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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Reposting some stuff from an earlier thread to give a boost to Keith's excellent new thread here on these very interesting revolvers.

The granddaddy of all Detective Special collectibles, the Police Positive Special with the 2” barrel. As our knowledgeable members know, this was the Detective Special at its inception, before it was given its soon-to-be-legendary name the following year. First marketed in 1926 and first catalogued as the Detective Special in 1927 in the A-70-9th catalogue. Characterized by the two-inch barrel; the lack of a model name, manufacturer’s name, and patent date; a barrel roll mark that reads only “38 Special”; and a narrow grip frame (aka “skinny butt”). Estimated total number of guns exhibiting all these characteristics is approximately 100 to 150. One anomaly here is the checkered trigger, which might be a replacement. I believe checkered triggers were first installed on the Detective Special sometime later (additional input welcome). What I usually look for with historical collectibles is some real character because of genuine use, but not abuse. That’s the case here. I rate the finish at about 85%. A few screw heads show some slight buggering but nothing significant. The grips have some nicks and scrapes, and the high points of the checkering have been smoothed from use. Bore and chambers are mirror bright. Unquestionably a daily carry gun, but one that was well cared for. The timings of bolt retraction, cylinder unlocking, and bolt return are excellent. However, final cylinder lockup shows a condition reportedly common with Colts wherein the bolt drops a bit late onto the ramp, and so the hammer reaches full cock slightly before the cylinder locks. Nonetheless, careful observation of this weapon, as well as sound and feel, during dry firing with snap caps indicates complete cylinder lockup on all six chambers before hammer fall, and with the hammer down at the completion of the cycle the gun exhibits the customary Colt “bank vault” lockup. I read in an excellent earlier posting (I believe by dfariswheel) that when these old Colts were shipped from Hartford they were sometimes undertimed and they eventually wore in to proper timing through shooting. This firearm looks as if it was often carried but rarely fired.

This PPS letters to the Citizens Savings Bank in NYC via the H & D Folsom Arms Company, with a shipping date of June 26, 1926. One of the facts I found intriguing, and a bit surprising, in the Colt letter was the shipment of six guns at one time to a single bank. That struck me as being quite an arsenal. So I conducted some research, and what I found proved far more interesting than I’d expected. The building had just been completed in 1924 and, incidentally, still exists and has been designated a New York City landmark. Evidently the bank directors felt that multiple armed guards were really needed, but not simply for protection against ordinary robbers. In fact, the general upsurge in bank robberies wouldn’t occur until the following decade. Rather, in this case the bank’s own customers were a major cause of concern. According to an article on the granting of landmark status to the building in The New York Times from 2011, “. . . the sturdy design was also meant to assure the bank’s officers that they would be safe from their depositors, at a time when the Bowery—a seething jumble of humanity in the perpetual shadow of the Third Avenue el tracks—was regarded as a less than ideal banking location.” In Architectural Record magazine of July 1926, Oliver Whitwell Wilson wrote, “The building is in the midst of an easily excitable population and riots are not unknown. The bank is thus protected against such a mob and could hold out until help arrived.”

The image of a phalanx of bank guards holding the line with their new Colt snubbies, of which this weapon would have been one, against an irate mob of bank depositors sounds like something flashed across the cover of one of the more audacious pulp magazines of the twenties, rather than an expression of the anxieties of a writer in a sober architectural journal, but there it is. Such delightful details don’t ordinarily emerge when one follows up the particulars of a Colt letter, and here they add another layer of flamboyant history to the tale of this classic firearm.
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My gun (above) in Gary Peer's classic study.
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The dealer to which my gun was shipped.
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The gun's ultimate destination (along with 5 others).
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The bank today.
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Something to bear in mind is that true “skinny butt” 2-inch Police Positive Specials are extremely rare. Gary Peer roughly estimates only about 100-150 were ever manufactured. He told me in correspondence in 2014 that he had seen only 2 (and he said he had "looked hard and long” for them) and bought both. One of them is the one pictured in his book that I purchased from him and posted above. True “skinny butt” PPSs like this one have a grip measuring 1 9/16 inches front to back, whereas the butts of the later, but not skinny-butt, guns measure 1 7/8 inches front to back. See photo below from page 53 of Gary’s book.
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Thanks for stopping by and adding that wealth of photos and information, Bill! That's perfect. I appreciate the contribution! One of the biggest challenges I had in researching these particular revolvers when I bought mine was having to skim a plethora of various threads for bits and pieces of information, and they weren't always easy to find. Having this be a one-stop-shop to learn about them is really neat.

Also, as for everyone else, thanks for sharing the photos of yours! I love seeing them and look forward to more as they come. :)
 

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The Consummate Collector
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Well, this subject shows up every few years. This gun started as a 2" Police Positive Special at the request of a couple of a few Police Departments for use with the plain closed detectives. It became popular and Colt had another winner which they named after the folks who were using it. It was a great marketing tool and the vast majority of police departments across the country starting using them. Here a brochure that supports this information:

Note the narrow grip frame:




Note this first brochure came out before the roll die was made.


The term Pre-Detective Special was coined by collectors as there was never such a model. It was in fact, a Police Positive Special with a 2" barrel.

Here is one of the earliest 2" Police Positive Specials having been shipped on March 22, 1926. It has the early frame with a narrow grip and is marked on the barrel .38 SPECIAL.


Here are the two brochures that were used with the 2" model:


Cam.
 

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Thanks for stopping by and adding that wealth of photos and information, Bill! That's perfect. I appreciate the contribution! One of the biggest challenges I had in researching these particular revolvers when I bought mine was having to skim a plethora of various threads for bits and pieces of information, and they weren't always easy to find. Having this be a one-stop-shop to learn about them is really neat.

Also, as for everyone else, thanks for sharing the photos of yours! I love seeing them and look forward to more as they come. :)
Cam and I have discussed these guns in the past, and he's the source of much of my knowledge about them. He enriches every discussion in which he participates and will certainly do so here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Out of curiosity, has anyone seen any other 2" Police Positive Specials letter without a factory order number? Paul mentioned he didn't think every 2" PPS had a factory order, but it's pretty unusual for this type of revolver. As well, in some of the older threads, I noted JudgeColt mentioned he had never seen one letter without it. I'm curious what it means.

My theory is since my gun is so close to the cutoff date, perhaps the Gus Habich Company ordered a couple of Detective Specials, and Colt sent a 2" Police Positive Special they had on hand due to the fact they were essentially the same gun and to use up old stock. Thus no need for a special factory order, as it would have just been considered a regular production Detective Special at that point.
 

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The Consummate Collector
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Out of curiosity, has anyone seen any other 2" Police Positive Specials letter without a factory order number? Paul mentioned he didn't think every 2" PPS had a factory order, but it's pretty unusual for this type of revolver. As well, in some of the older threads, I noted JudgeColt mentioned he had never seen one letter without it. I'm curious what it means.

My theory is since my gun is so close to the cutoff date, perhaps the Gus Habich Company ordered a couple of Detective Specials, and Colt sent a 2" Police Positive Special they had on hand due to the fact they were essentially the same gun and to use up old stock. Thus no need for a special factory order, as it would have just been considered a regular production Detective Special at that point.
Keith

My nickel gun shown above does not have an order number. I would like to know who Mr. Byerly was and it was also a one gun shipment. This is the earliest nickel 2" Police Positive Special that I have encountered.

Cam.
 

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Thanks for stopping by and adding that wealth of photos and information, Bill! That's perfect. I appreciate the contribution! One of the biggest challenges I had in researching these particular revolvers when I bought mine was having to skim a plethora of various threads for bits and pieces of information, and they weren't always easy to find. Having this be a one-stop-shop to learn about them is really neat.

Also, as for everyone else, thanks for sharing the photos of yours! I love seeing them and look forward to more as they come. :)

Very nice info, I have exercised my 2nd Amendment rights only recently, later in life. My primary target has been the Colt DS. My local FFL thinks i'm nuts every time i do the paper work on another blue mechanical mini marvel. My current flag ship is a 1933 DS unfired, original box & test target acquired from the son of the original owner. The original owner believed it was his duty to own guns and be firearm competent but without too much zeal. The 2" Police Positive sounds very interesting, something i may pursue also but first i need to call that guy who bought my dear old dad's Colt DS, almost 30 years ago. Anybody have any ideas for my opening ice breaker line when i cold call that guy who owns my dads gun??
 

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Very nice info, I have exercised my 2nd Amendment rights only recently, later in life. My primary target has been the Colt DS. My local FFL thinks i'm nuts every time i do the paper work on another blue mechanical mini marvel. My current flag ship is a 1933 DS unfired, original box & test target acquired from the son of the original owner. The original owner believed it was his duty to own guns and be firearm competent but without too much zeal. The 2" Police Positive sounds very interesting, something i may pursue also but first i need to call that guy who bought my dear old dad's Colt DS, almost 30 years ago. Anybody have any ideas for my opening ice breaker line when i cold call that guy who owns my dads gun??
I'm in the process of tracking down my 1st gun, Colt Trooper that I bought in 1978 and had to let go with a Sig P225 from 1984 when I got laid off in 1989. I called the guy who bought it from me and actually got it back cheaper than what he paid me (I keep good records). The sig was in the same excellent condition I sold it to him in and he still had the box and papers. The call started with "hey Steve, by chance you still have the Sig and are you interested in selling it?" Best they can say is.....No..Good luck and let us know.
 

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More outstanding information. Thanks very much to all.

Spirit, thanks for starting this thread.

JimmyH, I like something on the order of “hope all is going well, say, you may still have my Dad’s old revolver and I really want to buy it if I can”.
 

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I have an old Detective special that was marked glad being from the NJ State Police. Unfortunately the hammer was bobbed by somebody along the way. Any recommendations for a good gunsmith to install the correct replacement hammer and to check the timing?
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
I have an old Detective special that was marked glad being from the NJ State Police. Unfortunately the hammer was bobbed by somebody along the way. Any recommendations for a good gunsmith to install the correct replacement hammer and to check the timing?
You could give Frank Glenn are ring or shoot him an email. He's located in Arizona and pretty good at getting back to you fairly quick.

Frank Glenn-Glenn Custom Complete Gunsmithing Service Glendale AZ - Contact

He's a top tier gunsmith and an expert with these old Colt revolvers. I'm not sure that he'll have any spare hammers on hand though, so you may have to get one yourself and send it with the gun, which shouldn't be hard as eBay, Jacksfirst, and Numrich are all great sources of extra hammers. He can install it and give it a good run over to make sure everything is timed and proper.
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 · (Edited)
Keith

My nickel gun shown above does not have an order number. I would like to know who Mr. Byerly was and it was also a one gun shipment. This is the earliest nickel 2" Police Positive Special that I have encountered.

Cam.
Cam,

I didn't notice that on first glance, but you're right. Yours doesn't have a factory order number, which is super curious, considering yours is one of the earliest I've seen as well, and the fact it was charged to the Arms Selling Expense directly for Mr. Byerly. Definitely special circumstances that set it apart from the standard 2" Police Positive Special.

In comparison, mine is a fairly late 2" PPS (being 3 days before the cutoff date), and doesn't have the factory order number.

I'd love to know who Mr. Byerly was, too. If you ever find out, don't forget to let us know.
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
Very nice info, I have exercised my 2nd Amendment rights only recently, later in life. My primary target has been the Colt DS. My local FFL thinks i'm nuts every time i do the paper work on another blue mechanical mini marvel. My current flag ship is a 1933 DS unfired, original box & test target acquired from the son of the original owner. The original owner believed it was his duty to own guns and be firearm competent but without too much zeal. The 2" Police Positive sounds very interesting, something i may pursue also but first i need to call that guy who bought my dear old dad's Colt DS, almost 30 years ago. Anybody have any ideas for my opening ice breaker line when i cold call that guy who owns my dads gun??
I'm right there with you as the Colt Detective Special is also my favorite. Your FFL may think you're nuts, but I think you're a man of taste, haha. I've actually had the same thought and wondered what my FFL thinks that the only guns I ever bring in all are the same little blue revolver.

Your 1933 DS sounds like a true prize, and I am sure you're proud to own it. Especially getting it directly from the original family. Certainly surpasses anything I have! If you have photos, you should share them in the Detective Special Photo thread, or make a new post

If you're a fan of the Detective Special and enjoy early examples, I think you would find the 2" Police Positive Special very much to your liking. Because at heart, that's exactly what it was. A very early Detective Special. They're somewhat scarce but do show up from time to time and worth grabbing if you happen to stumble across one.

Otherwise, I wish you luck on getting your dads Colt back. I don't think a cold call would be too incredibly hard. As others have said, just be honest. "Hey, I hope you're doing well. I just wanted to reach out to you to see if you still have my dad's old DS and were willing to part with it as it has a lot of sentimental value to me?" Worst case is he says no, and then you can always try again later down the line. Best case scenario, you get your dad's gun back. :)
 

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You could give Frank Glenn are ring or shoot him an email. He's located in Arizona and pretty good at getting back to you fairly quick.

Frank Glenn-Glenn Custom Complete Gunsmithing Service Glendale AZ - Contact

He's a top tier gunsmith and an expert with these old Colt revolvers. I'm not sure that he'll have any spare hammers on hand though, so you may have to get one yourself and send it with the gun, which shouldn't be hard as eBay, Jacksfirst, and Numrich are all great sources of extra hammers. He can install it and give it a good run over to make sure everything is timed and proper.
Thank you!!!
 

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I would have the equivalent gun in hand before I made the call. That way, you can offer a replacement, plus whatever boot it takes to get your family gun back. The current owner presumably would not have any special attachment to the gun, and would, hopefully, be happy with a replacement and some (or more) cash.

Good luck!
 

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I have three Pre-DS Colts in my Collection. The first and earliest is one shipped to Detroit PD in June 1927.
The second was manufactured December 1927. No shipping record can be found, however the gun was from the !st National Bank of St Paul. The third is a bit of a puzzle. It was manufactured and shipped June 1928 and it letters as a 2' PPS. It sports a DS marked barrel and a beautiful DualTone nickel finish. It was shipped blue and apparently returned to Colt postwar for the refinish. Perhaps it was rebarreled at that time or the Colt records are incorrect. There is a VA mark on the left front trigger guard which I hadn't been able to identify. I'd like to hear comments on this one. Thanks.
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