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Well, the letter finally landed on this one!! Very interesting start for sure, now I have to track down an old Trooper friend to see if he can shed any light on this. So I guess this is really a "pre" Detective Special! Radicalrod, this may have been in the same shippment.
"Radicalrod, post: 3247373, member: 17384"]
I get only 3 numbers away........mine is 334338 + 3 = 334341 your number
mine shipped from the same order......just a few days earlier....
 

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Discussion Starter · #64 · (Edited)
Here's a photo
Found this letter still looking for the gun pic
Here's a photo of Rod's gun with the letter from another thread he made. Wanted to share it here to update the thread, as earlier he found the letter but not the gun.
741136

Also, I noticed something interesting about this gun but didn't want to hijack Rod's thread with my questions.

Basically, although it's named as a Detective Special, it has all of the features of a Pre-Detective (2" barrel, .38 Special stamp, smooth trigger, etc), except that they requested the wide grip frame whereas Pre-Detectives normally had the narrow frame.

What makes this weird is it shipped a month after the Detective Special was introduced. The Detective Special by default had a 2" barrel and the wide grip frame. Why did someone go out of their way to special order a Police Positive Special with a 2" barrel and wide grip frame when Colt was already selling the exact same gun as a regular production model? That's the mystery. I know when Colt transitioned things, it was never very clean or succinct, but this one seems odd. Curious if anyone has any theories. My only guess is they were using up old parts, but it's beyond me.
 

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Keith, you may be right on using up old parts. I have a S&W (can I say/admit it here) model 57 that was overstamped on the model 28! Was told that when they ran out of frames for a specific model they went to the "next bench" and borrowed one to fill the order. No waste back then for sure... Joe
 

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Hi all. Some time ago I came into possession of a lovely and mysterious Colt revolver. I never got around to making a post about it, but I have slipped in a photo here and there you may have seen. We got to talking about these unique revolvers in the DS photo section, so I decided to finally make that post. It's been a while since we had a good thread about these curious revolvers, and there is a chance a few members here don't even know they exist, so I'd love to shed light on them. As well, if you have any information or photos of your own, feel free to share! I'd love to see and hear from everyone.

Some history:
For those that don't know, these are often referred to as a Pre-Detective Special, although more correctly they are a 2" Police Positive Special. They are properly the 'patriarch' of the snub-nose family, and one of the only guns Colt ever made that doesn't have a name or patent information anywhere on it.

So what exactly is a Pre-Detective Special? As the collector given nickname would suggest, it is the model that immediately preceded the Colt Detective Special. In 1926, the Detroit Police Department and a couple of others wanted to arm their plainclothes detectives with a powerful, compact revolver, but no such thing was commercially available. There were short barreled revolvers, but nothing quite like what they were looking for. So, as Colt is famous for doing, they built a gun to fit the need. In reality, they took their already popular Police Positive Special revolver, produced a new 2" barrel, and began to fit the same gun frames with the shorter barrel.

Immediately the gun proved a huge success, not only with the police, but civilian market too. So much so that around mid year of 1927 (I believe May), Colt began to market this revolver as its own model, coining the famous name, the Colt Detective Special, after the men that used them.

Apart from being the forerunners of the snub nose family, what makes these early type Detective Specials particularly unique are their features. Other than just the name, they stand out from your average Detective Special. They were produced from 1926-1927 on special order before the Detective Special name came into use, so the barrels are simply hand-stamped ".38 Special" and they have no patent information on the reverse. Other details differing them from standard Detective Specials and an easy way to identify one is that they will often have smooth triggers, a smooth top strap, and a "skinny" 1-9/16" square butt. Interestingly, many also have a 'fouling cup' on the underside of the top strap where the barrel meets the frame. Also, because these were a special run of guns, Colt took a future serial number range and allocated them for these new short-barreled revolvers. They will almost always serial number to 1928 even though they are from 1926-1927. As always though, with Colt, nothing is definite, but these are the average and most common traits of a Pre-Detective.

Even with all of that said, there is still a fairly blurred line between what is officially considered a 2" Police Positive Special versus a Detective Special, due to the fact that Colt was never great at leaving exact records, and they never listed when they started producing the Detective Special as its own model compared to when they stopped producing 2" Police Positive Specials as factory special order items. There's a lot of overlap in production between the two, and speaking with Paul at Colt Archives, he shared with me that the official cutoff date they use is 10/21/1927. If it shipped after that date, it would be considered a Detective Special. However, after doing some digging, they also found a ton of matching factory orders that went with guns shipped before & after the date for Detective Specials. So, it's still a bit muddy and unclear, but the best way to identify one is if it has the features I listed above and whether or not it shipped before 10/21/1927.

As an example of how confusing it can get, officially mine is considered a Police Positive Special. It has all of the Pre-Detective features and was shipped 10/18/1927 (three days before the cutoff date), but it does NOT have a factory order associated to it, which is curious for a 2" Police Positive Special, as they were never standard production. In Paul's own words, "With the earlier thinner grip frame diameter, and .38 special marked barrel vs. detective special, I would be inclined to believe this is a pre-detective, that shipped after the detective special was introduced."
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And finally, after that mouthful of history and information, below is my own personal Pre-Detective.

Unfortunately, the grips aren't the originals and the finish is a bit worn in places, but all else she's in great shape. Originally shipped to Indianapolis in 1927 as a first year Detective Special, she's definitely one of my favourite Colt revolvers. Being a huge fan of early Detective Specials and Indianapolis being my second home, I'd honestly consider it a holy grail gun for me!
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A very interesting and informative post on this little-known special revolver. It appears that as was done with the Colt SAA Long Flute guns, these PP serial numbers were pre-assigned as a special "project". In the case of the Long Flutes, those serial numbers were established in mid-1913, with most being shipped in 1914-16. This screws up the Colt SAA serial number vs. year correlation table! And now, it seems that the pre-Detective Specials are also in a confusing category.

You might ask Paul sometime, if these pre-Detective Specials were documented in an assembly (or production) ledger, aside from what is entered in the shipping ledger. If that production ledger still exists, maybe Colt Archives should use it in determining whether a given gun is a pre-Detective Special or not?
 

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Keith, you may be right on using up old parts. I have a S&W (can I say/admit it here) model 57 that was overstamped on the model 28! Was told that when they ran out of frames for a specific model they went to the "next bench" and borrowed one to fill the order. No waste back then for sure... Joe
At one law enforcement agency I worked at we were issued Smith Model 64 revolvers...the Detectives were issued 2" M64s. One of the 2" guns had a frame marked 65 instead of 64 and had the .38 Special marked barrel. I never tried seeing if it would chamber a .357...maybe I should have out of curiosity.
 
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