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1977 Colt Detective Special in .32 NP?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by vetteboy79, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. vetteboy79

    vetteboy79 New Member

    I'm new here, searched for a while and it seemed like you guys are a knowledgeable group regarding these revolvers. I'm no stranger to modern firearms but I haven't gotten much into the historical Colt arms until, well, last night.

    My grandfather passed away last July, and my grandmother recently re-found this after going through some old moving boxes. It almost went to a buy-back :uhoh: but my father let her know I might be interested in having it. Of course! So last night I brought this home.






    Also came with this box of ammo, which had 7 of them replaced by .32 S&W. The remaining S&W .32 Longs were wrapped in the paper towel. Not sure why. Numbers match on the original Colt box too.


    So the supposed story behind this revolver is that my grandmother's sister's husband worked for the Park Service, and carried this while on duty. At some point in the late 50's/early 60's my grandfather had a job collecting insurance premiums from tenements in a nasty part of Cleveland, so he got this gun from his brother-in-law to carry as protection. Later he had a trucking route from Cleveland to NY and taught my grandmother how to use it while he was on the road. Eventually they moved and later retired near us in NJ and it sat in storage until last night.

    The weird part is, the serial number shows up as a 1977 model (#11xxxR), but I thought by that point they were well into the 3rd generation with the different style grip and the shrouded ejection rod. I found a few scattered posts on here from people regarding 3rd-generation-era serial #'s with 2nd-generation features, but nothing conclusive about how or why that might've happened. As mentioned in those other threads, I'm also curious about what that means as far as the value, but I have no intentions of selling this, ever.

    This also calls into question my grandmother's recollection of where it came from, but I'll track down that story another day. :)

    Any insight would be appreciated! And thanks for providing this great resource...definitely seems like a community I can learn a lot from and hopefully contribute to at some point.

    (next to my other handgun...I still love my Walther, but the Colt action feels so nice!)

  2. rswartsell

    rswartsell Active Member

    That is clearly not a '77. For faster results I would post here;


    There are many fine gun historians on this board, some are the same as you will find on the Colt forum. Just that on the Colt forum, they will eat this up in a New York minute.

    BTW Welcome and come back to the best firearms forum on the web, sometimes it pays to specialize though.

    Colt serial numbers are notoriously hard to interpret for novices and laymen. The typical "go to" reference is;


    The trouble is that Colt is far more quirky, less linear and generally frustrating to divine without specific Colt knowledge than just about any other manufacturer. It takes a "knack" that practiced Colt collectors can unravel for you.

    P.S. Thats an exceptional old "Dick Special" in a collectable chambering you have there. I'm green with envy.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2013
  3. vetteboy79

    vetteboy79 New Member

    It's a mystery, for sure.

    C.E. Warner was President at Colt from 1972-1982, so he would've started right when the 3rd-generation changeover was happening.

    Serial numbers on the frame, cylinder arm (maybe not the proper word for it), and box all match so nothing's been changed around. All very clearly stamped & written.

    But family history (and the design) says its older. We'll find out! I'll try over on coltforum as well and post back if I get it figured out.
  4. smkummer

    smkummer New Member

    Its correct

    The barrels for the 32 were most likely made before the change in 1972 to the shrouded barrel that the 38 recieved. This has been discussed on the Colt forum and a few 32s show up post 1972 with unshrouded barrels. I don't believe the 32 was even cataloged at that time being availble in the detective special but a few trickled out. 1977 is towards the end or the last year I have seen a DS in 32. If your endflap is still on the box, it would match the serial number and caliber to your gun. These are rare guns but again the demand was very small also at the time. Nice find and glad you saved it from a buy back.

    What is also interesting on this detective special is the stocks. At that time only the full wraparound style or the very short agent stocks were marketed. These were the style used on pre-72 detective specials, police positive and agents.

    Does the manual even show the 32NP as an offering?
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2013
  5. Jim K

    Jim K Active Member

    .32 Colt New Police is the same as .32 S&W Long, except that Colt didn't want to put "S&W" on their guns. The shorter .32 S&W will also fire in the gun, of course. .32 Colt NP is no longer made as such.

  6. vetteboy79

    vetteboy79 New Member

    About the manual: no it doesn't, and I noticed that last night reading through it. Only .38 and .22 are listed.

    Being from a mostly automotive background I understand how some parts get jumbled throughout model year changes, but it did seem odd that even if there were some old .32 barrels, that they kept the old grips around 5 years after the fact as well. Perhaps they're not interchangeable?
  7. rswartsell

    rswartsell Active Member

    In the Detective Special, there was also the "square butt" vs. "round butt" changeover. There is also the fact that you have gold medallions on the grips, let the Colt boys chew on this and let us know.
  8. highpower

    highpower Member

    The box certainly looks to be from the 70's, but the Detective special that I have from 1977 has a totally different front sight.


    Perhaps the sales were slow on the .32NP models and that one was produced earlier and just wasn't shipped until long after it was made.
  9. rswartsell

    rswartsell Active Member

    I saw your post on the Colt forum, now check back after the basketball games tomorrow. If your post needs a bump, I'll give it.
  10. vetteboy79

    vetteboy79 New Member

    Wouldn't the serial number be stamped on the date of manufacture, not the date it was shipped/sold?

    I have a good pic of the stampings but I know it's not always the best idea to post the full number; I can PM it if anyone's that interested.

    I talked to my dad about it tonight and he definitely remembers my grandfather having a small revolver in a shoulder holster in the mid 1960s. So it's possible he traded it in and got a new one (honestly he did the same thing with his Cadillacs every few years), but aside from that we're still at a loss.

    Thanks for the future bump on coltforum though, I don't wanna be that annoying newbie guy. :)
  11. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Active Member

    Two quick points, then I'll be back tomorrow.

    In 1967 Colt was still advertising that the Detective Special was available in .38 Special and ,32 Colt New Police (same as .32 S&W Long).

    The historical information Colt offers is based on shipping, not production records; but most revolvers were shipped the same year they were made.
  12. rswartsell

    rswartsell Active Member

    To revisit and put a cap on this, on the Colt Forum the response he got was similar to "this dead horse has been beaten enough" with several links to previous posts that established that Colt did use up a surplus of .32 NP parts on new production frames and the combination DS is unusual but not exactly rare. I'm sure the OP was a bit disappointed as I was for him.

  13. Jaymo

    Jaymo Active Member

    You can get defensive ammo in .32 S&W Long from Buffalo Bore, now. It's one of their new offerings.
  14. twaugh

    twaugh New Member

    32 colt detective spec. 2 inch barrel

    I just received this colt 32 and was wanting to know some things about it, like the age of it and value
  15. Radagast

    Radagast Active Member

    Posting the serial number will help narrow down the year of manufacture.

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