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Here is a DS in 32 NP with an "R" suffix serial number which ought to be vintage 1977, according to various references. The shrouded barrel (4th issue) DS models appeared in 1973 and came with "target" walnut grips. As you can see, this DS has an un-shrouded barrel, short grip frame, "service" grips. I have no reason to believe that this particular gun isn't original based upon condition.

Could the 32 NP guns have carried over the features of the 3rd issue, or was Colt still building 3rd issue DS in 1977?

Colt Detective Special 32.jpg
 

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Here is a DS in 32 NP with an "R" suffix serial number which ought to be vintage 1977, according to various references. The shrouded barrel (4th issue) DS models appeared in 1973 and came with "target" walnut grips. As you can see, this DS has an un-shrouded barrel, short grip frame, "service" grips. I have no reason to believe that this particular gun isn't original based upon condition.

Could the 32 NP guns have carried over the features of the 3rd issue, or was Colt still building 3rd issue DS in 1977?

View attachment 737193
Yup. That's the answer. Colt still was selling .32 NP guns post '73, but they never actually produced any .32 NP barrels with the ejector shroud. They pretty much just wanted to use up what they had left and stopped selling them after they ran out.

The old style grips were likely used for the same reason and to match the un-shrouded barrel.
 

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I have one of the .32 NP revolvers with the leftover barrels...it came with the wraparound stocks standard with post-'72 D-frames. It looked kinda disproportional so I added pre-'72 stocks and it looks as it should.
 
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