Colt detective .38 special bone handle


December 21, 2008, 09:39 PM
My father left me this. He had it long before I was born. He said it was standard issue for detectives a while back. I cant remember the year he told me. does anyone know much about this pistol other then its gross inaccuracy. Like when they were made, issued, value. I googled it and didnt turn much up.

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December 21, 2008, 09:58 PM

Check the serial number to get an idea of year of mfg.

The Colt DS is one of the finest handguns one could hope to own.
It is scary accurate and was designed to shoot 158 gr load POA/POI (point of aim/point of impact).
Standard Pressure 158 gr is all you need.

These guns carry like a S&W J frame and feel like a S&W K frame in hand when shooting.

Hold onto to this gun, it is highly sought after.

DO NOT mess with it! It is not a S&W or Ruger, You can and will mess it up trying to gunsmith it.
It is a quality gun and only quality folks should do any service on this gun.

Where is Old Fuff and Dfarriswheel...these two can chime in better than I can.

December 21, 2008, 10:14 PM
I havent done anthing to it nor will I other then stick it in my safe and clean it every now again to keep it from rusting. Ive never fired it. A friend said they had one and that his was very unaccurate. thats not to say mines not. The serial number is 707575 so maybe 1957?

December 22, 2008, 12:19 AM
H. McFUGLY - "Ive never fired it. A friend said they had one and that his was very unaccurate."

Don't ever take for granted whatever some "friend" might say about poor accuracy in his gun applying to your revolver. Could well be that he does not know how to shoot a 2" revolver accurately.

As SM said, you have a treasure there, and unless there is something really wrong with it, if you know how to shoot accurately, you'll be pleased with it.

Also as said, it was regulated by Colt's craftsmen to be dead on at 25 yards with the 158 grains round nose lead bullets.

With a bit of experimentation, you can find other .38 Spec. ammo that will also be more than adequate.


Old Fuff
December 22, 2008, 12:24 AM
It was made in 1957.

And there are a lot more inaccurate shooters then there are inaccurate guns... ;)

Similar Colt Detective Special's have been selling in the $350 to $400 range. Add $75-$100 for the genuine stag stocks.

For more information look through the forum's search feature (in the green band at the top of the page.) Use the key term, detective special.

December 22, 2008, 08:16 AM
I'm surprised that you'd be unable to find info about your pistol. They were made essentially unchanged for over forty years. The longevity of it's market life should tell you that it was a very successful design.

This one was made a little over 20 years before yours was and you can see that they are quite similar. The wooden medallion grips are original to the gun.

December 22, 2008, 08:47 AM
I have been carrying and shooting Colt revolvers since 1977 (LEO). I still carry a 2nd model Detective Special made in 1966 (Yep, I am one of those old guys). I also own a 3rd model Detective Special (1977), but I like the older style better. My wife got me the 2nd model a few years back and sent it to Colt Ind., who went completely through the gun and refinished it. It looked pristine new when I got it.

Never had any problems with either. They are very accurate, dependable and classic firearms. By all means take it to the range, it was a gun made to use.

Statements about inaccuracy, I attribute to the shooter unless the gun is defective. 25 yards and closer your gun will do whatever your are personally capable of - sight picture, sight alignment, breath control, grip, trigger squeeze - it will group them center mass.

December 22, 2008, 09:13 AM
And there are a lot more inaccurate shooters then there are inaccurate guns...

Amen to that.

Similar Colt Detective Special's have been selling in the $350 to $400 range. Add $75-$100 for the genuine stag stocks.

That's exactly what they are going for around here. I hope to be putting one on layaway tomorrow and will pay $350 if I do. I can only hope that mine will be as nice as the ones shown here.

December 22, 2008, 10:41 AM
thanks. Ill take it to the range and give it a run through at 50 feet. nice to know it has some cool history with it. I wish it could talk, tell me the LEO's name that carried it. Ive got some old WW II arms that would have some stories as well.

December 22, 2008, 11:14 AM
The lower gun in this picture was made in 1933 and still shoots great. Belonged to my great uncle who passed away 20 years ago.

December 22, 2008, 11:35 AM
To repeat what has been said previously, the difficulty in achieving accuracy with 2" revolvers is due to the shorter sight radius, inconsistent technique, perhaps increased muzzle flash and report. With a little instruction and practice, practice, practice, there is no inherent inaccuracy "built" into them. They are not designed to be bullseye competition guns, but unless there is damage to your Colt it will do what it is told to do with deadly consistency at short ranges (up to 25 yards). Ammunition fired in these weapons often will not achieve the velocity and energy that is possible in longer barrels, but many premium modern loads are closing this gap a bit by using powders that burn more efficiently during the shorter time that the bullet is in the barrel and fast expanding bullets.

My experience with them was as expected, difficulty shooting as well as longer barrel revolvers in the beginning with steady improvement by practicing correct technique. For smaller or larger than average hand sizes, the optimum grip may be different than the small round butts that come from the factory. Proper fit in the hand is important to consistent technique.

December 22, 2008, 11:44 AM
I have my dad's DS BUG - it is a first generation 1928 or 29 and it shoots light 38 spl loads -.4-4.5 of Unique or Universal with a 158 hard SWC very nicely at 7-10 yards

great gun

December 22, 2008, 11:45 AM
The lower gun in this picture was made in 1933 and still shoots great. Belonged to my great uncle who passed away 20 years ago.

I really like those grips. Are they Bakelite?

December 22, 2008, 12:07 PM
I really like those grips. Are they Bakelite?

They were on the gun when I got it and they have no markings on them. I do know they aren't made by colt.

December 22, 2008, 02:13 PM
those are really nice guns you have there. That bottom one I really like. I made the mistake of having an old S&W model 58 .41 mag reblued and found out the hard way as to why you should never reblue an old gun. live and learn i guess. I havent shot mine yet just because I have so many other guns, never really felt compelled to even fire it. Im always shooting my carry gun or .22's. I have a few snubs I can shoot pretty good with. they do what they were intended to do. I carried a 357 snub for years untill I got this colt 1911, now thats my carry. Ive become rather fond of colt.

December 22, 2008, 02:35 PM
That's Bakelite, for sure.

My wife would kill for those grips, and we've made a ton of money peddling the stuff in ebay a few years back when it went collector crazy. I'd know that glow from 1000 yards.

December 22, 2008, 03:27 PM
Whatever the grips are, they are not Bone, and they are probably not Bakalite either.
Bakelite is uniformly brown-black, with no grain or pattern whatsoever.

The grips could very well be real Stag Antler.

Or they could be early imitation stag made from styrene or other vintage plastic in the 1960's - 70's by Fitz and others.

If I was to guess just looking at your picture, I would say they are the real deal - aged genuine Stag Horn, and are quite valuable in their own right.

They look too real to be the plastic imitations of years past.

BTW: As far as accuracy? 25 yard limit? Heck no!
Almost any snubby Colt or S&W will stay on a five gallon bucket all day at 100 yards if the shooter can do it.


December 22, 2008, 03:54 PM
Mine? yea those are real dead animal parts for sure. no pastic here.

December 22, 2008, 04:29 PM
rcmodel, I'm afraid that you suffer some shortage of Bakelite education.

In the first place, bakelite is plastic. It comes (came actually, since it cannot be made now for reasons to do with the content of it) in many colors and was often used to make jewelry of a certain style that recently had a resurgence of popularity. My wife has bracelets, pins, necklaces made of it, and she has several variations of amber as well. She's been a collector and fan of the stuff for over thirty years and some of her pieces of plastic could be sold for over $1000. each whenever she chose to let go of them.

The bakelite you are talking about, the brown stuff, the industrial use type of it as used for cases of instruments, all sorts of plastic parts during WW2 are bakelite too, but there's a whole world of the stuff that you are apparently not familiar with. Here's a quick google:
We've got maybe twenty books on the darned stuff, and my wife can spot the real thing from across a football field. She almost never needs to do any of the usual testing that the collectors all know of. I think she smells it or something, or was born with a chunk of it in her mouth instead of my silver spoon :D

edit: see the one called "butterscotch bakelite" in this link:
as with most things there are many variations of bakelite, some solid, some translucent. The butterscotch stuff is maybe the most sought after of the variations. The piece shown has been cleaned. When it's left to age, or neglected even, it gains a patina that can't be duplicated and is often mistaken for certain of the best old stag horn.

December 22, 2008, 04:56 PM
Well O.K. then! :eek:

All I had ever seen or worked with was the old WWII brown stuff that breaks real easy, and stinks to high heaven when you cut or grind it.


December 22, 2008, 05:36 PM
Yep, the jewelry stuff stinks when it's worked too, and I think that's got to do with why it isn't made any more. Formaldehyde was used and I'm not sure what else. I can ask my wife but I do know that whatever the formula was, it was a proprietary thing that was licensed only to some companies. During the war it was discovered to be an ideal material for many things that you and I are more familiar with than jewelry and it could save a lot of metals that were better used making armament.

I'm not sure, but I don't think it was ever used for jewelry after the war although there have been plenty of attempts to duplicate the particular way it looks. It really is pretty unique stuff and there are lots of fakes now. Once a person knows the real thing the fakes just don't compare and that's why it's become so sought after. Do a search in ebay for bakelite jewelry and you'll see prices all over the map. The good stuff draws high bucks so it should be easy to see examples of both real and fake stuff.

I got my education when I met my current, second wife in 1994. It's been a thing of hers for much of her 60+ years.

December 22, 2008, 06:22 PM
Im gunna get me a big oll gold plated Colt with platinum grips incrusted with diamonds and hang it on a big a$$ gold chain around my big thuggy black friends neck (just because thats the only place it wouldnt look out of place) so you old farts will stop talkin about your wives jewelery on this firearms forum, :neener: lol. ha u know im kidding right? right?, Ide rather sit near an old fart at the range and talk then anything in the world. I learn a$$ loads of awesome info and hear tons of awesome stories from vets every time I do have the pleasure of doing so. Here is to the old farts and to one day be one myself. Merry Christmass and happy birth day Jesus and so forth and so on.:p

Old Fuff
December 22, 2008, 07:05 PM
Mine? yea those are real dead animal parts for sure. no pastic here.


Genuine stag horn (antler) and worth somewhere between $75 to $125 and going up. The basic material, like elephant ivory, can't be imported anymore. It used to come from India.

December 23, 2008, 08:12 AM
I'd rather have stag than ivory or mammoth for gun grips. Ivory, and especially mammoth, takes quite a bit of care and tends to split. While some grips will never have a problem, others will split at the growth rings, a nautral tendency. I'd rather have elephant ivory than mammoth, but really, either is better for show than go. For real use stag is the way to go.

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