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Thread: Cleaning An Older Gun

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    I have come into possession of an older pistol which was my great great grandfather's who was the first chief of police for the traffic division of Seattle. It was his issued pistol which is a Colt .38 Police Special and has a date of 1914 on the gun. This gun has not been fired for many many years I'm sure and wondered if I wanted to return it to firing condition what extra steps should I go through. Nothing on it seems loose at all and when dry firing everything seems to work fine except for a hard trigger pull which just needs some oil I'm sure. I plan on cleaning the whole gun up in a normal fashion just wanted to know if there is anything extra I should probably do or if you think there is any risk in firing the pistol.

    Thanks

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    Regular Member amlevin's Avatar
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    Colt made a real sturdy gun back then. Also, Police issued weapons were not noted for being fired a lot. Qualification and Training time mostly.

    I would first check the area ahead of the cylinder. Look for excessive gap between the back of the barrel and the front of the cylinder. .006-.010" clearance is normal, more may indicate wear or damage. Holding the cylinder LIGHTLY, pull the hammer back. The cylinder should advance and the detend drop in place when the hammer is fully back and cocked. Release the cylinder and note if it rotates back and if so, how much. A minute amount is OK and lots indicates it is out of time.

    If it passes the mechanical checks give it a good cleaning with old fashioned Hoppe's.

    Don't use any Lead Removal Wipes on the bluing or it will remove it.

    Most 20th Century .38s, especially a Colt, are capable of firing standard load .38 Spl. rounds. I would avoid +P loads as they are high pressure and could cause wear.

    Take care of it and it will be shooting strong at its 100 year anniversary.
    "If I shoot all the ammo I am carrying I either won't need anymore or more won't help"

    "If you refuse to stand up for others now, who will stand up for you when your time comes?"

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    I only know rifles and have fixed/reconn'd an old Winchester 1894 made in 1896 of my father's (his father's before him), but I'm going to give amlevin's advice a big +1. It's good general cleaning advice and, not knowing revolvers myself, sounds like good revolver advice.
    B.S. Chemistry UofWA '09
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    Pics would be awesome. Is the gun chambered for .38 special or .38 S&W?

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    sv_libertarian wrote:
    Pics would be awesome. Is the gun chambered for .38 special or .38 S&W?
    Probably .38Colt special

    From http://www.shootingtimes.com/handgun.../coltp_083106/
    In 1908 Colt introduced the Police Positive revolver chambered for the ".38 Colt Special," which was nothing more than the .38 S&W Special cartridge with a different headstamp.

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    I would recommend that you have a compentent gunsmith check over the gun and advise you on whether it is a shooter or a wall hanger. As to cleanning, you can destroy the value of the gun real easy with incorrect cleaning and restoration proceedures. It will alway have value to you as a family history item, but it is a shame to destroy the gun's dollar value. There are books on the subject of restoring the gun, but remember as a almost hundred year old gun it should not look show room new, ever. Again I advise against you trying to determine the mechanical condition of the gun.

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    Regular Member amlevin's Avatar
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    I don't disagree with Bears recommendation but find Competent Gunsmiths in short supply. Here is some more reading material that gives a good narrative on how to check out a revolver. While the author says he deals primarily with S & W Revolvers, Colts share the same features and the instructions will serve you well in determining the safety of your pistol.

    http://yarchive.net/gun/revolver/revolver_checking.html

    Just remember that some of the best gunsmiths started out by just working on their own guns. Pay attention to small details like cracks, ill-fitting parts, and excessive wear. You will find a new dimension to the sport of shooting by repairing, and even building your own.

    Maybe someday you too will have the corner on the "Wisdom" market like some others here.
    "If I shoot all the ammo I am carrying I either won't need anymore or more won't help"

    "If you refuse to stand up for others now, who will stand up for you when your time comes?"

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    thanks for all the help guys, I'll post pictures when I can.

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    amlevin wrote:
    I don't disagree with Bears recommendation but find Competent Gunsmiths in short supply. Here is some more reading material that gives a good narrative on how to check out a revolver. While the author says he deals primarily with S & W Revolvers, Colts share the same features and the instructions will serve you well in determining the safety of your pistol.

    http://yarchive.net/gun/revolver/revolver_checking.html

    Just remember that some of the best gunsmiths started out by just working on their own guns. Pay attention to small details like cracks, ill-fitting parts, and excessive wear. You will find a new dimension to the sport of shooting by repairing, and even building your own.

    Maybe someday you too will have the corner on the "Wisdom" market like some others here.
    I know of several compentent gunsmiths around the Sound. But since the op doesn't say where he is at I can't make a recommendation

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    I currently live in Ellensburg but I travel back to Kirkland about once a month so if you could recommend some that would be great.

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    Izzle wrote:
    I currently live in Ellensburg but I travel back to Kirkland about once a month so if you could recommend some that would be great.
    Let me check with mygunsmith and get back to you on Ellensburg. As to Kirkland, I know of none on that side of the lakebut the best ones are on the west side of the sound and the best is in Bremerton. I will check on Kirkland when I ask about Ellensburg tomorrow. There is a local guy here in the Shelton areathat I trust with my guns and his recommendations.

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    Here are some of the pictures of the pistol, sorry it took so long. As you can see it really could use a rebluing. Also you can see the "Seattle Police" right next to the grip, I wasn't able to get a good picture of the top of the barrel but it actually says that the gun was made in 1904.









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    Does it say pat. pend 1904? Because usually there is never a date of manufacture. Only the serial number tells you that.

    So far I have not been able to get a recommendation for a gunsmith in Ellensburg.

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    Bear 45/70 wrote:
    Does it say pat. pend 1904? Because usually there is never a date of manufacture. Only the serial number tells you that.
    "Colt's PT.F.A. MFG. CO. Hartford CT U.S.A PAT'D Aug. 5 1884 June 5. 1900 July 4. 1905" Is what is exactly printed on the gun. I also found out he started on the force in 1904 from the gold retirment badge that I also have of his. I also can take it to someone on the east side aswell I currently am in Kirkland right now. Thanks a lot for checking around for me Bear.

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    Also there is no serial number on it at all.

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    I wouldn't reblue it. Part of the value of some historical firearms is their patina and other marks of use. Rebluing it destroys all of that. What you have is a gun with great provenance in excellent mechanical condition with signs of wear that came honestly. Reblueing it destroys that.

    IMHO with good provenance this gun is worth more in it's present condition than if it were refinished.

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    Now there's a gun certain Seattle Police would love to catch someone OC'n ...

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    Izzle wrote:
    Bear 45/70 wrote:
    Does it say pat. pend 1904? Because usually there is never a date of manufacture. Only the serial number tells you that.
    "Colt's PT.F.A. MFG. CO. Hartford CT U.S.A PAT'D Aug. 5 1884 June 5. 1900 July 4. 1905" Is what is exactly printed on the gun. I also found out he started on the force in 1904 from the gold retirment badge that I also have of his. I also can take it to someone on the east side aswell I currently am in Kirkland right now. Thanks a lot for checking around for me Bear.
    The second and third dates refers toadditional patent dates, not a manufacture date.The year of manufacture is most surely after the last patent date. Serial number can be under the grips, on the bottom of the buttor under the crane.Manufactured was from 1907 thru 1927, so a 1914 manufacture date is posible. The 1905 patent date identifies it as a "Police Positive (First issue)". Hard rubber grips standard thru 1923, checkered Walnut grips after 1924. Available in 32 Colt, 32 New Police, 38 New Police or 38 S&W. Barrels lengths available were4", 5" or 6" for a 38 caliber gun.

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    Regular Member amlevin's Avatar
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    If you have the badge that was given at retirement I would look more for a good cabinet maker rather than gunsmith. Gather all the documents and memorabilia that pertains to this weapon and make a case to show with the gun. Something like a large cigar humidor with the badge and any papers in the lid. Far more valuable that way than as a shooter.
    "If I shoot all the ammo I am carrying I either won't need anymore or more won't help"

    "If you refuse to stand up for others now, who will stand up for you when your time comes?"

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    amlevin wrote:
    If you have the badge that was given at retirement I would look more for a good cabinet maker rather than gunsmith. Gather all the documents and memorabilia that pertains to this weapon and make a case to show with the gun. Something like a large cigar humidor with the badge and any papers in the lid. Far more valuable that way than as a shooter.
    I agree 100%. Have had several pictures and memorabilia of my Uncle from his military days and even a couple picturesof us together overseas that we have done this too, now that "Bud" is gone. Family history is better than a new looking gun any day.My grandfathers rifle is displayed with several other keepsake rifles. I unfortunately didn't get his duty pistols or even any of his personal handguns but I have some pretty amazing photographs.

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