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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello - I have a Colt 38 Army Special and the grip frame on front and back is painted black. Is there any significance to this ? The serial # is 73133H and the overall frame is case hardened.

Thanks
 

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The frame's merely turned grey with age - Colt didn't caseharden the DAs.

The black paint was probably applied to make the piece look better - a very common practice in Latin America.

Photos would help.
 

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You need to recheck the serial number. That number is way to low to be an Army Special.
Army Special serial numbers started at 291000.
The Army Special serial number was stamped on the frame just under the barrel where the cylinder crane seats, and on the cylinder crane itself.

If the number is stamped on the bottom of the butt, it's either not an Army Special, or the number is a police or security guard ID number.

If the "H" is below the serial number it's a factory inspectors stamp and has nothing to do with the serial.

Grip frames tend to wear the finish off easily from handling, so you sometimes see them painted to prevent rust and make them look "better??"
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks guys. In looking this over I think the serial # on the open crane area has been ground off and only a "t" remains. Also the frame butt looks to be ground and stamped with the serial numbers I mentioned above. There is one like this at local pawn shop but it has all the correct markings you guys talked about. They actually want $480 for it and that seems way high to me. How do you guys feel about that price? Thanks for your help.

Revolver Gun barrel Steel Metal
Firearm Gun Revolver Trigger Gun accessory
 

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The price is too high by a fair bit.

You also have a serious problem if you own the pictured Army Special that has had the serial number ground off.
Possessing a firearm with an altered or removed serial number is a Federal Felony crime.
Get caught with it and you could very well be looking a Federal or State charges, with the gun being confiscated at a minimum.
 

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Thanks guys. In looking this over I think the serial # on the open crane area has been ground off and only a "t" remains. Also the frame butt looks to be ground and stamped with the serial numbers I mentioned above. There is one like this at local pawn shop but it has all the correct markings you guys talked about. They actually want $480 for it and that seems way high to me. How do you guys feel about that price? Thanks for your help.

View attachment 49174 View attachment 49175
Can you post some images showing the Serial Number? Or, whatever is left of it? Or, of the place it used to be, before being possibly ground off?

In theory, Serial Number may also be located inside the inside-side of the Side Plate ( for what it's worth ).
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks guys - Why would someone go to the trouble of stamping a serial # on the bottom of the grip frame ? Did any of these get reworked or refurbished like a lot of the Lugers were?
 

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Colt stopped stamping serial numbers on the butt sometime around the very early 1900's.
It was too easy to remove the number, so Colt started stamping serial numbers on the frame below the barrel where the cylinder crane seats and on the crane.
This was much more difficult to remove without leaving obvious signs.

On the Army Special and later Colt revolvers, numbers and letters stamped on the butt were police, industrial company guard, or private security company identification stamps, NOT serial numbers.
So the numbers on your guns butt are some sort of issue or ID stamp, not a serial number.

Re-worked or re-built Colt's were never renumbered. Once stamped on the frame, Colt never changed the number.
 

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You can request ATF to issue a new serial number under the circumstances. I bought a Colt Model 639 (XM177-E2), unfired in the box with matching serial number flash/sound suppressor. Colt sold only 100 of these to a non-military purchaser "Aeromarine" who provided Colt with export paperwork. Aeromarine then never completed the export - I bet by choice just to obtain the weapons? Who knows, maybe their export deal fell through and they were left with 100 highly-desirable weapons legal for US individuals to own. Anyway, my seller told me he traded Heinrich Himmler's personal banner for it. The serial number on the suppressor has a story. After Colt designed the flash suppressor, ATF ruled it to be a sound suppressor as it reduced muzzle blast by 3 decibels. Owners of the 100 machineguns were sent a letter by ATF to turn in the suppressors. Most buyers did, but a handful like my seller refused numerous requests by ATF on the basis it was not a "sound" suppressor when he purchased it. ATF apparently realized their request to turn it in was a violation of the ex-post facto clause of the Constitution; i.e., you can't turn an action legal when undertaken into illegal. Same as the amnesty allowed when the law changed in 1934 with old machineguns purchased legally prior to the NFA of 1934. Finally ATF relented if you submitted the "offending" suppressor for numbering. Unless requested, ATF stamped "ATF xxxx" but my seller insisted on a matching number with the weapon. My gun's ATF stamped/etched serial number was noticeably shiny against the parkerized original finish. So I think you have a basis for a new serial number, but it would likely take some time and hassle to do so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Looks like I'm hosed on this one. I bought it just as a wall hanger so no intentions of ever shooting or selling it. This is an awkward situation and I don't know how I should deal with it. Any suggestions. Can I get it somehow legal by working through the Sheriff's office?
 

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Probably not.
In fact, there's a good chance if the Sheriff's office people know they're stuff, they may well confiscate it.
If they don't know their stuff, they may tell you it's legal, which it isn't.

Options:

Talk to the BATF in your area. If you're uncomfortable with that, have a lawyer do it for you. Last I heard they had a process where they can assign a new serial number and a gunsmith can stamp the number on the gun making it legal again.
I doubt anyone is going to get too excited about a gun that was made in the early 20th Century, so there shouldn't be a lot of drama in getting this done.

Deactivate the gun. This would mean making it permanently and forever unable to be fired. Cutting off the firing pin and welding the firing pin hole in the frame shut might be enough.
If you are going to make a wall hanger of it, again, I doubt anyone is going to get excited about an antique revolver that's been rendered incapable of firing.

This could be helped by deactivating the gun then mounting it in a shadow box frame that can be hung on the wall.
Most people seeing that are going to assume it isn't even a real gun.
 
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