Colt New Service Info & Lockup Test

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Colt New Service Info & Lockup Test

Post by Zeliard »

Originally posted by RWS.

Note: Dollar amounts quoted are from 2009.

I have 4 New Service revolvers and think they are the most interesting revolvers Colt ever made.

My personal prejudices aside however, the model 1917 is just one of the several versions of the New Service. The only difference between the U.S. military model 1917 and commercial model 1917's are the U.S. military markings and the fact that it was the first Colt revolver to be made in the .45 ACP caliber. All Model 1917 Colts are New Services, but not all NS revolvers are 1917's (if that makes sense).

There were at least 3 military versions of the New Service. The earliest ones were produced in .455 Eley for the British and Canadian militaries. The U.S. Model 1909 was chambered in a modified version of the .45 Colt cartridge which was called the .45 Gov't Service Cartridge. It was issued as a stop-gap solution after disastrous results in the Philippine insurrection with .38 revolvers. It was only produced for a couple of years (about 20,000 made) before the adoption of the M1911 pistol, making it one of the more scarce variants. Finally, there was the Model 1917, which was also made for only a couple of years, but over 160,000 of these were made so it is much more commonly encountered than the 1909.

New Service revolvers for the civilian market continued to be made for many years after WW1. The target model was called the Shooting Master.

To properly check the timing you need to have either 6 empty brass cases or do it outdoors with live ammo and be very careful. The cases or ammo are necessary to eliminate any rotational slop that might exist in the extractor. In a Colt this rotational movement with an empty cylinder can give a false indication of timing problems.

Load the cylinder, close it, and slowly thumb cock the hammer. Now try and rotate the cylinder clockwise as viewed from the rear. If the cylinder is out of time then it will rotate a couple of degrees or so and you will hear the bolt snick into place. Gently ease the hammer down and repeat for the other 5 cylinders.

What you want to see is that the gun locks up without needing any hand rotation assistance. This test is only valid using the single-action mode. Trying it double-action will not tell you much as the continued rearward trigger movement during DA firing will almost always advance the cylinder a full 1/6 of a revolution.

If there is live ammo in the gun then remove it for the next 2 tests. Cock the hammer, keep your hand on the hammer, pull the trigger and ease the hammer down. Maintain full rearward pressure on the trigger. The cylinder should be bank vault tight, and you should not be able to discern any rotational movement in the cylinder when using the thumb and forefinger of your other hand to try and lightly rotate the cylinder back and forth. Check all 6 cylinders.

Finally, release pressure on the trigger and hold the gun up to the light so you can see the barrel-cylinder gap. Try and pull the cylinder forward while watching the gap. If the cylinder will pull forward far enough that it will actually touch the barrel forcing cone then there is excessive wear in the cylinder axis area, often referred to as end-shake. On a Colt the cylinder collar can be stretched to restore the proper barrel-cylinder gap, but it can only be done one time. Most likely it would take a gunsmith familiar with Colts to be able to tell whether this procedure has already been done.

If the old gun times, locks up good, and has no end-shake then it's probably worth in the neighborhood of $600-$750, although it's not uncommon for sellers to ask more. If it needs work then I would be hesitant to give more than $500 for it and would feel much better about a $350-$400 range. Hope this helps you out.

Proud alumni of Transylvanian Polygnostic University. "Know enough to be afraid."

"Vertroue in God en die Mauser".-Faith in God and the Mauser.

"Send lawyers, guns and money." -Warren Zevon

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