Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless question


September 25, 2011, 09:30 PM
Howdy everyone. I recently found a great deal on a Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless. By the serial number (331xxx) it was made in 1920 and a type III. I'm very tempted to pick it up but I wondered if there are any problem areas I should be investigating first.

The rifling looked decent (not great but on par with the condition of an M57 I picked up a while back) and the finish was alright (a few idiot marks and probably reblued at some point). THat said, I'm just looking for a neat shooter and not a collectors piece, so it seems pretty decent.

So anyways, long story short, what tend to break on a Colt 1903 and what should I be sure to check before buying one? Thanks in advance!

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September 25, 2011, 10:00 PM
Anything that was likely to break probably already has.
But those guns, along with most other Browning designs, were noted for not breaking very often.

The thing I would be looking for is:

* Broken firing pin from lots and lots of dry firing very recently.
* A safety that doesn't work right due to a Bubba'd trigger job.
* A replacement after-market magazine that doesn't Feed Fire & Function Freely.
* Or a cracked or worn out original magazine.

Finding and buying an orginial good condition Colt 1903 mag could be harder to find & more expensive then looking for a better 1903 that cost a little more.


September 25, 2011, 10:02 PM
I had the opportunity to get one but passed.

Pietro Beretta
September 25, 2011, 11:11 PM
I love these guns, my father stumbled onto one with that nice old colt blue that you don't see anymore -- love it. It works great -- I hope my brother doesn't get to it before I do -- :evil:

September 25, 2011, 11:14 PM
From the little I know, the magazine appeared to be an original 1903 mag (the discoloration at top and the owner said it was an original) and at least visually did not appear damaged. Is there an identifying mark on the mag that I can use to tell for sure if it is original? Is there anyway to check the firing pin without actually firing the pistol (I'm not sure the owner would be keen to have me disassemble it in the store). Thanks for all the replies so far!

September 25, 2011, 11:22 PM
Realize that the firing pin is technically a 2 piece design. I had a "gunsmith" try to tell me that my 1903 wasn't hitting the primers correctly because the firing pin was broken in 2 pieces. :rolleyes: It was just the springs being worn out which was my first guess.

Chuck Dye
September 25, 2011, 11:34 PM
Check out the manual at Steve's Pages ( and fresh springs from Wolff's ( Be prepared to hate those tiny sights.

September 26, 2011, 12:31 PM
(the discoloration at top and the owner said it was an original)Then it is very likely an orginial mag.

Colt used what is now known a "Two-Tone" mag prior to WWII.
The bottom half was blued, and the top half was unfinished polished steel.

Often seen today with the polished section tarnished to a brown shade.


September 26, 2011, 01:09 PM
Colt magazine where originally heat treated then hot blued. What they discovered was that the hot blue process was removing the tempering from the feed lips.

What they did instead was blue the entire magazine, then dip the mag into liquid cyanide + oil heated to about 1500 degrees which removed the top portion of the bluing.

September 26, 2011, 11:42 PM
It's crucial to get an original Colt mag. I have one original mag and one aftermarket mag which is junk. I cannot go through a single mag without it jamming.

September 27, 2011, 03:54 AM
Thanks for the advice guys. I was rather wondering why the mag was two tone but I'd seen pictures of other originals with the same coloration. A very interesting bit of info. I'm going to try to pick it up this week and I'll be sure to add some pictures as soon as possible. Does anyone know a good youtube video showing the disassembly of a type III? My last question would be, any ammo suggestions? I was leaning towards some Prvi Partisan as I tend to buy that in other claibers but wondered what you all had luck with.

September 27, 2011, 10:14 AM
for some reason Prvi Partizan was too weak to reliably cycle the slide on my 1903. S&B ammo worked great however,
it could be the brand new recoil spring I put in.
Prvi works great in all my other firearms though...

September 27, 2011, 11:12 AM
You may want to also check out Numrich for aftermarket magazines when they're in stock. I have 6 of them and have never experienced a single jam. Not sure what brand they are but they feel very well made and act like the original that came with my 1903 even though they're not.

September 27, 2011, 11:58 AM
Here ya go. More Colt auto info then you can shake a stick at.


September 27, 2011, 07:41 PM
Thanks for all the awesome information gents! I hope to be posting pics shortly. Anyone know the best source for grips? The pistol has the original right grip but the left one was damaged and lost somewhere along the way.

September 28, 2011, 01:41 AM
I have used WINCHESTER WHITE BOX and AMERICAN AMMO (this is the dirtiest ammo I have found) in my COLT 1903 without problems.
The WHITE BOX can be bought cheaply at WALMART.

This ammo also surprised me with excellent accuracy in the COLT 1903.

If the flat tipped WINCHESTER round causes any feeding problems (it has in my BERETTA Tomcat), then try AGUILA or SELLIER & BELLOT, they have worked well in the Tomcat.

I have also fired a few other brands including GOLD DOT and HYDRO SHOK without problems.

If I were going to use it for defense, I would stock up on some COR BON Powerball. This round will feed in just about any gun and expands well.

It is a great gun, except for the weight and sights.

I saw a pair that were tricked up with large, easy to see sights and a speed safety and it looked silly. The sights were wider than the top of the slide and the safety stuck out like wart.

If they brought them back with an aluminum frame, high visibility front sight and GLOCK LIKE TRIGGER, I would buy one.

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