View Full Version : HELP! Old Colt DA 38

Sir William
November 17, 2004, 03:07 AM
OK. I have a Colt DA 38 in 38 Long Colt. There are parts missing and I am unsure on the ejector function. What this revolver needs is a crane lock, the crane lock screw and a mainspring strain screw. When cartridges are test ejected, (unfired) the ratchet star free wheels and snaps back in a unaligned position that blocks the chambers. Is this normal? It seems odd in a combat revolver. Any sources/sites would be appreciated. She has a rather nice pair of pearl grips installed.

November 17, 2004, 02:41 PM
You definitely have something wrong with the ejection system. It should not freewheel, and should return to position without blocking the chambers.

Although it doesn't specifically cover these very early DA Colt's, your best bet is to buy a copy of:
"The Colt Double Action Revolvers: A Shop Manual, Vol. One" By Jerry Kuhnhausen.

This is a gunsmith's book on most Colt revolvers covering just about EVERYTHING known.

It shows and describes full disassembly, inspection of parts, reassembly, trouble shooting, actual repair of damaged/worn parts, and how to do the all-critical timing of Colt revolvers.

Cost is about $30.00 from Brownell's, Midway, and most book sellers.

This book was written as a training aid for trainee gunsmiths, and I consider it to be necessary equipment for all Colt DA revolver owners.

By using the book you should be able to diagnose the problems.

Parts for these old guns are rare, especially in unused condition but can be found at:
Gun Parts Corporation: http://www.e-gunparts.com

Jack First Gun Parts: http://www.jackfirstgun.com

Poppert's: http://www.poppertsgunparts.com/index.htm

I don't know of any pistolsmith's who are qualified to work on these early Colt's, but you might ask:

Pittsburgh Handgun Headquarters
1330 Center Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15229
(412) 766-6100

They are VERY qualified Colt 'smiths, but I don't know if they work on these very early guns.

James K
December 4, 2004, 10:28 PM
Hi, guys,

If that is the gun I think it is, Kuhnhausen does not cover it. I think it is one of the old Colt "New Army & Navy" revolvers, called by the military the Models 1892, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1901, 1903, or maybe the Model 1889 Navy DA.

Sir, William, does the cylinder have two sets of notches, a short one in the front and a long one at the rear? If so, it is one of the above guns. If not, it may be a later gun, but I doubt it.

Your ratchet problem could have two causes. First, does the ejector rod turn, or only the ratchet? If the ejector rod turns, the little lug in the cylinder is broken off; that can be fixed, but it is a delicate job.

If the ejector rod does not turn but the ratchet does, the problem is more easily solved. The Colt ratchet screws onto the end of the ejector rod and is staked in place so it won't turn. To correct the problem, open the cylinder. Then turn the ratchet tight (gently!) until it won't go any further (no gap between the ratchet and the ejector rod) and lines up with the chambers. If it goes a tad too far, back off until it lines up. Insert a couple of empty cases to keep the ratchet in place. Rest the front of the cylinder on something soft but solid, like the edge of a workbench. Then use a small chisel type punch (a center punch will do, but is not as good) to stake the joint between the ratchet and the end of the ejector rod. It doesn't take much, so don't get carried away with a big hammer. You should be able to see the original stake marks, so "go thou and do likewise."

Gun Parts (www.gunpartscorp.com) indicates they have the crane lock and crane lock screw, their part numbers 177780 and 177790 at about $4 and $7 respectively.



Sir William
December 4, 2004, 11:51 PM
OK! That does help. I found this old warhorse at a great price. It was beat up badly and seems to have been used as a hammer! The screws were so bad that I simply threw them out. I did find that many early Colt Police Positive 38 small parts interchange with this model. It IS a SAW revolver. You are correct about the double leadins and locking notches. My intention is to restore it for reenactment. Thanks!

James K
December 5, 2004, 08:01 PM
I reviewed what I had written and I should have said that while Kuhnhausen does not cover that model, some of the parts of that gun are either the same or similar to later Colts, even though the internals are quite different. So some of what he says does apply to your gun.

I am not sure about the ejector rod, but the ratchet is not interchangeable with later guns because your cylinder rotates the opposite direction (counter-clockwise, like an S&W) from the newer Colt revolvers.


4V50 Gary
December 5, 2004, 08:05 PM
That's a tough one. I worked on one of those only once and the action is unlike any of the "newer" of the "Old" Colts (Python, Police Positive, Official Police). Twin Pine Armory finally made the part I needed to get it going.

Sir William
December 5, 2004, 10:37 PM
Not so good news. The lug in the cylinder IS sheared off. The entire ejector rod/star unit turns completely 360 degrees. The hammer pin was broken also. I found a NOS mainspring though! I just need the crane lock and retainer from a early Police Positive, mainspring tension screw and the internals for the star. The cylinder rotates, locks up well and is timed well. All the pieces and parts otherwise are good to go. I DO think someone used this revolver as a hammer!

James K
December 7, 2004, 11:04 PM
Some sorta good news. Gun Parts Corp. (www.gunpartscorp.com) lists those cylinders in .38 for $49.50 (in my catalog, may be more now). They also have some other parts.

There is a that you can try at your own risk if you want or have a gunsmith/machinist do for you. I have done it with other Colts and know it works. I will say that it will likely cost much more to have a smith do it than a cylinder would cost.

Should you care to try, you need good drills, a starter drill, and a good drill press. You put the ratchet in place in the cylinder and hold it in place with empty cases. Clamping it is also a good idea.

Then you use a small drill (about a No. 50) to drill through a "star point" of the ratchet, outside the ratchet part itself and dead center on the part that fits around the chamber. You drill the hole right through into the cylinder, about 1/2" deep. Do this with two of the arms, opposite each other. Now you have two possible fixes.

One is to make a couple of pins that are a drive and stake fit in the ratchet and a slip fit in the cylinder. (This may require going one drill size up and redrilling the cylinder holes.) Once you are done, you have pins that will fit into the cylinder as the ratchet comes forward and the pins will let the cylinder turn normally when the gun is empty. You can't go too long on the pins, though, as you have to have room to screw the ratchet back on.

The alternate method is to drive fit the pins in the cylinder, sticking up the thickness of the ratchet. They will then fit into the holes in the ratchet when the ratchet goes back into the cylinder; this is what S&W did for years. I think the longer pins give better stability during extraction but you or your smith can decide. In either case, the repair is about invisible and even looks normal.