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Colt SAA - 38 Special - what did I find today?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by dhcustomwork, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. dhcustomwork

    dhcustomwork Well-Known Member

    Ok folks. I need some expert opinions and input on today's gun show find. I'm still very new to single actions, and a total beginner to the Colt SAA world. One thing I did know; was to not pass up this beauty when I had the chance to bring it home.

    Now comes the big question .... What did I bring home?!?Here's what I know: Colt SAA - 38 Special - 5 1/2" barrel - real ivory 1 piece stocks - S/N 281XXX

    I've included several pics, and can post more if needed. What I'd like to know is when it was made, and if this one was refinished by possibly Turnbull or the factory. I'm not sure how Doug marks his refinished pieces.






  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    If there is no SA prefix or suffix in the serial number, it was made in 1906.

    If it is 281xxxSA it is 1959.

    "SA" suffix 1956 - 1978
    "SA" prefix 1978 - 1984

    Can't help with who refinished it, but they did good!

  3. tipoc

    tipoc Well-Known Member

  4. dhcustomwork

    dhcustomwork Well-Known Member

    Thx gentlemen. Definitely a 1st gen. with the serial falling in the 1906 range. I've since read that there were only around 100 original 1st gens manufactured and marked as 38 special. The likelyhood of this being in that group is slim, but ...

    It does not look to be a 50s era refinish/re-chamber job. Having been told those finishes looked very different when case hardened & blued. My guess is that it's a Turnbull. Anyone know for sure if you can still call them with a S/N to verify if they did a refinish? In either case, I think it's probably worth a Colt letter.

    I agree; whomever was responsible for the refinish work, did one outstanding job!!
  5. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    I daresay if you sent a gun to Colt requesting a top-notch refurbishment like this, right down to fire blued screws and ivory grip, they would just turn right around and send it out to Turnbull or maybe Ron's.

    The case colors are good but look a little muted on the sides of the receiver. Maybe the gun was in good enough condition they did not have to redo the case hardening.

    I don't have good enough references to say when theyfirst offered .38 Special but I think there is a fair chance that it has new barrel and cylinder.

    It will cost $100 for a factory letter describing the original configuration and when/where shipped.
  6. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Well-Known Member


    According to Kuhnhausen your SN does place the gun as having been made in 1906.

    Also according to Kuhnhausen there were only 27 First Gen SAAs chambered for 38 Special, 25 in the standard configuration and 2 target models.

    HOWEVER, Kuhnhausen also states that Colt did not chamber the SAA for 38 Special until 1930, despite the fact that S&W developed the cartridge in 1899.

    So I think it is pretty clear that your SAA had a new cylinder and barrel installed at some point.

    Which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. A SAA made in 1906 would likely have a lot of wear on it. If somebody went to the trouble to install a new barrel and cylinder, it makes a lot of sense they would get the gun refinished at the same time. Judging by how pristine the finish is, I would say it was reworked quite recently.

    Regardless, it is a very attractive gun, and I sure would not mind owning it.

    Yes, you can still get a Colt letter for $100. But be forewarned, the last time I got a Colt letter it took three months before I got it.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  7. Trad Archer

    Trad Archer Well-Known Member

    Beautiful gun. I am jealous.
  8. bannockburn

    bannockburn Well-Known Member

    Still a fine looking gun even if it has been refurbished. Definitely one I would get a factory letter for. Enjoy and thanks for sharing.
  9. highpower

    highpower Well-Known Member

    Congratulations on a very nice SAA! Whoever did the refinish on it did an absolute first rate job.

    As for the muted look of the case colors, that is the way they look if there is no wax, oil, or clear paint on them. Here is a picture of the frame of my Frontier Six Shooter. Note that it has a kind of a matte look to it.

    Please pardon the lint.
  10. Russ Jackson

    Russ Jackson member

    Somebody really took care of that. Nice find. Any history on its life from the seller?
  11. BCCL

    BCCL Well-Known Member

    You found a damn fine looking sixgun!
  12. dhcustomwork

    dhcustomwork Well-Known Member

    Managed a quick call to Turnbull this morn. They will research my serial # and let me know in 24-48 hrs if it's ever been in their hands. Very nice of them to do this. Tried calling Colt, but it's been constantly busy. No surprise there.
  13. Russ Jackson

    Russ Jackson member

  14. Arkansas Paul

    Arkansas Paul Well-Known Member

    I am smitten with six-gun envy. That is gorgeous. Love some SAAs and love some .38 Special.
  15. dhcustomwork

    dhcustomwork Well-Known Member

    Thank you all again for all of your help, knowledge, and comments. Makes this learning process so much easier and tolerable.

    Having the T as an inspection stamp makes much more sense than anything. It also lends itself more to be in keeping with all the other original markings/stamps. I am leaning more toward the frame having been left alone, but my eye just isn't truly qualified to make the yes/no call.

    Got through to Colt's archive dept. only to get a voicemail asking me to call back tmrw because they're off today. 45 mins of hold time i'll never get back. LoL. I was also surprised when I removed the stocks that even the mainspring retention screw is fire blued. Not something I'd have expected to find; especially in a resto.

    A few new pics:





  16. rio nueces

    rio nueces Well-Known Member

  17. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    Gorgeous old Colt! I really like the nitre blued screws, trigger and ejector. I would say that the assessments above are correct. It would've shipped in another chambering but was converted to .38Spl sometime later. That sometime, probably recently, the old sixgun was restored and completely refinished. Whoever it was did a wonderful job. I would say that somebody sunk at least a couple thousand dollars into it and it's worth at least that much.
  18. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Well-Known Member

    Gracious, what a beauty!
  19. dhcustomwork

    dhcustomwork Well-Known Member

    One thing that I had intentionally left out was the question of value. I usually feel that things are only worth what someone else is willing to pay. I honestly am not all that concerned with sale value. One of the few pieces that will likely be here a very very long time. However, having recently dealt with homeowners insurance replacement claims, I would like your opinions in a reasonable insurance value. I was leaning toward $2000-2500. Too much or not enough?

    More pics, because there can never be too many, IMHO.





  20. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    Value is difficult to ascertain. It's not original, has been modified and refinished. However, it was all done professionally and what you have is probably in some ways better than it was when new. I would say quite a bit more than $2000. The ivory alone is $500 without batting an eye. I'm not an expert on old Colt's but I would say at least $3000-$4000. Perhaps more. Original, pitted, rusted and worn out beater 1st generation guns that have been refinished go for at least $2000. Some as much as $3000-$4000 and to me, this sixgun is more valuable.

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