When I saw Marky’s post about the PD seizing a Colt hammerless 32, it reminded me that I have one. I suspect Marky lusts for one because of that post, so I thought I’d share a little about that model.
The Colt 1903, or Model “M” as Colt called it, is a Browning design that was produced from 1903 until 1946. Approximately 572,215 were made and they were issued to general officers in the Army and Air Force as late as the 1970s.
There are several variations, all in .32 ACP. According to Steve Fjestad’s authoritative Blue Book Of Gun Values, Type I runs from serial number 1 to 71,999, has a 4-inch barrel, barrel bushing and no magazine safety. Type II (manufactured 1908-1910) has the bushing, but the barrel is abbreviated to 3 3/4 inches. Serial number range is 72,000 to 105,050. Type III (manufactured 1910-1926) does not have the barrel bushing and serial numbers run from 105,051 to 468,096. Type IV have the added magazine safety and are numbered 468,097 to 554,446. There is also a Parkerized variant marked “U.S. Property” with a 3 1/4-inch barrel and magazine safety, but no barrel bushing. Serial numbers run from 554,447 to 572,214.
These guns are called “hammerless,” but they actually have a concealed hammer. Sights are functional but very rudimentary by today’s standards. That said, I can keep all seven rounds of the magazine in a group the size of a silver dollar at 10 yards, so the guns are very accurate. The safety is flush, so it’s hard to operate, and the magazine catch is at the bottom of the grip, both of which were in fashion at the time these guns were developed.
One of the things I love about this pistol is that you can quickly and easily convert it to a 1908 Model M by simply changing out the barrel and magazine with ones made for the .380 Auto. Gun Parts Corp occasionally has those parts in stock, but you need to know not only what type 1903 you have, but also the width of the extractor cut. My .380 barrel dropped in without any fuss, but the magazine was a really tight fit so I had to polish down the sides for it to work properly. Firing either .32 ACP or .380 Auto, the gun is 100 percent reliable. Because it’s so darn slim, it’s a great gun to carry, but there are better guns on the market for that purpose because of the sights, safety and magazine release.
Colt actually showed new-production Model 1903 pistols at SHOT Show last year. They’re made under license by U.S. Armament Corp and the production run is reported to be 3,500 guns, so while Marky will never get MY 1903, there is hope he can satisfy his lust.
“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”
In 2008, Mayer returned to the editorial side of publishing, this time in the digital field, as Editorial Director for Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Handguns and Rifleshooter online magazines. After a brief stint in 2011 as the Digital Media Director for an ABC TV affiliate, Mayer returned to the outdoors industry and Safari Club International where he is currently Assistant Publisher and Multi-Media Communications Editor.