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Collect older handguns from Colt and S&W primarily
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I saw a Colt New Service for sale today, a quick look through the glass dispaly case showed it to be in great shape, with a 5.5" (I think) barrel and it was chambered in .38 WCF (.38-40). The price tag said $1,450.00 and it came with a padded, zipper pistol case and a box of "cowboy" .38-40 cartridges. A closer inspection showed it was made in 1920 (serial #310XXX), but as I looked it over more closely, the barrel just didn't look quite right. I asked the shop owner if it had been reblued and he said no, but the finish on the barrel seemed more polished that that of the cylinder and frame, plus there were some "striations" near the patent dates on top of the barrel and some rounding of the letters/numbers. What really brought out the "Doubting Thomas" in me was the barrel-cylinder gap. This revolver had the tightest b-c gap I'd ever seen and when I cocked the hammer, there seemed to be some perceptable "drag." In the area of the forcing cone I could also see one of the barrel theads barely peaking out, plus the front sight had some tiny "dings" on the rear surface. For those big bucks I had to shy away. Did I screw up or should I run back first thing in the morning and plunk down my hard-earned $$$??? For that kinda money I want something both collectible and shootable, not just a shooter.
 

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I guess the COP comes out in me. I have always said, "If it does not feel right in your gut. Then something is wrong". Save your money and the right one will come along. JMHO. I'm sure some experts will come along and give you the right advice. Dennis
 

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Yep..dont make the mistake to try to convince yourself its origional when you know its not.
 

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I can't say much about the barrel's appearance, but how much end shake and headspace it had could give you clues if anything was done to the barrel. It sounds to me like the rear of the barrel was cut back and the forcing cone not recut.

  • Check the headspace at the rear of the cylinder. If it's about 0.065"-0.070", it's about right.
  • Then check endshake. It should be nearly nothing, say 0.001"-0.003".
  • Now open the cylinder. If the front face of the cylinder can move in front of the barrel rear by any amount, someone has set the barrel back one turn and then faced off the rear of the barrel to create a no-endshake condition not based on proper means. In other words, rather than stretching the crane and then fixing B/C gap, they have made it appear that endshake doesn't exist - I suspect for the fleecing of an unsuspecting buyer. Since the cut-off forcing cone has not been fixed, that increases my skepticism.
  • If the open cylinder face doesn't move in front of the barrel rear, and the endshake when closed is acceptable, the barrel can be fixed by facing it off to correct B/C standards, and re-cutting the forcing cone. However, since that is an extra cost, his price is too high - offer him $800 if you're not sure about the barrel originality.

Buck
 

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I saw a Colt New Service for sale today, a quick look through the glass dispaly case showed it to be in great shape, with a 5.5" (I think) barrel and it was chambered in .38 WCF (.38-40). The price tag said $1,450.00 and it came with a padded, zipper pistol case and a box of "cowboy" .38-40 cartridges. A closer inspection showed it was made in 1920 (serial #310XXX), but as I looked it over more closely, the barrel just didn't look quite right. I asked the shop owner if it had been reblued and he said no, but the finish on the barrel seemed more polished that that of the cylinder and frame, plus there were some "striations" near the patent dates on top of the barrel and some rounding of the letters/numbers. What really brought out the "Doubting Thomas" in me was the barrel-cylinder gap. This revolver had the tightest b-c gap I'd ever seen and when I cocked the hammer, there seemed to be some perceptable "drag." In the area of the forcing cone I could also see one of the barrel theads barely peaking out, plus the front sight had some tiny "dings" on the rear surface. For those big bucks I had to shy away. Did I screw up or should I run back first thing in the morning and plunk down my hard-earned $$$??? For that kinda money I want something both collectible and shootable, not just a shooter.

I feel you made the correct choice, by 'walking away' on this one.

'Striations' on the Barrel Texts is indeed a typical sign of a clumsy Polishing, which would be associated with a less than 'Professional' Grade re-Blue.

Barrel Gap. or Cylinder Gap between Cylinder and the Forcing Cone...should be 'next to nuthin'...if it is larger than that, indeed, something is not right.
 

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I bought a New Service in the calibre years ago. It looked very good in the gun show florescent lighting, but I had a tiny doubt. I bought it anyway. When I got it home, in natural light, I could tell....just barely, it had been reblued. However, there was no pitting, and some early colts blue was thin, and rubbed off. In those cases they were reblued, and mine was done well.
 

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Collect older handguns from Colt and S&W primarily
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the advise all; especially you Buck!
 
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