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  #1  
Old 09-09-2011, 02:05 AM
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Question M1917 S&W vs COLT ?

Hi Guys,

Here in Australia it is very hard to find a M1917 Smith but a dealer here has a few Colts. I have read just about all the threads on the 1917 that I can find here & from looking at the pictures that you have posted it appears that a lot of you good people also have the Colt M1917 with your S&W's

here's the question for you, Do I buy one of the colts or
keep looking for a Smith I have a few Smiths in the safe that regularly get shot but no Colts & I don't know anything about the Colt M1917

Need some advice Guys. What are the Colts like ? Is there anything I should be looking for with the Colts ? I want it as a shooter.

Thanks again & I know this is a S&W site but as I said earlier it looks like a lot of you have the colts too. This is to be my retirement present after being medically retired after 20 years of Policing & I want a good shooter

Take care & thanks for your help.

JD
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Old 09-09-2011, 03:00 AM
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The Colt 1917 is a fine revolver. If you have become accustomed to shooting S&Ws, a Colt grip will feel a little strange in your hand at first. But fire enough rounds and you will become familiar with it fast enough.

The Colt internals are a little more complicated than those of a S&W; if you are the kind of guy who likes to dig into the insides of his machines, the first time you take a Colt sideplate off it will look like a different world in there. But just go slow, pay attention to the order in which you remove things, and you will do fine. Look out for the complex set of interlocking small pieces that drive the hammer block. That's the most easily confused sub-assembly. It would be good to have an exploded parts drawing available if you start to work on it.

Colts by their design have tighter cylinder lock-up than S&Ws. If you have a Colt that has ANY cylinder movement when the hammer is at full cock, or after the hammer has fallen and while the trigger is still all the way back, look for a different unit. The general principle is that a loose Colt needs tending to.

If you can't find a S&W 1917, go ahead and get the Colt. Later, if you come across the S&W model, you can sell the Colt and get the one you wanted in the first place. But you may find you want both.
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Old 09-09-2011, 03:06 AM
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JD,

You'll get some expert advice here shortly. I have no experience with the Colt, but own a S&W model 1917. I do know that Colt did not recess the chambers in the cylinders and so you cannot load .45 ACP in them without half or full moon clips. I don't think that's such a big issue; full moon clips are easy to find, and in most cases even the half moon, it's just a bonus that you can load them without. Extraction can be a problem though, mine just drop out, but some say they must use something (like a pencil) to poke them out. In general, most feel the S&W is of better quality for both fit and finish, and I know of at least one period US Cavalry general officer that preferred the S&W over the Colt, but if it's a good buy, I'd go ahead and get it; I understand they are good shooters. I prefer the S&Ws any day, but if I came on a good deal for the Colt, I'd snap it up in a minute as I'm pretty fond of .45 ACP revolvers. You can always get a S&W later!
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Old 09-09-2011, 05:12 AM
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If you're asking the question, you probably already feel that the Colt 1917 is acceptable to you. Therefore get it and have some fun until the S&W comes along. Personally I will only own Colt Single actions and automatics. To me the 1917 Colt is just ergonomically, mechanically and aesthetically unacceptable. But I've shot them and find nothing wrong with their accuracy or reliability. The only DAs I will own are S&Ws.

One advantage to the Colt as M2MikeGolf alluded to above is the bored thru chamber with no shoulder for the 45 ACP case mouth to seat on, i.e., headspace (which makes it a charge hole) is that it can chamber the longer 45 Colt cartridge and many of the 1917s will fire them reliably. But my understanding is that only the earlier Colt 1917s have charge holes so check on those you'e seen for a factory shoulder cut in the chamber for the length of the 45 ACP.

Also when buying any 1917 Colt or S&W make sure they haven't been rechambered/modified to shoot something other than 45 ACP.

Hope this helps,
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Old 09-09-2011, 07:46 AM
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They are both fine revolvers, while I prefer the S&W "a bird in the hand" comes to mind. Are you limited on how many handguns you can own, in other words if you get a Colt and a S&W comes available will you be able to get it too?
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Old 09-09-2011, 07:57 AM
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I own both and I think any revolver fan would not pass up a chance to
grab a 1917 Colt given the chance. The Colt is thought to be more
complex, more subject to timing-lockup problems and more difficult for
the amateur to work on. I would want to handle any colt before buying
to check for action looseness. Final lockup occurs as the trigger is
pulled unlike a S&W. Early guns had cylinders without shoulders for
the case mouth to headspace on but later guns had them. My gun
does and a .45 acp case will not fall through. I prefer lead bullet
handloads in AR brass however so it doesn't matter. If you find a nice
tight Colt grab it wait for a S&W and then you will have both to shoot
and compare.
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Old 09-09-2011, 12:42 PM
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I own two of both. I like the New Service (I have five so far), but it does handle differently than the S&W. The Colt is a tad bigger than the S&W. Since you can physically handle the Colt, it will be easy enough for you to see if you like it or not. The factory grips suck frankly, though Pachmayr made Presentation grips for it that are fairly easy to find, and there are some others available. With the right grip, it's not bad.

Both guns are from an earlier era of high quality and are well made, sturdy guns that will last a very long time if you shoot standard .45ACP out of them. The military finish on the Colts seem a tad uglier than the S&W.

Only the first batch of Colts had the chambers bored through. After the first few hundred all Colts were chambered the same as the S&W. Most of those were refitted with stepped cylinders by Colt. Bored through cylinders on the Colt are pretty rare these days. (check "Colt's New Service Revolver" by Timothy J Mullin, Collector Grade Publications, ISBN 0-88935-498-7)

Obviously I like both, since I own both. If you can get a Colt now at a good price, I'd get it and keep looking for a S&W so you can enjoy both.
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Old 09-09-2011, 12:54 PM
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I just missed a near pristine Colt 1917 this past month. While I would have bought it, I doubt I would have shot it much if at all. As mentioned, timing issues are common with Colt DA's and fixing endshake has no simple cure like dropping some Power washers (bearings) into the cylinder. I wonder if even the Colt factory is loosing the knowledge to work on these old v-springs. The Python was the last of that breed and it has been out of production for six years and had low production numbers for some time before that.
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Old 09-09-2011, 01:52 PM
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The Colt handles recoil better than the S&W with factory stocks on both. But the Colt cylinder timing issue is a serious matter.

Fewer gunsmith here will work on Colts.

You'll probably need to use jacketed bullets or hard-cast ones to get much accuracy. My S&W M-1950 Target .45 shot very poorly with the softer lead Auto-Rim ammo, which you probably can't get, anyway. (The rifling was designed for jacketed bullets.)

Don't load too hot if you reload. These guns are nearly a hundred years old, and the metallurgy was designed for service ammo.

If I was buying a gun that large, I'd get a S&W M-629 in .44 Magnum, and load .44 Special ammo or moderate reloads for most use, Magnums for larger animals.

.45ACP revolvers were originally an emergency wartime expediency to get handguns to the troops in the trenches. Many disagree, but I see no need for them, except as collectibles that can be shot.

A lot of the Colts were roughly finished, maybe refinished in WW II. Mine was well finished, although in the usual dull gray Parkerizing. The S&W's I've seen had normal bluing, and were nicer guns. With the later Magna stocks/grips, they should handle recoil well.

Let us know what you choose to do, and if you like the Colt if you get one. Be sure to check the timing.

How many guns can you own in NSW? Are handgun laws there state or federal? I think I've read that South Australia and Western Australia have more lenient laws than do Queensland, NSW, and Victoria. Dunno about the Northern Territories or Tasmania.
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Old 09-09-2011, 04:04 PM
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I like my Colt as it fits my hand better.

Just get one of each!

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Old 09-09-2011, 08:03 PM
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The timing issue that several have mentioned is that very often Colt revolvers (1917 and others) will not be quite locked up (cylinder) as the hammer is slowly pulled to full cock.
The "test" is to slowly pull the hammer to full cock and then try to move the cylinder into lock. If it moves just a little bit (rotation) and you hear a faint click, it is a little bit out of time. If it is locked up properly it will not move any more. This is not as bad as it sounds since the Colt lockwork pushes the cylinder into lock as the hammer falls, so it is not dangerous to shoot a slightly-out-of-time Colt.
However, "in time" is better, so if you have several Colt 1917's to choose from, do the timing test and pick the best if the other factors are equal.
(Seems odd to be discussing Colts on this forum.)
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Old 09-09-2011, 08:32 PM
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Default I like the hammer pull on the smith.

It's not a big deal, but the smith hammer pull feels smooth and even. The colt hammer seems to accumulate force as you pull it back. I suppose if I had started with colts it wouldn't bother me, but I was used to smiths first so now the colt pull seems inferior.
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Old 09-09-2011, 08:43 PM
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Colts stink!!! Just look at the photo above. The Colt front sight looks like a shark fin, the extractor is hanging out in space like Will Robinson, the cylinder looks plain and dumpy, the trigger guard looks like a pretzel, the hammer looks fat and clumsy, the hump behind the trigger looks like a camels back, the stocks (grips on a Colt) look long and fat like someone stepped on them and the thumb latch looks like it was recycled off of a British Webley.

Other than that I have no opinion...
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Old 09-09-2011, 09:00 PM
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But I like pretzels!

And that front sight is an early combat design -- if you ever needed to clear leather in a hurry, that sight would slice its way out of the holster.
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Old 09-09-2011, 10:14 PM
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I posted this in the other 1917 picture thread but thought that I would add it here to save time. Look how nice they look lying there next to each other like three little kittens waiting to purr...
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Old 09-09-2011, 10:20 PM
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Thanks Guys,

While I do not really like the look of the colts I just like military handguns & like the idea of the 1917's firing 45acp & this colt is drawing me to it as it has ivory grips & is a 1918 manufactured classic that looks to be in good shape !!! The closest I have got to finding a S&W 1917 is a new "Classic" series model 22 & even that is a 4 month wait

There is no limit to the number of handguns that I can own as long as my safe storage meets the Police requirement which it does as I have just had my safe inspected by the Police again & they are happy with it So I could get the Colt & keep looking for a S&W or I might just get the new model 22 as I really like my Smiths & just get a "plug" if it has the lock like my model 29-10 Classic We just don't see the great guns that you guys have over there & for some reason we see a lot of Smith victories & of course the Webleys but not any early big bore Smiths

Still not sure what I will do but I'll keep you posted

Thanks Guys.

JD
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Old 09-09-2011, 10:36 PM
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The Colt is a great gun with a nice action.

If you have a selection from which to choose, look in the chambers to see if any are throated (with the little shoulder inside) and, if one is, grab it. I think that some of the earlier Colts weren't throated; the chambers were bored straight through. However, the later ones were. You get a better seal around the bullet and the cartridges will seat without the clips if the chambers are throated. All S&W M1917s were throated.

Last edited by woad_yurt; 09-10-2011 at 09:18 AM.
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Old 09-09-2011, 11:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkk41 View Post

Just get one of each!

For the man who can't make a decision, 'Get both!' I like that.
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Old 09-10-2011, 12:59 AM
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This is the revolver in question. From all reports it's very tight in the action & I'm having a Forum member here to have a look at it for me next week as it's in another State

the dealer that has it is one of the biggest here in Australia & I have not heard any bad reports about the guns he gets in but I am still not sure what I will do. When it gets looked at & I hear the report. That may make my mind up

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Old 09-10-2011, 02:18 AM
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That's about the nicest I've seen and genuine ivory grips!!
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Old 09-10-2011, 04:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSR III View Post
Colts stink!!! Just look at the photo above. The Colt front sight looks like a shark fin, the extractor is hanging out in space like Will Robinson, the cylinder looks plain and dumpy, the trigger guard looks like a pretzel, the hammer looks fat and clumsy, the hump behind the trigger looks like a camels back, the stocks (grips on a Colt) look long and fat like someone stepped on them and the thumb latch looks like it was recycled off of a British Webley.

Other than that I have no opinion...
You may wish to consider getting an S & W then.
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Old 09-10-2011, 04:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J.D. View Post
This is the revolver in question. From all reports it's very tight in the action & I'm having a Forum member here to have a look at it for me next week as it's in another State

the dealer that has it is one of the biggest here in Australia & I have not heard any bad reports about the guns he gets in but I am still not sure what I will do. When it gets looked at & I hear the report. That may make my mind up

I can not tell from the image if the Blue is original or not.

If it is, then this Colt is of course in very well preserved condition.

The Ivory Stocks themselves appear old and are likely quite valuable in themselves.

The Colt 'New Service' or in this instance, the Model of 1917, is a larger Grip and Finger reach to the Trigger, than the N-Frame S & W, so, depending on Hand size, it may be a little too big, or it may be just fine.

I presonally am very fond of both the S & W and the Colt Models of 1917, and, if one likes the older Big Frame Revolvers, certainly one of each would be the ideal.
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Old 09-10-2011, 05:24 AM
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I'd jump on that in a minute, especially since it has those ivory grips. You can always get a S&W later, but I wouldn't let that one pass by.
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Old 09-10-2011, 09:13 AM
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Oyeboteb- see post number 15. (I kinda all ready did) But now I'm gonna tell my wife that it was your idea...boy are you gonna be in trouble...
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Old 09-11-2011, 04:04 PM
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I've long been in the "own-'em-both" camp and have had '17 Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers since I was young.



I do like the Colt New Service revolver in all its variations and have fired my 1917 Colt quite a lot down through the years. It's never given a minute's trouble and is reasonably accurate with most loads and useful out to about 25 yards or so. It seems to really like lead semi-wadcutter bullets 250-255 grains in weight that are designed for the .45 Colt. Load them up in .45 Auto Rim cases behind a moderate charge of Unique and you'll have a sweet shooting and still practical revolver.

I have large hands with long fingers but still can't say I can manage the double action trigger pull of the Colt New Service to any great advantage. I could still clear a trench with it.
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Old 09-11-2011, 09:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmcgilvray View Post
I've long been in the "own-'em-both" camp and have had '17 Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers since I was young.



I do like the Colt New Service revolver in all its variations and have fired my 1917 Colt quite a lot down through the years. It's never given a minute's trouble and is reasonably accurate with most loads and useful out to about 25 yards or so. It seems to really like lead semi-wadcutter bullets 250-255 grains in weight that are designed for the .45 Colt. Load them up in .45 Auto Rim cases behind a moderate charge of Unique and you'll have a sweet shooting and still practical revolver.

I have large hands with long fingers but still can't say I can manage the double action trigger pull of the Colt New Service to any great advantage. I could still clear a trench with it.
Thanks for the info Does the S&W & the Colt use the same moon clips ? Just can't find any information on that.
Thanks again.

JD
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Old 09-11-2011, 09:08 PM
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"Does the S&W & the Colt use the same moon clips ?"

Yup.

Try Brownells or Ranch Products for clips.
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Old 09-11-2011, 09:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Muley Gil View Post
"Does the S&W & the Colt use the same moon clips ?"

Yup.

Try Brownells or Ranch Products for clips.
Thanks for that
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Old 09-13-2011, 04:03 PM
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I too have one of each and would not want to choose between them. I also own several commerical New Services as well and have found that a grip adaptor made by Tyler, Mershon (I think that is spelled correctly), or Pachmayer is a must for me to comfortably shoot them. I found the Pahmayer Presentation grip far to large for me.
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Old 09-13-2011, 05:05 PM
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I have both and, while I have several (well, one or two, lol) nice Smiths, I am a Colt man. That being said, I definitely like the Smith over the New Service. I would, however, stay away from the newer guns with locks.

My favorite is a 25-2, but I like the Model of 1989 also.
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Old 09-13-2011, 08:38 PM
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Thanks Guys,

Well I now own that Colt M1917 It will be about two weeks before I can get it due to licensing requirements here so as soon as I get her home I'll get more info & pics & share with you Guys. Thanks for the help

Now I just have to find a S&W M1917 which here in Australia may take some time but now I have my Colt to keep me going till I find a Smith
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Old 09-13-2011, 11:53 PM
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What's the story on getting a 1917 into Australia?
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Old 09-14-2011, 05:41 AM
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Default Shooting the Colt 1917

I used to holster carry the 1917 Colt into the California Desert back in the days. From holster it is the best natural pointing revolver I've ever owned.

Mine had been arsenal refinished for the USPO and looked brand new in it's gray Parker coat. I bought a pair of genuine stag grips for it and I could kill a can from a hip shot faster than Wild Bill. Sold it...miss it and yes I am an idiot!
10/22.
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Old 09-15-2011, 03:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hondo44 View Post
What's the story on getting a 1917 into Australia?


From what I understand Hondo it can be done with a lot of paperwork but from what I have been told is the expense can come from the dealers shipping it from the US & the dealer that has to take posession of it when it arrives. Can be done I have only had a quick look at the regulation. My wife & I want to come to the US for a visit so when that happens I will be looking at bringing one back Some day soon I hope
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Old 09-16-2011, 06:59 AM
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OK Guys, got this Colt M1917 for inspection today & let me tell you this gun does not look as good as it does in the photo but I am more than happy with it as it shows honest wear & locks up tighter then a bank vault The grips are real ivory Now I need some help. The number on the grip frame is 15459 & the number on the frame & crane are 164651 with what looks like a H above that number & a h below it (on the frame that is) then above the cylinder latch it looks like a HS3 ? in a circle. On the backstrap to me it looks like something was sanded off or is that just the finish, rough ? I must say I am very happy with this gun & I'll be keeping it. Now just have to find me a reproduction web belt M1917 holster a a half moon clip pouch which is not easy here in Australia. Now the hunt for a S&W M1917 Here are some more pictures for you let me know what you Guys think.








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Old 09-16-2011, 08:14 AM
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It looks like a fine original Colt. The Colts were numbered different from the Smiths. They had a separate service # which is what's on the butt. The other is the factory serial #. The Smiths used their factory serial # for the service #.

The sanding marks are original factory and are the tell-tale signs one looks for to confirm it has not been refinished. You usually see them by the front sight as well. That is one of the nicest war production 1917 Colt finishes I've seen and blue as well. I've seen some that were so rough they look like they were finished with 50 grit sandpaper and then parkerized.

You ought to be able to find your web gear here in the states and have that shipped w/o problems.
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Old 09-16-2011, 09:13 AM
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Default Finish

What's with that flat finish, squared off area around the front sight? Nice blue except for that.
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Last edited by 10/22; 09-16-2011 at 09:15 AM.
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Old 09-16-2011, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by 10/22 View Post
What's with that flat finish, squared off area around the front sight? Nice blue except for that.
merwin2.
That's a standard feature of the coarse wartime finish -- part of the effect you get when you don't use finer polishing to remove evidence of the direction or "grain" of coarser polishing

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Old 09-16-2011, 06:01 PM
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What's with that flat finish, squared off area around the front sight? Nice blue except for that.
merwin2.
Colt collector's call it 'feathering' and it's very common on military Colts including the 19th century SAAs. Again a sure sign of original factory finish.
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Old 09-16-2011, 09:46 PM
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This company offers a repo half moon pouch:

Military Antiques, Military Collectibles and Militaria Search results for: 'half moon clip pouch' IMA-USA.COM
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Old 09-16-2011, 10:20 PM
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Thumbs up I like 'em both...

and shoot them too. My first Colt doesn't like anything but hardball though which is pretty common. I know guys who are successful with lead but that must be a quirky bore. The New Service Colts are fun to shoot and I like big guns but I must say the NS Colts are really too big. It's hard for me to imagine how the smaller people of 100 yrs. ago managed.

All my NS guns have extremely stiff DA pulls compared to S&Ws of the same era. That probably didn't matter much as people were likely prone to shoot SA most of the time.

I would suggest that you remove those stocks and soak them in pure mineral oil ASAP. The fissures are charming now but can get worse.

Enjoy!
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Old 09-16-2011, 10:54 PM
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I have a war-time 1917 Colt and a Brazilian Model S&W. I prefer the Colt for single action dot shooting as long as I use .454 diameter, 200 grain bullets, cast quite hard, or standard .451 diameter jacketed bullets. In my hand, the double action nod may go to the Smith.
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Old 09-17-2011, 12:06 AM
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Understand that those reproduction pouches are marked incorrectly. Not sure that it matters if you are buying a reproduction but just wanted to offer a heads up.

The description states that the pouches are marked "R.H. LONG" however in the picture, you can see that they are marked "R.L. LONG".

The company was based in Framingham, MA and was originally a shoe manufacturer. They got into other venues and subsequently manufactured automobiles. The company still exists today and they are a car dealership specializing in Cadillacs. FWIW
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Old 09-17-2011, 09:38 PM
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Default 1917 Colt -vs- 1917 S&W

I like'em both...after they've been messed up some.




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Old 09-17-2011, 11:15 PM
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I carried a standard 1917 Colt as a police duty gun for a while. The DA was smooth, but heavy. I have smallish hands, but actually shot it quite well. For a while, the Alabama state qualification was a 60 round course of fire that was required yearly. I shot a 59/60 with that old Colt once. This revolver was issued to me by my department and I tried to buy it when I retired, but no go. I was told that it would probably be crushed or torched, since most officers wanted semiautos, not big old clunky wheelguns

One modification that I do to Colt revolvers is to place a small rod in between the leaves of the mainspring and then cock it. This puts a small arch in the spring and relieves the stacking that the old Colt action has. The largest rod that I use is a 1/4", for the New Service. Use smaller rods for the smaller framed Colts. If you reinstall the mainspring and have failure to fires, you can flatten the spring in a vise.
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Old 09-17-2011, 11:33 PM
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I liked to have a S&W M1917 just to match my Colt, but if I could only have one, sorry, it would be the Colt.
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