3 replies [Last post]
Joined: 02/13/2011
Posts: 4
Old Colt DA .38

I recently got ahold of an old Colt double action .38 that had been given to my great grandfather as collateral on a loan [the borrower never came back for it].  The serial number seems to indicate it was made in 1903.

All the numbers match and the action seems to be perfect...I was wondering what the chances were I might damage it if I fired it with modern .38 ammo.  I think it would be fun to put a few rounds through it, but it is not something I would take to the range regularly [or more than once, honestly].

I was hoping someone with more experience than me handling old guns [which is easy, because I have none] might be able to help me out, thanks.

Critter's picture
Grand Slam Challenge Winner!Moderator
Location: Western Colorado
Joined: 03/26/2009
Posts: 4422
It should be a fine shooter

It should be a fine shooter as long as the timing and lock up is correct. What it meant by timing is that the cylinder lines up with the barrel so that when you shoot it the bullets go out of the barrel instead of hitting the frame, and the lock up is when the pawl locks into the cylinder when the hammer is cocked in single action. Also pay attention to both when firring it in double action. A small problem here can lead to a very bad accident. If you have any questions about firing it take it to a gunsmith and have him take a look at it.

As for ammo any of the standard loaded .38 Special rounds should be OK, stay away from the +P loads.

hunter25's picture
Grand Slam Challenge Winner!
Location: Colorado western slope
Joined: 11/13/2009
Posts: 3040
Make sure it's not chambered

Make sure it's not chambered in 38 S&W as that is a shorter and less powerful round then the 38 special. Many of the older guns are.

Don Fischer's picture
Location: Antelope, Ore
Joined: 03/24/2005
Posts: 3206
I have a couple old Smith's,

I have a couple old Smith's, not as old as your colt though. All I shoot thru them in cast bullet's. I used to carry years ago because of the places I went in my job. For that I carried a 4" Colt Tropper using 38 spec ammo loaded as fast as I could get away with with 115gr bullet's. They were probably the equal of the old Tresaury loads. Weren't any cronoigraps around back then, loads were as fast as you said they were!

Unless you plan on hunting or using the gun for self defence, cast is all I'd shoot. 148gr wad cutter's are a super accurate small game load. As I recall I used 2 1/2 grs of bulls eye, great load. Matter of fact, I doubt a man could take a few of those in the chest and keep standing.

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