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Colt's Detective Special a favorite for over 50 years!

* Whether you're John Law or John Q. Public, there are many reasons you might want to own and perhaps use a good snubnosed revolver. If you're in the former category, it's by necessity. If you're in the latter, it could be by necessity. But whatever, one of the most important reasons is it can provide you with a prime means of defense against criminal aggressors. A very popular compact revolver is the Colt Detective Special, a 2-inch-barreled piece with lots of plus features.

Amongst the admirers of this revolver you'll find plain-clothes officers who by the very nature of their job must carry a concealed handgun, and often it's a Detective Special. Then there's the peace officer required to tote a concealed handgun while off duty. He goes for this shorty, both because it's easy to carry unobserved and he has sufficient faith in it to protect his life if need be. At the other end of the defense spectrum we find law-abiding civilians who prefer short-barreled handguns for a variety of reasons.

First, there's the shopkeeper tired of being robbed by thugs, who finds a dependable snubby easiest to conceal on his person or in his place of business. He's serious about protecting his life and property, and knows how to use such a gun. The same thing applies to home dwellers, who, for whatever reason, prefer a small handgun over other arms as a means to protect themselves from criminal intruders. For the few of us permitted to carry concealed firearms, the snub-nose has few equals. Finally we find a number of campers, hikers, hunters and fishermen are now carrying compact handguns into the outback, both as survival tools against the elements and for personal protection.

Regardless of the category you fit into, there are a number of points everyone considers very important in their search for a concealable revolver.

Initially the handgun has to be a well-made, precision piece. The trigger has to move cleanly, with no hangups. The cylinder must to precisely in time with the barrel to prevent shaving of the bullets and poor accuracy. In short, everything has to function precisely, otherwise it may fail when you need it most. Should this happen, it could be during a life-threatening situation, one in which you'd be better off with no firearm at all.

Next, your defensive handgun should be chambered for a round that is reasonably powerful, one that will deter crime if need be, one that will protect lives, one that is readily available, and one that anyone can handle.

Finally, it has to be as accurate as any other firearm of its type--if not more accurate--simple because we're dealing with a device designed to halt crime and protect innocent lives.

From our experience the Colt Detective Special scores "straight A's" in all of the above categories, making it a prime candidate as a defensive handgun for anyone in need of such a firearm.

The Detective Special is one of few handguns in the Colt line-up that comes in a single configuration. But like its name implies, this snub-nose is designed for concealed carry only, and it wouldn't make much sense to offer it in a variety of barrel lengths, adjustable sights, and so on.

Chambered for the .38 Special, this all-steel revolver has a beefy frame, one designed to last a lifetime, providing standard loads are used as a matter of course. Based on Colt's "D" frame (same as used on the Diamondback, and formerly produced Agent, Cobra, Viper and Police Positive), the 2-inch-barreled Detective Special weighs only 21-1/2 ounces empty, making it a real lightweight. You can use Plus-P ammo in this handgun safely, but it's recommended you don't feed it these loads as a steady diet.

During the year I've been using my Colt Detective Special, it has consumed hundreds of rounds of factory ammo and a like amount of handloads. It performs well with just about anything, and best of all, you don't have to worry about feeding problems as with semi-auto pistols.

While the .38 Special cartridge isn't the "hottest" round even designed, it's one that anyone can handle, and this is definitely a plus. Checking out Remington's ballistic chart, relative to their .38 Special loads, we find their standard rounds producing muzzle velocities of 635 loads to 755 feet per second (fps), while their Plus-P loads run from 915 to 1,175 fps.

The round producing this hottest MV figure is the Remington 95-grain SJ-HP, a Plus-P cartridge. This same round delivers 291 foot pounds of muzzle energy, thanks to its high velocity (which is right on the heels of many .357 Magnum loads), but Remington's 158-grain lead Plus-P load at a lower velocity (915 fps) will deliver 294 foot pounds, due in part to the mass of lead leaving the barrel. In a sense both are equal but I would go for the HP as it will be likely to expand better.

When it comes to defensive loads, many others feel the same way. These high velocity hollow-point bullets are usually able to bring an otherwise bad situation under control a lot quicker.

An unpretentious piece, the Detective Special features a fixed square notch rear sight groove, ramp-style front sight, checkered walnut grips, has a sight radius of 3-3/4 inches, and is about 5-7/8 inches long. It also features a smooth, crisp trigger, as well as a hammer block.

The hammer block on this gun introduces a positive barrier in front of the hammer, thereby preventing the hammer from striking the firing pin unless the trigger is squeezed and held back. In this way, should your thumb slip from the hammer while you're cocking the gun, it will not fire as long as the trigger is forward its relaxed position.

Once you cock this revolver, either manually (for single-action work) or with the trigger, the block will be withdrawn and the gun will fire when the trigger is squeezed and held in the firing position.

As you'll notice from our charts, tests revealed the Detective Special is quite accurate with just about anything you want to feed it. We tested ten different factory loads altogether, as well as many hand-loads. Most of our testing was done at 7 yards, which is recognized as a much more practical test range than 25 yards. Very few law enforcement officers will ever fire at a suspect at 25 yards, especially in an urban situation, and where a snub-nosed revolver is involved. The slow-fire groups were all very respectable, as were those produced in rapid fire. These latter groups were shot by firing at one point at the target without really taking time to aim between shots. It was strictly a case of point firing, getting off the rounds as rapidly as possible.

After the first outing with this gun, I must admit the walnut slabs were replaced with a pair of Pachmayr's Compac synthetic grips. These units fill the hand, provide a "toe-hold" for the little finger, and absorb felt recoil much better.

Everything considered--quality, chambering, and accuracy--the Detective Special is a solid piece of handgun. In Colt Blue or polished nickel, it's priced right up there with the best of them. But you have to pay for premium merchandise, and you really can't put a price on something designed to save your life, and regarding something as precious as that, you certainly don't want to consider any bargain basement specials.
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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Lang, Bud
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Aug 1, 1984
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