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I'm new to this forum, but it seems the most appropriate place to ask a few questions about my new purchase of a 1956 Detective Special (see photos).

I picked this up from one of those gun auction sites for a deal (so I think). I believe it was $350. I've shot about 50 rounds through it and it functions perfectly. I bought it because I've always been a fan of old noire films, but after owning it and shooting enough to want to keep it, I think I might use it for a carry gun. But before I do that, there's a few things I am trying to decide.

First, what is a collectible Detective Special? I've heard pre-war and post-war tossed about, so I'm assuming pre-war is the more valuable era. This DS appears to be the 2nd generation, which is more appealing to me than the subsequent versions.

Second, there's generous holster wear on the DS from the previous owner(s). Not that it bothers me, in fact it adds character, but I'm concerned if some of the "character" is in fact pitting or other damage. You see, my only other gun that is not your typical "new" gun is an old '55 M1, so I don't have experience in firearms of this age to determine if the wear is honest or otherwise.

Third, what would be the recommendation of folks here that I send this to Colt for a finish resembling its original? I'm assuming their standard blue vs the Royal Blue is what would have been the accurate bluing during the year in which this DS was made. I'm not a collector, per se, but if this DS were to decrease in value tremendously by doing so, I probably won't. My main motivation for wanting to have Colt refinish it is so that I have a pretty piece that I have made my own. Any wear that I cause afterwards is mine ... nothing like honest wear that I've made myself. The reason I wouldn't want to refinish it if value is severely affected is because I am only married to a few guns and the rest I could reasonably part with so I wouldn't want to do anything that hits me in the pocketbook twice: in the value of the gun and the cost of Colt's refinish service.

Lastly, I've seen people utilize Colt's archival service and I'd like to know, is this a good buy? I'm only slightly curious how this DS came to be, but then again knowing that might change everything I've just said. As my wife says, I contradict myself every time I open my mouth.

Any help is greatly apprecaited.

IMG_0698.jpg IMG_0700.jpg IMG_0696.jpg IMG_0694.jpg
 

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The Searcher
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Welcome to the forum. I think you got a good buy. While collectible is relative, its value is in keeping it as is. Despite a recent rush by many to have their revolvers refinished by Colt, Colt can not refinish guns with the same finish as is original to this gun. Having it refinished, even by Colt, would significantly reduce whatever collector appeal and value it has. There are those who like to have archive letters for most if not all of their Colts, just for their own knowledge and on the outside chance their gun might have a surprisingly cool history. You will get many answers on both counts and in the end the choice is still yours. :cool:
 

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I agree with A1A on the refinish topic. Even the most worn Colts need to be left in the original unless appearance out weighs reduced value. Personally I think that original wear adds a lot of character to classic pistols. A letter for your DS will cost ~$75, but provides good info. Usually official letters improve the overall value of these old guns. My '78 Nickel DS pictured. Very nice find and enjoy.
 

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Chris, welcome to Coltforum, and congratulations on your new-to-you DS, likely the finest snubby ever manufactured.

At $350, you got a good deal.

Your Colt Detective Special is neither rare, nor high condition. Colt build millions of DSs over the years. Your DS is not what I would consider a "collector's gun." Thus, I see no harm in refinishing it if you wish, as it is your revolver, after all.

I also do not see how a refinish could reduce the value from the low price of $350, other than to high end purist collectors like our very own fine collector, Judge Colt. I could see a factory refinish adding a little bit of value (just not to collectors who, for the most part, would simply pass on a common, refinished DS), but it would not add to the value the same amount that Colt charges to refinish the gun.

Maybe one day in the future your DS will be considered collectible, but not now - and not ever, if you refinish it.

That said, I sent a pre-war Detective Special to Colt for refinishing, they did a great job, and in spite of some objections from our Coltforum purist collectors, I really like the way it came out. Colt checks and adjusts the mechanicals for free (unless parts are needed) when they refinish a revolver.
 

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^^^ What he said.

Unless its rare, really old, really valuable, or has rare provenance, I come down in the refinish camp.

If you send it to Colt it will come back looking new (or newish, if you're a purist), and you won't be decreasing any value by shooting it at that point. Instead of a worn old Colt you'll have a shiny new looking old Colt that you can shoot all you want without worrying about leaving smudges on it.

Welcome to the forum, and you'll find that theses kind of refinish questions come up from time to time and there and the folks on both sides of the fence have good reasons for their opinions.
 

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The Searcher
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One point worth noting is that your gun is indeed "worth" more than you paid for it IMO. However, if you refinish it, IMO it will be "worth" less than you paid for it not even counting the cost of refinishing. You get to do the math and make the choice. Everyone else just gets to offer opinions. :cool:
 

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Hi Chris, welcome aboard. I completely agree with A1A. It's only original once. If the gun were worn badly, unevenly or had major pitting and the like, it may be worth a refinish consideration. But yours appears to have an even patina that shows quite nicely.

Go to Colt's website to downl;oad the Archive Specification Sheet and the Archive Price List. They are found here: Colt Firearms Catalog
 

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In my relatively unschooled opinion, you got a real deal on a 56 year old revolver in quite decent condition. I wouldn't consider for a minute refinishing the piece; it has plenty of finish, and plenty of character, and should serve you well for the next 60 years or so.

I've paid more for less, and been happy with the deal.
 

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Part of the fun of having a 56 year old gun is that looks like it's 56 years old....shoot it and enjoy it as it...if you refinish it, you'll always be wiping it down and worrying about your new finish...trust me, I know...:)
 

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I come down on the side of leave it alone. That beautiful old gun earned every bit of character it has. I think it would be a shame to disfigure it with a new coat of blue. And FOR the record I don't care in the slightest about collectors value on a gun of this sort. What you have is a wonderful shooter, and it's value as such, is far greater than any percieved monetary value.
 

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Since I have mixed opinions and feelings on refinishing, this post is to suggest that you not refinish the revolver. Yes, I know I am inconsistent.
 

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Me thinks that your Detective Special has that "cool" look to it and personally would not have it refinished. Between shipping and the refin costs I do not feel that it is cost affective.

An old car with a new paint job is an old car with a new paint job. Not a new car. Nothing will make this DS like new, it may look new, but that is all.
 

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Yes, I know I am inconsistent.
You are obviously a student of Emerson, who said "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds ...." I admire your "flexibility." (Maybe a defense attorney trait coming out?) My little mind will not let me deviate from my (almost) universal "no refinish" belief.

It really does make me sad to see so many nice, honest guns destroyed by refinishing. Every time I see a Single Action Army from the late 1800s that has been refinished, I think how much better it would have been to have the old warrior still wearing its battle uniform, even if it is very worn. The guns that are being refinished today will be over a century sooner than later and original finish and condition will be prized all the more in years to come.

Leave the gun as is.
 

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Thanks so much for your kind words, JudgeColt.

As an attorney, I am quite used to changing positions in order to effectuate a settlement of a client's dispute.

What with my inconsistent views, I admire your consistency.

That said, I have only sent one fine old Colt back to Colt for refinishing. I love the way it looks, but sometimes when I visit my safe I briefly regret having changed the original finish to a modern refinish, no matter how fine a job was done.

While we are all kicking an dead horse on this issue, it is an issue that continues to inspire interesting debate - which I greatly enjoy when all parties are respectful and civil, i.e. a normal Coltforum debate or discussion.
 
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