View Full Version : Colt 1908 .25 - Question about matching numbers

May 20, 2009, 10:19 PM
Hi everyone,

My Colt 1908 .25 has a serial of 1669xx. The gun does not appear refinished or tampered with in any way, but when I disassembled it I was unable to locate a serial number on either the slide or the barrel.

Did all Colt 1908 vest pocket models originally have the serial numbers struck on the slide and barrel, or does it depend on the vintage? I have seen photographs of disassembled Colt 1908 .25s from several different serial number ranges (but none close to mine), and they had the serial numbers on at least the slide, if not the barrel as well. The slide serial number was on the inside rear of the slide, next to the milled slot for the striker.

In short, I am trying to ascertain whether the absence of serial numbers on the slide and barrel necessarily means that I have a non-original or tampered-with gun. I am sorry but I do not have picture capability.

Thanks for any help.

James K
May 21, 2009, 02:22 AM
Slide and barrel numbering on Colts did depend on the date of production. Your gun was made in 1917, and I don't have one from that era to compare. I do know that Colt at the time was short cutting on civilian production to devote more time and resources to military contracts, so it would not surprise me to learn they stopped that numbering. A later (1921) pistol 291XXX has the slide number, but not the barrel number.

I very much doubt that anyone would remove those internal numbers and if they did the evidence would be clear. Replacement barrels are fairly common, but a replacement slide is very unlikely. Absent proof otherwise, I would assume the gun is correct as it is.


May 21, 2009, 09:07 AM
Jim, thank you for once again helping me out.

That is encouraging news - neither the slide nor the barrel look to have been altered, so I am glad to know that it is, at the very least, possible that my gun is in its original state. As regards the possibility of the barrel's being totally replaced, I wonder what event or damage could require such a thing? The barrel doesn't seem like a part that experiences terrible stress or wear.

If anyone who reads this thread has a Colt 1908 .25 with a serial number close to mine, I would very much appreciate it if you could check for numbers on the slide and barrel and report here.

Many thanks!

May 21, 2009, 09:40 PM
I have seen a lot of these little Colts that the barrel is so pitted that it hard to see any rifling at all. It seems that like a lot of small guns they were fired to check for function and then placed ( with out cleaning ) in the night stand for 50 years. In fact there is a market for new barrels for these " Vest Pocket" .25's. I'm really supprised that some one isn't turning them out.

May 22, 2009, 04:09 PM
Interesting observation about the use of corrosive ammunition in the old Colts - I hadn't considered bore condition as a possible reason for barrel replacement, but it does make sense.

James K
May 22, 2009, 10:10 PM
For almost the entire production period of those guns, corrosive primed ammo was all that was available, and as Rjay says, many owners did not understand the need for cleaning.

The result is that many of those .25 pistols, as well as their bigger brothers in .32 ACP and .380 ACP, were fired a few shots then put in the bureau drawer for "protection. The guns are nice on the outside, but the barrels are in sad shape. I have replaced barrels in dozens of the three guns, and barrels are still one of the largest selling parts. (Partly due to the fact that almost nothing else ever wears out or breaks - those are rugged guns.)

Just FWIW, it was not until about 1935 that a scientist working for the Bureau of Mines (!) figured out what was making barrels rust. Not long after, ammo makers began turning out non-corrosive primers. But they hadn't been out long enough for the army to trust them so WWII GI's were stuck with cleaning their rifles. Only .30 Carbine ammunition was non-corrosive in WWII.


May 24, 2009, 02:02 PM
Great information, Jim. Thank you for sharing - I love the technical/historical sides of these issues.

It's too bad that some people would store a gun without cleaning it. Even nowadays, with non-corrosive ammo, I can never stand to have a gun sitting dirty for more than a day.

For anybody who's interested, here's a link to an article discussing the corrosive primer issue and listing some information about various manufacturers and when they transitioned from corrosive to non-corrosive ammo, and in what calibers:


James K
May 24, 2009, 08:09 PM
That info is good for U.S. military ammunition, but doesn't cover commercial ammo. Some old corrosive primed ammo is still around. It is wise to assume that military surplus ammo dated before the 1980's is corrosive. Even then, one can't be absolutely sure.

With commercial ammo, boxes will usually be marked as being non-corrosive. Some pre-WWII Winchester non-corrosive ammo has mercuric primers, meaning that firing results in free mercury which will amalgamate with the brass case and make it brittle, hench not reloadable.

Some dealers in military surplus ammo will state clearly that ammo is non-corrosive, others will not say, and the buyer should assume it is corrosive.


May 24, 2009, 08:28 PM
My Colt M1903 has no s/n on barrel at all, and the slide is serialized to the frame, on the inside of the slide

But I'm told that on my Colt, made in 1920, that serializing the slide was not a practice that had been in use for a long time at Colt

May 24, 2009, 09:41 PM
Chris, thanks for reporting on your Colt 1903.

As far as Colt's serializing practices go, I can report that I have seen photographs of disassembled early and late production 1908 .25s with the complete serial number marked on the slide (and frame, of course). As I recall, one of these examples had a serial of 4xxx - almost certainly the first year of manufacture - and it had the full serial on the barrel as well. Another had a serial way up in the 400,000 range, and had the serial on the slide only.

May 24, 2009, 10:05 PM
So at Colt, serialization practices were not standardized across the board, maybe? Or in this case, they were slow to serialize the slides on an older model that was still in production? On my 1903, the numbers look hand stamped on the inside of the slide, but its in the manner Colt used

Where's the s/n on those early 1908 slidess? Were they external or internal?

James K
May 25, 2009, 12:29 PM
The slide serial on my .25 Colt is on the flat beside the firing pin tunnel, visible when the slide is turned over. Those numbers were hand stamped.


June 28, 2009, 12:58 PM
For reference, I just viewed the following auction for Colt 1908 .25, serial 268677. The full serial number is marked on the slide, but I couldn't see anything on the barrel (unless there are numbers marked on the side facing away from the camera).

Here is the link to the auction (warning - lots of high-resolution pictures):


July 17, 2009, 03:32 PM
I just looked at my 1908 and there was no serial number to be seen on the slide or barrel. The serial number of mine is2018xx and was reported to be made in 1919. I sincerely hope this helps.