Sunday, June 06, 2010


Here recently Steve Bodio put up a couple of posts about revolvers over on Querencia and I thought I'd throw up something on the subject as well. Revolvers, like pump shotguns, are something mostly and, bestly, American. The Webley aside, most other-than-American revolver designs are more curiosities than commercial or military successes (bet there's a comment from someone about the Nagant). From the U.S., though, there are the entire series of Colt single actions, culminating with the Single Action Army, the Smith & Wesson top-break revolvers, the Smith and Wesson Military and Police in all it's various guises (one hundred and twelve years of production and counting!), and then there's this gun:

This particular revolver is a Colt "New Service" manufactured in 1934 and chambered for the .38 Special cartridge. The New Service model was the largest-framed double action revolver built by Colt and was introduced in 1897. By the time production ceased during World War II, three hundred and fifty-some thousand revolvers had come off the production line. The reason for the large frame is that it was originally designed to accommodate the .45 Long Colt cartridge. Thousands of New Service revolvers were sold to law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad, as well as to the U.S. military. Also, a substantial number were chambered in .455 Eley (a slightly longer version of the famous .455 Webley cartridge) and purchased by Great Britain as military sidearms.

The revolver is fitted with a Fray-Mershon "Sure Grip" adapter and, as you can see, has lots of holster wear and wear in general- not surprising for a working pistol carried on a regular basis. The grip adapter is designed to fill in the stocks a bit and improve double action shooting.

My father started with the Border Patrol in the early 60's and, interestingly enough, was first issued a .38 Special Colt New Service, albeit one fitted with a heavy barrel, rather than the tapered barrel of this pistol. Dad recalls the Colts as having a remarkably good trigger, which is high praise considering he carried and shot thousands of rounds through a Smith and Wesson Model 19 in the course of his later career. You can read a short article about the New Service revolver in the Border Patrol here.

One of the attractions of firearms for those of us who enjoy guns is their durability and history. Some of the more useful and durable designs were produced for decades and used around the world. Any given gun can be beaten into junk, but a lot of worn old pistols, rifles, and shotguns have years of use behind them and, if cared for a bit, left in them still. While worn finishes, nicks, and scars aren't necessarily sought after features, the stories that attach to the dings render them less marring.

So, what makes this old gun special? No particular romance is associated with it and it would be nothing special to a collector, as those folks mostly look for pristine condition. On the other hand, there is this provenance- the pistol spent a career in the U.S. Customs Service, belonging to a family friend who, at one point, was the District Director of Customs for the Port of San Diego. The original owner has long passed so any particular stories attaching to the gun are unavailable. The pictures, though, tell of thousands of hours of carry and likely hundreds if not thousands of shots fired at the range. So, this old pistol has a family connection and over seventy-five years of use- it's good for another seventy five, or longer, too.


Chas S. Clifton said...

A solid old revolver. The grip adapter looks as though it would make it more comfortable for someone with long fingers (like me).

You suppose the Border Patrol Colts were just melted down or something?

WV: bling (I kid you not.) Not on this Colt.

mdmnm said...


My father and I have wondered the same thing about the BP Colts. I hope they're just in some Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark-style storage facility waiting for a gun friendly administration to surplus them out.

You're right, that old revolver is the anti-bling!