View Full Version : Fitz Special 1917 Conversion

April 30, 2008, 11:41 AM
I am interested in getting a 17 and having this done to it, maybe next year. Are there any smiths (pref. Colt revolver guys) that do this? The definate must have work is shortening the barrel, removing the spur, and cutting away the front of the trigger guard (I can see this being a liability issue for some; not interested in the right side half removal though. i would like the butt shortened pref. to the dimensions of a smaller colt frame, but I understand the serial is located on the butt, which would require ATF permission to reloacate. At least I want the lanyard removed, could live with the fullsize grips. An action job and replacement of worn internals would be cool too.
I also intend to have it engraved, refinished, and wearing fancy new grips, but this does not nessesarily have to be done by the guy doing the first work.

Work order:
-Replace all worn springs, small parts; check timing and misc. (assure in safe working order, at least)
-Shorten bbl. to 1.75-2"
-re-install front sight blade, modified (shortened)
-? trim grip frame, to dimensions of smaller colt grip frame (at least get rid of lanyard
-Remove spur from hammer; optionally, serrate the top surface of hammer for mild grasping ability to manually cock
-Remove front half of trigger guard-that the bottom tip of the trigger is covered, but no more
-dehorn/smooth out all of the toolmarks from all the sawing off
-optionally: engraving on the sideplates, floral is nice but maybe something relating to it's military service
-refinish-bright nickel
-grips: Ideally, Ivory or Mother of Pearl would be ideal, but even stag goes for over 300. a pair nowdays. Cocobolo or Micarta would be fine. but I want the Colt logo/little horse medallions.

Any Idea how much the non-cosmetic stuff would set me back?
I'd like to have a family heirloom peice, and a New Service Fitz always seemed so cool to me, I think this would be the (working) safe queen to hand down.

James K
April 30, 2008, 12:09 PM
You can start with $900 for a Colt 1917 that would be good enough to start with. Then you can count on around another $1000 for the non-cosmetic work. For the engraving, the sky is the limit if you can find an engraver who will work with a hardened frame (most engraving is done with the gun "in the white", unhardened and unfinished). A good guess for medium coverage of handcut engraving would be $3000-3500. Machine engraving will cost less, but then will never be (in my view) either attractive or valuable.

Due to laws governing its sale, elephant ivory is very hard to get as is, for different reasons, mother of pearl. The nickel plate would run around $600 based on an estimate I had a year or so ago for a smaller gun.

The value of the gun in the end would be, as always, what someone would pay for it, but custom guns rarely bring what was spent on them, and almost always decrease in value over time (in real dollars).

I think Cylinder and Slide (www.cylinder-slide.com) could do all the work except the engraving and they could probably farm that out. I don't know how they are at giving estimates, but you could contact them and ask.

You seem to be torn a bit about whether you want a working (carry) gun or a show gun. If you ever intend to carry a gun, it would be very foolish to carry a custom gun like that. Should you have to use it, and you find yourself looking down the barrel of a Glock held by a cop who tells you to "drop it"... well, think about it.

IMHO, a better heirloom might be a top quality plain Model 1917 or perhaps a Model 1909; the value on those is certain (barring some catastrophic law) to continue to rise.


April 30, 2008, 12:36 PM
Thanks for the info, but damn that was a a hard blow! Had no idea how much custom work costs, other than refinsihing. I was thinking of finding a decent but not mint 17 on GB or GA, occasionally see good ones for under 500.
I love guns from the Depression era, and an original Fitz is one I could never afford. I guess there were only 50 of them ever made, total, including the Dick Specials.
I want a showpiece, but that could work very well.
But those general estimates cooled off my interest somewhat. I'll get a Colt 1917 regardless (If I had this done, it would be on a second one). I could have a small collection of those period firearms for this one imitation. I still would like it, but it's not worth to me what it would cost. :( Way more than I was thinking.

James K
April 30, 2008, 03:19 PM
I have a Colt 1917 that I paid all of $25 for, but those days are gone, and I don't see Colt ever getting back into the DA revolver business; the guns would be too expensive and the competition (Ruger, S&W, and Taurus) just too stiff.

Those "Fitz specials" are neat, but he got them for free and had the facilities of the Colt factory to do the work, also free.

Maybe someone else will chime in with a better "guesstimate" on the cost of your project. We will see.


April 30, 2008, 09:14 PM
The price will be HIGH for any type of quality work by a quality gunsmith.
As always, you can always find a hack somewhere who'll do a hack job.

The Colt 1917 has the US Government number on the butt, but it also has a Colt factory number on the frame and crane, under the barrel, where the crane seats, so probably that wouldn't be an issue.

Some gunsmiths today will not do a Fitz cut-away trigger job for liability reasons.

As above, Cylinder & Slide is a world-class custom shop and they could probably do a Fitz 1917 for you.
You'll need a HEAVILY loaded wallet, and delivery will be slow, but quality will be very high.