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Old January 13, 2013, 10:33 PM   #1
rambutan316
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Should I get a Detective Special?

I don't really need it

I've always wanted a Colt DA revolver though, and since I don't own a snubbie I thought it would be great to add to my collection. I've got other guns more suitable for defense. I also don't conceal carry, but I do like shooting different guns at the range, especially revolvers.

Would this be a good gun for shooting maybe 50 rounds a month? How long would it last? Are they really that expensive/difficult to work on? Is it pretty easy to get repairs done by sending to Colt if needed?
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Old January 13, 2013, 10:59 PM   #2
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What does need have to do with it? After a primary carry gun and a BUG everything else is a want. If you want one and you have the spare cash than buy it.
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Old January 14, 2013, 12:02 AM   #3
lowercase
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A Detective Special would be a great little gun to own.

Definitely get it if you have the chance.
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Old January 14, 2013, 12:13 AM   #4
DPris
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If you do, just understand what you're getting into.

Yes, they are expensive to get work done on.
Only a small handfull of people are truly competent to do so.
All but Colt are backlogged at least a year.
Colt can still do some work on them, but Colt is running out of parts & has not ordered any in a long time. Quite possibly might never do so again, they're not obligated to support long discontinued models forever.
You'll pay shipping to return it to Colt.

The gun is not fragile, but the key wear point- the hand, does wear sooner than in other designs.

How soon you wear a DS out, or how soon it may need work, depends on how much you shoot & what you shoot.
Not recommended for lots of +P loads.

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Old January 14, 2013, 11:49 AM   #5
DFrame
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At 50 rounds a month, a detective will live longer than you will. As long as you aren't trying to make it into a magnum. If not abused a Detective will last a very long time. I have one from the 1930s that works just fine. Just use standard 38 special ammunition and avoid the +p junk.
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Old January 14, 2013, 07:12 PM   #6
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Broderick Crawford carried one (at least, I think he did) on the Highway Patrol television series. What more reason do you need?
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Old January 14, 2013, 07:35 PM   #7
old bear
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Quote:
Should I get a Detective Special?.
Only if you understand there are some drawbacks to owning one, and if you can afford it. So go for it.
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Old January 14, 2013, 07:41 PM   #8
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Yes. I would own one if the ATM machine's limit was $300 instead of $200. I feel a hundred dollars short and had to pass. Shucks.
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Old January 19, 2013, 11:16 PM   #9
Jaywalker
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I bought one a couple of weeks ago - my first Colt in 30 years or so. It's an interesting piece and I'm glad I bought it.

First off, I think the rumors of Detective Special's being "delicate" are overstated. Colt stated some time ago that if you shot 2,000 or 3,000 rounds of +P you should send it back to them for "adjustment." That may sound delicate to some, but I don't expect to shoot 2,000 rounds through it, standard pressure or +P, for the rest of my life.

Second, remember these guns went to war, so they aren't particularly delicate.

Finally, it's a good idea to get one that's timed properly to begin with and you'll likely have little problem with it - many detectives carried these for decades without worry. Basically, while gunsmith availability is a theoretical issue (you don't always need one), for me it isn't a real one. If you come to a real issue, send it to Colt or to Cylinder & Slide, and they'll take care of you.

There are some good reasons for buying a Colt Detective Special, but I'd rather no one else would buy them until my collection is complete. They're an overlooked gem, I think. They just feel like they have better quality than Smith or Ruger (which doesn't mean those aren't reliable).

Personally, I bought one for one reason - I want something I can be sure of being able to open and load when I get too old to rack a slide. The Colt just felt better than the Smith revolvers, but I did look into it enough to make sure it was timed proeprly before I bought it...
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Old January 20, 2013, 12:14 AM   #10
DMMikey
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Love mine. When my arthritis is at its worst, it is the one gun I can still fire. Just because it fits my hand perfectly.
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Old January 20, 2013, 02:01 AM   #11
DPris
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"Delicate" is not the term, let's re-state it as being less robust than other designs, which it is.

Not aware of the Dick Special going to war, or many of its small-framed ancestors.

Colt is losing the ability to service these guns, and C&S can only go so far without a new parts source.

Detectives did carry them for many years, but that was largely back in the days when those guns would get less than 500 rounds through them in an entire career.

My 1982 DS was carried off duty & as an on-duty backup for some time before my PD switched to autos in '88, I'd say it has not had over 400 rounds or so through it, if that. Lotta carry wear, but I just never shot it much beyond the occasional qualifier.
Prior to the 1960s, most agencies may have qualified once or twice a year, and centerfire recreational shooting simply was not done anywhere near as much as it is now.

Bottom line is the more you shoot it, the quicker it'll wear, but the gun isn't what I'd call "fragile". Just not the equal of other designs in longevity.
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Old January 20, 2013, 06:18 AM   #12
Glenn Dee
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Detective Special's are fragile, and must be treated like a princess... NOT!!!

Colt "D" frame revolvers were included in pilot survival kits during the late 50's and the 60's. Some were issued to Air Crew's along with a bunch of S&W's.

I own several "D" frame colts of older vintage. The oldest being a colt 1950's police positive special. I also own a pre 1963 deective special. Altogether I own 6 colt "D" revolvers, along with three troopers, and four Official Police models. All of them are shooters, in line to be carried. Only one 1960's O/P has ever given any trouble. A timing issue.

Colts are not fragile. Colts are not delicate. Colts are hand fitted and that makes them to be more suseptable to issues caused by the kitchen table gunsmith. Any colt is as robust, and dependable as any like vintage S&W revolver. These revolvers were carried as duty, off duty, back-up, and desk drawer guns by police officers for decades, and decades.
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Old January 20, 2013, 10:08 AM   #13
Jaywalker
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Denis,

I'd be interested in seeing actual figures on revolver repair by brand, though I have no idea how they might be obtained. Smith and Ruger are built with wider tolerances that aren't present in Colt, so that might be a source of longevity, that's true, but it also might be a source of problems.

The only revolver I ever had just flat freeze up into inop status was a Smith K-frame. I could not open the cylinder and had to take it to a gunsmith instead. I also had a K-frame's hammer spur just break off during dry-firing (I had never dropped it), and while that didn't take it out of action, it left a sour taste regarding robustness.

I think Ruger is plenty robust and bought one for my daughter when she left home. I hope it doesn't need Ruger's attention (ever) because I have more action-smoothing money in it than in the purchase price, and Ruger will set it back to factory specs. While that's not a comment on longevity, it might be a disadvantage that's seldom mentioned.

So, I wonder what the Colt DS will be like after a few years with its fitted parts being wear items. For now they're fixable, and I don't think I'll be shooting mine much more than you did yours.

(BTW, I believe you're right about the smaller frames and wartime service. I probably misread something somewhere or was thinking about my first revolver, the Colt 1917 - similar lockwork, I suppose, but not identical to the D-frame.)
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Old January 20, 2013, 01:01 PM   #14
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The D frames were never used or carried as "primary" combat handguns in the same sense & role as the 1911 pistols & the bigger Colt and S&W Model 1917s. Aircrew revolvers were seldom used on the ground & very rarely saw any type of combat applications that involved repetitive shooting.

I, and any gunsmith familiar with the old Colt V-Spring guns, will categorically deny that those older Colts are as "robust" as any like vintage Smith.

I can take one of my steel-framed Smith Js and one of my steel-framed Colt Ds & fire an equal amount of the same ammunition through both, the Colt's hand will cause it to go out of time long before the Smith will develop timing issues.

That Colt design, much admired as it is, simply is not as durable as a Smith. And it can't even begin to approach a Ruger in longevity.

People insist on taking one of two erroneous positions on the Colt V-Springs: It's either "fragile", which isn't true, or it's the "full equal" of any Smith, which is also not true.

The guns will work well for quite a while, but they've obsoleted themselves in today's production world by being too labor-intensive to economically produce, they're too complicated for all but a very few gunsmiths to work on,
Colt is just about out of parts, the mechanism was designed at a time when very few people shot centerfire handguns much on a regular basis, it simply does not hold up over the long run as well as other currently available revolver designs, and sooner or later those guns will have no parts or service support.

Anybody considering one should do so in full understanding of all this.
Just make an informed choice, and continually denying the nature of the V-Spring action relative to durability does not serve anyone well.
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Old January 20, 2013, 07:34 PM   #15
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Life is short.

Get it and enjoy it.

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Old January 20, 2013, 09:33 PM   #16
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Well said, Deaf Smith.
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Old January 21, 2013, 12:50 AM   #17
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I have the lightweight brother, the Agent. It's far from delicate. Handles hot loads well.
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Old January 21, 2013, 01:51 AM   #18
James K
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The "delicacy" of those Colts really is not as much a matter of handling a few hot loads as it is in extended firing with anything. They don't "blow up" or anything, but parts wear and, while those guns appear simple, their very simplicity makes them complex. A single part can do several tasks, so often adjusting it to do one thing will throw it out somewhere else in doing something else. That also makes diagnosing problems more difficult than with an S&W or a Ruger.

It is too bad Colt was not able to get their new generation of revolvers into full production; the few I have seen were definitely of a better design than the old type, though S&W said something about imitation and flattery.

All that being said, I think there is going to be a lot of increasing collector interest in those DA Colts of the past, especially from c. 1909 to c. 1940. I don't think anyone can go too far wrong in buying them if or when top condition (95%-100%) ones turn up.

Jim
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Old January 21, 2013, 03:14 AM   #19
cdbeagle
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Buy one. I bought my first DS and Cobra two months ago. There is something special about them that cannot be put into words. I also cannot believe how accurate they are.

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Old January 21, 2013, 12:30 PM   #20
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I like my DS. If the OP fires one 50 rounds a month that means about 600 per year. I seriously doubt that he would be able to wear it out using standard loads.
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Old January 21, 2013, 02:43 PM   #21
DPris
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In 10 years, at that rate, it'll need work.
Ten years from now, you won't be able to get that work done.
Denis
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Old January 21, 2013, 03:02 PM   #22
rambutan316
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Well, it looks like I might put it on hold for now. It's a beautiful work of art and I would love to own one, but money is tight right now. Maybe in the future, though. Does anyone know if there single action revolvers are less complex/costly to maintain? I've recently acquired a Colt Frontier Scout that looks hardly used.
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Old January 21, 2013, 07:00 PM   #23
Deaf Smith
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Ruger.

Now I am not a SA fan but if I was in the market for one a Ruger would be number one. Very strong, simple, reliable, built to last, and makes a good club when you run out of ammo. Doubt if you will ever need to repair it.

Oh and I do own many Ruger DA revolvers so I do know a thing about Rugers (but not two.)

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Old January 22, 2013, 09:07 PM   #24
Jaywalker
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I suspect a Ruger double action revolver would also be pretty cheap to maintain. It will never have the feel of a Colt Detective Special, however.

I have no doubt Denis is right about the need to adjust the DS at 6,000 rounds through it, but think about that for a second. At today's prices that's $5,000 - $6,000 in ammunition costs. I don't expect I'll ever put that kind of money through my DS; to me, it's a functional piece, not a range piece.
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Old January 22, 2013, 09:59 PM   #25
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Why do you even think the answer is anything other than "YES!!"?
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