SOLD FOR: $2681.99
Model: 1903 Type IV, Pocket Hammerless
Serial Number: 536190
Year of Manufacture: 1938 (https://www.colt.com/serial-lookup), Shipped January 3, 1939.
Caliber: .32 ACP
Action Type: Single Action Semi-Auto Pistol with Removable Magazine
Barrel Length: 3 3/4”
Sights / Optics: The front sight is a short rounded bladed fixed to the front of the slide. The rear sight is a square-notch, round-top sight dovetailed into the rear of the slide.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The grips are two-piece checkered walnut with silver-colored Colt medallions. The grips have minor handling wear with only a few small marks. The checkering is well defined. There are no chips or cracks. Overall, the grips are in Fine-Excellent condition.
Type of Finish: Blue
Finish Originality: Original. The slide is serial-matched to the frame.
Bore Condition: The bore is mostly bright and the rifling is sharp. There is no erosion in the bore, but there is odd scratching around the inside of the bore ta the muzzle-end. In this writer’s opinion, the bore rates about 8 out of 10.
Overall Condition: This handgun retains about 93% of its metal finish. The finish is thinning at most edges. There are some scattered light nicks and scratches, mostly on the left, with tiny spots of minor surface oxidation. The grip areas show light handling wear. The action shows minor operational wear. The screw head is sharp. The markings are clear. Overall, this pistol is in Very Good-Fine condition.
Mechanics: The action functions properly. The slide has minor play to the frame. We did not fire this handgun. As with all used firearms, a thorough cleaning may be necessary to meet your maintenance requirements.
Box, Paperwork & Accessories: This pistol comes with a single 8-round magazine and a Colt Archives letter. The letter indicates that this pistol was sold to Yokohama Specie Bank Ltd. and shipped to Kawaguchiya Firearms Co., Ltd. in Tokyo, Japan on January 3, 1939 as one of 1,250 guns of the same type in the shipment.
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 This allowed the weapon to be carried in and withdrawn from a pocket quickly and smoothly without snagging.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 many were sold to the British during the war. The pistols were also popular in Japan, where many were purchased by Imperial Japanese officers for use as a personal sidearm. The pistols were significantly less expensive than the domestic “Baby Nambu” models and, at least in this writer’s opinion, were also a better defensive gun.
This is a Colt 1903 Type IV Pocket Hammerless semi-auto made in 1938. The included Colt Archives letter indicates that it is one of 1,250 shipped to the Kawaguchiya Firearms Co. in Tokyo, purchased by the Yokohama Specie Bank. Yokohama Specie was integral to Japanese foreign commerce and served as paymaster for the Imperial Japanese Army. January 3, 1939 must have been a busy day for shipping guns at Colt, as we have seen letters indicating that there were at least three shipments to Tokyo on that same day, one of 5,000, one of 1,601, and one of 1,250 which included this pistol. The quantity of pistols makes it unlikely that they were intended for the bank itself, so it is quite likely that these pistols were purchased with the intent to sell them to Japanese officers and perhaps on the domestic Japanese market as well. It is quite interesting to note that a Colt 1903 was the pistol Hideki Tojo, Prime Minister, Minister of War and Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff during WWII, used in a failed suicide attempt as American soldiers surrounded his home to arrest him for war crimes. Tojo’s pistol was serial 535330, less than a thousand off from this example. With 1,250 in the shipment, it’s entirely possible that Tojo’s pistol was sent to Tokyo in the same crate as this one.
This example is in Very Good-Fine condition, showing light wear for its age and really in great condition considering it made its way across the Pacific and back, not to mention surviving the war in Japan. With its documentation, it will make a wonderful addition to even an advanced Colt collection. Please see our photos and good luck!
Please forgive any typos, I was educated in California. -Bud