View Full Version : Colt U.S. Army Model 1917

May 18, 2010, 09:58 PM
I stumbled upon what appears to be a very nice Model 1917 .45 caliber revolver by Colt. However, searching here the serial number may be high for WWI production. Also, the hammer has the same finish as the rest of the gun instead of being clear metal, so I'm wondering if it was refinished.

Here are most details:
Serial # 227,xxx on frame & on crane
"U.S. Army Model 1917 No. 73 6xx" on butt with loop for lanyard
Rampant horse Colt logo in the correct spot on the left side
"Colt D.A. 45" on left side of barrel
"United States Property" (including quotation marks) under barrel
"Colt's PT FA MFG CO HARTFORD CONN USA" top of barrel
small "H" just above serial # on frame and on rear of cylinder
small "n" or "h" just below serial # on frame
small "8" on left side just above point where trigger guard joins frame

marking on left side above cylinder release, near top of hammer which looks like vertically superimposed "S20" or "520" with something above it (not clear on that detail)

on the frame under the left grip there are several more marks:
large "G" very near pin at base of mainspring
small "h" above and to the right (rear) of the "G"
"M" & "1" forward of pin for bottom of grip
"8" in bottom rear corner (behind pin)

The serial number is pencilled in on the inside of both grips except the last digit looks like a "0" with the left side open instead of a "3". These pencil marks are definitely pretty old.

Also, the chambers (?) in the cylinder have a shelf for a .45 ACP cartridge to headspace on. The ejector does not grab a .45 ACP case though.

Even though the hammer is finished like the rest of the revolver, the rampant horse logo and other marks are very clear. There are two parallel lines/spears diagonally through the horse.

Does this sound like a re-finished gun?

Can somebody help me date it?

Is it safe to use .45 Auto Rim cases or should I stick with a full-moon clip?

Any other info?

Was $825 a good buy? (pretty sure I know the answer to that one)

Last, there's white crust on the mainspring and it appears to be inside the frame as well. My guess is that it's very old grease. Should I (a) leave it alone, (b) remove as much as possible without disassembling, or (c) clean & lube the inside myself or have a gunsmith do it.

Thanks for your thoughts.

James K
May 19, 2010, 06:53 PM
The S20 is an Army inspection mark; the other marks are company inspection marks.

It is a U.S. Army Model 1917, just as it says, not post-WWI production. The hammer should be bright on the sides, blued on the top and back. The original finish was a "brush" blue, tending toward black. Revolvers refinished during WWII were normally Parkerized. A civilian re-blue job is usually shiny and black.

The ejector won't work with .45 ACP, which is why half-moon clips were used. The shoulder to support the .45 ACP is correct, and allows the gun to be fired without clips. (Very early Colt 1917's had no shoulders and could not fire .45 ACP without clips.)

You can use either .45 Auto Rim or .45 ACP. The .45 AR was developed specifically for the Model 1917 Colt and its S&W counterpart.

The crust could be old oil or grease; I see no reason not to clean it off using a good solvent (I like G96 Gun Treatment for that kind of thing).


May 21, 2010, 09:56 AM
Thanks Jim. I had an experienced friend look at the revolver yesterday, and it has not been refinished. The barrel is very clean with virtually no pitting inside. There is minimal pitting on the frame.

The single action trigger pull is close to 7 pounds and the double-action pull was over the 12-pound maximum on his Lyman gauge. No accidental discharges with this beast!

I'm surprised no one complained about the original post being worthless without pics... so here are two for the curious among you.

May 21, 2010, 10:05 AM
$825 is highway robbery. You got an unbelievable deal.

James K
May 21, 2010, 08:09 PM
IMHO, someone has done some work on that gun. The grips appear to have been varnished when they should be dull walnut, just oil dipped, and the hammer should be bright on the side, or at least all the Colt 1917's I have seen were. The finish is hard to judge in the picture as it looks reddish.

The normal finish was blue, almost black, and, except for early guns, showing a lot of tool marks that were not polished out due to wartime needs. It is not uncommon for barrels to show a different degree of polish and a slightly different appearance than frames. In civilian guns, the final finish would have eliminated those differences, but in wartime they were acceptable.


May 22, 2010, 09:05 AM
Jim - any reddish cast to the finish is due to my poor photography & Photoshop skills. I had to manipulate the images due to poor lighting where I took the pics. The finish obviously was black to start with but has a very slight grey/brown cast to it now. There are visible brush marks in the finish on several areas. The proof marks, lettering, and rampant horse are too clear & clean for this gun to have been polished & refinished IMHO but I've said that I'm not an expert. The grips have been varnished, but it was done a long time ago. The bluing on the hammer is still a mystery to me. However, it matches the finish on the rest of the gun perfectly.

Thanks again for your observations!