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Colt DA 45

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by bdf7863, Sep 6, 2006.

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  1. bdf7863

    bdf7863 Member

    Sep 6, 2006
    I am trying to find information on a Colt DA 45. Serial number on barrel frame
    is 255xxx. On the butt, it say U.S. Army Model 1917 and No. 103xxx. It has what appears to be a steel finish and bone grips. I would greatly appreciate any information any one could give me. Thanks, Brian.
  2. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    Your Colt was made during World War One from 1917 to 1918.

    General Pershing wanted every actual combat soldier to be armed with a pistol for use in close range trench warfare, but the supply of 1911 automatics was too small to meet the demand.

    So the government contracted with Colt and S&W to produce revolvers chambered for the standard .45 automatic cartridge.
    To make it possible to shoot and eject the rimless auto cartridge, the guns were set up to use "half-moon clips". Each clip help three rounds, and to load, the user just dropped two clips into the cylinder.
    The clips also made it possible to eject the rounds.

    S&W and Colt built these Model 1917 revolvers on their larger frame double action revolvers.
    S&W used their "N" frame, and Colt used their New Service model.

    Government serial numbers were stamped on the gun's butt, and lanyard rings were installed.
    S&W used only the government serial number, but Colt decided the Model 1917 was just a continuation of the New Service, so they also stamped Colt New Service range serial numbers on the frame and cylinder crane.

    This causes some debate among collectors as to just WHICH serial number on the Colt is the "real" number. The government considered the number on the butt as the "official" serial number and used it. Many collectors use the Colt number.

    Early Colt Model 1917 revolvers had cylinders with "straight through" chambers, and these early guns cannot be fired without the clips.
    Later guns had a "step" in the chambers which allowed the gun to be fired without clips, but the gun cannot eject the cases. To remove the fired cases a pencil or dowel must be used to push them out.

    The cartridge makers used to make a special cartridge for these Model 1917 revolvers, known as the ".45 Auto Rim". This was a .45 ACP cartridge made with a rim that allowed firring AND ejecting cartridges without the clips.

    After WWI, the Model 1917's were stored, with a large quantity of Colt models being given to the US Post Office for use in guarding the mails, after the 1930's bandits started robbing the US Mails.

    When World War Two began, we were again short of pistols, so the Model 1917's were taken from storage and re-issued.
    Work guns were re-finished with a parkerized coat instead of the original brushed blue finish.

    After WWII, the Model 1917's were declared surplus, and large numbers were sold to NRA members through the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM) program for around $25.00.

    In the 1960's, the US Post Office sold their Model 1917 Colt's on the commercial market.

    Your particular Colt Model 1917 appears to have been made in 1918.
    If in original condition, it should have a brushed blue finish, and smooth walnut grips.

    As long as it's in good condition and is in proper time and adjustment, it's safe to fire with standard .45ACP ammunition.
  3. Sparky321

    Sparky321 Member

    Sep 7, 2006
    Came across similar handgun. United States Property DA. 45 on the barrel but on the butt it says #12 of 349 made issued July 4th 1905.
    Lanyard ring is installed and cylinders have straight through chambers. Good condition with brushed blue finish, and smooth walnut grips would appear to be original.
    A friend of mine bought this for $150 and is trying to get an estimate on the value. Would also like to know if there are any records available to find out who the gun was issued to?
    Can anybody tell me when the 1917 started production?
    Would appreciate any help and can get any further information required.
    Thanks, Craig
  4. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    I'm NOT a real expert on the fine details of the Colt Model 1917 but here's some details.

    The July 4, 1905 is just a patent date, not a production date.

    The 1917 revolvers were first produced in November 1917, and the Colt serial numbers fell between 150000 to 301000.
    The first 50,000 made had straight-through chambers.
    Colt produced a total of about 151,700 1917's.
    Production was officially canceled on February 1, 1919.

    There are no records showing who a US military firearm was issued to.
    The military don't care who HAD a weapon, all they cared about is who has it NOW.
    To that end, records showing who a weapon was issued to are quickly destroyed once the weapon is issued to someone else, since the information is of no value.

    Assigning a value to a Colt these days is difficult. Colt values are skyrocketing on many models, and with the current heavy interest in US military firearms, the Colt Model 1917 values are also going up fast.

    Value depends on condition more than anything else.
    In your case, the fact that the gun is an early one, and appears to still be in original condition enhances the value.

    While any value is nothing more than an estimate, I "guess" that a Colt 1917 in excellent condition would be worth "about" $800.00
    Again this is nothing but a guess, and since I don't follow the prices on these Colt's, I could be off by a large margin.
    The value will be higher or lower based on actual condition, AND on where it might be sold.
    Sale at a local gun show would likely be lower, sold on an internet gun auction would probably be higher.
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