SOLD FOR: $6575
Model: 1903 Pocket Hammerless
Serial Number: 569773
Year of Manufacture: 1943 (https://colt.com/serial-lookup), shipped January, 1945
Caliber: .32 A.C.P.
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 at the rear with a Rampant Colt logo. The bottom of the slide is marked “569773”. The left side of the frame is marked “569773”, the right of the frame is marked “U.S. PROPERTY”. The right side of the slide is marked “COLT AUTOMATIC / CALIBRE 32 RIMLESS SMOKELESS”. The left of the trigger guard is marked with a “VP” in a triangle and “4”. The right of the trigger guard is marked “64”. The left of the barrel is marked “COLT 32 AUTO”. There is an Ordnance wheel at the left-rear of the frame (incomplete, as is common).
Barrel Length: 3 3/4”
Sights / Optics: The front sight is a short blade fixed to the top of the slide with a serrated, ramped rear face. The rear sight is a square notch dovetailed into the rear of the slide.
Stock Configuration & Condition: The grips are checkered walnut with silver-colored Rampant Colt medallions at the tops of the grips. The right panel has light handling wear with more moderate wear on the left panel. There is some discoloration with some scattered small nicks. The checkering is well defined on the right panel, showing more wear on the left. There are no chips or cracks. Overall, the grips are in about Very Good condition.
Type of Finish: Parkerized
Finish Originality: Arsenal Refurbished. Kevin Williams’ “U.S. General Officer Pistols: A Collectors’ Guide” indicates that this pistol was issued in 1955 (recipient not listed) and re-issued to General Pepke in 1964. It was standard practice to refurbish reissued pistols.
Bore Condition: The bore is mostly bright with sharp rifling. There is no erosion in the bore, but there is some stubborn fouling, mostly in the grooves just in front of the chamber. In this writer’s opinion, the bore rates about 9 out of 10.
Overall Condition: This handgun retains about 87% of its current metal finish. The finish is thinning at some edges, more notable at the leading edges. There is finish wear at the front of the slide, the bottom of the trigger guard, and the top of the frontstrap. The exposed parkerizing has discolored a little, it is easier to see this when the grip are removed. There is infrequent very minor surface oxidation. There are some minor nicks, scratches, and scuffing. The action shows operational wear. The screw head is sharp. The markings are generally clear, the Ordnance wheel is shallow and incomplete, as is common. Overall, this pistol is in Very Good condition as refinished.
Mechanics: The recoil spring is kinked, making reassembly a little more difficult, but the action functions correctly. The slide has minor play to the frame. The pistol has a grip safety, a manual safety and a magazine disconnect. The safety is designed to be used to lock the slide back or forward. 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 in a custom-labeled cardboard box with a single 8-round magazine, a black leather General Officer holster, three-star General pin and ribbon rack on a plastic stand. A series of documentation is included about the pistol and its previous owner. A Colt Archive letter is included which states that this pistol shipped to Springfield Armory on January 31, 1945 as one of 498 guns of the same type in the shipment. A Springfield Research Service letter is included which states that this pistol was issued to Brigadier General D R Pepke on September 18, 1964 as well as the June 2012 (Number 131) issue of “U.S. Martial Arms Collector” which has the same information. A number of photos of General Pepke are included, some showing him wearing the pistol and one showing him walking alongside General Creighton Abrams, and a CD with digital version of the photos is included. A series of documents detailing General Pepke’s service is included.
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 1908. 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.
This example was originally shipped to Springfield Armory in January of 1945 and Springfield’s records indicate that it was issued to Brigadier General Donn Royce Pepke on September 18, 1964, shortly after the Gulf of Tonkin incident. At the time, General Pepke was the Deputy Commanding General, Training Center, Ft. Gordon. He would go on to be the Deputy Director of Strategic Plans & Policy from 1965-1967, Director of Plans 1967-1968, Commanding General, 4th Infantry Division 1968-1969, Deputy Chief of Staff (Training), Continental Army Command 1969-1971, Chief of Staff, Continental Army Command 1971-1973, Deputy Commanding General, Army Forces Command 1973-1975.
Pepke’s service began in 1939 when he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. In January 1944, he assumed command of the 63rd Infantry Regiment, making him the youngest Regimental commander in the Pacific Theater. After WWII, he served stateside, in Germany, Korea, and Japan. His time as the commander of 4th Infantry Division was a combat tour as the unit was deployed in Vietnam. His awards and decorations include Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star, Air Medal with 10 Oak Leaf Clusters, Join Service Commendation Medal, Purple Heart and campaign medals for service in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
This pistol is in Very Good overall condition, showing wear consistent with its previous owner’s long service history. This model is highly collected and should be of interest to the Colt connoisseur or the US Military arms collector, adding to even the most advanced collections with its thoroughly documented history. Even better, and a rare find even among collections focused on General Officers’ pistols, photos are included of General Pepke with the pistol at his side, including one of him alongside General Abrams! Please see our photos and good luck!
Please forgive any typos, I was educated in California. -Bud