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Old March 5, 2013, 08:22 PM   #1
WillyKern69
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Is this really a RARE 1903 Colt?

Ran across this description on GB......

"Rare Limited production only 31,000 Pocket Colt 1903 Model "Automatic 38 Calibre". Made in 1911 Serial number 29xxx. Marked on right side of slide AUTOMATIC COLT CALBRE 38 RIMLESS SMOKELESS. Marked on left side of slide COLT PATENT FIREARMS MFG. CO. Hartford Conn. U.S.A. Also on left side of slide PATENTED APR.2O,1897 SEPT 9, 1902. On left side on slide Rampant Colt in a circle. Marked on both sides of grips COLT with a Rampant Colt in a circle. Barrel is 4 1/2" long with overall length of gun 7 1/2". Black checkered grips which are in great shape with no cracks. From my research I found these were very popular with gansters because of small size vs. power and no safty. Gun works good in half cocked and full cocked positions. Good rifled bore. Gun seems to be all original blue and complete. Would make a great gun for any collection. Kind of a rare model to find."

I love the old Colts, but 31,000 is considered rare? Is it rare because caliber is spelled in old English "Calibre"? I have a few of these old Colts, and I feel this is a little misleading? Am I wrong? What do you think?

Thanks,

WK
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Old March 5, 2013, 08:58 PM   #2
Walt Sherrill
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What makes them "rare" isn't simply how many were made, but also when they were made, how many are still around, and whether THOSE are still sought by collectors. The first one was made in 1903 last one was made in 1929, and that one was probably made sometime around 1910 (just guessing), so it may be over 100 years old.

I notice he says nothing about condition. That's critical. And he seems to have borrowed descriptive language directly from the Blue Book.

My two-year old Fjestad Blue Book considers them pricey, if not rare -- and prices vary from $5,000 in 100% condition, to 4,000 in 98%, $2,750 in 95%, down to $750 in 60% condition. I suspect they've gone up a little since 2011, but not a lot.

If you've got box and instructions, add 20% to the price. If you find one with the early round hammer, the BB says add 30%.

Last edited by Walt Sherrill; March 5, 2013 at 10:21 PM.
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Old March 5, 2013, 09:09 PM   #3
James K
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For some reason now unknown, Colt spelled the word "calibre" on all its auto pistols in the pre-WWII era. The exact number of Model 1903 pocket hammer pistols made is unknown due to confusion with Colt's serial numbering and the numbering of the later guns in the same series as the Model 1902 pistols. Those guns are not really rare, but are uncommon in good shape and one in 100% could bring upwards of $4000. Of course, here we have only the seller's word for the condition, and ones in top original condition are really rare. (Mine is a nicely done reblue, but a reblue nevertheless.)

The Model 1903 pocket hammer pistol (not to be confused with the .32 Model 1903 pocket hammerless) is a dual link pistol, like the 1900 and 1902 models and the later 1905 model in .45 ACP. It is chambered for the .38 ACP, with a case dimensionally the same as that of the .38 Super,* but less powerful. (Use of .38 Super in that gun could seriously damage the gun or injure the shooter.)

The "gangster" story sounds like hype - I know of no reason or evidence that that model was any more a favorite of the criminal element than any other gun of the time.

*In spite of gun markings, the .38 ACP/.38 Super and .32 ACP are not actually "rimless", being of the case type we call "semi-rimmed."

Jim
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Old March 5, 2013, 09:34 PM   #4
Sharpsdressed Man
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I had a rough one that had a rare "acceptance/proof" mark on it, that indicated it was part of a pre-WWII Dutch or Belgian contract (can't remember which), and a collector traded me a near new 1903 for it. Rare is in the eyes of the buyer! This collector went on to locate an even more rare tin box that those contract guns were shipped in, and paid BIG bucks for that just to have a correct, boxed gun. Remember, finding a European purchased gun with box here in the US would be, well, pretty rare........
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Old March 5, 2013, 09:54 PM   #5
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A European contract Model 1903 hammer would be really rare, as I think it would have violated the Colt-FN agreement to stay out of each other's back yards. Plus the caliber would be odd, since the .38 ACP was nearly unknown in Europe (it still is).

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Old March 5, 2013, 10:19 PM   #6
Mike Irwin
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"so it may be over 1000 years old."

That is one damned old handgun, Walt.
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Old March 5, 2013, 10:22 PM   #7
Walt Sherrill
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Quote:
"so it may be over 1000 years old."
That might make it almost as old as GUNPOWDER!!

My typographical errors aren't as old at that, but much more common.

It now says 100. <grin>
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Old March 5, 2013, 11:29 PM   #8
Sharpsdressed Man
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^^^Oooops. I misread the caliber, and thought it was a .32. Mine was the .32 Hammerless Pocket Model. Totally different.
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Old March 6, 2013, 11:21 AM   #9
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Even so, a Belgian or Dutch contract Colt would be very odd, what with the Colt/FN agreement. Do you recall any other markings or the approximate serial number range?

Jim
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Old March 6, 2013, 11:31 AM   #10
WillyKern69
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Thanks for the answers. I feel like I see them all the time at gun shows, obviously not in mint condition though. I guess I feel that "rare" is the new "unique" in descriptions. "My guns are rare because I sais so."
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Old March 6, 2013, 11:33 AM   #11
Walt Sherrill
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I wonder if you see the .32 versions, rather than the .38? I've seen a lot of the first, but only a few of the 38s.
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Old March 6, 2013, 11:39 AM   #12
WillyKern69
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Walt, I guess I will pay more attention. This is about learning and I am learning more. Thanks.

WK
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Old March 6, 2013, 11:46 AM   #13
James K
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There is a lot of confusion because there are two different pistols called the "Model 1903" by collectors. (Colt never used those model year terms; collectors use them for convenience.)

The first is a dual link, recoil operated pocket pistol, a shortened version of the Model 1902. It has an exposed hammer. It is chambered in .38 ACP and was never made in any other caliber. Colt called it the pocket pistol (hammer). That model is the one being discussed and is relatively rare; it was never used or purchased by any military force.

The second is a blowback pocket pistol, with no visible hammer, chambered in .32 ACP. It was never chambered in any other caliber. A very similar, but not identical, model, which collectors call the Model 1908 pocket pistol, was chambered in .380 ACP. Both pistols are fairly common, with almost a half million .32's made. Both pistols were purchased in limited quantities by the armed forces and other government agencies during WWII.

Jim
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