I bought this gun from an antique & firearms shop, via Gunbroker, in September, 2011. I had no reason to place any particular emphasis on it other than its being a well-kept, ‘first year’ separate series, Officer’s Model Target .22. It is Serial #508, made in 1930.
I briefly listed it for sale a couple months back, here in our classifieds. But shortly thereafter, with no activity, I withdrew its listing and instead ordered a Colt Archive Letter on it.
I recently received the letter and it indicates that #508 was first owned by, then U.S. Army Major, Julian Hatcher.
Colt’s Archive Letter:
Julian Sommerville Hatcher was born in Hayfield, Virginia on June 26, 1888. He died December 4, 1963. Major Hatcher was well known as a firearms expert and writer of books on ballistics, military weapons and automatic weaponry. He authored, among other publications, “Hatcher’s Notebook” (1947), “Book of the Garand” (1948), “Pistols and Revolvers and Their Use” (1927) and the “Hatcher’s Scale” (probably the first attempt at determining stopping power of handgun rounds by a formulation system; developed in the 1930’s.)
Hatcher's Theory Of Relative Stopping Power
As a writer, Major Hatcher accounted for 23 works in 112 publications in 1 language and 1,093 library holdings. He served in the military during both WWI and WWII. He retired from the U.S. Army as a Major General and served as Technical Editor of NRA’s magazine, “The American Rifleman”. He appeared on the cover of the December 1954 issue of that magazine. (See the first photo, above)
Ironically, he graduated, in 1909, from Annapolis’ Naval Academy with honors, but voluntarily transferred from the Navy, after 14 months, to the Army’s coast artillery. He became Chief of the Small Arms Division in the Ordnance Department and the Assistant Commandant of the Ordnance School.
Proficient with long arms and handguns alike, he worked closely with Springfield Armory as an engineering trouble-shooter in resolving early production issues associated with the initial iterations of the M1 Garand Rifle. He appeared (see below), in an ad for Colt and specifically the Colt Officer’s Model Target .22. Looking at the timeline of the Archive Letter and Major Hatcher’s June 2, 1930 letter to Colt’s, reproduced in the ad, it’s quite evident that the gun he references was this one, the #508 Officer’s Model Target.
Earlier history on Lt. Hatcher, that I found on the internet, disclosed that in 1916, the Hotchkiss M1909 Benét-Mercié machine gun was in general use with the U.S. Army and was seeing action during the Punitive Expedition against the bandit Pancho Villa. But reports of its use in Mexico indicated the gun was not functioning properly. Investigation revealed that the chief problems were the 30-round metallic feed strips used in the gun and inexperienced gunners. It was Lieutenant Hatcher who was sent to the border to solve the problems. He found that none of the soldiers had been taught the proper use of the weapon. He set up the Army's first machine gun school and was soon turning out trained crews. Soon, the Benét-Mercié proved to be an effective weapon.
Major Hatcher was later instrumental in developing a solution to the vexing problem of brittle metal in early M1903 receivers built by Springfield and Rock Island Arsenals. His solution to the "grenading" of receivers when shell cases failed catastrophically was to drill a gas vent hole in the left side of the receiver adjacent to the breech. This hole would allow gases escaping from a ruptured case to be exhausted safely and away from the face of the shooter. Dubbed the "Hatcher Hole", the modification was typically added to receivers at overhaul.
He was the first Commanding General of the Ordnance Training Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground – from January 1, 1940 to June 1, 1942 – and was Chief of the Military Training Division, Office of the Chief of Ordnance, from June 2, 1942 to February 1, 1943. From February 2, 1943 to July 31, 1945, General Hatcher was Chief of Field Service, Ordnance Department, the most critical years of World War II.
From what I was able to research, Major General Hatcher kept this Colt Officer's Target revolver, and the balance of his firearms collection, until his death in 1963. At some point after about 1949, the series became the “Officer’s Model Special” and was subsequently offered with a Wide Hammer Spur. Apparently, the Major General liked the new feature so well that he incorporated a new wide spur hammer into #508’s frame. A superb installation job, it functions flawlessly.
Julian Sommerville Hatcher is buried at Arlington National Cemetery:
My Archive Letter and succeeding research on the Major has been a fun and rewarding journey. And I sincerely want to thank Paul Szymaszek, of the Colt’s Archive Department for his gracious guidance on the Colt Officer’s Target #508.