Colt Detective Special - What generation is it?


March 2, 2008, 11:48 AM
How do I figure out what generation my wife's Detective Special is?

I don't know if you can tell from pictures or not:

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March 2, 2008, 11:50 AM
It's for sure an earlier one.

The later ones looked like something Ruger would have made!


March 2, 2008, 11:57 AM

First Edition, double check your serial number.
Mine is like yours and is a 1929 model.

March 2, 2008, 12:20 PM
From what I can see from your photo, the gun appears to be a THIRD generation Detective Special. That would put it between post WWII (when they went to a ramped front sight as opposed to a half moon) and 1966 (when they went to the short butt frame). As noted, can give you the year of mfg. You may want to run a search on for some spirited discussions on the different "generations" of Detective Specials.

Ala Dan
March 2, 2008, 12:28 PM
It appears to me, too be a 2nd series (1947-1972) model Colt Detective
Special. I have 2x 1966 models, and one 1971 model that look identical~!

March 2, 2008, 12:35 PM
Well...we have narrowed it down to either a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd edition. *lol*

You guys are a lot of help!

Aren't we though? *grin*

Umm...what we are really doing is stalling for time.
Old Fuff is probably lost in his cave, still when he finds his computer, he can share.

Really...we are stalling for Old Fuff...


March 2, 2008, 12:51 PM
First Generation is 1927 through 1946.

Second Generation is 1947 to 1972.

The difference between the First and Second Generation is grip frame length. Your wife's Dick Special appears to be First Generation to me. Second generations had a shorter grip frame length, with grips that came together underneath.

Third and Fourth generations have an ejector rod shroud.

The Fourth generation had an alloy frame.

Locate your serial number in the data base at Proofhouse ( to determine your year of manufacture.

More info (

Guns & Ammo article (

The predecessor of the Detective Special First Generation was the Colt Police Positive. They shared the same frame. Below is a picture of my 1923 Police Positive. Note that our grip frame lengths are the same. My Police Positive is in .38S&W. Most Detective Specials were chambered in .38 special, although a few were in .32.

Now watch Old Fuff come smack me down.... ;)

Old Fuff
March 2, 2008, 02:39 PM
The Old Fuff is having a bad morning, first because of problems with #!!## worthless Windows, and second, because of loosing out on an auction because of it. :cuss: :cuss:

But anyway, you can get into great debates over Colt D-frame generations or issues. My version is of course the right one, and I’ll defend it to the death, but when it’s all over I’m likely to be more wrong then right. :confused:

The first generation/issue was made before and during World War Two (1927 to 1948) and can be identified by a half-moon front sight and a short ejector rod. Many were made on Police Positive Special frames that had a flat butt with square corners. See X-Breath’s picture in earlier post, and this is what “sm” has (the lucky dog). Serious collectors will kill to get a mint one. After about 1933 the bottom corners of the butt were rounded, but off and on – especially during the war, they made a lot of Detective Special’s with the older square butt. It should be noted that the first serial number didn’t start with “1” but rather in the 331,000 range because they were numbered in the same series assigned to the earlier Police Positive Special.

The second generation/issue starts around post-war production in 1948. The front sight was changed to a ramped style, the ejector rod lengthened to almost the front of the barrel, the hammer spur becomes serrated rather then checkered, and checkering on the cylinder latch was eliminated. In later production the front sight was widened slightly. Up until about 1955 the stocks were made of “coltwood” brown plastic. Thereafter, checkered walnut. This version continued until 1966.

The third generation starts in 1966 when Colt made a big change by cutting off the lower part of the handle and went to stocks of the same shape, but the wood wrapped around the bottom of the metal. This became the so-called “short frame” version. Other then the frame and stock changes these guns were identical to late production 2nd generation revolvers.

The forth generation/issue was introduced in 1972 and continued to the end of production. The changes included different stocks with a filler behind the trigger guard, and a heavy, ribbed barrel with an underlug that surrounded the ejector rod.

If anyone wants to dispute what I say, go ahead – but be aware that it isn’t a good day… :banghead: :banghead: :D

March 2, 2008, 03:46 PM
Maybe what we need to do is start a trend towards classifying them in six generations........:scrutiny:

Old Fuff
March 2, 2008, 04:12 PM
See, you is looking to start a fight... :D :D :D

As a practical matter I don't see any reason to have more then two, those that had the full-sized frame, and those that had the shorter one introduced in 1966. But of course collectors have to nit-pick.

A larger problem is that over the years they made lockwork and other changes that effect parts interchangeability - and these aren't necessarily generation/issue related. For example, post-war mainsprings don't work in pre-war guns, but barrels are interchangeable between 1st through 3rd generation revolvers, and 4th generation ones might be.

Just to stir the pot, you could have a Detective Special (and so marked) barrel installed on your old Police Positive. That would drive some collector nuts... :evil:

The Lone Haranguer
March 4, 2008, 02:52 AM

March 4, 2008, 03:02 AM
Looks to be Second Issue like mine. Nice stocks. It's the black pearl of six deaths.

March 4, 2008, 03:08 AM
XavierBreath wrote:
Maybe what we need to do is start a trend towards classifying them in six generations........

Well all of the darn things run backwards, no matter what generation they are.

Tell what we are going to do...we like you...[tm] we will give you $20 for these backward guns and we don't care which of the six generations it is.

It is for Utopia on THR, <flowers in hair> Peace & Tranquility <birds tweet> and well gosh darn it, you deserve it , you earned it and we are here to help!

XB, Old Fuff, shad up and work with me here ...*wink*

March 4, 2008, 03:08 AM
Ok, I'm confused. Mine via serial number and the web dates to 1951. But it has a short ejector rod. What gives?

Here's mine:

March 4, 2008, 03:17 AM
Mine too, actually. They must have made them both ways.

Old Fuff
March 4, 2008, 03:48 AM
The various parts were phased in as Colt used up older parts. I notice the Cosmoline and FourTeeFive's revolvers have coltwood (plastic) stocks and short ejector rods, but a ramped front sight. My earliest Det. Special was made in 1955, and has the long ejector rod, ramped front sight and wood stocks. I can't tell from the pictures, but early 50's and late 40's guns may have checkered rather then serrated triggers, checkered rather then serrated hammers, and checkered rather then plain cylinder latch thumbpieces.

Mix or match, it all depends on what they had in stock. No good parts were ever thrown away.

March 4, 2008, 03:51 AM
Please allow me to confuse the issue a little more.

The blue book seems to mention THREE generations of Detectives, others says there were FOUR. I based my identification of the pictured revolver as a third generation on my own dealings with Colt collectors who seem to agree on the following generations:

1st- 1927, introduced as a variation of the Police Positive, with square butt frame.
2nd- 1933, frame changed to round butt.
3rd- post war, front sight changed from round to ramped.
4th- 1966, frame changed from long to short butt.
5th- 1972, shrouded ejector rod.

Of course, this does not include the SF-IV which was intoduced in 1995 and the subsequent DS-II which was introduced in 1997. These could arguably be the 6th and 7th generations.

So I guess the whole what "issue" or "generation" thing comes down to who you talk to. That's the fun involved in discussing these old guns!

Old Fuff
March 4, 2008, 04:16 AM
The problem with trying to split the pre-1945 production is that Colt continued to make square-butt Detective Special's during the war. They had Police Positive Special frames in stock, and simply screwed 2" Detective Special barrels into them.

For an example, A Colt Detective Special, #473,xxx (1940 production?) was shipped in 1944, and had a square butt.

March 4, 2008, 05:29 AM
While we're at it, does anyone recognize these markings under the barrel on my Detective Special. BTW the gun dates from 1950, making it a __nd or ___rd generation.

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