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Discussion Starter #1
Hi folks,

I am a new Colt collector, and I am looking to add to my a hammerless to my modest collection. My primary interest are 20th century Colt revolvers and autos. I am right outside Hartford and really enjoy the historical connection to the region and the impact that the industry had made in building up the families and skills here. I currently have a first gen woodsman, a 3rd gen woodsman NIB, and an Agent revolver. I have fallen hard for the 1903/1908 hammerless pistols, and have found that they are somewhat affordable still and seem to have good reliability despite their age. I am looking to carry it when I cannot carry my primary CCW (Heckler and Koch P7 9mm). I have located an example in .380acp, which seems to be at a premium compared to the .32acp models. I have not seen it yet, but am traveling Saturday to check it out. I would like to ask of this forum two things.

1: Is the 1908M hammerless a reasonably safe CCW in this day and age as long as it checks out ok in mechanical function? Assume that a round will be in the chamber.

2: Is $450 a fair price to pay?

Again, I have no other details on it other than what the guy at the gun shop said that it was a .380acp, it was NOT a collector-grade (i.e. boxed, USGI, or 95%+ condition), that the blueing has turned brown, but the finish is mostly there and that the metal is in good shape. From what I have seen on gunbroker, the .380 is commanding a very good premium on the .32acp, and even that model is creeping up. I want to grab one of these before they turn too hot in the collector's market.


And one final question. When I get to the gun shop, what should I look out for on this gun? I know the basics like matching serial# and orig mag, but is there anything peculiar to this particular model? Any particular series I should avoid? Any clear warning signs that say "run! don't look back!" I can swing the $450 right now, but I can't afford to waste that money on something that can't be shot or can't function reliably. I intend to leave it original and hopefully, someone in my family will be using it another 100+ years down the road. Based on the Colt's that I own, I really don't think that is a whole lot to ask.:cool:


Thank you folks!
 

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well, I'm certainly not an expert, but i have a 1908M that I really like.
these guns were the largest handgun semis of their day (380) and made for good carry guns. theyre relatively easy to conceal, and very dependable.
but I really don't think the 380 commands a premium, quite the opposite, but they are getting pricey.
w/o seeing your gun i can't tell you if its a good deal or not, but i think you could do better.
look at the one available then look at the listings on gunbroker. if you check the completed auctions you will get an idea what the market is.
here's the one I picked up some time ago. cost $1000, which is kinda high, but i really wanted it.
tom

 

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Tomob1, you probably didn't pay to much for that 1908 if it is as clean as it looks in the picture.
It is (as clean) but no box or manual.:(
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thanks folks!

I'll go check it out, and of course I'll try to talk him down on price. (cash, end of month, it's to protect grandma, etc etc. :eek::D ) I am hoping to get down to $400 or so, but it seems that these guns are not too rare, so if it is beat up, i'll just keep looking. As long as it has some finish, and isn't a pitted, rusted-out mess, I'll bite at $400 and a box of .380acp. I'll let you folks know! I'm dipping into my 1911A1 savings for this gun. Thats how hooked I am on the neat little 1908M:D


I'll leave this thread open for anyone to pipe-up and tell me if there is anything specific that I need to keep an eye out for, such as not-so obvious places of the frame/slide that crack, unusual high-wear spots, etc.


Then I'll be back in a few weeks asking questions about police positive specials, pushing the 1911A1 budget further into the ground.
 

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While these are desirable guns to collectors, they are not really good carry guns compared to what is available in .380 today. They are large for the chambering, are blowback, have poor sights and a tiny safety. Compare them to a Colt Pony Pocketlite, with its locked breech, better sights, much smaller size and less weight. A Kel-Tec P3AT is even smaller and lighter. A modern compact 9x19 will be about the same size, or smaller, as the Model M and will have much greater power. A Kel-Tec P11 holds 10 + 1 of 9x19, and is smaller and lighter than a Model M.

I love the Model M, but not for carry as personal protection. There are many better choices.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
While these are desirable guns to collectors, they are not really good carry guns compared to what is available in .380 today. They are large for the chambering, are blowback, have poor sights and a tiny safety. Compare them to a Colt Pony Pocketlite, with its locked breech, better sights, much smaller size and less weight. A Kel-Tec P3AT is even smaller and lighter. A modern compact 9x19 will be about the same size, or smaller, as the Model M and will have much greater power. A Kel-Tec P11 holds 10 + 1 of 9x19, and is smaller and lighter than a Model M.

I love the Model M, but not for carry as personal protection. There are many better choices.
All good points sir!

My primary carry is a Hk P7 PSP in which I carry 8+1 9mm +P rounds. Very safe, very modern, very accurate.

Dimensionally, there is very little difference between the Hk P7 and the Colt, as seen below:

Hk P7: W = 1.1" H = 5" BBL = 4" OAL = 6.5" weight = 27.7oz
1908M: W = ?" H = 4.5" BBL = 3.75" OAL = 6.75" weight = 24oz

So why am I crazy for the Colt? Well, after trying dozens of pistols for CCW use, my conclusion is that the primary dimensional advantage in a CCW pistol goes to width. A secondary advantage goes to how rounded the piece is. Given the right holster and dress, I can carry a 1911 easier than I can carry a wider, modern pistol like a Glock 19 or 17. Both end up digging into me after a while.

I cannot tell how wide the Colt hammerless is, and I cannot find a reference anywhere online, so maybe someone here can give me the width at the slide and at the grip. However, it seems slim enough and rounded enough to drop into a pocket holster and then into my jeans or into the inside pocket of a blazer or sport jacket. Even better, it is something that I can carry IWB with a dress shirt tucked OVER it, something I can't pull off with much of anything. I'll call that mode of carry "office carry" :D I can sometimes do this with the Hk, but it "bites" me after extended periods of time with the sharper edges and wider frame.


Lastly, and I'm sure all of you will agree is that the Colt has "Style" and history.:cool: While I am fully aware that style never saved a life, I am of the belief that the 1903/8M is fully capable of placing 7 to 8 rounds of .32 or .380 into an assailant or two at close range with equal, if not better accuracy and reliability than any Kel Tec. Part of this accuracy and reliability advantage is not because it is a Colt, but rather that it is a larger, hence, easier to shoot well. My new office location dictates that I should carry, but I have to dress for business. I was originally thinking that a PPK/S S&W airweight was the way to go. The colt should conceal better than either of those two, and should actually be cheaper by at least $100. So, I figure that not only am I getting more concealability, style, history, an addition to my collection, but I am also getting an economic advantage :cool:



Sorry for the book. I really do appreciate your suggestions, but I'm smitten by the gun and can't find anything readily wrong with it unless there is a particular safety issue with carrying it in the modern world. I do have to face the fact that I may have to get a true "pocket pistol," at some point out of neccesity, and it will probably be the Kel Tec or Ruger LCP. Until then, I'm filling my safe with ponys while some of them are still affordable.:cool:
 

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I carry a 1903 Hammerless once in a while. I own three of these total. One of the three has had the finish stripped and not reblued. I agree with JudgeColt, there are better choices for CCW. I usually carry a Walther PP in 380. These guns are classic and when needed will perform. At a distance of around 5ft away (FBI statitcs show that most incounters happen between 3ft and 5ft away) you're not using the sights much anyway. The safety is small... usually muscle memory will help overcome this....

There are better choices but the John Browning's 1903 is sill a useable piece in my opinion.
 

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I'd jump on a .380 Pocket Hammerless for $450!

I paid more than that for mine, in not great condition. The reason? It was only the second one in .380 I had seen. .32's where much more prevalent and averaged roughtly half to two-thirds of the price of a .380.

The 1908 design is one of my all-time favorites (I watched WAY too many Warner Bros gangster movies on TV as kid I guess) and I'd like to pick up a few nore variants when funds allow.

Good luck with your search.

Matt
 

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.380 pocket

my .380 measures about 7/8 " at the slide, 1-1/8" gripframe and grips. to i agree with you about style, to me the main drawback to carry is the slide saftey, it's not easy to engage, i would love to have a .380 pocket with a goverment model safety. here in ohio .380s are always higher price than .32s both are getting higher.
 

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When I get to the gun shop, what should I look out for on this gun? I know the basics like matching serial# and orig mag, but is there anything peculiar to this particular model? Any particular series I should avoid? Any clear warning signs that say "run! don't look back!"
I'm after precisely this information. I was hoping someone would comment.

I haven't found one in one of the local shops, but plan on looking as I travel the state. I am looking for a shooter, not a collector. I don't mind refinishing if the price is right.
 

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mod.m .380

collectors brake down mod. m production into 3 series, the first series has a barrell bushing like a 1911, these are very early, the other 2 series have mostley to do with roll markings, mag finish, grips, etc., the one you might look at close is the barrel, one of mine has bulge in it, and i'v seen some threads here from others looking for replacement barrels, the one i got from numrich is not a colt barrel but it worked after some fitting. everything else is just your best judgement. most people just don't shoot them enough to show weakness, as for price, around here a $450 .380 would be a piece of junk. the last two i bought at national gunday show in louisville, ky. any, i say carry that old heater, i'm reminded of a line from the movie true grit, mattie ross's dad picks up his colt dragoon, and she says, that gun is old, why don't you buy a new one, and he just says "it served me well at chickamauga",
 

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Nope

I would never carry my Shanghi Police .380 Colt for CCW. If you ignore price, and that's a tough one, there are plenty of reliable semi-autos out there that are more modern and have a caliber that has more punch.
The Kahr super slim line 9mm and 40's come to mind. The veritable and reliable Glock 17 and G19 also come to mind. While .380 is a very nice cartridge and the Colt 1908 a very nice gun, I would rather have something else. Even the Ruger SP101 would do, and the new Ruger LCP might tickle my fancy.
Long live the Colts, really. My original owner Colt Python serial # AL99XX and my .38 special Diamondback and my 70 Series Colt Gold Cup National Match are the epitome of quality, a durable, all-around gun would be my first choice. Enough said...
 

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Here in the Mid-South $450 would be too high. There was one with the same grips in the photo above they wanted $300 for at the local shop this last week. It was re-finished, but very nicely done. They would have sold it for $250 and I would have bought it excepting I already have one that I got for something like $225 a few years ago at a local show.

It's now the subject of a thread I started regarding brass that comes out split or cracked. I'm still working on finding a proper load which won't do that.

I agree with everything JudgeColt said. It was well put. The chief drawbacks are IMO a too heavy trigger pull, awkward thumb safety and the need for practice to get used to squeezing hard enough to activate the second safety. There're also the guns with more mag capacity. In any event I wouldn't carry with a round in the chamber...tragic accidents have happened that way...others will say to the contrary...that's just my opinion.

It does a very good job of cycling properly. I have tried other .380s you can't say that of.

That said, I'm not a concealed carry guy but if I was I'd get something bigger...a 1911 in a shoulder holster.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks for the feedback folks!

The Wife and I took a ride to an out of the way gunshop that tends to have a good selection of guns from this vintage. Tag said $450, I got away for $400. Granted, in some areas of the country, I probably could have found an equal example for a $100 less or so, but the market is very overpriced right now due to politics, and hey, I was there and the wife was in a good mood, so I struck when I could.:cool:


Just about what I was looking for....A shooter-grade in .380. Pitting is there, but very very minor imo for the condition. The blue is gone, but there is a brown patina remnant of the orignal finish. Not too many scratches or dings except around the floorplate. Magazine is Colt NOS, but not the original. I wanted wood, but settled for rubber stocks. Everything moves correctly and has that Colt slickness and authority to it when things click into place like the slide or the mag. The bore is shiney, so I'm good to go there. I would have liked more blueing left, but considering that there is ZERO rust on the gun, save the minor pitting, I think I did rather well.

SN# is 38705, so Coltautos.com places this in the early 1940s it seems. Correct me if I'm wrong. I initially thought it would have been a few decades older, but I guess I was wrong.

The slide safety is easy to manipulate. Slides up and down with a brush of the thumb. Is this correct? Or should it put up more resistance? The grip safety is easy to actuate as well. No complaints there. The trigger is a little heavier than expected and slightly gritty, but that is not a big problem considering the distances this is used for, and that it is probably safer that way. I have it field stripped now and I am scraping off old dried oil residue, but here are a few pics of it after the drive home out on the front steps with the afternoon summer sun. It sure does not live up to the Colt collections that I see on this site, but my collection is only starting, and I am younger than most would guess, so I've got a long way to go, but I am very proud of my modest Colt collection as it stands now. The gun just feels great, points great, and you can tell that JMB knew what he was doing with it. Gotta replenish my 1911 piggy-bank that I raided today to grab this now.:D Nice Colt Saturday for me.:cool:





And a side by side with my primary carry, not a huge difference in size or weight, but significant enough to enable carry while dressed for business and a jacket, vest, or sweater is not at all practical. Wife already has her eyes on this, so I may get my Agent back.:cool::cool:
 

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nice buy

Looks like you got a nice, honest piece of history, there.

By the way, my book shows 1920 as the date of manufacture for 38705.
 

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reload

If you are not, start reloading that caliber before you shoot the cost of that gun up in ammo. It is a easy round to load with lead 95 grain bullets for practice. I have never had split cases in my reloads with all kinds of cases and the federal FMJ I have fired. Dont over tighten the stock screw or it will crack the stocks. In fact if you stocks are numbered to the gun you may want to get a aftermarket set for carry 'cause if you drop it they could chip. I have one in 32 also and the size sure makes them a sweet shooter.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Looks like you got a nice, honest piece of history, there.

By the way, my book shows 1920 as the date of manufacture for 38705.
Thank you sir. And I appreciate the birthday correction. I am happier to know that the pistol is older than I thought. :cool:


smkummer said:
If you are not, start reloading that caliber before you shoot the cost of that gun up in ammo. It is a easy round to load with lead 95 grain bullets for practice. I have never had split cases in my reloads with all kinds of cases and the federal FMJ I have fired. Dont over tighten the stock screw or it will crack the stocks. In fact if you stocks are numbered to the gun you may want to get a aftermarket set for carry 'cause if you drop it they could chip. I have one in 32 also and the size sure makes them a sweet shooter.

.380acp is not too much more expensive around here than .38spcl. ($23 a box:rolleyes:)) It just is only available intermittently. Funny thing is the local walmart has a ton of .32acp, but I had pretty much decided that I was not interested in carrying that caliber as the .380 is not only a better stopper, but would make the gun easier to sell should I chose. I do reload, but I am only set up for .38spcl, .357mag, .45acp, .223rem, .308, and .30-06. I should get set up for 9x19 and 9x17 considering that is what I shoot for autos, and I have my eyes on a Browning Hi-power too:D. I don't plan on shooting it a whole heck of a lot. Maybe 25 rounds every other month once I get an initial 100 rounds through it to test it. So I don't think I'll have a huge effect on the supply, but i'll agree that "rolling your own" is the way to go!:D I will be using factory loads for carry though. I am thinking that FMJ is the way to go for reliability and better penetration. I normally carry Speer gold dots in my other guns, but this is obviously a different situation. I'm thinking Sellior & Belloit 90gr FMJ. I think the Euros have more experience with modern .380, .32acp, .25acp loads than American companies do just as a matter of experience as many of their police agencies still use these "little wienie rounds".



Two quick questions if you folks don't mind:


The gun makes your hands smell like you have been handling an old wire coat-hanger or old pennies. Y`know the copper/metal smell.....Yuck! Any way to "clean" that off? Doesn't this have something to do with the alkaline or even the "charge" of the surface and finish?

The Ejector spring is slightly visible and you can feel it coming from the rear of the ejector arm. I've seen some pictures of other hammerless with the same condition, but more without it. Is this something that may affect function? Should I get the ejector arm spring fixed? The arm snaps back smartly when pulled. I imagine that getting to this spring requires knocking the pin that the ejector pivots upon out. Not something that I want to do. If it should be looked at by a smith, i'll need one in Central CT. I can provide macro-focus close-ups of the spring in question if you folks would like.




I'll check back in a few hours. I'm going to get a "group shot" together of my small Colt collection.:cool:
 

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I carry my 1908

usually in a shoulder holster and two spare magazines, when I want to carry something lightweight but adequate for where I am going to be. My 1917 gun has been professionally rebuilt, including having the roll marks and lettering recut before rebluing. I bought it from Kid Sopris earlier this year and it came with 3 holsters (shoulder, Bianchi hip holster, and a custom made US Flap military style holster. The factory letter shows it was shipped to the Von Lengerke & Antoine Sporting Goods Store in Chicago on January 6, 1917 with 4 other guns. Von Lengerke was bought out by Abercrombie and Fitch in 1918 or 1919...




The .25 acp's finish is original.
 
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