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The Consummate Collector
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The Shooting Master was first produced in about 1928 at about S/N 328,000 and was made on the New Service Target frame with a few changes. The butt was slightly narrower and rounded which was identical to the New Service .38 model. The gray Parkerized finish, called “stippling”, covered the topstrap and back of the frame down to the grip hump, and the top of the hammer. This was done to prevent glare to the shooter while competing in outdoor events such as Camp Perry. Unlike the New Service Target the cylinder latch was uncheckered and the sights were brought up to date with the square Patridge sight picture. As with the New Service Target, the front and backstraps were hand checkered.

The Shooting Master was Colt’s top of the line revolver and were hand fitted and polished for a smooth double action and single action. Each gun was hand built by the best assembler that Colt employed. It is said that if a Colt Shooting Master was returned to the factory for correction in workmanship, then the assembler responsible for that assembly operation would repair it on his own time before going home. Something that you would certainly not find in todays work place.

The Shooting Master was offered in five standard calibers for a total quantity of approximately 3500 guns. They were as follows: .45 Colt (Qty 156), .45 ACP (Qty 250), .44 Russian/S&W Special (Qty 94), .357 Magnum (starting about 1936) (Qty 500) and the .38 SpeciaL (Qty 2500). There are three known Shooting Masters to have been made in another caliber. One of each of the following is known: .22 RF Caliber, 38-200 (.38 S&W) & .455 Eley. There are two known Shooting Masters to have been made with a nickel finish. One was in .45 Colt and the other in .45 ACP.

There are nine known engraved Shooting Masters with the first two being S/N 328,085 and S/N 328,185. These two were ordered by Colt’s own shooting wizard J. Henry “Fitz” Fitzgerald and shipped together (or I assume picked up by Fitz after they were finished). He kept the first one until his death in 1945. The gun was then retained by his widow Gussie until 1950 when it was sold. The second gun, S/N 328,185, was given to his good friend Ed J. Langrish, Captain of the Hartford Police Department. Captain Langrish is the uniform Policeman that you see in all of the old pre war Shooting Suggestions that were packaged with each Colt. Both of these engraved Shooting Masters had the highest level of engraving that was done at that time and each were beyond level “C” engraving.

The standard stocks for the Shooting Master were checkered walnut however on the two nickel Shooting Masters we see ivory and pearl being supplied and carved ivory on three of the engraved Shooting Masters. Up until 1936 the round butt frame was the standard being supplied, however after that date either the round butt or square butt could be ordered. Having studied these for years it is my conclusion that the round butt was the standard version that was shipped on all calibers except the .357 and if a customer wanted the square butt they had to specify it when ordering. It appears that the .357 was just the opposite thus making a round butt in this caliber quite collectible.

The boxes for the Shooting Master were a simulated leather consisting of cardboard that was made to give the look of a padded leather box. Most of these did not stand the test of time and many I have seen were coming apart showing the several layers of cardboard. It has been written that they were designed to self destruct with use. I have encountered two different color boxes with the Shooting Master. The first, and lower serial number group, is the green outside color and the second is the dark maroon/purple color. The boxes did not have any outside labels but rather were pencil marked with the serial number and caliber on the inside top lid. The only known barrel length that was produced on the Shooting Master is the 6”. This was Colt’s most expensive gun from it’s introduction in 1928 up until 1938. The Shooting Master was listed at $52.50 which was $2.50 more that it’s counterpart, the New Service Target.

The five standard calibers of the Shooting Master:

Barrel Markings:

Shooting Master .455 Eley:

Shooting Masters in nickel:

.45 ACP

.45 Colt

Engraved Shooting Masters:

S/N 328185 given to Ed Langrish by Fitz and inscribed as such:

"C" Engraved Shooting Master

Shooting Master as it left the factory:
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