REBUILT COLT 1917.
Q: Thank you for many years of fine reading! "Gun Room" is my favorite. Have you ever thought of compiling them into a book? Anyway, attached are several pictures of a Colt 1917 New Service revolver I acquired. The serial number is 261XXX and the U.S. Army property number on the butt is 114206. The revolver is in .45 Colt (not .45 ACP) and the last patent date on the barrel is 1926. I recently had the Colt Archives produce a letter for me. They indicate the revolver was produced in October 1918 as a .45 Auto cartridge and sold to the U.S. government. They also indicate the revolver had wood stocks. As you can see from the pictures, the grips have been changed and a .45 Colt barrel replaced the original barrel. The triggerguard also has the "VP" proofmark. In corresponding with Colt, they tell me they only keep original shipping records and do not maintain information on arms that return to Colt for repair or refurbish. The underside of the barrel and both sides of the grip frame are marked "218". Could this be a rebuild number from Colt? Based on what I have found, I suspect this revolver probably never saw military service in World War I or after and was most likely sold as surplus before World War II. At some point before World War II, it was sent back to Colt to be converted from .45 ACP to .45 Colt, thus the "VP" mark. The overall condition is very nice with only slight bluing loss on the backstrap of the grip frame and a little speckling of rust where I believe a leather holster strap rested behind the hammer. Do my assumptions sound plausible? Can you shed any light on the "218" or how this revolver may have come into its present configuration?
A: Based on the photos and the gun's rechambering, barrel date and hard-rubber grips, there's no doubt that your military Colt 1917 has been "civilianized" some time in its history. I would guess probably in the 1930s or 1940s (though it could be later) at the behest of someone who wanted a .45 Colt New Service without having to pay full pop for a new commercial gun. Whoever did it certainly kept the gun as close to specs as was prudent. The "218" numbering is a bit of a puzzle. It could be a benchmark of sorts. You say you have contacted Colt on the gun. If it had been sent back to the factory for a rework, they conceivably would have record of this. The fact it's not noted on the letter would indicate the piece was probably simply altered by some very competent gunsmith. To be fair, sometimes Colt does not always have all the information at hand on some pieces, so we cannot positively rule out a factory rework, though I'm leaning towards thinking it's rather unlikely.
Caption: COLT NEW SERVICE MODEL 1917 ARMY, .45 COLT, 80%: $925