I would classify it as a first year gun if I owned it. If I were trying to buy it at a gun shop, I would point out it was shipped in the second year.
Seriously, it should be regarded as a first year gun.
I'd call it a 2nd year gun because it didn't leave the factory till the 2nd production year. Once a gun is made it can sit on the shelf at Colt for a number of years in some cases. Also, Colts aren't shipped in strict serial number order. Be interesting to hear what others think.
Federal law states that the serial number frame/receiver is the gun therefore logic dictates the serial number establishes date of manufacture in my opinion. My opinion is mine and I am happy to share but I have been wrong before ( 2 marriages, not the current one) therefore I will bow to the experts.
C&R collectors pistols must be manufactured 50 or more years ago. Date of mfg is important, NOT shipping date.
If I buy a pistol that was owned and possibly displayed at the factory by Colt for decades, do you think that the first shipping date to me in 2017 is the date I would quote. Of course not! Date of mfg takes priority to ATF and me.
With military variations, typically shipping or procurement dates are used because that's when the military took possession of the pistol. If you have a Colt factory letter which states assembly and shipping date, then it doesn't really matter what you call it. You just provide all the information and let the buyer call it what he wants.
I typically use shipping dates for all my guns, simply for consistency. I've got one GM that was assembled in 1929, but didn't leave the factory until 1931. The only time I see it makes any difference is if there were changes made in the transition period between manufacture and shipping dates. That's not normally an issue. However, anytime I order letters, I always ask for assembly dates as I am always looking for more info as to when changes occurred.
Without a letter, however, it's only a guess, as Colt did manufacture pistols for some orders out of sequential order. They could put any serial number on a pistol at any time.
I would classify it as a first year gun also if I owned it.
I think the thing that's in your favor is that most of us are enamored with first year serials and low serial numbers.. the lower the better -and Colt people will look more at the serial number falling in as first year gun much more than when it was shipped, especially since you can see that even amongst us Colt acquirers and collectors, the rule has two different opinions.
I would up load the Colt Letter but my up load speed is .48. The Colt in question is one .38 Mid-Range with a MKI barrel serial number 604MR. MFG. date of December 9, 1960 shipping date January 9, 1961. It is worth noting that only a few dozen were manufactured in November/December 1960. interesting side note I have serial number 215MR MKI barrel that ship January 19 1961 and there were 50 same type guns in that order. While serial number 159MR was MFG January 11, 1961. And yet another one in the 48xxMR range (MKII barrel) MFG March 5, shipped May 20. I have observed MKIII barrels in sub 1000 range and MKI barrel over 3000 range.
Thanks for the Colt letter and further explanation.
"First year", I suppose, is a matter of semantics. Some would say you'd have to know the date the first pistol was assembled, and then go 1 year from that date (which may involve two calendar years). I subscribe to that kind of thinking, as every pistol assembled within that time frame would technically be a first year production piece.
However, as stated before, most military collectors use shipping or procurement dates to determine "year" of pistol. All 1912 pistols, for example, are commonly referred to a 1st year, even though the first batch of pistols was assembled in late December 1911. So by the same thinking, some might say "first year production" only extends up to a date in December 1912, rather than the entire month.
I think your pistol's situation is much like the December 1911 assembled M1911s, and they require more explanation than just referring to them as 1st or 2nd year production.
My bases for elaborating with the MKI & MKIII is an attempt to discover where the MKII barrel fall in by date or serial number. Knowing how many barrels would be in a "batch" would be a useful tool. The MKI barrel could not be reused because it heads spaces off the cartridge rim while the MKII & MKIII headspaced of the mouth. The MKII barrel could be converted to a MKIII. This is true as one of my MKII barrels chamber in coarsely threaded exactly like a MKIII. I suspect this barrel was sent back to the factory. It is a acme thread rarely used by the general public. I have only encountered three Colt Mid-Range with the MKII barrels. There seems to be very few MKII barrels. That evidence or lack there of shoots holes in my theory of a "batch" quantity's unless they were converted to MKIII barrels. It would be a simple job thread the chamber remove and replace the barrel hood markings. Remember this barrel had no locking lugs as it was a blow back design, so removing material from the top of the hood would have no affect on the mechanics of the gun. I have herd people claim that by serial number 200 ish the MKI barrels were gone. To give this person the benefit of the doubt we will say after 200 were manufactured the MKI was exhausted. Personally I do not agree. I have seen countless MKI barreled guns on the internet. I have to relinquish control of the computer to my Sweetheart.