Carrying a Colt 1903


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toivo
June 10, 2011, 04:08 PM
I'm in the middle of negotiating to buy a Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless. Going by the serial number, I have determined that it was manufactured in 1919. I'm buying this pistol mostly for the history and the coolness factor -- I'm not planning to carry it on a regular basis. However, I'd like to know more about the safety of carrying this particular model in case I should ever want to carry it.

I've been web-searching and have come up with a variety of opinions. They mainly fall into three categories: (a) it's safe to carry cocked-and-locked; (b) it's safe to carry hammer-down with the manual safety on; (c) it's safe to carry only with an empty chamber. Most seem to agree that it shouldn't be carried hammer-down with the manual safety off.

I understand that there was a design change somewhere along the line that added a half-cock notch to the hammer, but I believe this change occurred after mine was made. I'm also aware that there was a high-profile fatal accident with a Colt 1903 recently.

What's the consensus on safe carry of a Colt 1903? I'd be interested to hear from anyone who owns one of these pistols, especially if you carry one and/or have some knowledge of the internal workings of the safeties.

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Onmilo
June 10, 2011, 04:31 PM
I have a first year production 1903.
Because of the age of these pistols and regardless of the safety features installed on the guns, my opinion is to carry the gun chamber empty.

Pyro
June 10, 2011, 04:37 PM
I carry my little Titan in condition 1, it has the half-cock if the hammer was to ever slip.
Try carrying it on cocked-and-locked, safety on, without a round in the chamber. If it slips you should notice it later when you check.
I say whatever you feel comfortable doing, you'll probably get a wide range of opinions here.

rcmodel
June 10, 2011, 04:55 PM
If it doesn't have a half-cock notch, it doesn't have an inertia firing pin.
That change was made in 1922 at serial number 422000.

(An inertia firing pin is shorter then the hole in the slide, so it is never in contact with a primer until the hammer hits it hard enough to drive it fully out of the slide)

That being the case, it is not safe to carry hammer down on a loaded chamber.

As for carrying loaded with the manual safety on??
That is the way John Browning & Colt intended for it to be carried.

Assuming your safety, hammer & sear are intact and haven't worn out, or has been modified by Bubba?
It is as safe loaded with the safety on as they knew how to make a gun back then.

Just be aware it does not have the later inertia firing pin, which would make the gun completely drop safe too.
The early guns like yours were not.

rc

toivo
June 10, 2011, 05:15 PM
Thanks, everybody, good info so far. I just want to add that I am concerned with drop-safety too, because IIRC, that's how the recent fatality happened.

Jim Watson
June 10, 2011, 05:55 PM
Uh, a 1903 is hammerless, or rather, enclosed hammer.
Condition 2 with hammer down on a loaded chamber seems not possible.

Chuck Dye
June 10, 2011, 06:01 PM
Hammer down, safety on does not happen with my series 4, 1940 Model 1903, nor is there any way to safely achieve hammer down on a loaded chamber. That leaves cocked and locked on either a loaded or empty chamber or hammer down, safety off, on an empty chamber. My safety has no detente, I do not think I would trust Condition One. I have not carried mine.

If you have not found it already, look at

http://coltautos.com/1903ph.htm

for some helpful info. Note that the .pdf file is password protected. The password is coltautos.com.

Chuck Dye
June 10, 2011, 06:11 PM
Just for info, the magazine safety on my series 4 is actuated by a nipple on the rear of the recoil spring guide. Reversing the guide and spring so that the guide rides at the muzzle end of the slide defeats magazine safety. I received my Dad's 1903 with the mag safety defeated, put 250 rounds through it unaware without problem. I have not heavily researched the issue, don't know whether it can be a problem, I just restored the gun to its original configuration.

Wolff Springs has complete spring kits and individual springs for the 1903, too inexpensive not to do with a new acquisition.

Creature
June 10, 2011, 06:16 PM
Uh, a 1903 is hammerless, or rather, enclosed hammer.

/\ This!

I have been reading this thread and scratching my head...

rcmodel
June 10, 2011, 06:18 PM
rcmodel said:That being the case, it is not safe to carry hammer down on a loaded chamber.
Jim Watson said:Condition 2 with hammer down on a loaded chamber seems not possible.

Good grief! Did I really say that! :o

My old age kicking in today I guess!!

rc

toivo
June 10, 2011, 07:03 PM
Uh, a 1903 is hammerless, or rather, enclosed hammer.
Condition 2 with hammer down on a loaded chamber seems not possible.
Doh! Of course... No wonder nobody recommends that. :o

toivo
June 10, 2011, 07:06 PM
That leaves cocked and locked on either a loaded or empty chamber or hammer down, safety off, on an empty chamber.
If there any reason to carry cocked when the chamber is empty? Wouldn't hammer-down-safety-off be preferable?

Chuck Dye
June 10, 2011, 07:35 PM
I have read others' opinion that cocked, chamber empty affords a slight speed advantage in an emergency by reducing the effort required to work the slide, but I would not worry about it. Given the ease with which I carry 1911s, my 1903 will remain a plinker/safe queen.

Jim Watson
June 10, 2011, 10:07 PM
I recall a gunzine article showing customized 1903s. There is nothing wrong with a 1903 with bigger sights and safety if you don't mind the small caliber.

Chuck Dye
June 10, 2011, 10:35 PM
Do you recall which sights? Damage done to my 1903 before I acquired it, perhaps before Dad got it, makes it a shooter, not a collectible. I would change out the sights if I could find some I like.

golden
June 11, 2011, 05:33 AM
TOIVO,

I worry about carrying a 1903 or just about any of the old pocket pistols cocked and locked. Many have worn safety switches and can slide off safe to the fire position.
If I carry one, it would be with the CHAMBER EMPTY and I would rack the slide when needed.

I have a 1903 and find it a terrific plinker. It is very accurate for this caliber, very well made and unlike some others will shoot anything I load into the magazine. It has been 100% reliable for me with quality ammo.

For the period it was made in, the sights are average. I find they work fine for the short range intended, but would really prefer something larger and easier to see, especially as I get older.

I use WINCHESTER WHITE BOX or AGUILA ball ammo for practice and HYDRO SHOK if I wanted to carry it.

While it really is a very nice gun, it is heavy for the size and caliber.

Jim

gpwelding1
June 11, 2011, 07:18 PM
i have a model 1908 colt pocket .25,it was also made in 1919.those older hammerless colts were striker fired handguns.even though it has a manual saftey and a backstrap saftey,i wouldnt recomend ANYONE to carry one cocked and locked.just like any other material,metal CAN break!and one small peice of metal is all that holds your fireing pin back.just my opinion though:scrutiny:

Jim Watson
June 11, 2011, 07:23 PM
The .25 is striker fired, the .32 and .380 have concealed hammers.

Chuck, the article I recall showed a variety of sights. Some were just 1911 parts. A standard 1911 sight is kind of a high profile on a .32.

gpwelding1
June 11, 2011, 07:37 PM
:osorry guys,my mistake

MattTheHat
June 11, 2011, 09:06 PM
I have a very early Type I 1903 in with one of the premier pistolsmiffs in the US. It should be finished next month. I can't wait to see what he decides to do with it. The only thing on my list of "must-haves" was slightly larger sights. I absolutely cannot wait to see what he comes up with, because when I spoke to him about the pistol, he already had a "few ideas" which must have been ruminating for some time.

I will, of course, post pics when it's completed.


-Matt

Old Fuff
June 12, 2011, 12:24 AM
Sights on a 1903 Pocket Model Colt should not be too difficult because both the slot at the front and dovetail at the rear were the same as those on 1911 Government Model pistols being made at the same time. In they're odds & ends sights, Numrich has a number of inexpensive possibilities, and some have an "old school" look about them.

www.e-gunparts.com

SharpsDressedMan
June 12, 2011, 12:48 AM
I had a gunsmith re-do the sights on a 1903 once, and he used a Beretta 92 rear sight (reversed, so the backside was blank). He said it was the right size for the dovetail (maybe minimal fitting) and the width of the slide. I sold the gun, so do not have a picture.

Old Fuff
June 12, 2011, 01:10 AM
On one occasion I silver soldered a 1/8" wide blade on a .32 Colt, the sight being intended for a .45/1911. Then I opened up the notch in the rear to match the front. It worked fine, although I had to file the front down to get a point-of-aim/point-of-impact zero. Not fancy at all, but parctical and inexpensive. :cool:

Stevie-Ray
June 12, 2011, 07:34 PM
My Colt 1903 was also made in 1919. But the only way I'd carry it would be if all my other guns were stolen.

toivo
June 12, 2011, 09:46 PM
My Colt 1903 was also made in 1919. But the only way I'd carry it would be if all my other guns were stolen.
Yeah, I have other guns for carry. I'm getting the idea that if I ever do carry the 1903, it should be with the chamber empty.

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