I Have This Old Gun: Colt Army Special (a.k.a. Official Police)

posted on May 15, 2019
oldarmsp.jpg

The Colt Army Special, a popular workhorse of a revolver, has never received the collector recognition it deserves. Nonetheless, shooters have always appreciated its finely crafted action, which became the foundation for Colt’s most celebrated medium-frame revolvers, including the Python.

The Army Special began life in 1908 as an improvement over the New Army & Navy 1892-1903 models, which tended to bind up and get out of time due, in part, to their counterclockwise cylinder rotation. Taking inspiration from Colt’s rugged New Service revolver, the Army Special was given a stronger action, a revamped cylinder release latch, a “Positive Safety Lock” and clockwise cylinder rotation. Most guns were blued, but some were nickeled, and barrel lengths were 4", 4½", 5" and 6". Stocks were stylized black rubber until 1924, when they were changed to checkered walnut. Hoping for military acceptance, Colt dubbed its improved revolver the Army Special.


Although built on a .41-cal. frame, the Army Special was conceived as the perfect platform for the .38 Spl. cartridge, which, introduced in 1898, had quickly established itself as an accurate and effective man-stopper. The guns were also chambered in .32-20 Win., .38-200 and .41 Long Colt. (Additionally, in 1930 approximately 30,000 Army Specials were produced in .22 rimfire.)

But Colt soon realized that more Army Specials were being purchased by police departments than by the military. Thus, in 1927, the revolver’s name was strategically changed to the Official Police. It was a shrewd move, as—until the revolver’s discontinuance in 1969—countless thousands were sold to numerous law enforcement entities, including the railroad police.

Such was the case with this Army Special, with its 6" barrel showing moderate holster wear but retaining a perfect bore. According to its Colt factory letter, on June 16, 1922, it was one of 10 guns shipped to the Union Hardware & Mfg. Co. in Los Angeles for the Union Pacific Railroad. A subsequent UPRR letter states these guns “… were in service with Union Pacific sometime prior to 1927.” This coincides with the fact that the Great Railroad Strike of 1922 resulted in the UPRR ordering a number of firearms during that brief but tumultuous period of rioting strikers. This gun would normally be valued at $450, but, with its supporting documentation, it could command a slight premium from a gun collector who also had a penchant for historical railroadiana.

Gun: Colt Army Special
Chambering: .38 Spl.
Serial No: 480XXX
Manufactured: 1922 (shipped June 16)
Condition: 60 percent—NRA Good (Modern Gun Standards)
Value: $450 (verified UPRR connection boosts the value to $550-$650)

Latest

SIG P238nitron
SIG P238nitron

SIG Sauer P238: The 1911 Inspired Micro .380 ACP Handgun

Since 2009, the SIG Sauer P238 has become a popular micro-compact, 1911-based .380 ACP chambered handgun for the concealed carry market.

Unexpected Longevity: Foreign Use of the M1 Garand

More than eight decades after its invention, the M1 Garand rifle continues to see use today fir both ceremonial and combat by foreign nations and militant groups across the globe.

The L42A1: A Sniper Rifle To Remember

For most of the 20th century, Lee-Enfield rifles were the backbone of the British army. The last British service Lee was the L42A1 sniping rifle. Built on the World War II No.4(T), the reliable and accurate L42A1 was retired in the early 1990s.

The Armed Citizen® July 30, 2021

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

NRA Gun of the Week: Uberti USA 1873 Single-Action Cattleman New Model

On this week’s “Gun of the Week” video preview, American Rifleman staff take to the range for a closer look at Uberti USA’s special edition "Teddy" revolver, a replica of Colt's New Model 1873 SAA. 

Kentucky Rifle Raffle to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Contemporary Longrifle Association

In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Contemporary Longrifle Association, Judson Brenman and sons have made a masterpiece contemporary Kentucky Longrifle for a raffle held by the organization for the occasion.

Interests



Subscribe to the NRA American Rifleman newsletter