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Old School Big Bore Pocket Blaster

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Colt New Service serial number dates to 1915. Its original unshaved cylinder is chambered in .455 Eley. Frame bears Canadian crossed pennants proof mark. Barrel was professionally shortened to 2-3/4" and sight remounted long ago. The gun weighs 36 ozs., about the same as a .38 Special Official Police.

Interestingly, USGI .45 ACP hardball headspaces against the .455 chamber cone. The case heads stand just proud enough for the hammer nose firing pin to reach. It reliably goes bang with ACP ammo and shoots close to the sights with center of mass hold at 25 yards. Shots are slightly left, but mostly stay in the bull of a B8 repair center. I use a BIC pen to poke out the .45 ACP brass.

No moon clip is needed for .45 ACP and wouldn' t fit anyway due to the unshaved original .455 cylinder. Use of .45 ACP ammo I view as a commonly available, emergency expedient, rather than for steady use. I have an ample supply of Fiocchi .455 Mk2 brass to reload and an Accurate mold 45-264H
Rectangle Font Parallel Slope Pattern
flatnosed bullet which matches service velocity with 3.5 grains of Bullseye. While the catalog drawing shows .452", when you order a mold from Tom you can specify your casting alloy and the diameter you want. My mold drops .455 as-cast from wheel weights. I load them as-cast and unsized, lubed with 45-45-10 from LSStuff.

Fiocchi 262-grain factory lead ammo groups well, but POI slightly left. Sandy Garrett at NoVA Gun Works will correct that turning the barrel a bit in the refurb. Plan is to set barrel back to reduce B-C gap to 0.004", correct end shake and timing, then matte blue. I figure $400 in gunsmithing to restore a $400 bargain.

Normally any shooter grade Colt New Service brings $1000+. I got this one cheap off Gunbroker because the Bubba' ed gun had zero collector value and the original grips were broken. I got a set of nice replacement grips from NC Ordnance which are a faithful copy of the originals. The BK grips adapter for the Army Special and Official Police fits the New Service frame. To me it is worth the cost of gunsmithing to have my Carhartt Barn Coat pocket blaster. And NO - I will NOT Fitz-butcher it!

The Speer 250-grain Deep Curl JHP with 4 grains of Bullseye gets 650 fps, expands well and stops in 4th gallon water jug. FC65 M1911 ball gets 700 fps in the 2-3/4" barrel and stops in 6th jug.

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Why do anything to it?
Keep it a $400 shooter.
As it is barrel-cylinder gap is pass 0.009, hold 0.010" which is way excessive. Normal spec is 0.004 min and 0.008 max.

End shake measures 0.005" which is also way excessive. Colt max. is 0.002", which is about the minimum the untrained person can feel. On a Colt ANY end shake you can feel is too much. So this needs to be corrected to avoid shooting the gun loose.

While the gun locks up OK in SA when cycled vigorously, where rotational inertia helps, all six chambers are "slow" when the action is manipulated slowly or with drag on cylinder when rested in palm of the hand. Also unacceptable.

Cylinder locks up when the trigger is held for to the rear, but if the hammer drops early this is a recipe for spitting and maybe a cracked forcing cone. It takes a gunsmith familiar with Colts to assess the interaction of clockwork parts as they are a different duck.

Sandy Garrett is knowledgeable on the old Colts and has refurbed a dozen or so for me. Most of my Colts are factory lettered collector pieces. Not entirely safe queens, but not EDC, either, except for my 1964 NYPD Colt OP and 1972 Colt Agent which are the daily companions. This rework is absolutely necessary for me to have a safe and reliable big bore carry, which will see winter use.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Off to Cylinder and Slide........
Cylinder and Slide is out of business and not taking new work.

Sandy Garrett is the very last Colt factory-trained DA revolver smith listed by the American Pistolsmith's Guild. He is an easy 1-1/2 hour drive from me and I have known him since he was an academy firearms instructor and our department armorer. Neither of us are getting any younger, but nobody else gets my Colt work as long as both of us are above room temperature.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I met Sandy and Robert (?) some time back, on my way up to the IWL Range in Centreville.
Robert is an up and coming Smith. Sandy's son. He customized a Ruger Super Blackhawk for me and built a switch-barrel Sako A2 with 7.62x39. .22-250 and .308 Win. barrels. Don't know if Robert has interest in learning the old Colts. He does well on ARs and M1911s I am told, but those don't float my boat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Cool gun and I know we can count on a report when the work is done. I wish I could find a big bore belly gun like that for a decent price. But guns like everything else are so expensive now. Oh well, I really have all I need anyway. Just don't drop it in the dirt or the mud or it will take a week of cleaning to get it to work again.
Actually, a New Service flushes out easily without full disassembly. Maj. Joseph B. Roberts, Jr. has a Colt M1917 which his grandfather retrieved from a privvy in France in 1918.The Lt. to whom it was issued got stupid and lost it in the crapper. Joe's Grandfather, then Private Roberts, fished it out of the privvy, removed the grips and took it into the shower with him. After a soapy water wash and rinse the gun was washed again in Diesel. Worked fine for the next 20-some years after that.

So the story goes Joe's father then had the gun in the Pacific during WW2, but somebody jokingly complained that in the humidity it still stunk like a privvy. So it was disassembled, cleaned, reworked and Parkerized for WW2 service. I shot the gun in the 1970s on the range at Fairfax Rod&Gun Club and wanted A 1917 ever since.

What a great piece of history!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
I have a Canada WW1 issued S&W Triple Lock in .455 that was unfortunately converted to .45 Colt. I thought about replacing the cylinder, but then serial numbers wouldn't match, so I left it as is. It's still a beautiful gun.

I think I only have one New Service left, also a Canada gun, in 38-40. I bought it near the Canadian border, and I've always mused whether it could be an RCMP gun. I should try and letter it.
Yes, it is really a shame that so many were borehogged to convert to .45 Colt. The shaved cylinders to permit .45 ACP with clips or .45 Auto Rim can be forgiven due to circumstances of the time.

But original and unaltered guns in .455 hold their collector value better and give good service when handloaded with correctly designed modern bullets with the Starline brass. One needs to accept that the .455 guns were never intended for heavy loads. In a New Service Colt or S&W .455 Hand Ejector you are looking at 700-750 fps maximum with 255-265 grain bullet.

In a top-break Webley Mk6 drop powder charges a full grain for about 100 fps less velocity than the max for a swing-out cylinder, solid frame gun. 16,000 vs. 12,000 psi.to approximate WW2 service velocity of 600 +/- 25 fps.

Using a large-flat-nosed bullet which is heavy for the caliber, performance on deer, hogs or black bear is completely satisfactory at short ranges within 25 yards or so. High velocity is not needed. Service Webley loads would shoot through both doors of a standard 1970s American sedan. Modern handloads do likewise.

Factory 230 grain lead .45 Auto Rim gives 800 fps typical in 5-1/2" revolver. USGI 230 grain hardball about 800-830 fps. in the 5-1/2" and chronographs 700-730 fps in my 2-3/4" Colt with its huge B-C gap of pass 0.009-hold 0.010"! Ordinary .45 hardball in a short barrel is still a useful load, but I hope to pick up about 40-50 fps when Sandy sets the barrel back to reduce B-C gap to pass 0.004/hold 0.005".
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
If you search Gunbroker carefully you find affordable New Service project guns with "issues" which can be gotten affordably and rebuilt, IF you have a skilled 'smith to do the work and can accept the reality of $400+/- in gunsmithing work to make them right.

You gotta want it. Compared to modern bottom feeders still a bargain. Wheel guns rock!

Great impact weapon when empty too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
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....I only have one New Service left, also a Canada gun, in 38-40. I bought it near the Canadian border, and I've always mused whether it could be an RCMP gun. I should try and letter it.
The NWMP and RCMP issue revolvers were generally .455 in the eastern provinces and urban areas and .45 Colt in the mountain west, Yukon and NW territories, though not a hard and fast rule. I have seen several WW1 era .455s which bore British proofs, but converted to .45 Colt during Factory Through Repair, British Army unit markings X'ed out and RCMP marked and numbered.

Provincial police were not restricted as to caliber and a .38-40 or .44-40 is certainly possible, particularly if constables supplied their own kit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Yeah, I thought I read something about them buying some 38-40's out west at one point, but that was probably just a brain fart. I considered converting it to .45 Colt, but I just never shot Colt's as well as Smith's, and I have several .45 Colt S&W's.
The .38-40 is a useful packing pistol cartridge and easily handloaded. Ballistics are very close to the .40 S&W. You can neck down .44-40 Brass easily and use common bullets for the .40 S&W or 10mm. If it were me I would keep it in its original caliber unless barrel or cylinder were FUBAR and needed replacement.

If the gun is in serviceable shooter grade condition and not Bubba'ed or refinished it is worth $1000 at auction.
 
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