Only Colt knows information like that, and it's never been published.
A lot of people would like to know information about Colt's like how many 2 1/2" Diamondbacks were produced, how many 3" Pythons were made, etc, but Colt has never released that info.
The 3" Detective Special is not extremely rare, but is uncommon.
Probably the rarest would be a pre-WWII model.
I don't even know for sure Colt MADE any 3" models pre-war, and if they did, it would be a special order.
Thanks for the information. I bought one a while back and was outbid at an auction on another. I like the balance better than the standard length. Since mine is a later model I'm Still looking for an earlier issue.
I was at a show in Ohio a few months back. One of the dealers there had a 3" DS, he wanted upwards of $500.00, he told me that I wouldn't see another in the area, well low and behold about a half an hour later a gentlemen was carrying one around (it was for sale). I now own it for a mere $200.00. When I went back to show the dealer what I had found.....well needless to say he didn't have much of a sense of humor, nor did he think I was very cute anymore!!! He wasn't very happy that I didn't purchase his.
Be aware that late model (shrouded 3") are very often faked. Like 3" Python barrels, Sportsmans Guide sold a large number 3" DS barrels a while back. These often show up on "gunshow specials." Luckily, since the 3" DS isn't worth as much as an equivalent Python, most counterfeitors are not taking the time to make a convincing conversion - thus, they're generally easy to spot.
I've made 3 such conversions myself, though each is clearly marked underneath the left grip panel. (One was made for my own use, and the others for good clients who are unlikely to ever sell them.) I've seen several at local gunshows, and I'm sure that there are many more being passed off as "original" around the country.
Also, as a side note I'll second dfariswheel's comment regarding pre-war examples: I have yet to see a pre-47 3" DS. I'm not going to say that there weren't any, but I have yet to see any proof that there were.
While NOT a pre war Detective Special,ONE D frame I sorta regret trading,was a 1922 vintage 3" Police Positive Special. It was all factory,I had the letter and provenance to a Concord,NH LEO who ordered it. Had wood stocks,on the narrower old style P.P. frame,that was standard. Even with a grip adapter,and standard velocity loads(lswchps and 4.5 Unique) it was a handful in rapid fire(I carried it for a while. This was traded off during my "purge" of all but 3 of my D frames,to concentrate on New Services and E frames.
About a 95% gun,I had a very experienced Colt dealer appraise it about a decade or so ago for $500,and then traded it buck even for a nice 98% S&W 2nd Model H.E. 5" .44 Special,to a Colt collector that had picked up this "oddball" in buying a few Colts in an estate sale.
Thanks for the info. I too feel mine is "original", it appeared to be the same exact thing as the dealer had. I examined both pieces closely, as I said they appeared identical? I too may have been had, but I still like it, and I'm not out a bundle of money.