Colt Shooting Master

Dec 24, 2002
Today after work I picked up my latest acquisition: a 1932 Colt Shooting Master in .38 Special. This is one of 3,500 Shooting Masters built by Colt from 1931 through 1938 and was the most expensive model in their line, at $52.50 (about $1138 today). Of them, 2,500 were chambered in .38 Special. The gun is basically the same as a New Service Target but with a slightly different, smaller grip.

Next to my S&W Model 1905, 4th Change Target K-Frame for scale:



The front and rear grip straps are hand checkered. Note the size of the cylinder in comparison with the charge holes, reminiscent of a S&W N-Frame .357


The back of the grip, top of the hammer, and the top strap all have a matte finish to reduce glare.

I happened to have an old Pachmayr size 6M grip adapter in my stash. IIRC the size 4S is correct for the New Service but this is close enough.


I'm not sure if the grips are original since they look brand spanking new and are not serial numbered (I don't know if they should be serial numbered to the gun, however).

Also, the screws on the adjustable front sight are hex heads. Allen screws were invented around 1909 - 1910 so it's possible they are original but I don't know for sure. (The front sight adjusts for elevation while the rear is adjustable for windage.)

Mechanically the gun is perfect. The bore and chambers are all excellent. Timing and lockup are spot on. The SA trigger is very light with no creep or takeup. The DA pull is very smooth but long and heavy. As a target revolver this was intended to be shot SA anyway. For DA, the trigger reach is noticeably longer than an N-Frame.

The New Service / Shooting Master (and the smaller Official Police) were rated by Colt to handle the .38-44 High Speed loads intended for the S&W Heavy Duty and Outdoorsman (158 grain bullet at 1,125 FPS). I don't plan to shoot a lot of those but I will definitely give some a try.

I can't wait to shoot this next weekend.
Big enough to be a Mag wheel from the era of Starsky & Hutch! :thumbup:

Congratulations on finding a very cool revolver! I bought a 1930’s vintage Officers Model Heavy Barrel .38 during the Covid shutdown for $550 bucks. I found out it was worked on by King up in San Francisco, they did the action, added a trigger shoe, welded up and recut the hammer spur and machined a cut for a fully adjustable rear sight.

The gun is a true tack driver with wadcutter loads (the only loads I will feed it). I bet your new Colt is just as accurate, with even less recoil because of the greater weight.

Let us know how it shoots when you get a chance.

Stay safe.
Asking the price paid is uncultured.
There is such a narrow zone between "You cheated the widow." and "You could have got it for less from Acme."
that’s true! but I’m kinda a uncultured & bearly educated loud mouth that can convince a brick wall to let me in.

Not saying the OP is uncultured!

i just wonder what that old Colt usually sells for
Beautiful revolver!

“This is one of 3500 Shooting Masters…..of them, 2500 were chambered in .38 Special…”. What were the others chambered in?

Good luck with your new gun!
Listed .38, .357, .44 Special, .45 Colt, .45 Auto in 1939 Stoeger.
New Service Target shown only in .44, .45, .45. Same price as Shooting Master.

The gun is basically the same as a New Service Target but with a slightly different, smaller grip.

Stoeger says of the New Service Target: "Either square type butt as illustrated or round type butt as on Shooting Master."
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Tonight I shot it for the first time. I had 38 rounds left of my 148 grain HBWC handloads that I fired first. POA was 6:00 on the bull.


I also put a couple cylinders-full of 178 grain Keiths on top of 5.3 grains of Unique, which is a +P load. It shot those accurately as well but recoil was quite a bit more than the wadcutters, as you'd expect. It would make a good field load, however. (The New Service and Shooting Master are perfectly fine with +P or .38/44 High Speed Loads.)

I'm looking forward to trying it at longer range.
I spoke too soon - the picture I posted above is of the flat top target. Shooting Masters should have the more standard style Colt wood grips with the silver Colt medallions like this image: Colt-Shooting-Master-In-38-Special.jpg
I had a Colt 1950 Target for awhile, but I never could shoot it well, so it was one of the ones that got sold when I got into PRS and needed funds.

I absolutely love my S&W 1905 Target.

I shoot my Colt Officers Model well, but had a Colt 357 that I couldn't shoot well.

Go figure. :)