Chiefs' Special or Detective Special?


Patrick Henry
January 25, 2008, 04:12 PM
I would eventually like to own one of these guns for concealed carry. (My current budget doesn't allow both of them). I really like the look of a chiefs' special model 60, the stainless version, with the original grips.

On the other hand, I have never really felt comfortable with just 5 rounds in the gun. For some reason, that 6th round in the detective makes me feel much better. I think 6 is enough to deal with 2 to 3 attackers and be able to put multiple rounds in the bad guy(s). But I am wondering if the detective is signifigantly less concealable than the chief because of that.

Also I really want a stainless. Did they ever make a detective in stainless?

I have a Taurus 85 now, which I think is modeled on the chief, so I can use that as a reference.

Unfortunately where I am now carrying in public is totally forbidden but I'm planning for when I make it back to good ol' Virginia.

EDIT: I was also wondering about +P in these guns. Thanks.

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January 25, 2008, 04:35 PM
Not a big deal of difference as far as concealment.

If you don't feel comfortable with 5 rds get the DS.

January 25, 2008, 07:06 PM
Colt never made an actual Detective Special in stainless steel, but they did make a totally different gun that looks like a DS in stainless.

There were three versions, the "SF-VI", the "DS-II", and the "Magnum Carry".
The "SF-VI" and "DS-II" were available in .38 Special, the "Magnum Carry" in .357 Magnum.
These models look just like the DS only have a different action with a transfer-bar safety system.
These were made in the late 1990's and were very low production models.
For that reason, they're hard to find and expensive when you do.

The old Detective Special is slightly bigger then the S&W Model 60, and has a slightly larger cylinder to accommodate the 6th round.
It conceals almost as well as the Model 60, but offers a better grip, and a more "shoot-able" gun.
The up side of the DS is, it's a higher quality, better made gun, it's more accurate, and still conceals nicely.

An option is to find a nice DS and have it hard chrome plated. This give all the advantages of a stainless gun, but still allows you to have the original Colt action and accuracy.

January 25, 2008, 08:04 PM
Or find a nickeled one. Not as durable as chrome but more so than blued. True, they are scarcer and will probably cost more but not as much as being refinished. Plus, you won't devalue the gun like a refinish generally will- a moot point, of course, if the revolver is already in need of a redo.

Old Fuff
January 25, 2008, 09:51 PM
You might find this to be helpful.

Anonymous Coward
January 25, 2008, 10:16 PM
I like the Detective Special a bunch.

One caveat: If you don't like the trigger pull (and many don't), you're going to have a tough time finding someone to improve it.

January 25, 2008, 11:36 PM
I'm partial to Smiths but the Dectives are awfully fine revos. You'd be hard pressed to go wrong with one in good condition.

January 26, 2008, 06:52 AM
Hi, I have 1 of the 1990's " DS-II " .38Special SS models and it shoots and carries great. I had a set of grips made for it from a guy in Lockport, Ny . Nice when riding the Sportster as it easliy slips into a pocket.......WVleo

keyboard commando
January 26, 2008, 07:56 AM
The cylinder of the six shot Colt Detective Special is 0.100" larger (1/10th of an inch) than a 5 shot S&W Chiefs Special.:scrutiny:

January 26, 2008, 08:28 AM
If possible shoot whatever snubby you are considering buying.

I found the Colt DS much more uncomfortable to shoot than even much lighter Airweight S&Ws. For me the shape of the Colt DS grips just don't work. However, lots of people love the Colt.

Another concern with the Colt is the lack of gunsmiths who can or will work on the Colt is something requires repair.

Patrick Henry
January 26, 2008, 02:37 PM
Thanks everyone for the info.

Nick Bolton
January 26, 2008, 04:08 PM
I like the DS for it's strength and sixth shot, I have both the 2" and 3" bbl versions. I use Safariland k frame spedloaders which work great. I did not like the grips that came with them and got Hogues which really improve handling and tame those plus p rounds.
For trigger work and other changes/improvements try Grant Cunningham in the Portland ,Oregon area.

January 29, 2008, 11:09 AM
I love my Nickel Cobra - an Al Dick Special. The Colt/Pachmayr Grips fit my hand better than most Smiths and I prefer the Colt DA pull to the Smith. I'd love to find one of the later SS versions or for Colt to start making them again!

I wouldn't feel too bad about a limited diet of +P in any steel framed gun. The later issue DS, Cobra, and Agents (with the shrouded ejector rod) are rated for +Ps. I'm sure the SF-VI/DS-II would handle them with no problem.

I use Buffalo Bore's standard pressure fodder in my Cobra.

All that being said, you can easally replace a J frame, but a Colt D frame may be a little more difficult.

January 29, 2008, 11:50 AM
I have 2 second model Cobras, one nickle, one blue, both short frame no ejector rod shroud. I also have a long frame Det. Spec. from around '66. The size of the short frame Cobras with the available short grips is darn close to the J frame Smith in size. I am a long time S&W collector (40 yrs.) and all but ignored the Det. Spec. and it's derivatives until a couple years ago. What a mistake.

February 1, 2008, 01:53 PM
I love the Pachmayr Compac Presentaions I got for my Cobra. The are much better than in my hand than the fat wood grips it came with.

Anonymous Coward
February 1, 2008, 03:23 PM
For trigger work and other changes/improvements try Grant Cunningham in the Portland ,Oregon area.

Grant Cunningham closed his waiting list to new clients in December.

One advantage the DS has over the S&W is the longer ejector rod, which some say provides more positive extraction of fired cases.

February 2, 2008, 05:13 AM
Colt DS revolvers are hard to find at least in my area which might make the decision for you. They can get pricey also.

February 4, 2008, 02:43 AM
Ah, but they're well worth the search! :)

February 5, 2008, 12:42 AM

I have one of the earlier, smaller grip Colt Agent (the lightweight, aluminum-framed version of the Detective Special). It is "about" the size of a J-frame Smith as you can see below of my two "snubbies." Sure, my Colt Agent IS wearing Colt's optional hammer shroud, but it is easy to see that it is still much larger than the Smith even without it.

It indeed has an extra round. HOWEVER, I use my S&W K-frame 6-round speedloaders for my Colt Agent (for they basically interchange)! Thus, the Colt cylinder holes are virtually the same width apart as the S&W K frames like the Model 19/13/65/66/64/15/14/10, etc.

SO . . . the tiny Smith IS more concealable!

If I need a small, fairly concealable 6-shooter, I'll strap on my tack-driving Model 65 3" .357 and take advantage of a hot 125gn. .357 hollowpoint!

Which is in my pocket, day in and day out as my CCW firearm of choice?

My beloved little S&W Model 36 J-frame. It is more accurate than MY Agent, more concealable, fits my hand better AND has a trigger pull that I like sooo much better.

I do not worry at all about having one shot less. Most gun fights are over in 6 seconds or less. It is more about shooting carefully and accurately BUT in a very, very short amount of time . . . and then haulin' ass in the opposite direction the other guy is sprinting towards!;)

My little J frame? I've shot so many tens of thousands of rounds through my various S&W revolvers that they now hit naturally right where a point. Not so with the Colt.

Here's how my little J frame shoots, standing/unsupported, at 10 yards into a 1" black square target:

For others, the Colt may be their best bet. However, if you didn't grow up shootin' Colt wheelguns you probably never will. Colt decided to get out of the wheelgun business awhile back. Most of us love our slightly cheaper to make but equally accurate to shoot Smith and Wessons . . . and Colt never figured out how to be competitive, price-wise, and finally bailed out of the business.

Both are great companies . . . but only one still supports their double action wheelguns with part, only one has lots of used guns to choose from, and only one company has lots of great gunsmiths across the country who know how to keep 'em tuned and shooting great.

Make mine a J-frame!

Heck, if I want to tote something just slightly bigger, about the same weight, and "badder," I'll strap on my wonderful first generation Kimber Ultra CDP aluminum framed 1911-style .45ACP!

Then again . . . the J frame can just go in the pants pocket in a proper concealment holster and go anywhere legally with you without detection! A great shootin' 5-shot .38 in your pocket beats a bigger gun you left at home , due to being slightly larger, ANYTIME!


February 5, 2008, 06:32 PM
Keyboard Commando reported the Colt Detective Special/Cobra/Agent cylinder diameter to be 0.100" larger than the "J" frame. The Cobra/Agent weigh the same as an Airweight and carry 20% more ammo on board. Guess which one I tote!

February 5, 2008, 07:15 PM
This one has seen a lot of carry.

February 5, 2008, 07:42 PM
Fast Fingers strike- double post...

February 5, 2008, 07:45 PM
Here's my take on the snubnose thing- an alloy-framed Agent, with the hammer bobbed. Handles by Eagle, holster by Mika, speedloader by Safariland, ammunition +P Gold Dots.
I guess +P is a wear factor, but the power is too important to never use any.
My '69 Detective Special is actually a better gun, but this one causes less concern about its condition.
I also have the aforementioned stainless Colt snubs, including the Magnum Carry.
The Agent's good.

Ala Dan
February 6, 2008, 07:01 PM
I've got a bunch of old Smith snubbies; but I've always preferred the looks
of the 2nd series (1947-1972) Colt Detective Specials. All of mine (both
Smith's and Colt's) have been pictuered here at THR many times over. ;):D

February 7, 2008, 07:48 PM
I've got an SF-VI:
No concealed carry in my crummy state, but I don't plan on living here forever, and this will be my carry gun.

And the trigger is sweet.

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