SOLD FOR: $9825
Model: Type IV 1903 Pocket Hammerless
Serial Number: 135360
Year of Manufacture: Colt’s serial lookup indicates production in 1942 (https://www.colt.com/serial-lookup), shipped October 10, 1944.
Caliber: .380 ACP
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.” and with a rampant colt behind the serrations. The right of the slide is marked “COLT AUTOMATIC / CALIBRE .380 HAMMERLESS”. The left of the barrel is marked “COLT 380 AUTO”. The left of the frame is marked “135360”, preceded by an “M” prefix (see Our Assessment). The right of the frame is marked “U.S. PROPERTY”. The left trigger guard bow is marked “VP” in a triangle and “X” at the rear. The right side of the trigger guard is marked “13”. The right-front of the slide has an arrow pointing to an indexing line for disassembly. The underside flat of the slide is marked with the serial number, “135360”. The left of the trigger guard has a punch-mark above the “VP” which is a military acceptance mark, there is also a partial Ordnance wheel acceptance mark on the left-rear of the frame (see Our Assessment).
Barrel Length: 3 3/4”
Sights/Optics: The front sight is a short, round blade fixed to the top of the slide. The rear sight is a round-top, square notch dovetailed into the rear of the slide.
Stock Configuration and Condition: The grips are checkered walnut with silver-colored rampant colt medallions. The grips show minor handling wear with a few light nicks and scuffs. The checkering is well defined. There are no chips or cracks. Overall the grips are in Fine-Excellent condition.
Type of Finish: Blued
Finish Originality: This pistol was returned to Colt for re-work and Colt may have refinished the pistol at that time. Some marking imperfections would be explained by worn dies, but some markings have crisp, raised edges. Please see Our Assessment.
Bore Condition: The bore is mostly bright with sharp rifling. There is no erosion in the bore, but there is some stubborn fouling which should come out with a patient cleaning.
Overall Condition: This handgun retains about 96% of its metal finish. The finish is thinning at most edges. The grip areas show minor handling wear. There are some scattered minor marks and infrequent spots of very minor surface oxidation. There is one more notable scratch on the left of the frame behind the trigger. The screw head is tool marked with a strong slot. The markings are generally clear, the Ordnance wheel is poorly struck. Overall, this pistol is in Fine condition.
Mechanics: The action functions correctly. The slide has minor play to the frame. This pistol has a grip safety, a manual safety and a 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, and Accessories: This pistol comes in a two-piece cardboard craft box, Colt Archive letter, and one two-tone 7-round magazine. The magazine has minor operational wear, intact feed lips and a strong spring. Its floorplate is marked “M” and “CAL .380 / COLT”. The letter confirms that this pistol shipped October 10, 1944 to the Naval Supply Depot in Norfolk, Virginia as one of 150 guns of the same type in the shipment. There is additional correspondence between authors Kevin Williams and John W. Brunner regarding the pistol’s markings.
Our Assessment: The Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless is a semi-automatic pistol designed by John Browning, and was the 1st of the Colt concealed hammer models, followed by the M1908 in .380 ACP. Despite the title ‘Hammerless’, the M1903 and M1908 pistols do have a hammer, which is covered and hidden from view under the rear of the slide. This allowed the weapon to be carried in and withdrawn from a pocket quickly and smoothly without snagging. These pistols were popular civilian firearms for much of their life, and also served as United States General Officer pistols from the 1940s until their replacement by the M15 General Officers pistol in the 1970s. The Office of Strategic Services issued the Model 1903 to its officers during World War II and it was a popular back-up/off-duty model with police officers in the United States. Gangsters also favored this pistol, including Bonnie Parker and John Dillinger.
This example is one that was made for a purchase by the United States government, confirmed by the included Colt letter. The pistol comes from the collection of author Kevin Williams, best known for his exceptional work on the topic of General Officers Pistols & Clandestine Organization Pistols of WWII, so it should come as no surprise that there are a couple of interesting idiosyncracies. Mr. Williams corresponded with John W. Brunner, who is notable for his works on weapons of the OSS as well as works specifically about Colt’s Pocket Hammerless pistols. According to their correspondence, the pistol originally shipped with the punch-dot acceptance mark, but was returned to the Colt factory for a re-work, at which time it received the Ordnance wheel marking to indicate approval after the re-work. At the time of the re-work, the pistol also had an “M” prefix applied to the frame’s serial marking, likely this was also when the “M” marking was applied to the magazine floorplate.
Given this pistol’s purchase by the US Navy during WWII, its interesting markings, documentation, and coming from the collection of Kevin Williams, this 1908 Pocket Hammerless will take a prized place in even advanced collections. Please see our photos and good luck!