How To Read Colt Serial Numbers For First-timers ... May 25, 2019
The majority of firearms in circulation these kinds of days feature serial numbers that facilitate identification in times of need. Different weapon manufacturers tend to use different arrangements though the main idea remains largely unchanged. While the serial numbers have no impact on field performance, they allow people to trace the origin of the guns. That being said, it’s rather hard to extract key information from serial numbers if you lack experience and knowledge. The same thing could be said about Colt serial numbers.
But if you truly want to discover the story of your Colt guns using their serial numbers, this article might just be what you need.
Revealing The Mystery: Top Methods
There are a lot of ways for you to lookup serial numbers the firearms nowadays. In the case of Colt serial numbers, you have up to 3 available choices to choose from depending on your preference:
Serial number lookup
Letter of authenticity
Serial Number Lookup
Now is the age of Internet so Colt duly keeps itself up to date by introducing a website for customers that incorporate multiple helpful functions. Fortunately, one of the functions happens to be the “Serial Number Lookup” which permit you to learn about your Colt guns using their serial numbers. Here is the way to get to that particular function.
Once you get to that page, enter all the characters and the numbers on your firearms into the search field. Next, you need to hit search to see the result. As the website already stated, a couple of vintage guns share serial numbers between models so if multiple models appear, simply match the proper date. Moreover, it’s worth noting that the database is approximate. Hence, the serial number you enter might return no result. You don’t have to worry though because there are several alternatives when it comes to reading Colt serial numbers.
Letter Of Authenticity
Have you ever heard about the Certificate Of Authenticity (COA)? To put it plainly, the purpose of a COA is to show that the item it comes along is authentic. For most of the time, COAs include relevant details about the item from manufacturing date to the history of ownership. The Letter Of Authenticity from Colt work pretty much in the same way and it’s considered to be the most reliable method to infer information from colt serial numbers. Like the “Serial Number Lookup”, you should be able to request the Letter Of Authenticity just by visiting Colt website.
On a Letter Of Authenticity, you are going to find the specifications of the Colt, features and the delivery address. Furthermore, the letter covers historical fact tied to the gun which usually increases its collectible value by a large margin. However, you have to keep in mind that the Letter Of Authenticity only describes the original configuration of the gun. That means aftermarket modifications like caliber, finish and barrel changes would not be reflected on the Colt Letter Of Authenticity.
Needless to say, such a document must require a certain fee that people occasionally feel to be a bit expensive. In most of the case, a standard Colt Letter Of Authenticity for the average guns shall cost you $100 but the price could always rise further. For vintage weapons, Colt might even ask you to pay a hefty sum of $300 in order to produce the letter. In addition to that, special engraving, shipping destinations and alike should increase the final expense. As a result, the Letter Of Authenticity is mostly favored by collectors that have a lot of money to spend.
Assuming that the methods above don’t work in your favor, there is only one option left: decipher the Colt firearm serial numbers by yourself. Obviously, performing a manual lookup is tedious which involves substantial investments in times and efforts. The accuracy of the result is mediocre as well compared to other choices but it’s still better than nothing. With that said, let’s see what you must pay attention to while attempting to solve the puzzle of Colt serial numbers on your own.
In the case you are a weapon enthusiast, you should be able to comprehend the prefix and suffix characters on your Colt guns fairly well. Take Colt revolver serial numbers for example: SA is Single Action, NF is New Frontier,… You could see the same thing on others: SP is Sporter, MT is Match Target,… Additionally, Colt also uses the characters in certain situations to illustrate the year of production. To get to know the meaning of the characters in such cases, it’s necessary to get a reference book.
Your first guess is that the numbers simply progress forward as time passes by, right?
Well, Colt serial numbers tend to go across the board in a rather unpredictable pattern so it’s near impossible to read without reference books. All it takes to get the numbers to changes could be minor changes in the design, the beginnings of new time periods and many others. Because of that, to perform a manual Colt serial number lookup, you have to accumulate experience in addition to grasping key developments of the brand. Aside from that, there is nothing else to say beside keep learning until you get to the bottom of it.
Code Of Model
The model code contains lots of information about the characteristics of the gun so it’s strongly recommended that you give it a good look.
To show you how things work, we shall check the Model Code that Colt uses onColt Single Action models below:
There are 4 digits here:
First (frame): “1” means “basic frame”, “2” means “frame from Colt Custom Shop”, “3” means “non-standard frame”,…
Second (caliber): “4” means “.32-20 Winchester”, “6” means “.357 S&W Magnum “, “7” means “.44 Remington Magnum”,…
Third (barrel length): “3” means “3 or 4 inches”, “4” means “4.75 or 5 inches”, “5” means “5.5 inches”,…
Fourth (finish): “1” means “nickel or full blue finish”, “2” means “nickel or casehardened finish”, “3” means “nickel finish”,…
I have no idea other then that Colt did use an "S" for stainless, and used an "N" for National Match.
So, I guess it stands for a stainless NM auto.
The serial number referring to details about the gun seem to have changed in the 80's.
From 1969 Colt was using serial number prefixes and suffixes that indicated details, but it seemed to begin changing in the mid-80's.
The later letters after that may have had meaning to Colt, but don't make sense to anyone else.
As example a serial with "CLW" as a prefix stood for a light weight Colt Commander, but I don't know what "RC" would mean on a Government .380.