SOLD FOR: $4,001.01
Model: Model 1908 Pocket Hammerless, Type IV
Serial Number: 109920
Year of Manufacture: 1932 (https://colt.com/serial-lookup)
Caliber: .380 A.C.P. (9mm Kurz)
Action Type: Single Action Semi-Auto Pistol with Removable Magazine
Markings: The left side of the slide is marked “COLT’S PT. F.A. MFG. CO. HARTFORD, CT. U.S.A. / PATENTED APR.20, 1897. DEC.22. 1903” with the marking interrupted by the installed spring tab (see Our Assessment). The left side of the frame is marked “109920” found again marked on the underside of the slide. The right side of the slide is marked “COLT AUTOMATIC / CALIBRE .380 HAMMERLESS” and “2949”. The left front of the trigger guard is marked with a “VP” in a triangle, the right front of the trigger guard is marked “51”. The right side of the frame is marked “SHANGHAI MUNICIPAL POLICE” / NO 2949” and the right side of the barrel at the port is marked “2949”.
Barrel Length: 3 3/4”
Sights / Optics: The front sight is a short rounded bladed fixed to the top of the slide. The rear sight is a square notch dovetailed into the rear of the slide.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The grips are checkered black hard rubber with a small smooth diamond shape near the tops of the grips. The checkering shows light wear with a few scattered minor marks. The left grip is relieved at the bottom rear corner for a lanyard ring on the bottom left rear of the grip. There are no chips or cracks. The grips are in about Very Good overall Condition.
Type of Finish: Blued
Finish Originality: Refinished, likely aresenal refurbish.
Bore Condition: The bore is mostly bright and the rifling is sharp with light wear. There is some light erosion near the muzzle.
Overall Condition: This handgun retains about 83% of its current metal finish. The finish is thinning at most edges. The slide and frame have scattered light finish wear with some worn areas showing discoloration from oxidation. There are several scattered light scratches, nicks and dings. There are infrequent spots of light surface erosion with more moderate-heavy erosion and pitting under the grip panels. The screw heads are tool marked with strong slots. Remaining markings are shallow with soft edges, but mostly clear. Overall, this pistol is in about Fair-Good condition (see Mechanics).
Mechanics: The firing pin does not move freely in the slide as it should, sticking forward after the hammer is dropped. This is unsafe and may lead to a “runaway” gun. This should be addressed prior to firing. The recoil spring is slightly kinked, making assembly and disassembly difficult. Otherwise, once assembled, the action functions correctly. The slide has very little play to the frame. This pistol has a grip safety and a thumb safety on the left of the frame. The safety can be used to lock the slide back. Modifications to this pistol made for the Shanghai Municipal Police include a threaded hole at the thumb safety for a pin which prevents the safety from being engaged (this pin is not present), a spring tab installed on the left of the slide, and removal of the magazine disconnect. We did not fire this handgun. As with all used firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance standards.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: This pistol comes with one blued 7 round magazine. The floorplate is marked “CAL 380 / COLT” and there are witness holes along the spine and at the left-front (see Our Assessment). The magazine has scattered light freckling with light-moderate operational wear, intact feed lips and a strong spring, in about Good-Very Good condition.
Our Assessment: Colt’s Pocket Hammerless pistols were some of the finest automatics of the early 20th century, seeing use in America by civilians, police, and by the military as General Officer’s pistols. They also saw use abroad, and this is one of the more notable examples. Colt shipped a total of 4185 pistols to the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) from 1928 to 1938. The pistols were modified from the standard commercial M1908 in several ways: The grips were relieved for access to a staple shaped lanyard ring at the left bottom rear of the grip, a screw was added on the left side of the frame to prevent the safety from being inadvertently engaged, the magazine disconnect was removed and a key shaped leaf spring was added on the left side of the slide. The magazine disconnect was removed and the safety block was installed at the behest of William Fairbairn, who was the head of the SMPD at the time. Fairbairn drew on his considerable combat experience and felt that the factory safety was too small and difficult to operate reliably under stress, so his officers carried their pistols with the chamber empty and would operate the slide if they needed to fire. There are a few explanations for the spring-tab, from preventing jams to increasing accuracy, but we noted during our inspection that it also serves as a tactile indicator of the barrel’s position when rotating it for assembly and disassembly. Similarly, there are multiple explanations for the unique witness holes on the magazine, perhaps the most plausible being that officers had been known to trade off ammunition, replacing it in their magazines with fired cases so that they appeared loaded when turned in at the end of their shift. The placement of the witness holes on this magazine allows inspection of the primer and bullet for each round in the magazine. This example is in about Fair-Good condition with a kink in the recoil spring which makes assembly and disassembly more difficult, a firing pin that sticks forward (which should be addressed prior to firing as it is currently not safe to fire), some pitting under the grips, and wear consistent with a police-issued pistol in one of the most dangerous cities of the 1930s. That said, it also has a nice bore and once the firing pin and recoil spring are addressed should function quite well. As there were only 4185 of these pistols shipped from the Colt factory under contract to the SMP, this pistol is a rare find for the Colt auto collector. Please see our photos and good luck!
CA Legal or CA Private Party Transferable: This C&R eligible handgun CAN be transferred as a dealer sale in California and CAN be sold as a Private Party Transfer (PPT) at our Simi Valley shop. All cartridge firing handguns (even C&R’s and antiques) sold to a California resident must be DROS’d. This does not apply to out of state residents.