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Discussion Starter #1
Appearances can be deceiving.

Those of you who know me from the S&W Forum know that I sell a great many NYCPD guns. I collect NYCPD guns and US Martial guns.

Here’s an interesting little item.


At first glance this gun, Colt Commando #32793, appears to be unremarkable. A standard issue Commando; one of about 52,000 produced by Colt during the Second World War.

It bears the wartime Parkerized/phosphate matte finish and has evidence of toolmarks and minimal polishing. It sports the typical ColtWood grips and is in every respect a GI gun.


A closeup of the left (release side) side of the frame even shows the proper GHD (Guy H. Drewry) inspector mark as well as a poorly stamped Ordnance logo.

A closer examination reveals this inspector mark and Ordnance logo to be the only thing suggesting US Government ownership. No US stamp, no UNITED STATES PROPERTY stamping, no special rollmarks on the backstrap.

On the butt we find the number 8862 handstamped.


So what is this.

According to the always helpful (and expensive and slow) folks at Colt, this particular gun was shipped to the Equipment Bureau of the New York City Police Department at 400 Broome Street, Manhattan on 18DEC43 and was one of 250 guns in that shipment.

A quick perusal of surviving NYCPD firearms sales records (of which I have a set) show that on 09SEP44 Commando #32793 was sold to Probationary Patrolman Cecil Preu(illegible) #8862.



As was common for that era, the Patrolmans shield number, 8862, was stamped on all his gear, including this gun.

Obviously, this was a Defense Supply Corp. gun that was direct shipped to NYCPD. A review of the 1942 to 1946 purchase records show almost 1,100 Commando revolvers as having been sold by the NYCPD to it’s members. The records for the war years are uncharacteristically intact, so I venture to say that the total numbe rof NYCPD Commando revolvers does not exceed 1,100.

From the nearly 1,100 serial numbers I’ve checked, some trends can be found:
First Commando sold was #2545 on 18FEB43
Last Commando sold was #15306 on 28NOV45
Lowest Commando sold was #460 on 16JUN43
Highest Commando sold was #33512 on 21JUN44

Interestingly, only 2 Commando revolvers appear between 18,000 to 29,999 serial number range. There were several instances of 2 and 3 guns having comsecutive serial numbers and even one batch of -6- guns with consecutive numbers. there did not appear to be a specific block of numbers for the NYCPD. #3503, for example, went to the Cornhusker Ordnance Plant, while #3504 went to the NYCPD.

Anyway, the point here is that appearances can be deceiving. Most folks would look at this gun and quickly think it a GI piece when in fact it is a strictly civilian/police affair.

Things can also go the other way: you can find a piece that looks to be obviously civilian and find that it is something entirely diefferent! That’s the topic of my next post! (in a couple days)


Best,
RM Vivas www.vivasandson.com
 

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Fascinating,Robert,fascinating. I wouldve figured it was a "desk drawer"gun of some executive at a defense installation/plant. And Colt38,here is a picture of your "Coltwood",or plastic stocks(& the first type of gun they were used on!). Thanks,Robert! Bud
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Some years ago when I was research the Colt Commando I had occassion to talk to a fellow who worked for general Motors. he told me that he had found documentation that stated that key civilian members of the M1 Carbine development and production program were 'given' Commando revolvers for personal defense!

Never saw the documents, but I believe the fellow.

RMV www.vivasandson.com
 

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lonewolf, are you saying the Commando pictured has Coltwood stocks?

In my opinion, it does not. It has the plastic military stocks used on all Commandos. Coltwood stocks came Post-War on civilian guns, and have the swirl pattern found on such stocks, not the solid color as shown on these stocks.
 

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Well "Judge",must be something wrong the 1951 vintage Official Police that Ive got in front of me,thats all original,stocks are identical "color",or whatever that pigment Colt tried to save a few cents with to the Commando. Ive seen some of the ones that have what you describe as "swirls" on a friend "dick special"(1949),and they look like the "color ran". "Coltwood",no matter how you advertise it,its still crap!
 

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Come on guys,
If RM Vivis says there ColtWood, there ColtWood, if RM Vivis says there Grips, there Grips, not Stocks. RM Vivis did not say there crap, so they must be ok. Hi RmV :>)
IP

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by lonewolf:
Well "Judge",must be something wrong the 1951 vintage Official Police that Ive got in front of me,thats all original,stocks are identical "color",or whatever that pigment Colt tried to save a few cents with to the Commando. Ive seen some of the ones that have what you describe as "swirls" on a friend "dick special"(1949),and they look like the "color ran". "Coltwood",no matter how you advertise it,its still crap! <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Ira,

if you're not careful, you might cause people to think I know what I'm talking about!

I meant the plastic thingies on the part of the gun where you hold it. with your hand. that part.



RMV
 

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Sorry RMV,
My mistake, I thought you were talking about the front end, the part that says COLT, you know that long round part that the GI's hang on to when there hiting someone on the head or nailing up posters.
IP

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by rm vivas:
Ira,

if you're not careful, you might cause people to think I know what I'm talking about!

I meant the plastic thingies on the part of the gun where you hold it. with your hand. that part.



RMV
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
 

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I don't think rm ever said they're Coltwood stocks on the Commando, unless it was a different post. Did I miss something?

The stocks used on the Commando are probably a Bakelite-type product, not plastic. Without researching it more fully, they may be the Keys Fibre stocks.

Some of the Coltwood stocks have more swirl than others (they vary greatly by vintage and chance). I have some from the early 1950s that appear to be a solid brown color, but they are still Coltwood (as the contemporary brochures say) and not the Bakelite-type material as used on the Commando, which is the same material as on later Colt WWII Models 1911A1.
 

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JudgeColt,
Your correct, RM did not say they were Coltwood stocks, he said that they have the typical Coltwood grips, read the last line under the full picture.
IP

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by JudgeColt:
I don't think rm ever said they're Coltwood stocks on the Commando, unless it was a different post. Did I miss something?

The stocks used on the Commando are probably a Bakelite-type product, not plastic. Without researching it more fully, they may be the Keys Fibre stocks.

Some of the Coltwood stocks have more swirl than others (they vary greatly by vintage and chance). I have some from the early 1950s that appear to be a solid brown color, but they are still Coltwood (as the contemporary brochures say) and not the Bakelite-type material as used on the Commando, which is the same material as on later Colt WWII Models 1911A1.
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I did say they were Coltwood stocks.

I suppose I enjoy a spirited discussion as mech as the next fellow. Like most I have my pet sore spots (call a magazine a clip and I'll be all over your ass like white on rice), however, this coltwood thing is reaching the end of it's amusing life.

Page 350 of Wilsons seminal Book Of Colt Firerams describes the Commando as having Coltwood grips. pages 160-162 of charlie pate fine US HANDGUNS OF WW2: THE SECONDARDY PISTOLS AND REVOLVERS, Col.Pate quotes military documents of that era as stating that the Commando sported 'plastic' grips. As an aside, I have seen and handled Bakelite and the grips are not Bakelite.

Bruce canfield on page 67 of US INFANTRY WEAPONS OF WW2 refers to these grips/stocks as 'plastic'.

Perhaps the definitive answer may be found on page 211 of Wilsons COLT: AN AMERICAN LEGEND, which clearly states that the Commando came fitted with 'coltwood" stocks/grips.

This is actually an interesting concept: When did the term 'Coltwood' first appear and what did it mean?

Anyway, I am hoping that we can now state without fear of contradiction: The photo of the Colt Commando that I posted (now somewhat regrettably) -is- sporting coltwood grips.

best,
RM Vivas www.vivasandson.com
[email protected]
 

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At the risk of offending rm who considers the "Coltwood" issue as having reached the end of its enjoyable debate, I disagree with rm and agree with dfw.

Once Colt introduced the "Coltwood" nomenclature in the immediate Post-War era, the word became almost generic with the work "plastic" when referring to Colt stocks. (One might liken it to the common use of Zerox for "copy", ScotchTape for adhesive tape, etc..) When these writers wrote about plasitc stocks (many, like Wilson, ignore the fact that Colt always called them stocks, not grips) of any era, often decades later, perhaps the "Coltwood" name tended to be used when it had not been coined until the Post-War era as dfw says.

I did not say the Commando stocks are Bakelite. I said they appear to be a Bakelite-type product, which statement is based only an the similar gloss appearance, not the chemical makeup. Many authors just call them brown plastic. I think that is what they are. There is no "swirl" to them, which, to me, is the major characteristic that makes "Coltwood." However, the amount of "swirl" varied by batch and era, so it may be hard to argue there is "swirl" in all "Coltwood" stocks.

I have no WWII-era commercial literature (I do not think there was any), so it could be the Coltwood name was created during WWII. The first reference I see to it is in my earliest Post-War brochure (1949 as I recall) that still has the OMT in it with "Coltwood" stocks. Thus, there is a Pre-War model (the OMT) in a Post-War catalog with "Coltwood" stocks. As we know, after WWII, there are many transition Pre-War/Post-War guns with mixed parts of many eras. Some of the immediate Post-War O-frame automatics even had Pre-WWI parts, and some even had WWII military plastic stocks of the same material as used on the Commando! Everything was used to get back into production as soon as possible after WWII.

It is therefore possible that some early Post-War guns had military plastic stocks and, looking at the catalogs that say the stock material is "Coltwood," one could erroneously assume that "Coltwood" was a plain brown plastic like a particular speciman being examined that has military brown plastic stocks on it as a parts cleanup.

I am, however, given great pause in this debate by the fact that Clawson uses the term "Coltwood" in his magnificant works on the military O-frame automatics. Perhaps the term was coined by Colt internally in the WWII era to identify the early plastic stocks developed to speed WWII production, but I have never seen it in sales lterature until Post-War. Clawson examined factory records in writing his books, so that may be the explanation for the term being used in reference to guns made before the term appeared in sales literature after WWII.

Clawson also uses the term "Coltrock" which IS a non-conductive Bakelite-type product as used in the electrical division of Colt, just like Bakelite was a common item in electrical fixtures and devices. (Colt made many commercial products out of "Coltrock," not just electrical items. Some are ashtrays, containers of various kinds, etc.. I have a small makeup container marked "Coltrock.") Apparently, the switch from wood stocks in early WWII production was first to stocks made out of "Coltrock." "Coltwood," perhaps a new term coined for plastic inside Colt that was not the "Coltrock" product, then followed.

Clearly, further research is needed. Sorry rm if this offends. We are all trying to learn here, and this issue needs further clarifying and debate.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Puh-lease! NO offense taken, this is actually rather interesting.

I'm going to spend tonight going through my references and seeing what I have on Coltwood.

I think all of us who are interested in finding the correct answer should spend the night researching and then convene tomorrow night with our findings!

The question should be: When did the term Coltood firstappear and in what context? What is Coltwood?

Best,
RM Vivas
 

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The first references I can find to "Coltwood" grips, is in early Post-war advertising flyer's.

Every source I've ever seen referred to the Commando as having "plastic" grips, sometimes called Coltwood.

Plastic was available as early as pre-war days, and the war-time Colt grips AREN'T Bakelite.

The "Coltwood" name was cooked up by the sales department at Colt's to disguise the fact that the grips were actually plastic.

This was a day when plastics were very new to the public, and the words "plastic" and "Made in Japan" were watch-words for JUNK and TRASH.

"Coltwood" just sounded better to a buyer than the despised plastic.
 
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