A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Sistema Situation

A Sistema Colt is a 1911, that was manufactured Colt specifications, in Argentina on Colt equipment. They meet the same specs as a US Colt that was manufactured in Hartford in 1927. They are solid 1911s with 100% parts interchangeability with other 1911s. One of my carry guns is a modified Sistema. The supply of surplus Sistemas dried up in the Summer of 2006 when the banged up, bare metal and rusty Lipsey's Sistemas arrived on US shores. No Sistemas have been located or imported since in mass volumes for resale.

Since the last Lipsey's Sistema disappeared from the shelves of local gun dealers, I have occasionally glanced across Gun Broker and Auction Arms to review asking and selling prices. It seems, overall, that the asking prices are going up. The selling prices will perhaps follow. Here is what I found.

The California seller of this Sistema does not say much about it, other than giving the serial number and a brief description. The importer's mark is on the forward right portion of the slide. There was only one importer, to my knowledge, that marked their guns there......Lipsey. This pistol also wears old US M1911A1 grips, not the black plastic Sistema grips. It was formerly a police pistol.

There is little doubt this pistol has been refinished. The question is, by who? Re-arsenaled Sistemas, that is Sistemas sent back to FMAP for refinishing during their service life, have long been considered shooters by those who seek out old 1911s. Even though the edges of this pistol are sharp, the importer's mark makes me suspect that it was refinished here in the States after it was sold by Lipseys. Being able to read the importer's mark would tell me for certain. This pistol is being offered for $650. At present, it has no bids.

The next Sistema I noticed is this one from Florida. This seller provides a bit more information.
This is a used Argentine model 1927 in 45 ACP. Very Good condition! It has an arsenal refinish with matching serial numbers except for barrel. It also has colt grips and comes with one magazine. Sorry, but no box or paperwork.
The seller claims an arsenal refinish, but the slide appears to be polished blue, not the dull parkerizing done by FMAP. Further, the hammer and trigger have been replaced with aftermarket parts. At an asking price of $515, the pistol still has no takers.

I thought for a moment that the Florida seller may not have realized the parts replacement, but then, I checked his other auction. It appears to be an arsenal refinished Sistema in very good condition, all original except for the replacement grips. What is striking though, is the seller's description of this pistol.
This is an Argentine Sistema Colt C.F.S. model in 45 acp. This is a hard to find model with the C.F.S. markings that was originally made for the Federal Council of Security, (Consejo Federal de Seguridad). Not many of these were made, especially with the "A" prefix on the serial number. All Serial numbers match on four locations of the gun. This is in very good condition and all markings on gun are clearly unidentifiable.
The seller's apparent failure to spot the differences between the two pistols he has for sale, contrasts remarkably with his knowledge level concerning this particular specimen. His asking price for this one is $775.

The Argentine Colts were never inexpensive surplus weapons, owing to their high quality, absolute parts interchangeability, and their chambering in the popular .45ACP cartridge. Xavier's Sistemas Click to enlargeStill, because they were refinished and not rollmarked with "US Property" on the receiver, many, if not most collectors shunned them. A decade ago, high condition rearsenaled Sistema Colts were selling from distributors such as JLD Enterprises for as low as $350. Indeed, when I purchased my two Sistemas at a gun show, I paid $230 for one, $225 for the other. Both myself and the dealer thought we had out done the other. I went on to uninhibitedly modify one of the pistols, but I am glad I bought the second and left it alone.

The price of the bottom of the barrel Lipsey's Sistemas was $289.90 plus shipping. The anticipation of their arrival and the poor condition heralded the last of the remaining Sistemas for importation. The price tag reflected the poor condition of the weathered relics, but it also foreshadowed an increase in coming prices as the good condition Sistemas began to escalate in value in a market that was just starting to reminisce on the virtues of the old GI issue M1911A1.

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Blogger Mark said...

I paid $249 +$20 transfer for my Sistema back in 1996. This was the shipment that SOG had in the mid 90's. Much, much better condition than the Lipsey's shipment.

All matching including the magazine. I swapped the grips for some wood grips as I could never stand the slick black plastic ones. Also the feed lips on the matching mag were so mangled that I've always just used GI surplus mags.
I also swapped in a GI thumb safety when the original wore out.

Great pistols.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Joker23 said...

I originally found this blog while looking up information on Sistemas. I came for the Sistemas, and stayed for the whole package.

A few years ago I had just gotten my C&R license and was reviewing all of the C&R message boards looking for anything that I couldn't live without. Representatives from Lipsey's were making posts on some of the boards that they were importing some Sistemas. Condition was listed as being very good. They were police guns that only showed minor holster wear. Being new to having the ability to buy direct, I thought the price (about $300) must be normal and no alarm bells went off.

I sent an email off to Lipsey's with several questions. I received a reply back that I would have to call and speak with someone. I called and got answers to all my questions. These were supposed to be collector grade, minor holster wear, mostly matching numbers. I went ahead and made my order. I was tempted to buy a few, but funds were tight and I could barely justify one, even at $300.

The waiting game began. Delays at the importer, delays here, delays there. Finally the delays were over and the first person picked theirs up locally. The pictures hit the internet and it was like a bomb had dropped.

I decided that I would refuse shipment of mine. Fed Ex was supposed to have an adult signature for delivery. I checked Fed Ex tracking and it showed delivered. I went home and found it lying on my porch. I decided to take my chances and open it.

Pitting all over the frame, no finish, the barrel showed no signs of rifling, and it failed some initial safety checks. I was pissed, to put it mildly. I made arrangements to send it back and they reimbursed me for both the cost of the gun and the shipping.

Now with some time and some reflection, I am kicking myself in the ass. I was expecting a brand new gun, and I felt that I had been misled and let my anger guide my decision to send it back. Although refinishing it would have harmed the value as a collector's piece, I was planning on using and shooting it anyway. I'm not one to buy a gun and hide it away. If I could turn back time I would have kept it and had it parkerized, swapped out any worn internals, and replaced the barrel.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

It appears I was wrong abot the second Sistema pictured, at least in regards to the possible importers. VAM Distributors of Wooster Ohio also marked their imported Sistemas on the forward portion of the slide.

12:06 AM  
Blogger hutchman said...

I just wish I could find one of these. I'm a retired Army Officer and I've always wanted a 1911 but didn't want to pay the high prices the 1911 is bringing today!

7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are interested, I have a 1927 argentine colt that is all numbers matching, even the magazine. It has about 60 percent finish on it, but the barrel is nice and it is all matching. Its serials show that it was made in 1948 and the wood grips signify that it was probably a military officers weapon.

4:28 PM  

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