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Old December 26, 2011, 07:12 PM   #1
rbellamy
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Colt 1901 DA .38

First time poster here...

I've got an Army Colt 1901 DA .38, stamped with Serial 62290 (based on other postings, this seems to indicate it was probably made around 1895 - sound right?).

It's been damaged (probably by firing a Special round), and I'm trying to figure whether it can be fixed, or if it's worth it. See the attached photos of the handgun and the blown-out forcing cone.

Any feedback is greatly appreciated!
Attached Images
File Type: jpg colt-1901-da38-sideview.jpg (56.7 KB, 125 views)
File Type: jpg colt-1901-da38-healstamp.jpg (87.5 KB, 94 views)
File Type: jpg colt-1901-da38-forcingcone.jpg (61.3 KB, 97 views)

Last edited by rbellamy; December 26, 2011 at 07:20 PM.
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Old December 26, 2011, 10:05 PM   #2
Mike Irwin
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If it's a Colt Model 1901, I don't think it would have been made in 1895...

I'd say whether it could be fixed or not would depend on the availability of a barrel and whether the frame boss stretched from the overpressure round.

Really impossible for anyone to tell from pictures.
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Old December 26, 2011, 10:16 PM   #3
gyvel
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The damage could have also been done by someone chambering and firing a .357 wadcutter type round. There are no chamber steps in these cylinders and it is possible to chamber and fire not only a +p .38 special, but a .357 as well.
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Old December 27, 2011, 12:43 AM   #4
James K
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Enough of those guns were made that barrels are sometimes available for them from Gun Parts and other sources. There is no other way of repairing that condition. Barrels for other models (e.g., the Army Special) can be fitted, but it takes a top pistolsmith to do it.

There is something puzzling about a Model 1901 with that serial number, but that was not the question Mr. Bellamy raised, so I won't attempt to address that issue here.

Those guns run anywhere from $150 to $1900 depending on condition and are often found at the low end with good barrels but broken internals, so finding a replacement barrel might not be impossible.

Jim
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Old December 27, 2011, 03:32 AM   #5
rbellamy
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Thanks everyone for chiming in with your comments, all very helpful.

Given the possible range of values for the handgun, I'll just go forward with getting a quote and evaluation by my local gunsmith. I'd love to get it in condition to fire it, and am also interested in its value as a collectors item. It was my Grandfather's so it's also got sentimental value. We don't know where he got it, given that he was in the Air Force in WWII and none of that lineage were in WWI, that we know of.

James K - I'm interested in your comments regarding the serial number, if you don't mind sharing.
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Old December 27, 2011, 03:49 AM   #6
TX_QtPi
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not sure but once you get it identified you can try these guys for parts
Numrich Gun Parts

I used em for a few small parts and they are usually well stocked.
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Old December 27, 2011, 04:42 AM   #7
rbellamy
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Thanks for the link.

Just checked Numrich, and I couldn't find a barrel for the Double Action (DA) New Army.
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Old December 27, 2011, 07:18 PM   #8
Dfariswheel
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Coltparts.com list barrels, but they're $125.00.

http://www.coltparts.com/pt_1892da.html

As above, you can also have a Colt Army Special or Official Police barrel fitted, but the barrel stamps won't be correct.

Also keep in mind that almost no current gunsmiths will have the special frame wrench and other tooling needed to change the barrel.
The old gag of putting the barrel in a vise and sticking a hammer handle or 2X2 through the frame window to twist the frame is is a pretty good guarantee of a ruined frame.
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Old December 28, 2011, 12:04 AM   #9
rbellamy
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Dfariswheel - that's excellent, thanks for the pointer, I followed the link, and if I indeed choose to replace the barrel, that's where I'll go.

James K - I'm hoping you'll chime in with your thoughts on the serial number you alluded to...

To Recap:
1. Barrel replacement is the only way to repair the type of damage I've got (which was likely caused by Special or +P ammunition being fired from the pistol).
2. Most gunsmiths are unwilling to work on these pieces given the complexity of their action.
3. The gun might be worth as little as $150 or as much as $1900, with the likelihood being somewhere around the $800 mark, undamaged.
4. These guns probably shouldn't be fired, given the likelihood of damage (see #2 - flat-springs breaking, etc), even with the proper ammunition.

So the calculus is, if I'm willing to spend the money to refurbish/repair the gun, I should do so with the expectation that it will likely be in order for it to remain retired, it'll probably cost a minimum of 50-100% of the value of the gun, and I may have to promise someone something other than money just to get them to look at it....
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Old December 28, 2011, 12:57 AM   #10
HighValleyRanch
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Quote:
The old gag of putting the barrel in a vise and sticking a hammer handle or 2X2 through the frame window to twist the frame is is a pretty good guarantee of a ruined frame.
DFariswheel,
What would you guess is the torque rating on barrel to frame?
100 ft. lbs, 200?
And what would stop a guy from making a hardwood form to frame fit, clamp in a massive vise and just turn that barrel out with a pipe wrench?
Are the threads tapered so that it gets tighter as it goes in?
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Old December 28, 2011, 04:06 PM   #11
James K
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Well, as was pointed out by Mike Irwin, that serial number dates to 1895 and yet the gun says Model 1901, an anomaly. The serial number appears normal. Further, the stamping on the "1901" looks odd, and of a slightly different font from the pictures in the books and from my own guns. What does that mean? I don't know. If the gun were valuable, I would advise some more research. As it is, I can't imagine any fakery involved and can only think that c. 1901 Colt did some game playing, like finding old unsold gun(s), bringing it/them up to Model 1901 specs and using it/them to fill out an Army shipment. (Neither Colt nor the Army cared much about serial numbers; they were used mostly to keep track of guns at the using unit, not for contract tracking.)

Jim
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Old December 28, 2011, 04:37 PM   #12
rbellamy
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James K - thank you so much for your thoughts.

And thank you everyone else that chimed in - this has been very informative!
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Old December 28, 2011, 08:19 PM   #13
Dfariswheel
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HighValleyRanch

There is no torque specification for revolvers.
The barrel is set up for a certain amount rotation needed to bring the front sight to 12:00 O'clock top-dead-center and be properly tight.
However much torque that takes is what it takes.
The amount of "draw" needed to insure the barrel isn't too loose or too tight is a judgment call.

The frame around the barrel thread area and below has to be fully supported during installing and removing the barrel.
That usually needs a real frame wrench with hard polymer inserts to fit the frame.
You can make a frame wrench from aluminum or steel with cast epoxy inserts.
I wouldn't recommend wood. You only get one mistake with revolver frames.

The barrel doesn't get tighter as it's screwed in.
It screws in until the barrel shoulder contacts the frame. It's then torqued to insure it stays put, but isn't so tight you pressure dimple the bore or crack the frame.

The barrel is screwed in until the barrel shoulder contacts the frame. You then make a judgment call as to how much the shoulder has to be trimmed to bring the barrel to the point where it can be properly torqued into final position.
A lathe or a special barrel shoulder turning fixture is used to trim the shoulder.
Once the barrel is in place, then you need an expensive cutter tool that works down the bore to set the barrel/cylinder gap, and another tool set and special plug gauge to re-cut and lap the forcing cone.

You don't use a pipe wrench, some pieces of wood, and a file to fit a revolver barrel.
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Old December 28, 2011, 08:57 PM   #14
HighValleyRanch
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DFarisWheel,
thanks for explanation of the process.
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Old December 28, 2011, 11:40 PM   #15
Mike Irwin
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"You don't use a pipe wrench, some pieces of wood, and a file to fit a revolver barrel."

Of course not.

You use a couple of pairs of slip-jaw pliars and a Dremel!
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Old December 29, 2011, 07:55 PM   #16
Dfariswheel
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I can go you one worse.

I once saw a revolver that the owner decided it was silly to pay good money to a gunsmith to do a simple job like changing the barrel.
After all, all you have to do is unscrew the old barrel and screw the new one on and go shooting.

So he parked the front wheel of his truck on the barrel and used a hammer handle to unscrew the frame.
The job didn't quite work out as well as he wanted and he was upset when I told him that the factory didn't have a magic machine they could use to un-bend the frame.

When last I heard, he was still telling anyone who'd listen that the company was a crappy outfit that wouldn't do a simple repair of their guns.
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Old January 1, 2012, 05:06 AM   #17
gyvel
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I have some old barrels for your gun, but they are not in very good condition.
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Old January 2, 2012, 03:24 PM   #18
rbellamy
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gyvel,

Thanks for that, I'll keep you in mind if I decide to move forward.
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Old January 2, 2012, 03:49 PM   #19
HighValleyRanch
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And I have a pipe wrench I can loan you too!
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