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.