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Colt Detective Special .38

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by KrankyKraut, Aug 25, 2007.

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  1. KrankyKraut

    KrankyKraut Member

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    I am looking to get one. It's in nice condition, easily 95% blueing, 2" barrel. It locks up tight. He wants $275.
    Before I buy it: Can it take + P ammo?
     
  2. PotatoJudge

    PotatoJudge Member

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    That's a very good price. The gun can "handle" the load, but will go out of time more quickly than with standard pressure loads. Practice with standard loads and don't worry about the few +P loads you put through it.
     
  3. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

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    That depends on the version.
    The heavy, shrouded models as made from 1972 on are factory rated for "up to" 3000 rounds of +P.
    At that point the gun was to be factory inspected, and the frame may have needed to be replaced.

    Since Colt no longer has any frames, you'd be well advised to limit the amount of +P you shoot through it.

    As for earlier models with the exposed ejector rod and "skinny" barrel, these were NOT factory rated for any +P ammo.
    However, a good many people carried the loaded gun with +P strictly for "business use".

    In either case, to preserve the service life of the gun, do your practicing with standard .38 Special loads, and only load the +P ammo for carry.
     
  4. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    If you take a look at the ballistics figures for +P, they really aren't worth it. Stick to non- +P and enjoy your Dick Special.

    And yes, that's a very good price.
     
  5. Snake Eyes

    Snake Eyes Member

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    I don't believe a lot of the errornet insinuations about Colts and "fragile timing". I've owned numerous (12 or 15) Detective Specials and never found them to be anything but workhorses. I admit, I'm prejudiced towards the full underlug, 2nd issue and later, models for extensive +P use, but I think that has more to do with the appearance of being more stout.

    I've never managed to inflict failure in any of my DS's through use, abuse or +P ammo; and these are my every day carry guns. Which ever one I'm carrying tends to get shot every time I go to the range, including using up the +P in the gun.

    And, BTW, yeah...that price is excellent!
     
  6. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    I occasionally carry a Detective Special, and have been doing so since the late 1940s. They are fine revolvers and excellent weapons. I have fired Plus-P cartridges in late models, but I no longer do so because I don't beleive they give me a meaningful advantage (advantage - yes, meaningful - no).

    If they loosen up they can be serviced. But parts and qualified pistolsmiths are getting fewer and fewer, and in any case more (justifiably) expensive.

    In my view the advantages this revolver offers - a handle you can hold on to with more then two fingers, all-steel construction, a size that is big enough, but not too big, combat accuracy that's good out to 100 yards if necessary, blocky sights that can be picked up quickly, and oh yes... 6 shots, not 5 make it a personal choice.

    But when I feel I need more I go to a larger model made by another manufacturer that hold 5 .44 Special's.

    A .44 Special does make a meaningful difference...
     
  7. KrankyKraut

    KrankyKraut Member

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    Thanks, Gentlemen, for the info. It's the older model with the shroudless pencil barrel. It feels great in my hands and would make a great back-up for my S&W Mod. 15-3 in 4". I think i'm gonna jump on it before somebody else does!
     
  8. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Member

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    With what people are asking for these at gun shows, etc., $275 is quite low. Grab it!

    Does the butt frame extend the full length of the grips, or is it very short with the grips extending past it? The change to the short butt frame was made c. 1966.
     
  9. RandomMan

    RandomMan Member

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    Please do not forget that Buffalo Bore is now making a round that nearly duplicates the old 158-grain +P LSWCHP round many of us favor, in a non +P version designed for these old guns. I carry the BB round in my 3rd issue Colt Agent more often than any other gun I own.

    Enjoy your Colt! They're absolutely great guns.

    -Rob
     
  10. Jim March

    Jim March Member

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    I was coming in to post exactly what RandomMan said:

    http://www.buffalobore.com/ammunition/default.htm#standard38

    There are a small number of 38+Ps that will beat the performance of these standard pressure 38s, but there ain't many and they're stout enough I would hesitate to run them in a "strength challenged" gun - including the Colt Dick Special and my own vintage Charter Undercover. Buffbore's 38+Ps are an example:

    http://www.buffalobore.com/ammunition/default.htm#38spl

    ...and there's a few others. Some are concerned about the pressures with the Speer 135+P in older/weaker guns.
     
  11. jaholder1971

    jaholder1971 Member

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    Kranky K,

    You're taking me back to my youth: My late father carried a Model 15-3 while working Patrol with the Topeka PD. Off duty (and later as a Detective) he carried a Colt Detective Special thin tube just like what you have. This was later replaced with an issued S&W M65 3 inch but Dad bought it from the PD when he retired.

    I now own the 65, my (ahem) brother got the 15 and my mother got the Colt.
     
  12. Ala Dan

    Ala Dan Member in memoriam

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    As many of you know, I own three second issue (1947-1972) Colt Detective
    Specials; 2x blue steel 1966 (unshrouded) models, and a factory nickel 1971
    model that is also unshrouded. Also, I own a second issue (late '72 or very
    early '73) shrouded Colt Agent; that is also a blued weapon. All of these
    weapons are what we call "safe queens"; as they are my favorite snubby
    .38 Special of all time. I DO NOT carry or shoot these fine little revolvers;
    as I have other choices (S&W's: 10, 37, 60 (old model), 442, and 642)
    for social gatherings~! ;):D

    FWIW, the factory nickel '71 model Colt Dick Special has only been test
    fired with one cylinder (six rounds) full.
     
  13. skl1

    skl1 Member

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    I just wanted to jump on the bandwagon and encourage you to buy it!

    I picked up my circa '64 Colt Detective special in a trade around 1989. I shot it and couldn't believe how accurate this little snubbie was. It's still super accurate, holds 6, is small enough to be concealable but big enough to hold and shoot accurately.

    Mine's still tight, accurate, and in-time. I only shoot standard loads in mine.

    Steve
     
  14. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Assuming it's in working order, yes that's a good deal. Make sure to check the timing.

    The DS is an all steel revolver based on the Police Positive Special and can handle what we call "+P" loads. Remember that before SAAMI got into the act, the standard .38 Special loads often exceeded what we call "+p" today. The concept didn't exist back in the 20's and 30's when the DS was developed. I've never heard about the need for a frame replacement, and I would really want to see where that information comes from. It sounds like yet another Colt myth.

    At worst if you fire a lot of +p the internal parts may wear out slightly sooner than with modern standard loads. The only problem with that is that few Smiths know how to work with old style Colt lockworks anymore. So you'll likely have to send it off to a Colt specialist. But eventually you'll wear it out with standard loads as well. Once you get the Colt bug, the added cost of dealing with an out of town smith won't seem like a big deal.

    I believe the 3rd and 4th gen DS's have the Mark III lockwork and are easier for a smith to work on. But they're also not as pretty as the old ones. It's a shame these are getting to be safe queens, as they are some of the nicest shooting and most accurate snubs ever made.
     
  15. KrankyKraut

    KrankyKraut Member

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    This is great info, guys. And a great forum!:) I went back and bought it. I am jazzed about this little guy. Which is strange, because I had always thought I didn't like snub nose revolvers. A couple of the hangers-on in the gun store looked at it and opined that it may not be the original finish. But even if that's the case, it looks plenty good , and the gun was never intended to be a safe queen, anyway. Well, now I'll have to wait the obligatory 10 days before I can pick it up. I'll do a range report as soon as as possible.
     
  16. Snake Eyes

    Snake Eyes Member

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    Welcome to the Dark Side! But be warned: They have a tendency to multiply.

    You'll know you're completely converted when you start carrying the "Ayoob Special" aka "New York Reload": One snubbie in each coat pocket.
     
  17. Harley Quinn

    Harley Quinn Member

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    I like it, have had one for 37 years. Got it because it held 6 and it was a "detective special" ;) The name say's it all. Good Price:cool:

    :D
     
  18. socalcruiser

    socalcruiser Member

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    I just had my Colt Dtective with alloy frame serviced by a gunsmith. He told me that because I have fired +P ammunition in it, it has damaged the rear of the frame where the firing pin comes though. I have had this weapon for about 15years now and have only fired about 24 rounds of the department issued +P ammunition through it. I have to qualify with it every three months but use only practice ammo in it. The front of the cylinder to forcing cone measures about 6-7 thousands of an inch so it's still tight. I carry this on duty as my back up and off duty instead of my short alloy frame 9mm S&W. I got this as a near new weapon in a trade for my old beat up S&W 686 that was out of time. Guess who got the best deal there?
     
  19. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    I think that your "gunsmith (?)" is full of it. An aluminum-framed Detective Special is called the Cobra. When the Cobra was being developed a special prototype was chambered in .357 Magnum. Don't get any ideas! This prototype was not a rechambered .38 Special. The cylinder was made using a different steel, and heat treating process.

    Anyway they fired 3000 rounds of .357 Magnum through it, and this was the old 158-grain load, not the current emasculated stuff. The frame was not distorted in any measurable way.

    This is not to say that owners of older alloy-framed revolvers should start making extensive use of Plus-P ammunition, but that the amount used as described by socalcruiser would be unlikely to cause any damage.

    I would suggest that the revolver be returned to Colt for a more professional and knowledgeable opinion and possible repairs.
     
  20. Storm

    Storm Member

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    I just picked up this Detective Special and paid $299 for it. I'd be very happy with $275. It's as tight as can be and in really nice condition. A great gun.

    BTW, I was watching Sinatra the other night as Tony Rome in "Lady in Cement". When he drew his gun I just knew what it was going to be. There's a great scene when Sinatra pulls his Dick Special on Dan Blocker who laughs at it and espouses the merits of at least a .45 on a guy his size. Fun movie.

    It's funny, when I picked up the gun last week I was thinking "Tony Rome" :cool:

    [​IMG]
     
  21. Cocked & Locked

    Cocked & Locked Member

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    No +P allowed in my 1947 DS :eek:

    [​IMG]
     
  22. Hawk

    Hawk Member

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    The poster in question doesn't do myth, SFAICT.

    Grant Cunningham makes mention of the inspection interval being in Colt's manual here:
    http://grantcunningham.com/coltammo.html

    And I believe a PDF of that manual can still be snagged here:
    http://www.coltsmfg.com/cmci/downlo...ack, Police Positive, Agent, Cobra, Viper.pdf
    The inspection period, exactly as stated in Dfariswheel's post, can be found on page 1.

    If the pdf link breaks, I saved a copy.

    Granted, I didn't note that they (Colt's) say exactly what they have in mind in the event it doesn't pass the inspection but frame work would seem plausible to my non-expert mind as the inspection interval differs from aluminum to steel frames.
     
  23. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

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    I have my dad's off-duty DS - a 1928 first generation gun - it will NEVER see +P.....only 148 WC's or my typical lightly loaded 158 SWC - either will inflict pain if need be....otherwise, I have heavier-duty guns to handle hotter loads
     
  24. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Grant Cunningham without question knows his Colt's, D-frames and otherwise. Both he and Colt recommend nothing more then limited use of Plus-P .38 Special ammunition, especially in alloy (aluminum) frame models. If such ammunition is used, factory or other expert inspection is suggested at 1000 rounds for aluminum and 3000 rounds for steel constructed revolvers.

    Not that it matters, but the Old Fuff will go along with this, but would further suggest that if any signs of excessive wear are observed at any time, professional help and inspection should be called upon. The sooner corrections are made the better.

    Continuing to the case at hand: socalcruiser apparently has a Cobra revolver and said;

    24 (give or take) Plus-P .38 Special rounds fired over a period of 15 years is well inside any recommended limitation, and firing this amount of ammunition within the specified time period should not have any negative affect on the revolver. Never the less I suggested:

    Because of personal experience, I can say that without question, Colt did replace frames on occasion during the time these D-frame revolvers were in production. I doubt that they could do it now, but they might surprise me. But if these guns were as fragile as some people make out, there wouldn't any left for us now. The basic steel platform came on the market in 1908. The aluminum version in 1950. Both lasted into the 1970's, and neither had a history of self-destructing.
     
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