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Colt Pistols and Rifles

What is the age of two Colt Model 1917s?

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2014-01-06 20:11:13
2014-01-06 20:11:13

This was a puzzler. This model is on the 49th page (out of 77) of the Colt entries in the Blue Book, and since I didn't know if I was looking for an automatic, revolver, or rifle, I just started from the beginning. Apparently the official designation is the 1917 Army, but none were made for the military. Approximately 1000 were manufactured during 1932 chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. Another 1000 which the book calls the "Piece Parts Model" were manufactured in .38-40 WCF, .44-40 WCF, and .45 LC. From the serial number sequences I would assume these were made during or after 1932, but they carry an earlier (1905 vs 1926) patent date.

The M1917 Colt was a Colt New Service revolver made for the US Army in WW I since there weren't enough M1911 service autos to supply the officer & senior NCO corps of the expanded wartime army. They were chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge & were usually loaded with half-moon clips containing 3 cartridges each. However, they were headspaced so they could be loaded with .45 ACP cartridges without half-moon clips. Ejection, in that case, was by M1 pencil. They were originally blued but after the war they were parkerized. A lot of them were issued to the US Postal Inspectors and to the Border Patrol after WW I. They were finally declared surplus in the late 1950s and sold on the civilian market. I bought my first one in 1960 for $26.95, when a regular New Service was bringing about $80 if in good condition. There were a LOT of them made, and in the late '50s a somewhat-unscrupulous dealer bobbed a lot of them to 2" barrels and sold them as 'very rare OSS undercover guns.' The factory barrel length was 5 1/2". Be careful when shooting them. They are bored .443 to .445, not .451, & going up the velocity ladder with one is hard on your hands. The Smith & Wesson M1917, which was the S&W 2nd model Hand Ejector chambered for .45 ACP, has a very thin barrel. Going up the velocity ladder with a Smith has a tendency to cause a hairline split at the top of the barrel where it joins the frame. The Colt barrel is a lot thicker and won't split, but a heavy charge of Unique behind a jacketed bullet gives a LOT of felt recoil. I speak from experience, having owned 2 of them and shot them extensively, both with factory loads and handloads. Rifling is very shallow and intended strictly for jacketed bullets, but very hard-cast lead/type-metal alloy bullets work well in them. Butts are marked with US Army and a military number, which isn't the weapon's serial number. The Colt or S&W serial number is usually on the barrel, under the ejector rod. 'Shadetree' gunsmiths 'rechambered' a lot of them to .45 Colt by boring out the headspace shoulder. That didn't work because the .45 ACP cartridge and half-moon clip is a lot thicker than a .45 Colt rim. If the pistol is marked 'Model 1917' and doesn't have a headspace shoulder in the cylinder, consider it unsafe for anything but .45 ACP cartridges in half-moon clips or .45 Auto Rim cartridges. A full conversion of a 1917 to .45 Colt would require replacement of the cylinder, cylinder latch, and pawl at the very least. TexasCharley

Shorter Answer: the Colt M1917 revolvers were made from 1917-1920. If you want to learn about some Colt weapons read TexasCharleys' answer.

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