FYI the top one is a DSII, & the bottom is actually an SFVI. Yes the top one is in the less common 3" barrel. If they were both the same barrel length & laying on the other side where you can't see the roll mark, you probably couldn't tell the difference between the 2 of them in original trim (grips).
The DSII is the successor to the SFVI. Both use the transfer bar system as opposed to the earlier Detective Special with firing pin on hammer. The Magnum Carry was the successor to the DSII.
With out giving you the whole course on D-frame 101, the DSII came about because of public (buyer) pressure. You may know that the Detective Special was reintroduced in 1993 & discontinued in 1994. However the buying public still favored a snubnose Colt. So to satisfy the demand, Colt introduced the SFVI in 1995. Basically the same look as the previous Detective Special, but using a transfer bar type system. Other differences without going through all of them included new front sighting, counterbored barrel, etc.
But the public did not accept the SFVI as a true Detective Special. After all it made no reference to Detective Special anywhere. And the fickle public did not accept the new name, & wanted to know just what the heck does SFVI mean anyway. So the SFVI became the wayward child that no body wanted after only 1 year in production. Sure it looks like a Detective Special, but without the reference, it was doomed.
However the need for a small snub remained. So Colt basically changed the roll mark on the SFVI to say DSII, for Detective Special 2nd version (not to be confused with 2nd issue) & the DSII was born. But he too live a short life as the Magnum Carry became the Colt snub in 1997.
I think you should buy one! Heck buy them both. Buy an example of every one of them. Before you know it, you'll be hooked on D-frames.
To add the the above:
The SF-VI name meant Small Frame-Six Shot.
This was Colt's new "SF" frame.
When it hit the market, everyone more or less said "What the Hell kind of name is THAT for a Colt?"
The reason was, there were still a fair number of old model "D" frame Detective Specials in the wholesalers pipeline, and Colt didn't want the headaches from customers ordering a Detective Special and getting some new gun that had a similar name.
As soon as the Detective Specials were out of the wholesalers stock rooms, Colt renamed the gun to The DS-II, which is taken to mean Detective Special Two.
I have some issues with the design and execution of the "SF" Colt guns, but with the resurgence of the revolver as a concealed carry pistol, I have hopes Colt will re-introduce it as soon as they can get on firmer footing.
It wouldn't take too much to fix the design shortages, and we'd have something close to the stainless Detective Special I always wanted.
I already am hooked on D-Frame Colts. Just needed to know how many more versions my collection needs. Thanks, gents, at least I am assuming you are gents.
This is first photo of a 3-inch DS I have seen and it will be a big help. Seems I am sitting with a late model Police Positive Special in one hand and a couple of 3-inch DS barrels in the other. Might be a new barrel going on that PPS, to make a psuedo-DS with 3-inch barrel. And do you agree that the top strap seems thicker on the DS-II?