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Old January 19, 2012, 01:19 PM   #1
Fishing_Cabin
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Colt 38 auto different safeties

I am trying to do alittle research about the Colt 38 auto's made in the early 1900's. I do know the 1900 Colt 38 has the safety made into the rear sight, and it was later modified. As far as I know, this is the only Colt pistol that had this type of safety, am I correct? This conversation came up between some friends and myself, and none of us are familier with this particular design.

Were the modifications due to a bad safety design? (I would feel its at the very least an awkward place for the safety)

Thanks in advance!
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Old January 19, 2012, 01:36 PM   #2
Mike Irwin
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Yes, it was the only Colt with that kind of safety.

I don't believe that it was a bad design, it just proved to be a but cumbersome to operate and wasn't popular.
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Old January 19, 2012, 01:51 PM   #3
Fishing_Cabin
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Thanks Mike,

Just curious, would this design be prone to possible AD/ND's? Such as the pistol carried in a pant or vest pocket, the safety could be accidently disengaged when the pistol is removed from the pocket, causing it to fire?

You'll have to forgive my lack of knowledge on this design. I am trying to learn more about it.
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Old January 19, 2012, 04:14 PM   #4
James K
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It has been reported, and I believe confirmed, that Browning did not like manual safeties and that he felt that on a hammer gun the only safety needed was the half cock notch. (No Browning-designed hammer rifle or shotgun ever had a manual safety until recent years.) The sight safety appears to have been the Colt company's idea, not Browning's.

Both the grip and manual (thumb) safeties on what became the Model 1911 were demanded by the Army, over Browning's objections.

The major drawback to the dual-link design was not the safety or lack of it, but the fact that if the gun was fired without the slide stop ("wedge") in place, the slide came back in the shooter's face. (The Army didn't think much of that, either.)

Jim
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Old January 19, 2012, 04:41 PM   #5
Mike Irwin
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"Just curious, would this design be prone to possible AD/ND's?"

No more so than any other semi-auto at the time.

Here's some interesting pix of the sight safety in operation:

http://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/1900AC...1/00acp21.html

I had thought that it only would engage when the hammer was fully cocked, much like the 1911, but that's obviously not the case.

It also appears that its main function was to shield the firing pin and block the hammer.

I've never actually handled a 1900 with a sight safety to the point where I've been able to examine it closely and see how it functions (they're pretty rare, with only about 3,000 made), so I can't tell you how sure of a safety mechanism it was.
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Old January 19, 2012, 06:10 PM   #6
Jim Watson
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And of those 3000, a lot were removed when the gun came back to Colt for about any repair, kind of like the present Ruger transfer bar conversion.

As I understand it, the 1900 with sight safety had a full length firing pin, so there was no condition 2; hammer down on a loaded chamber. Either depend on the sight safety, half cock, or condition 3, chamber empty. This last was recommended in a period magazine article about the new guns.

The 1902-1903 guns had inertial firing pins so if you felt froggy enough to manually decock, they were safe in condition 2.

What I do not know is whether they put in an inertial firing pin when they took off the sight safety. Not a tactical problem these days, the old guns are seldom shot.
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Old January 20, 2012, 02:14 PM   #7
Fishing_Cabin
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Thanks guys, your help has geve me a bit of an education on how this particular safety worked, and why I see a few high priced examples of non-modified, and some others with the modified safety at a lower price. Not sure if I will pick one up, but I will keep doing some research and maybe I will stumble on one at some point. Its on my "want" list though...
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Old January 20, 2012, 11:09 PM   #8
James K
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The sight safety did not "shield the firing pin and block the hammer." A surface on the bottom of the safety imposed in front of a cutout in the firing pin, blocking the firing pin when the safety was down. The cutout in the firing pin left only about half of the firing pin. If the hammer was cocked with the safety on, pulling the trigger dropped the hammer on the firing pin which was blocked by the safety.* The result was that the firing pins, already weakened by the cutout, broke. That was the main reason for discontinuation of the firing pin safety. (The firing pin was not the inertial type.)

*It wasn't a much better idea some 38 years later when the German Army overruled Walther and insisted on a cheaper safety system on the P.38. What broke that time was the safety, not the firing pin.

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