Help indentifying Colt revolver in 32-20


October 27, 2011, 06:09 PM
A buddy of mine was recently given an old (1905) Colt revolver in 32-20 with what I think is a (worn) nickel finish. It has surely been used, but mechanically it feels swiss-watch tight and times perfectly, with a really nice trigger pull and "feel".

Here's some crappy pictures (still no decent camera, sorry).

The markings that can't be made out in the pics are as follows:

Top of barrel
JULY 4 1905

Left side of barrel
CAL 32-20 W.C.F.

Left side of frame above grips there is a Colt "horse and arrows" logo engraving.

The grips are a greenish/black substance (early plastic?) and are checkered with the word "COLT" and some basic "vines" design around the logo and the base.

I thought this was a Police Positive when I first looked at it, but the year is earlier than I can find PPs made. Colt afficianados, I would appreciate some help on just what it is and what it is worth since my Google-Fu has let me down!

Thanks in advance for what I am sure will be illuminating replies!

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October 27, 2011, 06:13 PM
The barrel has been cut down. It should read HARTFORD.

In fact it should say a lot more than that. I bet it was a 6 inch barrel at the start. 4 inch barrels were available in 32-20 but they weren't as common. Plus, there is a chance it was cut down because the barrel was bulged by shooting high speed rifle ammo in it. (Then anagin if it loks up tight maybe someone just wanted a pocketr gun in .32-20)

The grips are hard rubber.

It's a sweet find, not worth a lot as its been modified a good deal, but still a neat old gun.

evan price
October 27, 2011, 06:25 PM
That appears to me with those pictures to be an "E" frame revolver (on the right side, the crane retainer is a separate part from its retaining screw, and looks like an infinity symbol). In 32-20 it is most likely an Army Special. These were never offered as a snubnose, and the barrel markings confirm it was a longer barrel cut down and the front sight was moved to the new muzzle, and then nickled most likely at that time.

Based on the horizontal position of the crane retainer screw it seems to me that this gun is still fairly tight. It's not a 100% indicator of condition but on E-frames that are well used the screw has been tightened a few times and winds up pointing more vertical.

Someone long ago wanted a dependable, reliable, and easy to service self-defense weapon that was concealable and had this one made to order. From the finish and grip condition it was likely carried a whole heckuva lot.

It's a great historic piece which unfortunately has little actual value other than as a collectable shooter. In 32-20 it really would best be served by a handloader since it's not the more common 38 Special. I would say it will be in the $200-$300 value to the right person.

I wouldn't kick it out of my bed if I found it needing a new home.

October 27, 2011, 06:25 PM
It appears to be a Colt Police Positive Special, that's been cut down and refinished with nickel.

The grips are the original black hard rubber that's aged to the greenish or brownish color. Treat them gently, they break easily.

To get a production date, check the serial number here. The number will be stamped inside the frame where the cylinder crane seats just below the barrel, and on the cylinder crane.

October 27, 2011, 06:27 PM
Grip frame is wrong for an Army Special. I'd say Police Positive Special as well.

October 27, 2011, 06:34 PM
This is why I always come here when I get stumped, I would never have thought to look there for a serial number!

According to the link, this is a 1924 production (serial # 283***), not 1905 as I thought. I am really not very familiar with Colts in general but I do know where to ask the right questions apparently :)

Jim Watson
October 29, 2011, 06:54 PM
not 1905 as I thought

A lot of people find the dates on guns to be very confusing.
Except for stuff like Lugers, the date is usually the issue date of the patent(s) the gun is built under, not when it was made. 1905 is probably when the Colt Positive Lock was patented, making the gun safe to carry with all six chambers loaded.

Lone Star
October 30, 2011, 01:11 AM
Well, it couldn't have been from 1905, because the Police Positive Special wasn't even made until 1907. And that is what it is. The guy who mistook it for the larger, differently contoured Army Special needs new glasses. :rolleyes:

That short barrel won't give very hot ballistics, but you can surely get better than .32 Long velocity from handloads that won't break your eardrums.
(The .32/20 is loud!)

I don't think anyone wanted a snubbed .32/20: I think they just shortened this gun because it was what they had, and they wanted to conceal it more easily.

Get it checked out before you fire it, and DO NOT use .32/20 ammo labled for use only in rifles like the Winchester M-92. It will function but is overpressure for revolvers. I don't think the hot stuff is still loaded, but be careful.

BTW, Jim Watson is correct about the date on the barrel referring to patents. 1905 was when Colt introduced the internal safety bar mentioned. (For all DA models, not just this one. ) S&W took until late 1944 to develop an equivalent!

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