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Old 07-07-2006, 10:14 AM   #1
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Colt 1903 .32 Pocket Questions

Friend of mine just inherited a Colt 1903. Or half of one. Apparently it had been broken down and separated into three pieces for “safe” storage in three different locations. The frame or lower half assembly seems to be complete and in fairly good shape. The barrel is missing completely and at this point is not likely to turn up. The slide is present but very rusted and pitted to the point where it might actually be unsafe.

My question is, I know that there are four variations of this gun. Are the top halves all interchangeable on the frame? I know that the slide and barrel have to match as far as extractor width (and bushing or not) but other than that, if the barrel and slide are compatible with each other, will a late top half fit and function on an early frame, or vice versa?

Also, is it possible to convert the gun to .380? Does this require a different slide or just a different barrel (and of course magazine)? Is it desirable to convert to .380 or is it best left in .32?

Charlie? Daniel? Anyone?
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Old 07-07-2006, 12:27 PM   #2
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The .32 and .380 frames are actually different. Converting a .32 would require opening up the magazine well just a bit and generally not worth it.

As far as the other stuff goes I honestly don't know and don't have samples for comparison. The quickest answer would probably be to call Numrich... they know everything...
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Old 07-07-2006, 01:36 PM   #3
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Nurmich might be able to help with parts, but it's going to be iffy.

Type I - SN 1-71,999
Type II - 72,000-105,050
Type III - 105,051-468,096
Type IV - 468,097-554,446

Government models will be marked U.S. Property.

Types I & II used a barrel bushing; types III & IV did not.

I don't know if there's any difference in the way the grooves on the barrel and frame between models. You rotate the barrel to lock/unlock up things for assembly/disassembly. This is one of Dean's favorite pistols, maybe he can offer more light on the subject.
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Old 07-07-2006, 07:13 PM   #4
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Thanks Charlie and Sam. I can see we should forget about doing a .380 conversion.

Numrich actually seems to have a fairly good selection of upper end parts. Shouldn't be too hard to put together a matching slide, barrel, and extractor. The existing slide seems to have the skinny extractor in it. Its internal parts might even be usable. Every so often at gun shows I run across complete top halves for semi-reasonable prices. Slides show up on ePay from time to time, too.

I think it looks good for getting the little gun shooting again.
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Old 07-08-2006, 01:30 PM   #5
 
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I'll try a link for assembly. http://www.gunsworld.com/assembly/colt32_ass_us.htm
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Old 07-10-2006, 04:20 PM   #6
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Oneshy, thanks for the link.

We've determined that it will run about $200 in parts to turn the frame into a complete shootable pistol again (it'll also need a magazine, and one of the grips is broken). This sound like a good deal, or would that be too much money to put into the thing? I suppose he can always use the frame and rusty slide as a paperweight or conversation piece.
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Old 07-10-2006, 04:47 PM   #7
 
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Don't you have enough paperweights?

http://battlerifles.ambackforum.com/vie ... ght=welded
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Old 07-10-2006, 08:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by svartorm
Don't you have enough paperweights?
I'll take that as your vote that we finish the thing. And then shoot it!
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Old 07-10-2006, 09:21 PM   #9
 
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You might as well! Everyone seems to speak highly of that pistol, so I can't see a reason not to rebuild it when you have some of the parts.
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Old 07-11-2006, 04:58 AM   #10
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I was looking in a 2002 used gun price guide last night and saw the value of a 1903 Pocket in "Poor" condition was $200. That means this should be at least a break-even deal. Depending on what kind of slide Numrich provides, the finished gun should be at least "Fair," maybe even "Good" (There are some scratches and a couple spots of very minor surface rust on the frame.)

I've never owned, shot, or worked on a 1903, so I'm sort of looking forward to helping my friend get this thing together. Of course I'll have to "test fire" the little gun for him--perhaps extensively! I see Walmart has .32 ACP ammo for $11 a box.
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Old 07-11-2006, 06:08 AM   #11
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Snake, it's the basis of a custom carry piece. There was an article in either Guns or its sister publication [s]Handguns[/s] Handgunner on custom 1903s. Mine is in too good of shape for that type of project, but if I had a $200 dollar 1903, I'd sure consider it.... Yeah, it'd be a $2k gun when I got through, but it's only money.
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Old 07-11-2006, 06:12 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by csmkersh
Snake, it's the basis of a custom carry piece. There was an article in either Guns or its sister publication Handguns on custom 1903s. Mine is in too good of shape for that type of project, but if I had a $200 dollar 1903, I'd sure consider it.... Yeah, it'd be a $2k gun when I got through, but it's only money.
It was the March/April issue of Handgunner, which I've been studying extensively.
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Old 07-22-2006, 02:14 PM   #13
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Project Update:

First, the bad news. I originally estimated the parts cost to be around $200. With it also needing grips and a magazine, and then actually taking the Numrich prices and writing them down and adding them up, the bottom line came to way closer to $300 than $200. Ouch!

Now the good news: We found a serviceable complete slide on eBay for about half of what Numrich wanted for a stripped one. Even better: This means I don't have to worry about getting the firing pin, extractor, etc pieces out of the rotted-out slide and maybe finding out they're no good, too. And we located a slightly cheaper source for grips and a mag than Numrich, which means the bottom line is getting down closer to $200 again. Yay!

The eBay slide arrived yesterday. It fits fine and seems to be identical to the unusable original. I'd rate it Very Good to Excellent mechanically. There's a couple little dings, no rust, but not much original blueing left on one side. Aesthetically, it's Poor to Fair. (And then there's no guarantee that what we'd have gotten from Numrich would have been any better!) This is a low-buck project so I'll see if it will take cold bluing; if not, there are several fine spray-on finishes available these days.

We were so pleased with the money saved on the slide that I told my buddy we should hold off ordering the rest of the stuff from Numrich for a couple weeks and see if a barrel might show up on eBay cheap, too. So that's what we're gonna do.

Or maybe someone here has an extra. If you've got a 1903 Colt .32 barrel (the NO-BUSHING model) gathering dust, drop me a line at [email protected]. Still looking for set of cheap grips, too--any type, any condition as long as they're basically complete.

Here's how "JD" (my name for the project, after the legend that John Dillinger carried one) looks at the moment:
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Old 08-28-2006, 05:28 AM   #14
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Update: A barrel finally showed up on ePay. We only saved $20 on Numrich's price, but Numrich is now showing out of stock on the barrels anyway. All told we brought the project in for a bit under $200, or about $70 less than it would have cost had we gone right to Numrich for everything.

I put it all together this weekend--went together with no surprises or hitches--and shot it yesterday before I gave it back. It went through two full magazines (8 rounds each) without a single bobble of any kind. Both groups were 4.2 inches at 50 feet, nicely centered and about 4" high, and one group had 5 shots in 1.6 inches with three almost touching. Not too awful considering I've owned toy guns that had better sights. Trigger pull was something on the high side of 6 pounds and just a bit creepy. Recoil was pleasant--reminded me of a Colt Ace .22 conversion, or perhaps of shooting .38 wadcutters in a very heavy gun like a 6" Python.

With good sights and better trigger this would be a very fun gun to shoot, if you could forget that every one of the little booms cost 28 cents, ouch! I can shoot 9mm for half that. Now I see why you guys who have these like them, though. It was fun to work on and learn about. If a .32 ACP is on your personal "gotta have it" list, this is one you should check out. Frankly, I'd like it a lot better in .22LR.
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Old 08-28-2006, 07:15 PM   #15
 
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Very nice! I hope your friend is happy with it.
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Old 08-28-2006, 08:21 PM   #16
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Nice. Then again, I like the Model M (both calibers) anyway.

Now if only we could get the blueprints and start designing it for other calibers, say 9mm NATO/Parabellum, or my serpentine colleague's preferred .22LR. Ooh, if we could up-pipe it to .40S&W...

Anyone have any good blueprint sources? I have a friend who knows his way around CNC programming...
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Old 08-29-2006, 09:27 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nedry
Now if only we could get the blueprints and start designing it for other calibers, say 9mm NATO/Parabellum, or my serpentine colleague's preferred .22LR. Ooh, if we could up-pipe it to .40S&W...
Better yet, we could scale it up to .45, and expose the hammer, and...oh, wait a minute...

Seriously, I doubt it could even be scaled up or strengthened to take 9mm without sacrificing its wonderful slimness, which is one of its major appeals. Make it a 9 and you'd have the Star BKS, which is also a cool gun in its own right.

But how about this: Make it in modern steel in .380 and set it up to take the hottest loads available (or maybe 9 Mak, even?). You could even add up to .010" extra steel to each side of the slide without compromising the thinness TOO much. Improve the thumb safety a little (extend it). Better sights are a must. Do we want/need a slide stop? And now make it available with a .22LR conversion, and buddy my name's on the waiting list.

I have a long-standing prejudice against "hammerless" autos (the only such I've ever owned is a Ruger Mk II), but I found myself liking this one. I can't say I'd recommend unshrouding the hammer and putting a 1911-like spur on it (as per the cool custom example Charlie showed us a few months ago), as that would sacrifice some of its "pocketability," but I'd like to explore ways to have the hammer shrouded but still visible and manually controllable, as on those Smith J-frames.

As to the 1903 I played with, if someone gave me a couple cases of .32 ammo, I might have to go out and buy me one of these. It was a neat little gun but I didn't like it well enough to pay to feed it for any great amount of shooting.
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Old 09-14-2006, 10:46 PM   #18
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Well, I found the patent. #747,585.

Check out http://patimg2.uspto.gov/.piw?docid=US0 ... =PN/747585 . Quicktime's pitching a fit on my machine--maybe it'll play nice for you guys--but I was able to eyeball a NICE cross-section and a few other little diagrams before the belly-up. I'm actually thinking about ordering a copy of the patent...
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