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Discussion Starter #1
I recently aquired a DA 'Colt Army Special 38' with a last patent date July 4 1905. The serial is 404xxx which places it in 1915 production. This revolver is in 95%+ original condition with near perfect plastic/composite grips. I have dealt with the elderly seller for many years and he is notorious for pulling great old items out of his closet. He has never been known as a story teller. That is he never tries to pump items up with stories and/or research. He just throws things out on his table and sells them. However, this time he mentioned after I made the purchase that he obtained the subject revolver from a good friend, a career FBI agent, who indicated to him that it had been his first service weapon. The seller further indicated that the original owner passed away in the late '90s and was very old.

My question is, what is the best way to research the ownership of this revolver? Do FBI delivered weapons bear unique serial number characteristics (ie special prefix/suffix)? I hesitate contacting the FBI directly to do the research as I would hate for them to try to claim it.

I would appreciate any suggestions for this research.

Scott
 

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Welcome to the forum. I am not the expert, but there are other members who may have very specific knowledge or suggestions. Hang in there until the right person(s) views your post. A likely suggestion is to obtain a letter from Colt. That often (usually?) identifies where or to whom the revolver was delivered. It may or may not be specific enough to completely satisfy your curiosity. /forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif
 

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Calvin and A1A,

Thanks for the welcome. I will go through the Colt lettering process. I am a pretty patient person and will plug along on the research. These days I get more pleasure from research then actual ownership. In any case I will keep the forum posted.

Scott
 

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Scott,

Let us know what you find out. If what you have is an FBI issue gun that would be a pretty early one. They have a history on their website that I just looked at and their origins begin in 1908. Good luck.
 

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I'm going by a hazy memory, but I believe the FBI was not authorized to carry guns until the 1930s. I recall that the authorization was given about a week AFTER Melvin Purvis shot down a gangster
 

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You may be right. I found the following on their website:

"During the early and mid-1930s several crucial decisions solidified the Bureau's position as the nation's premier law enforcement agency. Responding to the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, in 1932, Congress passed a federal kidnapping statute. Then in May and June 1934, with gangsters like John Dillinger evading capture by crossing over state lines, it passed a number of federal crime laws that significantly enhanced the Bureau's jurisdiction. In the wake of the Kansas City Massacre, Congress also gave Bureau Agents statutory authority to carry guns and make arrests."
 

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the fbi are basically federal police, prior to the fdr administration there was very few federal crimes for anyone to break, hence the need for a federal police was very small. there were very few agents in those early years and your 1915 dom makes me suspect your seller is a little windy. most federal property will be marked as such. but you never know till you get it lettered.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I am going to be having lunch with an old boss who was head of the FBI Chicago Bank Robbery squad and retired as head of a local office. I am confidant he can help me with background on the agents name. Maybe more.

I agree with the research that shows the FBI was not authorized to carry firearms until the '30s. This timing is only a negative if it is assumed that the FBI procured all new weapons for its agents. For those familiar with the government this may be a stretch. A search on the Sprinfield Research service site showed that the majority of serails in the range delivered to a federal law enforcement related agency.

I will keep the board posted on results.

Scott
 

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To answer part of your question, FBI guns are not marked and they don't carry a specific prefix for the serial number. The issue guns are purchased under contract - I came in right after the S&W 1076 was pulled, and my class was issued SIG 226s by piggybacking on an existing DEA contract. We've since settled on the Glock 22 for general issue, though some 23s are issued in certain circumstances.

The Bureau has always had a great deal of latitude in allowing agents to carry personally owned/Bureau approved handguns, though the list has shrunk dramatically in the past few years. I turned in the 226 almost immediately, and have carried a personally owned Sig P220 my whole career. It is not even on the approved list anymore, but mine is grandfather in. I used to carry a Chief's Special as a backup, but I swapped it for the Glock 27 when they came out (both personally owned). I even had an old (circa 1940) pre-Model 27 Smith and Wesson .357 on my carry list, but they cut us back to two POWs, so I had to drop the big Smith. As of 12/31/2004, no revolvers are authorized for FBI use. We can no longer buy our issue guns from the government upon retirement, so I don't have an issue gun. I'm not going to carry something for 20 plus years, then turn it in to be destroyed.

None of these guns show any outward signs of FBI service - even the issue 226 looked like any other one you'd see. If you run the serial number in NCIC there are no indications of Bureau heritage either. Your gun could be a personally owned gun carried by an old-time agent, there is really no way to tell. It is too early to show up in any inventory currently maintained. If you know the name of the owner, you can find out if he was ever an FBI SA, which would lend some credence to the story. When I came in, the few guys who were still grandfathered in to carry Colts prized them highly. The only one's I saw were one Colt Trooper and a Python, both blue four inchers. The Bureau was always heavily dependent on Smith and Wessons - I knew guys who carried their Model 13s right up until the bitter end.

Hope this helps, sorry for being long winded.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Homerfan,

Thank you very much for your response. It puts the issue in some perspective. I suspect that the issue sidearm subject has received much more regulation from the Bureau over time than in earlier days. The agents last name was O'Hagan. The seller referred to him as "John" although as you know this is no guarantee of his given name. Could also be William J. I will verify this weekend when I see the seller again. My goal is to research the agent and verify personal ownership and/or Bureau issue. How would you suggest researching the agent?

Scott
 

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There is a society of former agents, and they publish a monthly magazine called The Grapevine. Their website is www.socxfbi.org. If that doesn't work it pops up first in a Google search of society of former FBI agents. That would be a good place to start - one of those old boys would probably be tickled to find out if there was an SA O'Hagan.
 
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