6000 tru A99999, followed by a B60000 thru B99999, and so on.

But if your number starts, not ends with LW, I have now idea when it was made.

November 4, 2007, 04:37 PM
Thanks so much guys! The serial number does end in LW and we confirmed the aluminum frame.

All the info is MUCH appreciated.


November 4, 2007, 05:03 PM
The LW serial number as well as the Cobra name confirms it is an aluminum frame.

LW stands for Light Weight!

Ala Dan
November 7, 2007, 03:02 PM
Greeting's All-

Kim, Colt produced three different firearms on their famed D-frame. These
were: the Detective Special with a weight of 21 ozs, the Cobra (your gun)
with a weight of 15 ozs, and finally an Agent with a weight of 14 ozs. All
were very popular off duty weapons, in law enforcement circles. Colt also
made several minor changes along the way; hence the different series of
each firearm. For instance, I collect Colt D-frame Detective Specials from
the 2nd series, which ran from 1947-1972; cuz 1947 was my birth year.

Also, to the naked eye the Agent will be noticeably different; as the frame
is shorter in the grip. To my knowledge, the Agent was only manufactuered
using an anodized bluing process; while the DS and the Cobra were also
offered with a nickel finish.

Ala Dan
November 7, 2007, 03:05 PM
Colt D-frame .38 Specials

I apologize for the poor pic, as my lighting was really bad~!

From top to bottom:

Colt Detective Special .38 Special from 1966 (original factory blue)
Colt Detective Special .38 Special from 1971 (pristine, factory nickel- test fired only 6 times)
Colt Agent .38 Special from very early 1973 (factory anodized bluing)

Note: the shorter grip on the Agent.

Not shown: I also have yet another factory blued Colt Detective Special from 1966,
that I purchased after this pic was taken. Enjoy~!

November 9, 2007, 06:59 PM
Kim, you can easily get more correct grips for that gun.

DD 82nd
December 19, 2009, 08:58 AM
If anyone could give me a roundabout idea on the manufacturing date on my Cobra I would appreciate it very much. The serial# is 60217R. Thanks for any kind of help. In the field training otherwise I would call Colt like suggested. Thanks again!

December 19, 2009, 10:24 AM
DD 82nd, This site tells me that the serial number 60217 (none of the numbers in this table have letter suffixes) was built in 1912.

BTW I searched for and found the table because there's a .32-20 Police Positive in my family (the piece is in Miami and I'm not) that came into the house with a new stepmother in 1939. My sister has it and won't open the cylinder (she knows how) and read the serial number. Ah, well. It's a nice shooter and in quite good condition.

An interesting thing (to me): She said its value would be reduced because it has initials scratched on it someplace (I forget just where) by the police when they took it as evidence after her aunt's boyfriend used it to commit suicide. [My theory on that act is that he finally got spectacles and had his first clear look at my sister's aunt.] I told her that for all we know its notoriety might have doubled the value. I'll never know, I guess.

Old Fuff
December 19, 2009, 12:18 PM
A Colt Cobra made in 1912 would be most unusual, and very valuable - seeing that the Cobra wasn't introduced until 1950... :confused:

Try 1977. ;)

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