The Colt .38 Special revolver was introduced in 1899 as an improvement over the .38 Long model which, was found to have inadequate stopping power in the Philippine Insurrection. The .38 Special is very accurate quality revolver, produces little recoil, and remains the most popular revolver cartridge in the world more than a century after its introduction. It is used for target shooting and formal target competition, for hunting small game, and for self-defense.
Although it was introduced thirteen years into the smokeless powder era, the .38 Special was originally loaded with black powder, but was offered with smokeless loads within a year of its introduction.
.38 Special six-round revolvers that were purchased for use by air crews, general officers and security personnel were the Colt .32 and .380 automatic pistols, Colt .38 Detective Special Revolvers, Colt .38 Police Positive Revolvers, Colt .38 Special Official Police and Smith & Wesson .38 Military and Police Revolvers. These pistols all used cal. .38 Special cartridges, with exception of the Colt .32. The M1917 revolver was issued in 2-inch, 4-inch, or 6-inch barrel lengths.
These guns are very popular on the collector's market, fetching $2,500 or more. The second one shown on the left is a Colt 1903 U.S. Navy model, manufactured in 1904. It has U.S. Navy and anchor on butt with inspector initials. Probably has 93-95% blue, but has tiny dings and nicks. The gun is British proofed and was no doubt a lend-lease gun for WWII after being surplused out of its earlier Navy service.
The .38 Special is also familiar accessory in old gangster movies, usually the cut-down, "snub-nose" detective model.
Information on this page courtesy of U.S. Army TACOM-Rock Island.
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