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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,
i am new to Colt Forum and trying to solve a mystery. I've had a Colt 1911 locked away for the past 30 years that has all of the appropriate inspector's stamps on the frame, barrel, and slide as well as the Army Inspector of Ordnance, Major Gilbert H. Stewart's, stamp on the frame above the magazine release. Stewart was the armory inspector from 1914 to 1918. The strange part is that there are no serial numbers on the frame and no "property of te United States Government". The gun is in very good condition and there is absolutely no evidence of any alteration or removal of the serial numbers and property stamp. The frame has internal inspector's stamps like the "H" and "G" on the top deck of the frame and a "7" and a "1" on the frame's well but the locations for the serial numbers and the Property of U.S. Govt. are as smooth as the rest of the exterior of the frame with no sanding or scratch marks at all. It doesn't look like they were ever rolled at all. I am looking for your collective wisdom on whether there were circumstances during this period when complete colt pistols or frames were ever received by the armory without serial numbers. I've heard differing opinions on this from a few authorities over the years but any input you have would be greatly appreciated. Trying to contact anyone at Colt, let alone the archivist, has been impossible these days.
Thanks,
Sheepdog
 

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Sorry, but no chance the pistol didn't have a USP and serial number. How would you expect the manufacturer to bill for a pistol without a serial number? How would the military track the pistol for purposes of issue and maintenance without a serial number? Just because you seen no signs of the markings being removed doesn't mean an experienced collector wouldn't see those signs. And...if your pistol shows no signs of markings being removed, it's been refinished, too.

Not good news. That is a violation of federal law and the pistol is illegal to even possess. Sorry for the bad news, but you may as well know.
 

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It's possible that it's a "lunch box" gun or some such other illicitly obtained gun. Scott is correct about the law on unserialed guns, either originally unserialed or made so at some later time. It is possible that permission can be gotten from the BATFE to have a licensed gunsmith stamp a new, unique serial number to make it legal, but that's a bit of a crap shoot since they might choose to confiscate the gun.

Buck
 

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Any firearm that did not originally have a serial number when produced is legal. However, that's not what we're talking about here. Because this pistol has a final inspection mark, it definitely had a serial number and USP marking.
 

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page 44 of the American Rifleman has a picture of a 1911 missing a serial number. Who knows what really went on during the war years. Somebody from the government could have showed up on third shift with all the proper credentials and scooped up half a dozen guns to be used for whatever. Nothing is ever impossible, when something has to be done. If a special operation called for 1911's without serial numbers, I'm pretty sure they could have got them. Afterall, they wouldn't be worried about the legality, or collectability. They more than likely had a different purpose in mind.
 

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The only way anyone will believe it came with no serial numbers is if it has original blue finish on the frame. Scott G. and others can document the finish and then your gun will be accepted as a true and correct "lunch box" sort of gun. Your chances of the blue finish being original are about 100,000 to 1 against.
 

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During the Great War, no one was worried about 'deniability' for a weapon - plus, the M1911 was essentially proprietary to the US - so anyone finding it 'behind the lines' was going to know straightaway, and there were no 'special operations' as we view them today.

Not all of Life is a conspiracy theory, and the 'black helicopters' of that long-past war were noisy autogyros that didn't fly at night.

'Deniability' came much later - during the Cold War and in Vietnam, where we had a myriad of 'sterile' weaponry - none of it US-issued - even down to and including the pocket knives and watches.

Without good, clear photos - this would be a stolen weapon.

'However' - were it refinished and parkerized, the serial number could well be very, very light - I've seen a few of those in the .45 racks, and we re-stamped the original numbers for weapons accountaility.

Parkerizing has a tendency to fill in shallow spots, you see.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
right side with mag & holster.jpg right side close-up.jpg Left side full shot.jpg Left side closer image.jpg left side close-up.jpg
Here are some photos now that I've figured out to upload them. Thanks for all of your input on this. Just trying to figure out what the right course of action should be to make sure I'm legal.
 

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When I was about 12 years old, I worked for a man who had a Springfield Armory pistol that had no serial number on it. So this is the second one I have seen. It sure looks like there was never a serial number placed on the gun you have pictured.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I've had two gunsmiths concur in the last few days after inspecting the frame. Very curious indeed. I'd sure love to know the circumstances.
 

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In your picture of the SN area it appears to me that the shadow under the edge of the slide is thicker in the middle than at the edges of the picture. If true, that would indicate that the area is slightly dished where the SN was removed. Try laying a long straight-edge, like a metal ruler, along the length of the slide. This is not foolproof as the whole side of the frame may have been planed down. This is fairly common and exactly what the Rock Island Arsenal did to make M-15 pistols for General Officers. They took standard issue M1911A1 pistols and planed off all the original markings so that they could remark them. Looking at most of them now one would suspect that they started with new frames and slides.

There are "legitimate" lunchbox pistols and some collectors want to believe there were (are) a lot of them around. There aren't. I'm guessing the number of true unmarked frames is less than a dozen, except for the leftover Remington UMC frames. However, there are clearly lots of guns with the US Property and/or serial numbers removed because they were stolen. Sometimes the removal is good enough to fool people into believing they have a "lunchbox" gun.

Regards,
Kevin Williams
 

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Any markings inside? My Argentine has nothing visible stamped on the frame. But how would it have been inspection stamped? Maybe just a long day at the plant?
 

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I've had two gunsmiths concur in the last few days after inspecting the frame. Very curious indeed. I'd sure love to know the circumstances.

Serial Number area does appear undesturbed...how interesting!

Can you post an image showing a close up of the area where the Gov't Property Stamp would have been, if present?

And, an image, close up, of the GHS Stamp?

Is the Barrel Breech area, where seen though the ejction port...is it Blue or in the White?
 

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To me, the pistol appears to be wearing an old refinish. A finish that looks old and worn (condition) doesn't really have much to do with determining originality. The pistol is more than 90 years old. Even if the pistol stayed in service until the end of WWI, that's 95 years ago. I see rounded edges and lines that don't look right to me. Surface prep does not appear correct under the finish, and I see inconsistencies in the surface where the markings were originally applied.

Once a pistol has an Ordnance final inspection applied, I think that pretty well rules out the idea of a "lunchbox". A lunchbox is a pistol that was stolen during production, prior to the pistol being completed and being accepted by the Ordnance inspector. An Ordnance inspector had to account for every pistol he inspected and accepted. No serial number and no USP? That pistol would have never made it to an Ordnance inspector in the first place, let alone being accepted.

Colt would have never submitted a pistol without a serial number for government acceptance because without a serial number there would be no way to list the pistol in the records for payment. The government would never accept a pistol without a serial number or U.S. property marking because they'd have no way to track the pistol in their system. Weapons were tracked by serial number. No number...it didn't exist in military/Ordnance records.

I believe there were probably more than a dozen lunchbox M1911 and M1911A1 pistols stolen during production. I have 3 of my own and sold another a few months ago. 3 of the 4 have no serial numbers. They are Ithaca A1 pistols. The 4th is a Colt and has a serial number, but lacks a final inspection, VP, inspector and assembler marks. The Colt isn't even listed in the factory records.

I am confident this pistol has had markings removed and has been refinished. But without actually inspecting it, and just relying on marginal photos, nothing can be confirmed.
 

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When I was about 12 years old, I worked for a man who had a Springfield Armory pistol that had no serial number on it. So this is the second one I have seen. It sure looks like there was never a serial number placed on the gun you have pictured.
On the other hand, I've literally looked at far more than 100 pistols without serial numbers... less than a dozen were authentic lunchbox pistols or Rem-UMC overruns. The rest were scrubbed and refinished.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Oyeboten and Scone,
Here are additional photos showing the final inspector's stamp, left side of frame where U.S. property should be stamped, and internal frame stamps. They are about as close as I can get and still keep focus with my phone's camera. As I mentioned in my original post, the flat deck at rear of the frame shows the "H", a "7" adjacent to it, and a "G" below the "H". There is also a small square stamped into the right side guide rail. The other photo shows a "7" and and "1" stamped into the frame well.
Scott,
I agree that the final inspector's stamp kind of rules out being any type of lunch box gun. best close-up of left frame.jpg close-up of G, H, and 7 inside frame.jpg close-up of 7 and 1 inside frame.jpg close-up of GHS stamp.jpg
 

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My friend had a legit lunchbox, it was in perfect condition. The owner's father had kept it put away for fear he'd get in trouble with it. After he passed away, his son went through the time & trouble to make it legal. ATF gave it a new serial number (ATF3000 or something)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I've had a friend suggest that i take the frame to a local company with the right equipment and have it x-rayed to see if they can detect the serial# and U.S. Property stamp. Either way it turns out, I'll better know where I stand if it works.
 
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