Colt Forum banner

Greek Contract .38 Army Special (Now with Range Report in Post # 11!)

4879 Views 16 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  DCWilson
Today I took delivery of the 1916 Army Special I mentioned in another thread last week and found it was in a lot better condition than I expected it to be. The seller's photos made it look completely unblued and a little pitted, but I was willing to tolerate that in a shooter with some interesting history.

Instead, I find the gun has a lot of blue left, though it is extensively freckled. There is no surface pitting, and the rust I found under the stocks came off with some break-free and serious rubbing.

Some pics, with comments interspersed. That 4-1/2" barrel still looks a little odd to me, but I guess I will get used to it.

The inventory number is 23762; the serial number is 415816.

I have decided that the Epsilon Sigma abbreviation must stand for ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟΣ ΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ, or Greek Army. There is a variant stamping Epsilon Beta Sigma which I have not seen in person but have read references to. I would expect that to stand for ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΙΚΟΣ ΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ, or Greek Royal Army. A few guns are seen with a Beta Nu stamping for ΒΑΣΙΛΙΚΟN ΝΑΥΤΙKΟN, or Royal Navy.

TBOCF says about 25500 Army Specials were provided to Greece under military contract, with numbers reaching as high as 413000. This gun, and one other I know about with a serial number above 416000, suggest that the statement is incorrect. In addition, the grips on my gun have two different numbers on them. One panel is number 415816, like the gun. The other panel is numbered 417005. The fact that it is also a smooth walnut stock unlike the hard rubber grips offered on other Army Specials of the period makes me think the Greek contract must have included at least a few revolvers numbered above 417000.

The recoil shield seems unmarred by cartridge slap. I don't think this gun was fired very much, though its surface suggests it was handled, cleaned, and carried a lot. I know it was fired some because there is a little powder residue on the front of the cylinder. On the other hand, the fouling cup and breech end of the barrel seem unstained.

The stampings are crisp and clear:

There is also a familiar VP stamp at the usual place where the front of trigger guard joins the frame.

Looks like somebody may have gone after some rust or other problem on the sideplate with a little more energy than foresight. But the horse is clear and the steel does not look seriously damaged.

The hammer and trigger are completely blued, except where rotational friction has removed the finish. At first I thought this was evidence of refinishing, but then I saw other pictures of Army Specials with blued sides to the hammer and trigger.

This angle is pretty good at showing how much of the finish is left on some parts of the gun.

The action was resistant and draggy when I got it, so I tore it apart for cleaning. There was a lot of varnish, tar and sludge in there, but break-free, scrubbing, and toothpick scraping got most of it out. When reassembled, the action was fast, crisp and tight. Lockup is excellent. Bore and chambers are bright with only a few tiny cloudy spots that I think will polish right out.

There was actually so much sludge on the frame around the screw holes that the sideplate sat a little proud. After cleaning, everything is back together with proper mating of surfaces.

This "before" photo doesn't look too bad, but there was a major layer of grime underneath the hammer and safety block, and parts were at least a little sticky on both sides. Took me about three hours to get it mostly clean, and if I were totally responsible I would take it apart again and throw all the pieces in a bucket of solvent lube for a couple of days before I went back to it. I should have taken an "after" picture but didn't.

So I'm really pleased with the way this acquisition turned out. Once again, a tip of my hat to Charles, who tipped me off to this gun's availability. I'll probably take it along to the range on my next outing. Expect a report.

See less See more
1 - 17 of 17 Posts
Great initial report with nice detailed photos. It is nice to see this revolver. I've only seen a one other grubby revolver in a lesser quality photo. These Greek Colt Army Specials are interesting. Thanks for the information. Looking forward to a range report.
Very nice. Thanks for sharing. I love the Army Special. I know it's a lot of work cleaning these older guns but it feels good when your done.
There was a lot of varnish, tar and sludge in there, but break-free, scrubbing, and toothpick scraping got most of it out.
Yeah, just needs a little squirt of oil.
Cleaned up pretty darn nice. Good job. Great historic old Colt you have there.
great gun, informative post and superb pics! you done good, dcwilson.


Wow!! :) You got a great deal! Thanks for posting the marvelous results of your rehab work.

I hope that mine looks 1/2 as good as yours when Chicoine gets finished with it!!

I did a little reading on the subject and attributed the Greek markings to the "Hellenic Army". Is this the same as the Greek Royal Army?


I did a little reading on the subject and attributed the Greek markings to the "Hellenic Army". Is this the same as the Greek Royal Army?

Yes. The full name of the force was the Greek Royal Army or Royal Greek Army (adjective order in the English translation is not necessarily the same as it is in Greek). Sometimes the "Royal" is omitted for brevity's sake. "Hellenic" and "Greek" are interchangeable translations for the remaining adjective.

I bet your gun is going to look great. I have never had Dave Chicoine work on a gun of mine, but he's the guy I would go to if I needed some serious work done. Whenever I see photos of Chicoine's work, it never looks like an opportunity for excellence has been missed. I know you reported in the thread on your gun that Dave had found some rust that took root under the cosmoline and tied up the cylinder. I am betting when you get it back you will wonder if there was ever a problem. I'm really looking forward to seeing pictures of your reborn revolver.

I am becoming fonder and fonder of this Army Special with every passing moment. Part of it is the smooth walnut stocks found on the Greek order. These guns resemble slightly downsized 1917s.
See less See more
Yeah, just needs a little squirt of oil.

No tyrant should ever be allowed to die of old age.
Is that a quote from someone? Sounds like Rob't Heinlein.
Range Report!

This old warhorse seems to shoot fairly well at close-in ranges. I shot a few sighting rounds at about seven yards to see where the rounds landed compared to point of aim, found the gun hit a little low and left, then hung this paper with a marked POA at 1:30 on the ring. A dozen rounds of Winchester 148 gr WC ammo gave this result.

Looks like I could have tried 2:30 on the ring and maybe grouped a little better around the center.

My accuracy was laughable and painful at 15 yards, but at seven I could at least keep the holes in the red. My judgment is that this gun could have been an effective weapon at close combat distances. (Except that I was shooting single action and taking my time, which is a good prescription for being dead at combat distances.)
See less See more
Very cool.

I have a serious weak spot for vintage military arms.....or to quote Kenobi..."A more elegant weapon, for a more civilized age...."

Great pictures, great history.

I wonder if it wasn't a bring back from WWII....a G.I. might have picked it up in Italy, Greece, or Yugoslavia.
the greek .38s were available on the surplus market in the 60s, and i read that a new batch came in a couple of years ago.
Good to see that it is still hanging in there.
I had a Greek Army Special in 32-20 Years ago,sold it
before I realized it was rare.Anyone else ever see one?
If I saw a Greek Contract revolver in some caliber other than .38 Special I would think a Greek Army frame had been stripped of its original barrel and cylinder, then fitted with different ones after it was decommissioned and reimported.

I'm completely open to education on this point, but sitting here in my current state of knowledge I don't think the gun you describe would be one that left the factory in that configuration.
1 - 17 of 17 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.