Tag Archives: colt hammerless

That a Colt in your pocket, bub?

I’ve always been a fan of the old M1903 Colt Pocket Hammerless.

Thus:

First hitting the market in 1904, the thin-profiled Pocket Hammerless (Colt Model M) was one of John Browning’s finest early designs, everything a modern self-defense pistol should be.

Today, it still feels good in the hand when compared to the best that the 21st Century has to offer, although its .32ACP-chambering is on the lighter side of preferred ballistic performance today. There was a good reason why the platform, one of the first decent first semi-auto pocket pistols, was used by such cloak and dagger folks as the OSS and slipped into the jacket and field table of many a general concerned about their hide.

Iconic as a pulp-era handgun, the Colt was a favorite in B&W Noir films— Bogart carried one in no less than five films: The Desperate Hours, Key Largo, The Big Sleep, Casablanca, and Torture Ship.

A side view of Rick’s (Humphrey Bogart) Colt 1903 as he holds it on Capt. Renault (Claude Rains) via IMFDB

So naturally, when I came across an intact and original early model gun, I had to pick it up to scratch that itch.

The example I lucked into dates from 1911. Importantly, it hasn’t been reblued. The front sight isn’t banged flat. The first-gen hard rubber factory grips are intact. You can still read all the roll marks without a loupe. The magazine is in great shape.

I stripped it down completely and all the internals look OK and are in surprisingly good condition other than the recoil spring being a little relaxed.

Every now and then you have to treat yourself, right?

Sun’s out, guns out

Resistance fighters with the French Forces of the Interior armbands meet up with curious recently arrived American troops on the beach in the Saint Tropez area during Operation Dragoon landings along the French Riviera, 15 August 1944. The irregulars of the FFI numbered an estimated 400,000 by this stage of the war and were no longer underground.

Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-212383 via NARA

The Resistance members all seem to have pistols stuck in their waist-band, channeling Dan Tanna long before the 1970s.

Inset of 111-SC-212383

The fella to the left has a Colt M1908 Hammerless stuck in his belt while his buddy with the short (German surplus?) wool jacket has what appears to be an Astra 400 grip just showing. The stabby guy with the bandana has what looks like a 6.35mm pocket pistol such as a Browning Baby or Colt Vest model in addition to his steel-handled sheath knife.

As for the GIs, the older Soldier on the right has the distinctive seahorse patch of the 36th Engineer Regiment.

The 36th Engineers were everywhere in the ETO, earning campaign streamers for Algeria-French Morocco, Tunisia, Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Anzio, and Rome-Arno in the 22 months prior to the Dragoon landings. They would go on to prove essential in the push through Northwest Europe through Alsace and the Rhineland. An active-duty unit, after WWII they went on to serve in Korea, where they remained for 20 years. Reformed as the 36th Engineer Group in 1973 and as the 36th Engineer Group in 2006, they have continued to deploy downrange across the sandbox extensively over the past three decades.

The classic Colt 1903, a forgotten hammerless

In the early 1900s, John Browning was perhaps the most prolific and most ground breaking firearms engineer of the day. As it turned out, he produced an all-steel, 24-ounce, 9-shot pocket pistol whose design is still very relevant today.

John Moses Browning, the famous Utah gun genius, spent most of his formative years selling his designs to big name firearms makers to include Winchester. By 1900, he started a long relationship with Colt Firearms of Connecticut, which included such guns as the Model 1900, M1902 and the legendary 1911. These handguns however were large framed firearms for field service in the military. For home defense and use by police and detective bureaus, the company wanted something smaller than the 37-ounce M1902 with its 6-inch barrel. That’s where Browning came in at again.

Welcome to the world of the Colt 1903 Hammerless.

Welcome to the world of the Colt 1903 Hammerless.

Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk