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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Considering the many years I've owned this revolver, I probably should get it lettered. Ser#340XXX two inch barrel, conservative 90%+ original blue finish. Checkered walnut stocks, perfect, with rampant colt medallion. Barrel marking left side "38 SPECIAL" VP in a triangle at the forward left side of trigger guard and the number "3" rear left side of trigger guard. There are no other visible markings. I believe this to be of 1927-28 manufacture, so I wonder if this is a first issue DS or PPS? Anyone care to comment?
 

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I'll give it a shot. The 1926 catalog showed the PPS available in 4,5,and 6" barrel lengths (no DS yet). The 1927 catalog showed the PPS available in 2,4,5, and 6" barrels (still no DS). In 1928 the PPS goes back to 4,5,and 6", and there is a new listing - the "Detective Special" (in quotes) with 2" barrel only. The illustration shows the rollmark "38 Special" only. Sometime later the "Detective Special" rollmarks and 1926 patent date were added.

I have a well-worn "38 Special" marked version in the (1927)338XXX range, as I believe the Judge does. Yours would date to 1928, so the catalog calls it a "DS", but you have the early rollmark.

What is it? You decide /forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif. In my book, these pre-DS marked guns are PPS's, but I don't know how it would letter from the factory.

Judge, what do you say??
 

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It is amazing to me how many of this special run of guns show up from time to time. Note that they do not say "Colt" on them anywhere. The ".38 Special" stamping appears to have been done by hand rather than by a roll stamp. The butt frame is the small style.

If you check the serial number charts, you will find that these 340XXX guns are supposed to be in the 1928 era. However, I believe they were all shipped in 1926 or early 1927. Mine letters as having been shipped December 29, 1926 as a single gun shipment, but was processed under Factory Order 12032/100. As I understand it, the "100" in the order number means 100 like units. Since so many show up 80 years later, I suspect there may have been other 100-gun lots, but maybe not. The other owners on this forum having these guns should letter them so we could see if the order numbers match. How about it guys?

A Colt DA authority whose name escapes me now (Lynn something I think) told me that, for reasons unknown, when Colt was going to make a prototype run, it would select a serial number block not yet reached, and number all the guns in that block. That would presumably explain why the gun was shipped over a year ahead of other guns in its same serial number block.

My Colt letter identifies my gun as a Police Positive Special, even though it does not so state anywhere on the gun. I have always considered the gun a Detective Special prototype, which it well could be since a DS is really just a PPS with a 2-inch barrel. However, since the Detective Special did not come into being until 1928, I think the gun has to be a Police Positive Special.
 

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OK, I'll get mine lettered and report the results. I know someone else with one that may have a letter already, and if so, see if there is a Factory Order number. Stay tuned.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for your replies to my query. I bought this revolver about 30 years ago as a back up gun and carried it for some time in plainclothes. I paid about $85.00 for it and $95.00 for the Bankers Special .38 sitting next to it, with genuine stag grips and the original stocks! /forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif Both revolvers were misidentified as Detective Specials on the sales hangtags. Apparently, the dealers staff didn't bother to read the barrel rollmarks on the Bankers model. /forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif Here's a photo of the PPS 2 inch.



I rather thought it would letter as a Police Positive, but wondered if it was indeed a pre DS prototype because as you have pointed out, it serials to 1928. I find it most interesting to learn it may have been shipped as early as '26 or '27. By the way...it's still a great shooter and quite accurate for a fixed sight revolver with a short barrel. /forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
 

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Geez, it's in nice shape. I wonder how many of the younger guys recognize the "come-along" in the photo?
 

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bco, nice photo and gun. How about lettering your gun too, so you, bw and I can compare factory order numbers and the like?
 

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Hi Judge,

You said:"A Colt DA authority whose name escapes me now (Lynn something I think) told me that, for reasons unknown, when Colt was going to make a prototype run, it would select a serial number block not yet reached, and number all the guns in that block. That would presumably explain why the gun was shipped over a year ahead of other guns in its same serial number block.

My Colt letter identifies my gun as a Police Positive Special, even though it does not so state anywhere on the gun. I have always considered the gun a Detective Special prototype, which it well could be since a DS is really just a PPS with a 2-inch barrel. However, since the Detective Special did not come into being until 1928, I think the gun has to be a Police Positive Special. "



When I did my research in the factory shipping records for my book on the New Army and Navy models I found that Colt did indeed skip forward in the serial numbers for new models. This also happened with some of the larger contract shipments where they were not filled out of stock on hand. Example, the 1895 contract with Argentina for 5000 New Army models were all numbered in a block many thousands of numbers ahead of current production.

I found the layout of Colts shipping records may explain why your Detective Special model letters as a PPS. Colt did not always maintain a shipping ledger book on each specific model. In the New Army and Navy model era the guns are scattered in different sections in several different ledger books.

An example of how this worked runs like this. A ten colume ledger book was used. The entries run in date order for each type of gun shipped. As an example, a number of pages are set aside for Single Action shipments ... say 1 to 20. On page 21 New Navy shipments are recorded. beginning on page 35 New Service shipments are started. This continues for each model being shipped. Each model has its own heading and an entry in the table of contents telling you which page the shipments begin on. (When you come the the end of your section, page 20 in our example, the last entry will refer you on to another open block in the book ... say page 61 to 72... The recorder enters the model type and starts off the shipping data again from page 61.

How this affects your question is like this. The shipping department gets 100 guns from your contract order that is probably several thousand numbers in advance of the guns currently being shipped in the PPS block. He doesn't care about the gap and since there is no Detective Special model catagory yet, he logs them in under the PPS section and they are shipped.

70 years later, when the historian looks up the serial number she finds it under the December 29, 1926 date in the Police Positive Special section and that is how your letter reads. It is a Police Positive special!

Now to make things interesting! Lets say several years go by and the shipping department has added the "Detective Special" shipping catagory into the ledger book. Lets also say that one of the 100 guns from that first contract was initally rejected and missed being shipped. It has laid on the shelf now for several years. An order comes through for 10 DS guns. The early gun maybe consecutively numbered to yours) is selected to help fill the order. It will be listed as a Detective Special in the "Detective Special" section of the ledger book along with the other nine current production DS guns! So it is possible in these early models to have one be listed as a Detective Special and one consecutively numbered be listed as a Police Positive Special and still be in the same run of a contract of guns.

This is an extreme example but it illustrates how the guns were recorded and where exactly your shipping information comes from.

I have run into may collectors who think there is a big consecutive number list where everything is listed by model... not so... You have to remember that Colt was in the business of making money and there were not any gun laws like we know today ... a serial number was just an inventory control number and guns were "widgets" being produced for profit. Colt didn't care about making it easy for future collectors...

So that is why things don't appear to be "simple and orderly" ....

THIS IS A GREAT THREAD! :) Take care, Bob
 

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COLTDAGUY, it was not my question. I was answering the question. I know what these guns are.

The information you provide is interesting, but I do not think it makes these guns being discussed Detective Specials, or even makes it a chance that they are Detective Specials put in the wrong section of the ledger. If one letters as a Detective Special, then I will agree with the ledger shift issue.

The Detective Special as a model did not even exist in 1926 when these guns were built and shipped. In my opinion, none of thse guns are Detective Specials. They are short-barreled Police Positive Specials, just like the letter says. I do think they may have been a prototype for the Detective Special, but they may just have been a special order of short-barreled Police Positive Specials for a buyer who thought they would be useful. Someone at Colt then probably decided, in light of such great interest, that it was a good idea to have a special model with a short barrel and came up with a special name for the gun. The Detective Special name is a great one, and it undoubtedly contributed to sales, as any association with law enforcement and the military always does. The name just does not apply to these special-order, short-barreled Police Positive Specials.
 

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Hi Judge,

I was agreeing with what you said... I know that others brought up the issue... I guess I was just being lazy and using your comments to lead into what I had to say about it... I picked your comments because by replying to you I could just copy them from below my narration box in the reply window...... sorry for the confusion...

In my comments, I was showing how the ledgers are constructed, how the historian gets the info and how guns are found in different spots in them at times...

Again, I agree with your comments (not well stated by me) that the 2" "38 Special" marked guns are most likely DS prototypes as you state and that even if one did happen to letter as a DS the comments come from the catagory the historian found them in and does not necessarily relate to when and how they were actually produced!

Guess I didn't have enough coffee in me to get it right the first time! :) I really do enjoy this thread... it can bring out alot of interesting information not known by the average collector... Enjoy your morning! Bob
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
[ QUOTE ]
Geez, it's in nice shape. I wonder how many of the younger guys recognize the "come-along" in the photo?

[/ QUOTE ]

Thanks. Thought you might enjoy this photo showing a few other antique restraints in my collection. /forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
[ QUOTE ]
bco, nice photo and gun. How about lettering your gun too, so you, bw and I can compare factory order numbers and the like?

[/ QUOTE ]

Sounds like a plan. Will advise with info when received. /forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif
 

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I finally received the letter. It states:

COLT DETECTIVE SPECIAL REVOLVER

Serial Number: 3385XX
Caliber: .38/c
Barrel Length: 2"
Finish: Blue
Type of Stocks: Checkered Wood
Shipped to: Wolf & Klar
Address: Fort Worth, Texas
Date of Shipment: February 16, 1926
Colt Factory Order: #10831/13
Number of Same Type
Guns in Shipment: 2


Any thoughts? This was shipped two years before the Wilson charts show it manufactured...
 

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Wow! That one shipped early in 1926. Is one to assume that the second Police Positive Special was also a 2-inch?

Bushwacker, thanks for updating this thread.
 

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I give up! I would have bet some serious money that any gun earlier than mine would SURELY also letter as a Police Positive Special, since my 340XXX did. Here this gun letters as a Detective Special two model years before the DS was introduced, and ten months before mine shipped. Wow!

Now for some speculation. My letter was dated July 31, 1981, and was signed by long-time historian M. S. Huber, who may have known the DS was not introduced when my gun shipped, and corrected any error in the ledger "editorially." I am wondering if the ledger issues mentioned above could now mislead the clerks doing these searches (I doubt that Ms. Hoyt does them all, but she may) into identifying this gun as a DS. BW, did you identify this gun as a DS when you reqeusted the letter?

How would the shipping/ledger department know in 1926 to identify this gun as a DS two years before the model was introduced? Surely the name was not entered in the ledger system that far ahead just to cover these special runs of 2-inch guns? It would seem unlikely that the shipping/ledger personnel would even know what the product planners were contemplating "up stairs" two years before they did it by introducing the DS.

Strange indeed. Any other theories?

I wonder if I should letter mine again without revealing it has been lettered before and see what the second letter shows for the model?
 

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BCO, BW letterd his gun as agreed. Have you? If so, what does your letter show? If not, get to it! (And revive this topic in about four months when the letter arrives!)
 

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Judge,

I identified it as a PPS in my request, so the DS reference was wholly on the part of Ms. Hoyt's minions.

There is another one of these here locally that has been lettered, I'll try to get the specifics and report back.
 

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In the Smith & Wesson world, Wolf and Klar ordered a large number of .44 Special revolvers with the enclosed ejector rods, like the 1st Model Hand Ejector (Triple Lock). This model, known as the 3rd Model Hand Ejector .44 or as the 1926, was not cataloged until 1940, even though shipments began at least as early as January 1927.

What a novel concept! Building guns first, then announcing the introduction of the model.
 
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