A Nurse with a Gun

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pawn Shop Circuit: A Vintage Carry Gun

I stopped in Kenny's pawn shop this afternoon when I left work. He had several Ruger centerfire autoloaders, a Springfield XD, and the Taurus P92 was still gathering dust. Among the handguns though, was a shiny Colt.

Specifically, it was a 1903 Hammerless in .32 ACP. It appeared to me to be a Type 4, with the original magazine. The nickel finish was well worn, and I wasn't sure if it was original. The wood grips did not appear to be original either. The pistol had just come out of hock, and did not yet have a price tag. I asked Kenny how much he wanted for it.

"How about three hundred?"

"You're dreaming!" I handed it back to Kenny, and he placed it back in the case.

The Colt 1903 Hammerless is a 32 caliber pistol that makes a very nice carry gun if you feel comfortable with the bullet size, and if you can use the sights. I recall reading somewhere about a Colt 1903 that had Novak sights installed and the front strap checkered. As a durable alternative to the KelTec P32, a Colt 1903 in good shape is a viable carry option. They carry like a dream.

Several years ago I purchased a Colt 1903 at a gun show for $240. It had very little blue left, and I probably paid too much, but I wanted the pistol for my wife. Click to enlargeIt has been a reliable shooter, although accuracy is not all I would like it to be.

If you purchase one of these pistols, be sure to get one with the original Colt magazine. Aftermarket mags are generally a recipe for poor feeding, and the originals are hard to come by and pricey if you do find one. Buy the pistol in the best condition that you can afford, and if possible shoot it first. Do not purchase a non-functional example, unless it is for parts. Parts are generally unavailable. Reproduction grips are available from Vintage Gun Grips Inc and NC Ordnance.

A plethora of information concerning these fine little carry guns can be found at Sam Lisker's website, Colt Autos.com. Before making a purchase, learn as much as you can there, compare the pistol you are considering to the many photos and run the serial number through the data base to determine the year it was manufactured.

Perhaps I will check back in a few days to see if Kenny adjusted his price.

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Blogger Dan from Madison said...

Question for you Xav, do you always ask permission to take photos of the guns you see on your pawn shop visits? Just wondering.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Dave said...


Definitely a neat little pistol.

I was fortunate (okay...damn lucky) to receive my maternal grandfather's Colt 1903 a few years ago.


When he passed away in '69 (and I was only about 5 then), one of my Mom's uncles got both of his pistols out of the estate, and held on to them until the mid 90's when he asked Mom if she wanted her Dad's guns back, for her sons. I called dibs on the Colt and my little brother got the S&W Hand Ejector revolver (, s/n 44xxx and chambered in .32 Winchester Ctg) until his G/F made him "get the guns out of the house" (No worries, though ...it found a good home again.)

So, among other things, I've got these family heirlooms, one with a modest, hand tooled, very business-like, black leather flap holster for the Colt that Grandpa had made a long time ago, probably while he was a postmaster in a small town in Eastern WA.

The Smith's holster was made by F.A. Meanea of Cheyenne, Wyo.

Grandpa had really good taste in his guns and their accoutrement!

1:33 AM  
Blogger Tam said...

"Several years ago I purchased a Colt 1903 at a gun show for $240."

Maybe then you did, but you sure didn't now, if it's the one in the photo.

$200-$250 for a smoothly patina'ed shooter seems to be about the market. Harder to judge on a nickel gun, especially with that "Is it factory nickel?" doubt tickling at the back of your mind.

I have two, myself; one's a 1904-vintage and the pristine one was made in '05. I've been shooting the wheels off the older one. Its outside may be an even gray, but the bore is shiny and it shoots like no Kel-Tec or Walther I've ever played with.

6:25 AM  
Blogger Weetabix said...

They sure are pretty.

I think I've read that you can tell the original mags because the bluing stops about 3/4 of the way up?

10:03 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Yep, it's the one in the pic Tam. I'm still thinking about Kenny's pistol...... I don't really need it.....

5:54 PM  
Blogger lordjim said...

It doesn't matter if you need it X, it only matters if you can give it a good home.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Ed Harris said...

I love my Type III. I had a wider .080 front sight put on mine and the rear notch opened up. Shoots reliably into 4 inches at 25yards with RWS hardball, better than that with my cast bullet reloads. Finish-worn good functional .32s with serviceable bores sell for $350-400 here, VG+ to Exc. nicer ones for $500 up, The .380s are less common and more collectiobe and cost $200 more in similar condition if you can find one. Worthwhile watching estate sales of WWII vets, where I got mine.

2:26 PM  

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