$50 .32 WCF New Navy: Deal, or No Deal?
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  1. #1
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    $50 .32 WCF New Navy: Deal, or No Deal?

    I just "accidentally" bought a Colt New Navy .32 WCF off of GunBroker for $50. No one else placed a bid on the forlorn old thing. I'd forgotten that I had bid on it.

    What have I acquired? It appears that these revolvers are uncommon in .32-20. Is the .32-20 New Navy a low production item? It was incorrectly listed on the auction as a Police Positive. It looks like a 4-inch version of my Model 1901 Army .38. I'm assuming I'm correct in calling it a New Navy.

    It's somewhat ratty and needs work, including a rebound spring, firing pin, and a ejector head. I may have some of the needed parts on hand or may need some parts. Any good sources for parts will be appreciated.

    It will be entertaining to fix up this old Colt and give it at least a few range trips. I love the .32-20 and have a number of mild hand load recipes worked up for a Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector.
    Last edited by bmcgilvray; 01-19-2010 at 07:35 AM.

  2. #2
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    quite the pickup, bryan. the .32-20 is more rare than the .38 or .41 long colt and the 4" bbl a bit scarcer, i think, than the 6" though not really rare. the parts alone are worth more than what you paid!




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    I'm revisiting this thread to exhibit this sad sack 'ol Colt, a New Navy in .32 WCF. These are common in .38 Long Colt and .41 Long Colt but uncommon in .32-20. The 4-inch barrel said to be uncommon on this model as well. Some of my reference works don't even list the New Navy as being available in .32-20 but a few were cranked out at the tail end of the model's production life before it was mercifully ended in favor of the updated and much improved Army Special in 1907.

    This one had an opening bid of $50. It was not pretty and was listed as in need of repairs including a firing pin and a trigger return spring, along with small parts. I have some Colt parts squirreled away so ventured an opening bid thinking that it ought to be worth that in parts for a trade for something else. I didn't figure on winning it so forgot about it until notification popped up in my inbox that I'd won it for the opening bid.

    I was tickled though and figured it'd be a fine thing as well as a learning experience to get it back into operation. Its bore condition is frosted but with strong rifling. Someone had purposely ground down the firing pin flush with the hammer in order to render the revolver inoperable I suppose. Upon opening it up I was delighted to find that the trigger return spring (or rebound lever spring as it's properly termed) was actually ok, only out of place. Well, it did have a non original crook in it, slight but obvious. I replaced some missing parts with my parts and went to work cleaning out the cobwebs from the action and scrubbing the bore and chambers.

    The lock work of the late 19th century Colt swing out cylinder models is absolutely fiendish! Also, despite the obviously fine workmanship and fitting, the design must be one of the worst to have ever been fielded. I can't imagine that the U.S. Military of the late 1880s actually selected this turkey of a design as its issue handgun. Flimsy in the extreme, every part performs multiple roles. One would think that this feature would cut down on the number of internal parts but nope, there are plenty of parts in there and some are strange looking indeed. It is completely powered by flat springs which perform multiple functions as well. And, these can't be simply adequate springs. They have to be able to double as leaves for the rear suspension of a '54 GMC flat bed truck. The action is terribly stiff, unnecessarily so in my view. The first generation Smith & Wesson Model of 1899 is also powered by flat springs including trigger return, but gives an action feel so light, smooth, and so positive that the later Smith & Wessons pale by comparison. This model Colt, by comparison, is a clunker.

    I felt confident I could lick any problem thrown at me by this old gun because I have another example in my Model 1901 U.S. Army .38. I could examine its inner workings as I attempted to fix the .32-20 revolver. My 1901 is in fine mechanical condition. It still has an awful, wretched feel about its action.

    I'm going to have to locate a firing pin or another complete hammer. Shouldn't be too hard. I thought to go ahead and properly attach the rebound lever spring so as to check trigger operation since I had the good fortune of possessing the spring. I tried for several hours but couldn't manage it. The non-factory bend was hitting the frame before the pinned end of the spring dropped into its recess on the inside of the front of the grip frame. I finally determined that I might try to bend the spring just a little to bring it back into spec. Several careful tries yielded no change in shape so I bowed it with only a little more pressure and yep, it exploded, shattering into four pieces. So, I need another spring after all, just as the auction said.*

    This old relic at least has some potential. Sometime within the next year or two I should be able to shoot it after patiently watching for parts. It is probably the rarest Colt model I'll ever own even if it isn't one of the more desirable models and is ugly to boot.

    *I can work on your Python too. Cheap!

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  5. #4
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    Here's the auction photos









    Here it is, basking in the glow of a coating of RIG, after a thorough cleaning with some small replacement parts and screws installed.




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    I think it's a neat old gun, and a fun project for fifty bucks.

  7. #6
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    funny story bryan...sounds like you got more than you bargained for. my .41 new navy is now in the hands of it's second gunsmith, has spent more time since i bought it away from home than here, and i can only hope that when it gets back i won't have to send it off again.

    the 1896 military functions as it's supposed to, but those da pulls are damn stiff. i don't have a trigger scale here, but da pull on both of them far outweighs that of my 1878 frontier .45.




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    Another GunBroker Find

    That's a neat old gun! $50 sounds too good to me.

    I know what your saying about the psychotic trigger pull on those things. My military New Army must have a 30lb DA pull and 12-15 SA! And they qualified one handed at 60 yards with these things????

    I'm afraid to pull the sideplate off the thing cause it is serviceable and you people scared me with the descriptions of the complexity of these things. "Don't mess with it if it ain't broke" applies here.

    Now, I have a mint bore, hyper accurate, vault tight Officers Model New Army and it has an absolutely superb DA pull-just unbelievable, and I would have trouble believing how smooth and user friendly a New Army could be if I had not used one like this.

    So, obviously, there were people that new how to tune these things, but the problem is, no one can find the writings on how they did it and they are all long dead! If there is someone out there that knows how to give one of these guns a 1st rate DA action job, let us know your not dead!

    Another GunBroker find-$230. The super smooth Officers New Army I spoke of-


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    Quote Originally Posted by charles isaac View Post
    That's a neat old gun! $50 sounds too good to me.

    I know what your saying about the psychotic trigger pull on those things. My military New Army must have a 30lb DA pull and 12-15 SA! And they qualified one handed at 60 yards with these things????

    I'm afraid to pull the sideplate off the thing cause it is serviceable and you people scared me with the descriptions of the complexity of these things. "Don't mess with it if it ain't broke" applies here.

    Now, I have a mint bore, hyper accurate, vault tight Officers Model New Army and it has an absolutely superb DA pull-just unbelievable, and I would have trouble believing how smooth and user friendly a New Army could be if I had not used one like this.

    So, obviously, there were people that new how to tune these things, but the problem is, no one can find the writings on how they did it and they are all long dead! If there is someone out there that knows how to give one of these guns a 1st rate DA action job, let us know your not dead!

    Another GunBroker find-$230. The super smooth Officers New Army I spoke of-

    I'm absolutely amazed you got this gun for a little over two C notes. What a beautiful gun!

  10. #9
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    The problems connected with this old Colt .32 WCF just get worse though ... and more expensive.

    Since acquiring the .32-20 late last year I have taken delivery on yet another New Navy, this one in .41 Long Colt. Originally acquired for cheap, my intention was to utilize this one as a parts donor. Its serial number indicates a 1901 production date.

    It too suffered from an unimaginative and excessively negative internet auction description so no one else bid on it. Leave it to me, the newly crowned "Colt New Army/Navy king," to come to the rescue. Upon receiving it though, the revolver was determined to be in decent mechanical shape and the finish, while worn and neglected in the past, had a certain patina of respectability about it. Only a electro-penciled number scribed on it's left side marred the pleasing effect. The fine original grips, correct to the revolver were worth the purchase price. A disassembly and thorough scrub-up relieved it of at least half a century of gummed oil and genuine cobwebs. The cylinder would properly index and the timing was about as good as any of these revolvers I'd ever previously examined. The bore had been described as "rifling strong with light pitting," and indeed there were a couple of foreboding looking spots in the very dusty old bore. It appeared as old pitting to me as well but surprisingly, the application of a dose of Hoppe's No. 9 and a .41 bore brush completely removed the spots to reveal a really mirror-bright bore. How many .41 Long Colt revolvers out there can claim a fine bore since the cartridge's heyday predates the advent of non-corrosive priming?

    A reappraisal of the revolver after the clean-up made me reluctant to rob it of parts. I've long wanted a .41 Long Colt for some reason. The notion of .41 Long Colt fired my imagination since I was young. Long ago I found a nickel .41 Long Colt chambered Army Special in a pawn shop and became curious about the round. I watched the revolver and debated on purchasing it for a year or more and then one day it was gone. I never could get that revolver or the .41 Long Colt cartridge out of my head after that. I'd even hoarded a small cache of .41 Long Colt ammunition through the years.

    I'd wanted a .41 Long Colt in an Army Special or Official Police though rather than a creaky old New Navy.

    Couldn't resist the experience of firing a .41 Long Colt for the first time so my wife and I took the revolver out to our old home place at the lake yesterday to give it a try. While at the San Angelo, Texas gun show this past weekend I obtained a box of the Western .41 Long Colt ammunition that was from a batch produced years ago.

    This old revolver is a sho' 'nuff shooter! I've long read and heard that .41 Long Colt is a dud in the accuracy department but my experiences yesterday refute that rumor, at least with this gun. It possesses a heavy but crisp single action trigger with no creep. I shot a single group with it from 10 yards distance and then assaulted a gallon Coleman fuel can at 7 yards. It hits a little high and to the left but groups very well. I didn't waste any ammo attempting to shoot it double action.

    I'd expected the .41 ammunition to be very mild but was surprised there as well. It gave a loud, deep, and full throated report. The revolver recoiled smartly. I was expecting it to behave much like my Model 1901 .38 Long Colt but it was considerably more robust. The Western factory 200 grain Lubaloy ammunition gives the impression of being a potent loading. One comes away from shooting the .41 Long Colt feeling like it could have still been a useful cartridge for personal self defense. I'm going to have to chronograph this ammunition to find out what sort of velocity it gives.

    I never intended to get into these primitive Colt double action models. They just don't seem very sound. Still, well over a quarter of a million were produced and one supposes that they served well during the first part of the 20th Century. The lines of these revolvers are lovely to look at in my view and the finish on nice originals rivals any fine firearm ever made. They do have an elegant and appealing appearance.


    Firing the first cylinder-full through the .41 Colt.


    The 5-shot group fired from 10 yards. I'd taken a 6 o'clock hold on the numeral "10" in the middle of the target so the revolver shoots a bit high and to the left.


    Primers appeared fine and fired cases gave normal extraction.


    An aggressive Coleman fuel can that came to grief from 7 yards out is shown with the .41 Colt New Navy.


    The final shot from the fusillade struck the neck of the can, bowling it over.

    Here's an attempt to post a link to actual video footage of the Coleman fuel can's attack.
    http://s74.photobucket.com/albums/i2...t=DSCF4392.flv

  11. #10
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    Thanks for posting that 41 and the video. Very cool stuff.
    I too would like to get one of these .41s eventually.
    What did you end up picking that up for?

    That's one of the interesting things about gunbroker. Using different key words to find auctions that have been poorly listed or descibed. That's how Charlene ended up with that really nice nickel plated .41 Thunderer for a very low price.


 
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