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Old July 30, 2011, 02:07 AM   #1
Skottin
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Colt 1903 .32 ACP Concerns

Hi Everyone.

1st post here! Sorry about the length but I could use your help with this.

My father has a very old Colt 1903 .32 ACP that was (*extremely*) filthy so he asked me to clean it up a bit for him. I have an understanding of field stripping a 1903 and after some heavy cleaning, some (looks like mud) and grit on the side of the grip safety started to bother me. I don't know how to detail strip this particular pistol, however unfortunately, I got a little adventuresome, pulled the lower MSH pin, and after cleaning out the sticky filth between the frame and the grip safety, I tried to re-insert the pin but now the grip safety is somehow "stuck" depressed. Looks like the leaf spring is stuck and isn't quite seated right. (I knew I should have stopped before I did this. Even though detail stripping my 1911 went very well the first time a while back, I should have just listened to my gut about venturing into unknown territory on the inner workings of a model I’m not too familiar with. I looked online for some information and realized that detail stripping/reassembling a 1903 is extremely difficult and there is really a lack of info/videos on the subject. So, without going any farther, I took it to a local Gunsmith to re-assemble it for me.

After getting it back, I noticed that anytime I grip the pistol with my left hand and rack the slide with my right, the hammer doesn't seem to cock back (get no click when pulling the trigger). I went back in and inquired about this and the smith told me that I am not supposed to engage the grip safety when racking the slide. 'It's supposed to function that way on a 1903. Hammer will cock when it is not depressed.'. Well, it does like he said.

Well...Something doesn't sound right. Im pretty sure I was able to have the hammer engage anytime I racked the slide before this. I never noticed that. I understand that a grip safety is to prevent accidental discharge if the trigger is engaged, however it doesn't seem right that this would prevent the hammer cocking back. I don't remember this being this way originally.

But it does engage some of the time with the grip safety engaged. The crazy thing is...most of the time, if pistol is racked while placing/leaning it on its left side, the hammer will engage back. Same thing goes for racking it towards the muzzle. Anytime the pistol is leaning towards the right, it rarely engages the hammer back (holding in my left hand as mentioned above). I know it wounds crazy but I wouldn't post this if I hadn't tried different ways all evening. The only sure way I can ensure the hammer cocks back is to keep my hand off the grip safety.

What do you all think? Does this sound right? Or maybe parts are worn or maybe not assembled correctly? Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks-
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Old July 30, 2011, 09:00 AM   #2
Chuck Dye
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Have you shot the gun since it was reassembled by the 'smith? If I read correctly, the hammer is following the slide on return to battery. That is certainly not a design feature and absolutely not the way my 1903 handles. Such a fault might lead to a failure to fire in a loaded gun, but could well lead to a full auto emptying of the gun. I think it prudent to get the gun running normally without ammo before you shoot it. A different 'smith is probably in order, too.

The owner's manual may be found at http://stevespages.com/pdf/colt_32_&...hammerless.pdf, also at www.coltautos.com. Not hugely helpful, but a start.
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Last edited by Chuck Dye; July 30, 2011 at 09:07 AM.
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Old July 30, 2011, 10:02 AM   #3
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Quote:
After getting it back, I noticed that anytime I grip the pistol with my left hand and rack the slide with my right, the hammer doesn't seem to cock back (get no click when pulling the trigger). I went back in and inquired about this and the smith told me that I am not supposed to engage the grip safety when racking the slide. 'It's supposed to function that way on a 1903. Hammer will cock when it is not depressed.'. Well, it does like he said.

Well...Something doesn't sound right. Im pretty sure I was able to have the hammer engage anytime I racked the slide before this. I never noticed that. I understand that a grip safety is to prevent accidental discharge if the trigger is engaged, however it doesn't seem right that this would prevent the hammer cocking back. I don't remember this being this way originally.

But it does engage some of the time with the grip safety engaged. The crazy thing is...most of the time, if pistol is racked while placing/leaning it on its left side, the hammer will engage back. Same thing goes for racking it towards the muzzle. Anytime the pistol is leaning towards the right, it rarely engages the hammer back (holding in my left hand as mentioned above). I know it wounds crazy but I wouldn't post this if I hadn't tried different ways all evening. The only sure way I can ensure the hammer cocks back is to keep my hand off the grip safety.

What do you all think? Does this sound right? Or maybe parts are worn or maybe not assembled correctly? Any help would be appreciated.
It sounds to me that the gun is not assembled correctly.

I just put one of these together for a gentleman , and the hammer cocks and stays back with the grip safety depressed, which is the way the gun should work.

I will say these little guns can be a challegene to reassemble, it helps if you have four hands, after the assembling sequence is figured out.

I recommend you do not fire the gun until it's been checked out and assembled correctly.
I also would not continue cycling the gun the way it is as you may cause damage to some of the parts, if not already.

Best Regards
Bob Hunter
www.huntercustoms.com
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Old July 30, 2011, 10:21 AM   #4
canewbie
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Mine racks or cycles as you would expect, cocking the hammer with the grip safety depressed. I'm not much help tho as I only did a field strip when I got it and clean it. It sure is fun to shoot and is one of my favorites. It is a neat gun and should be worth the effort to get it working properly.
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Old July 30, 2011, 06:44 PM   #5
Avenger
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Mine does not have the same problem. Not sure where your issue arises from, but your GUNSMITH may have a screw loose.

Designing a gun so that one of the parts you have to hold in order to use it PREVENTS it from being used? Yeah, that would be dumb...which is why John Moses Browning did NOT design it that way. If it was supposed to work that way...it'd be a single-shot!
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Old July 30, 2011, 08:53 PM   #6
James K
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Well, your gunsmith is definitely wrong. Now the question is what to do about it. He probably won't correct the problem if he won't admit there is one. There are several on-line instructions and videos on that pistol but the ones I have seen miss one critical point. They take you through re-assembly to a point, then leave you dangling.

The trick comes after the gun is all together except for installing the hammer and the safety (the safety shaft is the hammer pin). At that point, grasp the gun just like you were firing it, holding in the grip safety and pulling the trigger. At that point, the hammer is easy to install and the safety shaft can be inserted to hold it. And you are done.

Jim
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Old July 30, 2011, 10:57 PM   #7
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Frankly, your 'gunsmith' is incompetent...........I am quite familiar with that action and it should cock on cycling the slide.......and it ought stay that way till the trigger is pulled while the grip safety is engaged, ie: depressed........if it doesn't, then it either has been mis-assembled or has worn or broken parts.

Those guns are really robust if properly maintained.......do yourself a favor and find someone that KNOWS what he's doing!!
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Old July 31, 2011, 01:12 PM   #8
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Big red flag!!!!

Your "gunsmith" told you the hammer won't cock when the grip safety is depressed, and it's supposed to work that way?

And you believed him?

Think about it for a moment, IF what that idiot said was true, how could the gun even fire? The gun doesn't know if you are cycling the slide by hand, or if its being cycled by firing. You have the grip safety depressed when you fire the gun, and the slide cycles, leaving the hammer cocked.

Your "gunsmith" is an idiot, did not do his job correctly, and LIED to you to cover it up! DO NOT DO ANY MORE BUSINESS WITH THIS GUNSMITH!

He may know lots of other guns well, inside and out, but rather than admit he didn't know this one (admit its kind of rare, and he would have to learn it), he blundered ahead, and then lied to you about how it's "supposed to work".

Proven untrustworthy. Sorry.

Find someone else, even if you have to drive for hours. Since he screwed up on this one, and lied about it, can you trust him NOT to screw up on something else? I wouldn't.
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Old July 31, 2011, 02:34 PM   #9
Chris_B
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I am very sorry to hear of these troubles with the 1903. Neat pistol

I wonder how practical a pistol it would be if the grip safety was not supposed to be depressed when racking the slide to load it???? Seems completely illogical

...and then, there's this inescapable nugget:

Quote:
Think about it for a moment, IF what that idiot said was true, how could the gun even fire? The gun doesn't know if you are cycling the slide by hand, or if its being cycled by firing. You have the grip safety depressed when you fire the gun, and the slide cycles, leaving the hammer cocked.
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Old July 31, 2011, 03:35 PM   #10
Skottin
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Thanks for all of your replies, guys. Its great to have all that input. It's been a frustrating experience and trying to find a good smith in my area is not easy.

44 Amp, I didn't say I believed him. I was just trying to wrap my mind around how is one supposed to rack a slide without engaging the grip safety???? (However the hammer does engages "1/2" the time when it is depressed). And how exactly is one even supposed to know if the hammer is indeed engaged - especially in a self defense situation?? Yeah- Lets just fire off a round to make sure.

You coudn't have made a more excellent point saying that the pistol 'doesn't know' if its cycling by hand or by fire. That makes a lot of sense. The smith was just was trying to make a very strong (and might I add confident) case that this is how the gun is to function. I was pressed for time so I needed to leave. However, it did give me some time to get my ducks in order.

The frustration I have is that I'm pretty sure it wasn't returned in the same function/condition, I had to travel a bit to get there, and that I had to pay his bench fee for his "work". Although I do not want him to work or let alone touch this pistol again, I do have in mind to go back to the store and demand some of that money I paid refunded since it wasn't assembled correctly. I just have to be able to verify that. (As I mentioned, I can't find really any info about this particular model online).

Also, I would like to go back if not for the reason that I heard that they do have an identical model in their used gun section which I would be 1st in line to checkout its functioning. That may be in my favor, however I could see him coming back (trying to save face) saying that I must have then damaged it (trying to re-assemble it - *there is no way - It wasn't taken apart farther than the mainspring pin being removed and I immediately stopped when the grip safety got stuck trying to put the pin back in. *) or some parts then are indeed worn. Seems like a no-win situation. Outside of my father confirming that it was problem free, I wouldn't have any "documentation" to prove that before he worked on it. My word against this smith. Any advice on how you guys would proceed? Maybe just chalk it up for loss and just find another smith with a good reputation?

(James K - You mentioned some online instructional videos in your post. Do you have any links so I may be able to familiarize myself a little better with its functioning?)
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Old July 31, 2011, 08:05 PM   #11
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Here's one, kinda skimpy, though: http://marstar.ca/AssemblyColtAP32.htm

Google Colt 1903 assembly and Colt 1903 hammerless assembly and see what turns up.

Jim
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Old August 3, 2011, 10:17 PM   #12
44 AMP
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Don't see any other option...

Quote:
just chalk it up for loss and just find another smith with a good reputation?
Getting into a peeing contenst with the smith will get you nothing. Since he bluffed you when you picked up the gun, I don't see him getting all remorseful later and addmitting a mistake, let alone giving you any money back.

He might, but I doubt it. But all you have to lose is your time, and travel expenses. I would just write it off as a lost cause, unless, when examined by a competent smith, that smith tells you the gun has been damaged by improper work/assembly.

If that's the case, then the first smith does owe you compensation. Good luck getting it, sadly. You might have to resort to small claims court as a worst case. If that happens, be sure to include the Better Business Bureau as part of the complaint process.

Hope you can get the old Colt working right again.
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Old August 5, 2011, 05:12 PM   #13
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Any update? These little, well I'll just say it..noble pistols deserve more credit. Mine is such a fun shooting work of practical art that I feel bad this one has issues
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Old August 7, 2011, 04:12 PM   #14
Skottin
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Update...

Hi All.

Thanks for all the advice and help. To give you an update, I gave Colt a call and talked to one of their smiths. They confirmed that something is indeed wrong with the gun and that could be a result of improper assembly. They would have to open it up to tell but unfortunately, they don't repair antiques. They gave me a referral to a guy who works on these religiously and is top notch. They also sent me the old manual. They were extremely helpful.

I don't like being dishonest or screwing anyone with any interaction I have with them so I couldn't let this go. I went back to the gunshop and respectfully talked to the smith who did the work. I first went to the counter and asked a sales person to see the same model they had in their used section. After a function test, hammer goes back every time...even with grip safety engaged. I said thanks and went to see the smith next.

The conversation with this man was pretty surreal and void of logic. He wouldn't budge on his position and is firm that my pistol is functioning correctly...even when I told him what Colt said and mentioning the functioning of the other 1903 behind the class.

After shooting him a bunch of logical questions about its functioning, he continued to insists that that is not right. He states that when shooting a 1903, the shooter actually "releases the grip safety between shots which allows the hammer to reset. Its just like a 1911...its the same thing...you briefly let go of the safety and re-squeeze, allowing the trigger to reset". (Pause) (I'm usually not speechless). Well, thats not like my 1911 at all...or any other semi-automatic I have shot. Are you kidding me??? What about double taps or rapid fire? How does that work? I feel like I was having a stroke talking to this guy.

When re-mentioning Colt's position or the gun behind the counter, he said that those guns are sold as-is and may not be functioning correctly. What?!!?!!?? He continues that he "doesn't want to be responsible for any liability associated with giving me a gun that isn't functioning the way Colt designed it". But you are responsible for making sure these guns behind the counter are functioning 100% before you sell them to the public? "That's why they are sold as-is". Wow. I wish I had a feel for how this guy thought before I brought it in. (Note to self...more small talk with the next smith).

I learned a long time ago not to argue with a fool so I wouldn't get anywhere with him...I don't think John Browning would get any farther with him either. Well, this place is on my stay away list.

Since in my area there are a lot of questionable smiths (a dying breed out here as I was told by other shops who wouldn't touch my 1903), I am going to send it out of state to the recommended gentlemen who works on these. I got to talk to him for a bit and mentioned the problems. He first thought it was the disconnector, however when I told him about how it seemed to work when leaning to the left and right, he mentioned that that doesn't sound crazy at all and more than likely sounds more like the leaf spring. Either it was assembled wrong or damaged. He would be able to figure it out in 10 min. The only additional cost I would have to pay would be parts (if spring) and shipping. I'm fine with that and for peace of mind. His rates were reasonable too. The only thing he cautioned about was if other parts were damaged...it is extremely difficult to find them.

I will be shipping it out this week so I will keep you all posted on what they find.
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Old August 7, 2011, 04:47 PM   #15
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Quote:
He states that when shooting a 1903, the shooter actually "releases the grip safety between shots which allows the hammer to reset. Its just like a 1911...its the same thing...you briefly let go of the safety and re-squeeze, allowing the trigger to reset"
Is this man a licensed gunsmith?

Before I typed that sentence, I got out my 1918 Colt Model of 1911. It doesn't give a tinker's cuss if the grip safety is squeezed or not, when the slide cocks the hammer, it locks.

Then I got out my 1920 Colt model of 1903. And...yes...indeed it does function identically in this regard- pistol doesn't care

Well, maybe they are both broken. I get my Colt Series 70 from 1978. Gee, the hammer cocks and stays there locked, grip safety depressed or not.

Your ex-'smith thinks that the grip safety is a hammer drop safety. That's pretty frightening
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Old August 7, 2011, 07:45 PM   #16
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Quote:
I learned a long time ago not to argue with a fool so I wouldn't get anywhere with him...I don't think John Browning would get any farther with him either. Well, this place is on my stay away list.

Since in my area there are a lot of questionable smiths (a dying breed out here as I was told by other shops who wouldn't touch my 1903), I am going to send it out of state to the recommended gentlemen who works on these. I got to talk to him for a bit and mentioned the problems. He first thought it was the disconnector, however when I told him about how it seemed to work when leaning to the left and right, he mentioned that that doesn't sound crazy at all and more than likely sounds more like the leaf spring. Either it was assembled wrong or damaged. He would be able to figure it out in 10 min. The only additional cost I would have to pay would be parts (if spring) and shipping. I'm fine with that and for peace of mind. His rates were reasonable too. The only thing he cautioned about was if other parts were damaged...it is extremely difficult to find them.

I will be shipping it out this week so I will keep you all posted on what they find.
Sounds like a good plan on all counts.

If you do ever see the smith again that thinks a 1911 grip safety must be squeezed and released between shots for the hammer to cock, tell him to call me at the shop, I'll be glad to explain to him how a 1911 works.

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www.huntercustoms.com
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Old August 7, 2011, 08:31 PM   #17
1911rocks
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The 1903 is still relevant

http://www.cylinder-slide.com/index....how&ref=CSP901
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Old August 7, 2011, 08:58 PM   #18
James K
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"Licensed smith"

A person who keeps and works on other people's guns has to have an FFL, but there is nothing in the licensing about proof of competence. (Beauticians have to go to school, do an apprenticeship, and pass an examination before being licensed, and they only work on HAIR!)

On these sites we all too often see someone asking what he needs to get into the gunsmithing business besides an FFL. Those who try to provide realistic answers are shouted down by the "mill bastard file and a screwdriver" folks, most of whom make wild claims about how many thousands of guns they have built, rebuilt, and repaired (they never mention "ruined"). Training school? Too expensive, just buy a video tape. Buy a lathe or millilng machine? People will describe at length how they rebarrel guns using a file and a Dremel tool. Learn how to measure headspace? Naw, just use a piece of sticky paper. And on and on.

So people seem to think a person who knows nothing about guns, who has never taken a course or served an apprenticeship, who has only hand tools, can be a gunsmith. Until they take a gun to him and have it ruined, then have him prove his ignorance with lies.

Jim
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Old August 17, 2011, 12:52 PM   #19
petevig
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1903 re-Assembly

JimK rocks.

"The trick comes after the gun is all together except for installing the hammer and the safety (the safety shaft is the hammer pin). At that point, grasp the gun just like you were firing it, holding in the grip safety and pulling the trigger. At that point, the hammer is easy to install and the safety shaft can be inserted to hold it. And you are done."

Sir, you have made assembly of my 1903 a joy. I knew there was a trick and had searched high and low. What used to be a dreaded trip to the dentist for a root canal is now a walk in the park.

Thanks,

Pete
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Old August 17, 2011, 05:28 PM   #20
James K
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It's really no secret and I try to spread the word when I can. I don't know why all those "assemble in reverse order" books and videos never seem to mention it, but you are right, it sure does make things easier.

Jim
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Old August 18, 2011, 03:30 AM   #21
HottAK47
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Now, about this Ruger MK 2 I cant get back together.............................
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Old August 18, 2011, 05:58 AM   #22
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There are Gunsmiths and then there are guys who work on guns. He is wrong and everyone out here knows it!
I went to a so called gunsmith with a friend who had a problem with a Remington 700. This guy told him he needed all sorts of work on the receiver to make the scope lay correctly. ??????? ***? When I told this guy get new mount and rings and put it on he actually said "How long have you been working on guns?" Well my answer was I worked for Colt before entering the service and was an armorer in the service so about 50 years. "The reply was well things changed since you did any work on guns"
Must be the same guy you got to fix your gun.
Mace
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Old August 18, 2011, 12:54 PM   #23
James K
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About the worst was the guy who set up shop to work on handguns, specializing in 1911 target guns. He took the sear engagement down until it was a nice light pull. But then his customers complained about the hammer falling to half cock when they loaded the first round. He ranted about the damage to his "perfect" sear, so he came up with an easy fix - grind off the half-cock notch.

Not long after, one of his guns did just what you think and ripped off 7 rounds rather quickly. No one was injured though a bullet narrowly missed the range officer. The "gunsmith" was visited by an attorney and a couple of police officers. It seemed that he had an FFL but had neglected small details like a state firearms license, business license, zoning laws, etc. He was persuaded to go into another line of business, and last I heard he was repairing lawn mowers.

I am not sure I want to have him fix my lawn mower, though.

Jim
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Old August 19, 2011, 11:24 PM   #24
Skottin
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Well, I got off the phone with the new repair guy and he informed me that there isn't anything wrong with the pistol and the parts (sear, disconector, leaf spring, etc.) - all are in good shape. That's a relief. He did mention the only thing he saw was some pitting in the muzzle but most of the ones he has seen for repair have some to some degree. Other than that, the problem was a common assembly mistake involving 2 of the leaf spring prongs laying incorrectly (in front rather than behind) upon assembly. It should be shipping back tomorrow with an explanation of the work done. I'm happy to have it up and running again. Thanks for all your comments and help!
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