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Today, I received about three dozen archive letters that had been on order for 154 days. I had not been keeping up on my letter acquisitions, so when I decided to catch up, I included letters on some of the potentially collectible Colts I bought new from known distributors. (There is a 20% discount when twenty or more letters are purchased, so it did not cost so much extra to add some "common" and "new" Colts.)

Having learned here that the build date is available as well as the ship date, I requested the build and ship dates for each Colt. It was the response to that request that proved interesting. The oldest Colt for which I requested a letter shipped in 1906. The built date was NOT available for that Colt. The next oldest Colt shipped in 1915, and the build date WAS available. From there, the build and ship dates were available on a fairly even distribution of ship dates until Colts that shipped in 1966, where only the ship date was available. Only the ship date was available from 1966 until those that shipped in 1993 through 1997, which are the newest Colts lettered this time.

On those Colts with both the build dates and ship dates, the shortest interval between build date and ship date was one day (several). The longest was nineteen months (the most expensive Colt - the Shooting Master - always said to be a slow seller in the heart of the Depression)! No other interval was longer than about four months, and that was a .32 Courier, a chambering that surely a slow seller. Two months seemed to be a common interval when the interval was longer than a week or two.

As far as interesting destinations, a .22-45 Conversion Unit U7XX, built June 7, 1939, went to Fort Hamilton, New York as one of two on September 15, 1939. Only two to a military post! Police Positive Target .22 362XX, built July 3, 1929, was shipped August 31, 1929 to Colt at the Camp Perry Matches as one of ten. The letter states the gun was returned to Colt on October 31, 1939. It was then shipped to Burhans and Black in Syracuse, New York on November 29, 1929.

I was surprised to see a reference to a "Series '70" Combat Commander shipped March 17, 1975 to John Jovino Company as one of 172! As we all know, there is no such thing as a "Series '70" Combat Commander or Commander, because NO 4.25-inch or shorter-barreled Model O ever had the collet bushing, the chief identifying characteristic of an original Series '70 Model O. The "Blue Book" nomenclature error has infected even Colt Archival Services!

There were some minor spelling errors, but the most egregious error was on a Single Action Army I bought new from Gophers Shooters Supply of Faribault, Minnesota on November 24, 1981. The gun arrived in my hands on December 1, 1981. The archive letter erroneously shows the gun as shipped March 18, 1982 to Lore Corporation, Santa Fe Distributors, El Paso, Texas! Had I not bought this gun new, I would never have known that the letter is wrong. (I will be sending a copy if the Gopher invoice with a request for a corrected letter - and request that it be returned immediately - not 154 days later!)

This is not the first serious error I have seen from Colt Archives. These extremely serious errors give me doubts on the accuracy of the dozens of letters I have. Unless there is some independent evidence of the accuracy of letter data, an error will never be discovered. Scary!

My final observation, for what it is worth, is that "Paul" called me in late July to inquire whether the Walker for which I had requested a letter was an "old" one or a "new" one! It has been my understanding that the serial numbers on the "new" ones began where the serial numbers on the "old" ones ended, so there should have been no question that my Walker is a "new" one. Is that correct? While I do not know how the Walker ledgers look, the highest serial number is presumably well-known, and, if that number is lower than my "new" Walker serial number (15XX), then logic should indicate that my number be searched in the "new" ledger (presumably computerized in 1979). Puzzling! At the end of my conversation with "Paul," he said "we should have these out in a week or so." He was only off by two months!

All in all, I love these letters, and I am waiting with anticipation on several more!
 

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Thanks for sharing this Judge! Very interesting information! Its puzzling how that one letter could be so wrong. Makes one wonder about some of the other letters we all have.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Makes one wonder about some of the other letters we all have.
That is my point. I would think getting the right gun would be the first priority! A misspelling or the like is not so important, but this is kind of like the police arresting the wrong person or raiding the wrong house.
 

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Paul is a new employee. When I spoke with him he said he's been at Colt only a relatively short time. This may account for his question about the Walker serial number.
Why is someone who knows so little on such an obvious issue calling the customer rather than asking Ms. Haynes or the like?
 

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That's some thorough and enlightening info Judge. Since you had spearheaded the not-before known fact that both build & ship dates were available I've been requesting both. This post brings new light on other things as well - THANKS!
 

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As someone once said about Japanese car designers, that they would be just as happy designing refrigerators, I have a feeling that Paul might be just as happy looking up medical records. I have noticed that the use of .38 Super rather than Super .38 has crept into the Colt jargon on the letters now. Occasionally a Service Model Ace letter will have the additional information "Fitted with an adjustable sight", which they all were.
 

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It has been my understanding that the serial numbers on the "new" ones began where the serial numbers on the "old" ones ended, so there should have been no question that my Walker is a "new" one. Is that correct?

The original Walkers ended at number 1100. When Colt reintroduced them in 1979, they gave a little "cushion" and started the 2nd Gen numbers at 1200. So basically, yes, any Walker above 1200 is a 2nd Generation. However....:)

After Whitney completed the Walker contract for Colt, Sam Colt then started his own factory in Hartford and had some remaining parts from Whitney for the Walkers. These Dragoon type revolvers are known variously as Whitneyville Walkers, Transition Walkers, and Colt Whitneyville Hartford Dragoons. The serial numbers on these are 1100-1340. There are also the Walker Replacement Dragoons, aka the Fluck Dragoons, which Colt supplied to the US Government for Walkers that had failed in service. These are serial numbered approximately 2200-2500.

So as you can see, Paul was being sure that there was no misunderstanding with a Walker number above 1200 :)

John Gross
 

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JC,

I, too, appreciate the insights you've shared here. I know of instances where the prior, relatively long-term historian has called more knowledgeable collectors to help straighten them out. I would characterize the Colt folks as pleasant, amiable clerks. They are not collectors. They are employees without any real passion for the work. Despite his mercurial temperament at times, The S&W historian has invested his whole life--professional and personal--in all things S&W. It makes a huge difference.

By the way, in another thread there are folks lamenting fake Colt letters. And it is truly lamentable, but it is not a new phenomenon. Quite a few years ago I was shown a big stack of fake letters that had been sitting on Kathy Hoyt's desk.

Regards,
Kevin Williams
 

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Thanks for the analysis, it is interesting, but not surprising that mistakes are made. Any time humans read something, then have to transcribe it somewhere else, there is room for error. Another post about the letter for a factory "Fitz Special" this morning got me wondering - are the ledgers written in standard language? In other words, would one clerk in 1931 write "Cutaway" under Special Notations, but another cleark in 1932 write "Modified Triggerguard?" What does the modern transcriptionist do when they find a word they don't understand or believe? Do they interpret, or write the Colt Letters verbatium?

I was involved with digitizing the 1800s factory ledgers from a major British lens manufacturer. The penmanship and consistency were amazing, but they did abbreviate in strange ways. The point is, ideally, we would be able to "see" the actual ledgers, not get a "summary and interpretation." from a number of modern record keepers. But I know, digitizing the ledgers would eliminate the major business or selling letters by Colt. And would be a huge job. But I wonder, have they ever scanned the ledgers for posterity? Does a clerk actually flip dusty pages looking up your gun, or open a computer application? It would be best for history if they were scanned, and therefore fireproof.

As an example, below is one of the captures from the Dallmeyer lens company ledgers, showing lens model and size "3 D", Date production started, craftsmen for most processes, and on the other page, date finished and who shipped to, lots, etc. Looking at the actual Colt records would provide more insight, and less transcription errors.

 

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Thank You!

JudgeColt, thank you for taking the time to share this experience with us. It reminds me that I am behind in my letter ordering and I expect others will be similarly prompted.

While I do not have the same volume of Archive Letters as you, I did experience an error last year with a pair of sequential serial numbered Pythons, a 4" and 6" blue pair, for which I am the original owner and have the original boxes, labels and receipts. The letters came back with both Pythons having 6" barrels. Joe Canali, in Archive Services, was quick to get a replacement letter off to me; a matter of days I recall. Like you, had I not been the original owner, I may have concluded the 4" Python had been modified.

Thank you again.
 

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I don't see it as being unusual having some relatively inexperienced folks handling the phones or dealing with the public. It happens in business all the time and is one way to get inexperienced folks up to speed more quickly. You just hope they don't make to many mistakes in the process!
I can relate. My first day on the job as a teller many, many years ago, I was transacting business face-to-face with customers by 10 a.m. that first day with a drawer full of cash! Someone was watching me but I'm sure I made some mistakes.
In the Army in basic training, I learned about grenades in the morning and was throwing live grenades in the afternoon! Unfortunately I made a mistake on my first toss of a live one. I neglected to "duck" at which point the DI slammed me to the ground and kicked me off the range afterwards. I goofed up but I learned my lesson without killing myself!

No disrespect to any of you guys (including myself who has received archival letters), but starting the "new guy" out in the archival section is probably considered an easy and harmless way to start training some of their folks.
Kim
 

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I have dealt with Paul several times since he started and I have found him to be courteous, helpful and enthusiastic. He's also great about returning phone calls. Everyone is new on a job sometime so it doesn't bother me that he is relatively inexperienced.
 

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I have dealt with Paul several times since he started and I have found him to be courteous, helpful and enthusiastic. He's also great about returning phone calls. Everyone is new on a job sometime so it doesn't bother me that he is relatively inexperienced.
Ditto. I get letters on every collectible colt I acquire and I've found Paul nothing but helpful to the utmost extent. He's went out of his way to double check a couple of items for me. Nothing but good things to say about this young man.
 

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I neglected to "duck" at which point the DI slammed me to the ground and kicked me off the range afterwards. I goofed up but I learned my lesson without killing myself!
Not to deviate, but I got in trouble for ducking too soon, and also in trouble for somehow losing the pin which I had pulled. Guess I had other things on my mind, like not getting blown up...
 
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