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Information on the Colt Army Special 32-20 Cal.

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by ashtabulabarrister, Feb 7, 2008.

  1. ashtabulabarrister

    ashtabulabarrister New Member

    Greetings All,

    I am currently researching the Colt Army Special DA in 32-20 calibre. I am asking for any reliable internet sites that will provide history of the model and various indicators of value of the model in various conditions.

    Thank you
  2. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Well-Known Member

    In 1889 Colt invented the worlds first double action, swing-out cylinder revolver.
    This was known as the Colt New Navy.

    Colt put the new revolver through a series of rapid improvements, and when the Army also bought it, the name was changed to the Colt New Army & Navy.
    In 1908 Colt did the final improvements, and introduced the final perfected revolver as the Colt Army Special.
    It was made from 1908 to 1927.

    The Army Special was built on the medium frame size, and would be the basis of every medium framed Colt revolver made iup to the Colt Python.
    Among the revolvers that were based on the Army Special were the Official Police, the various Officer's Model target revolvers, the original Trooper, and the Python.

    Serial numbers for the Army Special picked up where the New Army & Navy left off, with the first Army Special numbers at 291000.
    The name "Army Special" was hopeful advertising, but the Army never bought it.
    So, in 1927 Colt re-named the Army Special as the Colt Official Police.
    The Army Special/Official Police was made virtually unchanged from 1908 to 1969.

    The Army Special was offered in bright blue or bright nickel.
    Barrel lengths were 4", 4 1/2", 5", and 6".
    Calibers were various now obsolete .38 caliber cartridges like the Colt .38 Short and Long, the 32-20, the .38 Special, and the .41 Colt.
    Grips were originally black hard "Gutta Percha" rubber with molded in Colt logos and checkering.
    Starting in 1924 grips were changed to checkered walnut with Silver Colt medallions.

    The original Army Special design changed so little, many parts from a 1908 Army Special will interchange with a 2003 Colt Python.

    To determine when yours was made, check the serial numbers here:
  3. ashtabulabarrister

    ashtabulabarrister New Member

    Thank you dfariswheel.

    I followed your link but found something interesting. The pistols I am researching are marked "army special" but their serial numbers all begin 588xxx or 589xxx. Does this indicate that they are not army specials but instead official police models? The pistols have what appears to be a brown bakelite type grip with the colt symbol in the grip and stamped in the metal just above the grip.
  4. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    I am not a serious student on this, but Colt was well known for never throwing anything away in those days. I figure if they got an order in 1934 for an Official Police in an odd caliber like .32-20, and had some Army Special barrels left over, that is what you got on your O.P.
  5. evan price

    evan price Well-Known Member

    1917 Colt Army Special in 38 Special, here.
    The .38 spcl model takes the same speedloaders as my King Cobra.

    Value depends greatly on condition but iirc 10% is $175, 20% is $195, and the high end was about $400.
    Be especially careful about barrel bore condition, I've seen a lot of these barrels that are so pitted they could be sewer pipes.
    Otherwise, they are a nice shooting revolver with a trigger action as nice as any S&W.
    Load them for a conservative power since they were never intended for hot ammo.
  6. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    The model and cartridge/caliber were marked on the barrel, and not the frame, during the time that Colt made the Army Special/Official Police revolvers. Thus if they wanted to, after approximate serial number 513,216 both Army Special and Official Police revolvers could be coming off of the production line, depending on what barrel was screwed into the frame - which were identical in both.

    By 1928 at approximately serial number 540,000 most of the Army Special barrels, especially in .38 Special, had been used up. But some Army Special barrels remained, and were used as necessary during later years.

    In or about 1925 Colt switched from black hard-rubber stocks, to checkered walnut. Army Special revolvers made up to that time had the black hard rubber stocks, and tended to have them to the end of production. With age these stocks sometimes take on a brown color with a slight green tint. If you remove them from the gun the undersides are more black, and in any case they continued to use the rubber stocks on Army Special's after 1925, and possibly the walnut stocks also. Original stocks will be marked with the gun's serial number on the underside on one panel. I believe (but can't prove) that the Official Police revolvers all had the walnut stocks.
  7. ashtabulabarrister

    ashtabulabarrister New Member

    Thank you all,

    The stocks are definitely not walnut. Each is probably the hard rubber and uniquely each stock is chipped both left and right sides at the forward lower portion of the butt where the pinky finger would be. Why I do not know.

    As for condition of the guns, they are old, they are used. Barrels appear to be in good shape with nice rifling. Function is smooth and easy. The bluing is worn and there is the issue of the stocks.

    Who can direct me to a good on-line resource for gauging the condition of the revolvers and subsequently getting a value approximation.
  8. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Well-Known Member

    Determining actual condition is tough, since it's largely a judgment call.

    My "Very Good, might be your "Excellent".
    Most people tend to over-rate condition.

    The best source on value per condition and HOW to judge condition is the book "The Blue Book of Gun Values" by S.P. Fjestad.
    You can usually find a copy at most Barnes and Noble book stores, or you can order it online.
    This is a THICK paperback, and rather expensive at around $30.00, but it's the "bible" for gun collectors.
    Many Colt prices are under priced due to skyrocketing prices on Colt's like Single Actions, Pythons, and Diamondbacks.

    Prices are pretty close for older models like the Army Special.
  9. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    Stocks sound like Coltwood plastic, and would be a later replacement on a gun of that vintage.

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