Colt Forum banner

1 - 20 of 22 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hello, this is my first posting, so please go easy on me…

Not too long ago, I acquired a Colt Commando .38 revolver from a reputable online auction of the estate of a noted military collector and curator of the Texas Museum of Military History.

The unusual thing about this particular gun are the stocks - they are walnut (Colt Commandos typically had plastic “coltwood” grips).

The left stock has the military inspection stamp “RAC” (Rinaldo A. Carr, sub-inspector late 1800’s/early 1900’s), suggesting it was from an earlier Colt New Army or similar gun. The right stock has no markings and doesn’t appear to match the right stock.

But the important features are the inscriptions: outside left stock “Guadalcanal – New Georgia – Bougainville”, inside left stock “Lt. Col. Samuel B. Griffith” (this was not noted nor pictured in the auction, I found it when removing the stocks).

It is also stamped U.S.M.C. on the butt of the gun. I can’t determine if that’s an official Marine Corps stamping; at first I thought it might be U. S. Maritime Commission, as many of these were issued there.

Lt Col Samuel B. Griffith (retired Brigadier General) was the executive/commanding officer of the 1st Marine Raiders Battalion on Guadalcanal and other South Pacific island campaigns. He is also known for his expertise in Chinese military doctrine, having translated Mao Zedong's On Guerrilla War in 1961 and Sun Tzu's The Art of War in 1963. You can see more about him in Wikipedia ( Samuel B. Griffith - Wikipedia )

I requested and received a Colt factory letter, which indicated it was shipped to a Boston firearms dealer in late February 1947 (Williams Firearms Company, no longer in business). The serial number is very high, in the 46,0XX range. The order consisted of 12 guns.

Obviously, this gun could not have been involved in those epic campaigns, but I suspect it was his own personal customization, or perhaps a presentation piece.

The factory shipment date would put it around the time he was returning from various assignments in China, and transitioning to instructor at the Naval War College in Newport RI, which isn’t far from Boston (the location of the firearms dealer). It is also interesting to note that the rank is inscribed Lt. Col., though he was a full Colonel at that time (promoted June 1945). Most likely because that was the rank he held at the time of those campaigns…

The name of the model, Commando, may have some bearing, as he was an official U.S. observer of British Commando training early in the war.

Other than that, I am not sure how else to authenticate/provenance this gun. I was able to locate a Marine Corps officer who wrote his thesis on Griffith - he suggested I research it further through the Marine Corps History Division. I will do that at some point, but I suspect they would have no knowledge of this gun, unless it was officially presented to him. The Marine Corps officer was also of the opinion, and I tend to agree, that Griffith was not well known enough for someone to bother with faking the gun.

So if you have any suggestions on where else to look, or any comments/info, it would be much appreciated… sorry this is so long, I just wanted to capture all the details.

Sincerely, Wart-hog
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
477 Posts
Welcome to the forum from West Virginia. I will defer to the experts on your questions. Looks like you may have a great unique piece of history.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,601 Posts
Very early Commandos had Official Police checkered stocks until the plastic "Coltwood" stocks came on line.

The stocks could be matched though possibly not originally to that specific gun. The RAC could have nothing to do with Renaldo Carr...some other significance or someone else's initials or from a company or organization.

The stocks could have been from a completely different Colt and added to that revolver postwar. You'll probably never really know.

I doubt if the USMC is for the Maritime Commission...I have two Commandos that went there and neither has any such markings...I only know that because the Archives letters filled that in for me. If Colt added any government property markings it was normally on the backstop not the base of the frame but it's certainly possible.

Any information you can come up with on the revolver's history will be quite interesting. It's worthy of following up on.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,149 Posts
Might you have access to an early D/A Army with which to compare those grips with? Lots of interesting things going on with your acquisition. Thanks for sharing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
603 Posts
You seem to have a healthy outlook about this all. So I'm sure it won't be upsetting if you find out that the grips have nothing at all to do with the late Commando.

I believe your only hope is to find someone from the family who might know something.

And that is a slim hope.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,126 Posts
Rinaldo A. Carr stopped inspecting guns in 1909. They came from an Army M1903 or similar which was the same frame size as the Commando. The person issued the gun simply personalized it for himself. I would research the individual which is likely to be the most interesting part.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,654 Posts
If this Commando lettered as a commercial shipment of 12 in 1947, then that’s what it was and any speculations about the USMC being an official stamping, or any other connections other than a privately owned gun which was somehow connected to Col. Griffith, are pointless.

The RAC is a standard Carr acceptance stamp and it appears the owner replaced the brown plastic with which the gun would have shipped with a set of older DA .38 wooden stocks. A bit unusual, but perfectly doable; more often, the opposite happened and we find Official Police stocks on old Army/Navy frames.

I would agree with that Marine officer: Griffith, while distinguished, seems too obscure a person to have attracted an intentional faker; I’d take this as a commemorative project at face value, by whoever, even Griffith himself. Besides Griffith’s family, a long shot, I wouldn’t know how else to authenticate this gun.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,126 Posts
USMC marking is definitely not original. This was one of many Commandos that sat unused and was sold commercially for use by police departments, guard companies, etc. It’s anybody’s guess how it got personalized in this way.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
301 Posts
Interesting Commando. The only factory butt marking I've seen on a Commando was on the 300 shipped to the Massachusetts State Guard.

%22MASS%22 Commando butt.JPG
%22MASS%22 Commando butt.JPG
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,592 Posts
Welcome to the COLT Forum from the Cradle Of Liberty...Pennsylvania !!



Enjoy Our Community Sir...

.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Thank you all for your welcoming, insights, and information.

I agree that the stocks are not original to the gun, but from an earlier model. And that it is a civilian gun.

As for the stamping, I was theorizing that maybe with his Marine Corps connections and rank, he could have had that done at an armory, but it's not likely. I don't even know what an official stamping would look like.

Possibly all of the personalization was done at the LGS it was shipped to, but they are no longer in business.

As suggested, it looks like the best recourse would be to contact the family of Griffith. I did start to go down that path, but will need to push a little harder.

I did have one other oddball theory to check into - the inscriptions are on the left stock, which when holstered, would only present in a left-handed holster. And the gun does have some slight holster wear...

I do have a newbie question, though. I noticed that some members reveal full serial numbers, others don't (I decided not to, because I wasn't sure)... is there a specific reason for not revealing full numbers, besides privacy?

Thanks again for your support... Wart-hog
 

·
*** ColtForum MVP ***
Joined
·
14,893 Posts
The reason for partial serial number listings is privacy.
Some people just don't want the public knowing the serial number of their guns.
One reason is that people fear someone may claim the gun was stolen from them and try to have it seized.

The grips are obviously from a Colt New Army model revolver and were probably added to replace "Coltwood" plastic grips as used on the Commando.

The USMC marking was possibly added by the owner, but a USMC stamp that's often mistaken for a US Marine firearm is the United Shoe Machinery Company, which during WWII made parts for military firearms.
This is often seen on replacement parts for 1903 Springfield rifles refurbished for the war.
This is often mistaken to indicate the rifle was a Marine rifle.

A remote possibility is that this Commando was manufactured for the United Shoe Company guard force during the war and so stamped, but not shipped, then sold commercially after the war and the USMC stamp was seen by Col Griffith and bought.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
A remote possibility is that this Commando was manufactured for the United Shoe Company guard force during the war and so stamped, but not shipped, then sold commercially after the war and the USMC stamp was seen by Col Griffith and bought.
Hello dfariswheel, an interesting theory, I wonder if anyone on the forum has such a revolver.... this revolver shipped in 1947, though it was manufactured "sometime" in 1945.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,654 Posts
A remote possibility is that this Commando was manufactured for the United Shoe Company guard force during the war and so stamped, but not shipped, then sold commercially after the war....
I think this is indeed quite remote, mostly because the butt marking does not appear up to factory standards. Noticeable is the non-alignment and especially the way they cratered the periods. Below a comparison to known mid-century factory jobs.


711243
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,557 Posts
I have seen knives marked for the shoe company, but never a gun. There was also the U.S. Maritime Commission which did receive quite a few revolvers--mostly S&W Victories--to place on Liberty ships bound for Great Britain. However, they generally had standard markings.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Actually, I just remembered this, I was in contact with Beverly Haynes (Colt Historian) prior to requesting the factory letter. She had stated "The only thing I can confirm for you without actually researching the serial number is that the USMC marking is not a factory marking. The factory never would have used such prominent periods in between each letter".
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10,535 Posts
You never know if something like that was made up after the war by a veteran, or simply someone "doctoring" it's history. With shipment in 1947 I lean toward the latter.

The periods in the USMC appear to have been applied with a center punch.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Hi Krill, nice butt (stamping)... with this and the input from others, here is the way I see it:

1.) the revolver was shipped from Colt as plain vanilla (no stamping with Coltwood grips) to a civilian firearms dealer in 1947 (per Colt factory letter)
2.) this dealer or someone undetermined modified the revolver by adding the U.S.M.C. stamping, stocks from an M1903 or similar Colt, and inscribing the stocks.
3.) it would be an assumption that Griffith or an acquaintance had the work performed, though that is the most likely scenario (it probably wasn't faked, just personalized)
4.) it can't be determined from the revolver itself that it belonged to Griffith
5.) the only way to prove provenance is to locate someone who knew of this revolver. Possibly a Griffith family member, family member of the military historian who previously owned it, or by researching Marine Corps historical archives (on the unlikely chance that it was formally presented to him).

My gut feeling is that this revolver belonged to Griffith, but it still needs to be proven... Looks like I have my work cut out for me!

After this, my next research project is a 1917 Police Positive .32 that has the name of the police commissioner of Memphis, TN engraved on it...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,557 Posts
I think you've got a correct, if optimistic, handle on it. An affidavit from a family member is probably your best bet.
 
1 - 20 of 22 Posts
Top