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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello Friends,
2004 I bought this nice Army Special without any markings showing police or military use. The only marking that is a bit out of the ordinary is the big "A" under the crane.
It seems very original and even the grips are numbered to the revolver. Some years later I was rather surprised when I got the Archive Letter: 25 Revolvers that went to the State of Pennsylvania - State Arsenal, November 12, 1910.
Are there any other revolvers around that went there... and what did they do with all those guns????

Peter

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The A under the crane is the Colt factory assembler's mark. The 3 on left rear of trigger guard the final inspector's mark.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The A under the crane is the Colt factory assembler's mark. The 3 on left rear of trigger guard the final inspector's mark.
Thank you!; I have never seen an A in this place; T and L are common. I have seen the "3" quite often.
Peter
 

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Schuren,

Not a revolver, but a Colt M1911 shipped to the same location as your revolver, near me in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I've posted older pictures of it before in the semi auto sub forum.


Here's my 1914 M1911 that was shipped to Adjutant General Brigadier Thomas J. Stewart of the PA. National Guard (the US Army 28th Infantry Division during war) on July 3rd 1914 in a shipment of 350 pistols.
The specific destination is the Pennsylvania State Arsenal, Harrisburg, PA.
I live about 4 miles from the old arsenal's former location.



 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Schuren,

Not a revolver, but a Colt M1911 shipped to the same location as your revolver, near me in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I've posted older pictures of it before in the semi auto sub forum.


Here's my 1914 M1911 that was shipped to Adjutant General Brigadier Thomas J. Stewart of the PA. National Guard (the US Army 28th Infantry Division during war) on July 3rd 1914 in a shipment of 350 pistols.
The specific destination is the Pennsylvania State Arsenal, Harrisburg, PA.
I live about 4 miles from the old arsenal's former location.



350 is a lot! But yours is a regular Colt 1911 (not a Government) - and a very good looking one!!! Congratulations...!
But my modest Army Special is a plain civilian model - only the Greek and the French Army used Army Specials in WW I. What did the Pennsylvanians do with those guns....?
 

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Well, that is a mystery. Your revolver pre-dates the US adoption of the M1911 pistol so it's possible the PA. National Guard wanted a more powerful revolver cartridge than the US had used in the late 1800s in the Colt .38s they had used in the Philippine Insurrection of 1899-1902?
Smokeless gun powder had just been perfected in 1899 and the .38 S&W Special was a new cartridge. Perhaps the PA. National Guard was experimenting with revolvers using the "newish" 38 Special?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Well, that is a mystery. Your revolver pre-dates the US adoption of the M1911 pistol so it's possible the PA. National Guard wanted a more powerful revolver cartridge than the US had used in the late 1800s in the Colt .38s they had used in the Philippine Insurrection of 1899-1902?
Smokeless gun powder had just been perfected in 1899 and the .38 S&W Special was a new cartridge. Perhaps the PA. National Guard was experimenting revolvers using the "newish" 38 Special?
Thank you for your comment!
I am from Germany where the military marked everything (old rule: If it moves salute it, if it does not move, paint it....). It is suprising not to see the smallest marking on the reolver. And the next thing is the trigger-pull.. those revolvers were ordered with a 4 - 4,5 lbs trigger-pull ... that sounds like Police....No army ever cared about trigger pull....Did the State Arsenal supply guns only for the National Guard.
 

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My first thought was that maybe the revolvers were obtained by the PA. National Guard for the Pennsylvania State Police, but that seems unlikely.
Like US Govt. small arms, state police guns also had markings indicating they were state police issued.
The Pennsylvania State Police were founded in 1905. I also think they were funded differently than the Pennsylvania National Guard, but that is just a guess.

Also, I just checked and the PA. National Guard is a federally funded agency and I believe it probably was federally funded even back when your revolver was made.
The PA. State Police is funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
My first thought was that maybe the revolvers were obtained by the PA. National Guard for the Pennsylvania State Police, but that seems unlikely.
Like US Govt. small arms, state police guns also had markings indicating they were state police issued.
The Pennsylvania State Police were founded in 1905. I also think they were funded differently than the Pennsylvania National Guard, but that is just a guess.

Also, I just checked and the PA. National Guard is a federally funded agency and I believe it probably was federally funded even back when your revolver was made.
The PA. State Police is funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
What about prison guards? could those be state employees? But the trigger pull shows that the recipients really cared about their sidearms....tricky but we are getting on!!! thank you for you input.
 

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Sate prison guards would be funded by the state and are state employees. There are also jail guards in PA. who are usually county Sheriff Department deputies. I would think their guns would have been marked similarly, just as police guns and military guns are generally marked as such in the US.

There is not going to be an easy answer who the 25 revolvers ordered by the PA. National Guard were actually used by. With no agency markings and no history I think we just have to assume the state wanted to try out the Colt revolvers in 38 Special and did not request that Colt mark the guns at the factory in any special way ie: "BPD and a number" for Boston Police Department and an inventory number, or M1903 Colt Hammerless' stamped "PDNY" for Police Department New York. Police gun orders to Colt were often requested by the agencies to be marked at the factory as the examples mentioned above.

And by 1912 or so, all National Guard units were probably requesting, or had been informed they would be receiving M1911 pistols in the future, since the National Guard is military, and funded by the US government. So the PA. National Guard would not have requested a large order of revolvers around this time frame. But a small order before the M1911 was adopted? Who knows?

The request for 4-4 1/2 lb. trigger pull is another puzzle I don't think will be easily resolved.

I have spent a couple of hours trying to find out anything further, but to no avail. If I turn something up I will let you know. I am glad you posted this revolver as it is a VERY interesting puzzle to me.

That's a great Colt Army Special revolver - good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Sate prison guards would be funded by the state and are state employees. There are also jail guards in PA. who are usually county Sheriff Department deputies. I would think their guns would have been marked similarly, just as police guns and military guns are generally marked as such in the US.

There is not going to be an easy answer who the 25 revolvers ordered by the PA. National Guard were actually used by. With no agency markings and no history I think we just have to assume the state wanted to try out the Colt revolvers in 38 Special and did not request that Colt mark the guns at the factory in any special way ie: "BPD and a number" for Boston Police Department and an inventory number, or M1903 Colt Hammerless' stamped "PDNY" for Police Department New York. Police gun orders to Colt were often requested by the agencies to be marked at the factory as the examples mentioned above.

And by 1912 or so, all National Guard units were probably requesting, or had been informed they would be receiving M1911 pistols in the future, since the National Guard is military, and funded by the US government. So the PA. National Guard would not have requested a large order of revolvers around this time frame. But a small order before the M1911 was adopted? Who knows?

The request for 4-4 1/2 lb. trigger pull is another puzzle I don't think will be easily resolved.

I have spent a couple of hours trying to find out anything further, but to no avail. If I turn something up I will let you know. I am glad you posted this revolver as it is a VERY interesting puzzle to me.

That's a great Colt Army Special revolver - good luck!
Thank you very, very much. I have little hope that another Army Special from this batch turns up and the owner knows a bit more about the history of her/his gun. 110 years seems to be long time.
But there is hope!
Peter
 

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I think you guys are overthinking this. We‘ve had a similar discussion about a batch of 150 6” Army Specials shipped to the US Navy that same year 1910, even though the .38 Special was never officially adopted by the Navy or any other US branch until the pre-Victorys/Victorys, Commandos, and DS of WW II.

Personally, I think the Pennsylvania National Guard, which was quite sizable and had mobilized a division for the war with Spain, just needed some more revolvers. The still-standard .38 DA US Army Model 1901/03 was no longer available, and the new M1909 was prioritized for the active units. So they ordered the new .38 edition which fit the existing holster and equipment and could chamber the issue .38 Colt caliber in addition to its new Special chambering.

I don’t think there is any more to it than that.
 

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I find it interesting that a Pa Arsenal shipped Colt ended up in Germany. At least I assume the gun is in Germany since the OP appears to be in Germany. When would it been removed from military service and who would of imported it? Lots of history behind this gun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I find it interesting that a Pa Arsenal shipped Colt ended up in Germany. At least I assume the gun is in Germany since the OP appears to be in Germany. When would it been removed from military service and who would of imported it? Lots of history behind this gun.
Collecting Colt is a world-wide hobby. Lots of guns were exported to Europe and ended up in collections here. Before the crazy rules about exporting handguns came, people from Germany travelled to the US of A and bought stuff. Friends ofe mine visited the great shows and came back with wonderful pieces... and the other way round naturally.
Now it is really difficult, time consuming and very expensive...
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I think you guys are overthinking this. We‘ve had a similar discussion about a batch of 150 6” Army Specials shipped to the US Navy that same year 1910, even though the .38 Special was never officially adopted by the Navy or any other US branch until the pre-Victorys/Victorys, Commandos, and DS of WW II.

Personally, I think the Pennsylvania National Guard, which was quite sizable and had mobilized a division for the war with Spain, just needed some more revolvers. The still-standard .38 DA US Army Model 1901/03 was no longer available, and the new M1909 was prioritized for the active units. So they ordered the new .38 edition which fit the existing holster and equipment and could chamber the issue .38 Colt caliber in addition to its new Special chambering.

I don’t think there is any more to it than that.
Well, this a good story. It seems very plausible.Thank you!!!!
Could it be that those Army Special were never distributed to the soldiers and therefore not marked????
 

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Well, this a good story. It seems very plausible.Thank you!!!!
Could it be that those Army Special were never distributed to the soldiers and therefore not marked????
To determine whether marking is even an issue on these, we would need a specimen of an earlier .38 Colt, documented to the Pennsylvania Guard, to see if Pennsylvania had service-specific markings added.

On the earlier DA Colts, the US Army stampings, RAC and such, were applied by ordnance inspectors at the factory. These Army Specials obviously did not go through the standard ordnance inspection process, and Pennsylvania may just not have had state-specific additions. But to determine that, you would indeed need comparison examples.
 
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