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Practically Shooting

Colt 1911 in 38 special???


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I've never seen one in the Colt Catalog, never seen one in 38 special on a 1911, and I've never heard of one before. Doesn't mean it can't happen. I will not belong to the group at 1911.org so the pics do not come up. I'm certainly not going to join that bunch either so I didn't get to see the pics. Might consider a copy and paste here for those of us that are a little more picky about the sites we frequent.

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They were for bullseye competition and shot wadcutter rounds only. In fact, I am pretty sure the Colts were blowback with a fixed barrel, so they could only handle that pressure level in addition to bullet.

So it's even more specialized than a full blown .45 match gun.

They were from before my time, but in addition to being pretty specialized guns with few people needing one, I have another educated guess as to why these faded away. Even among those who could use one, not that many bought them. If one was a super serious bullseye shooter, they would rather have gunsmiths like Clark and Giles make one up from modifying an existing gun as they always had. When the S&W 52 came along, it took a big chunk of what small market there was.

It's like selling a factory-made NHRA Funny Car. Few could use one, and those who did would make it from the ground up or close to it.

Even with a .38 Special wadcutter-only gun (that I think only held five rounds) being a gun for a pretty limited market, there was another thing. Even among bullseye shooters, not everyone used a .38 Spl when they started using autos (or now). If you shot the entire match, you had to shoot .22, Centerfire, and .45. The Centerfire course could be "any centerfire cartridge .32 and larger", though the .38 Spl was almost the standard. A lot of people just shot their .45 in Centerfire.

I've been in two clubs that had an active bullseye program (active as bulllseye goes) and while it seemed like most of them wanted a .38 for the Centerfire portion, few had them.

I don't know how true this is and I do have doubts on some of it, but one old-time bullseye shooter told me that back when the .38 Spl autos were made, they achieved what popularity they did because of the switch from revolvers to autos in bullseye. They shot Colt Woodsmans or High Standards in .22, and there were some matches that called for the 1911 ,45, so they had been shooting them for quite a while but most only shot the .45 then, and only because they had to. Otherwise, it was a revolver game. He said when the big shift to autos came, they had done little work loading the 45 ACP for match use. The .38 Spl autos let them work with a cartridge they had been using for over 50 years and had refined about as far as they thought they could. It was enough to switch to an auto without having to learn a new cartridge too. With a .22 and a .38 auto, that only left one third of the match as relatively new ground. Once they got the .45 ACP match ammo developed to where they had good light loads, the 38 autos faded.

I'm not sure I buy all of that because they had been loading the 45 Auto Rim for revolvers for decades and some of what they learned there had to have transferred over to loading the 45 ACP for match use.

The magazine might be the most interesting part of these. It probably took the most work to get right.

I've never had a Colt .38 wad gun, but I had two S&W 52s (though I don't know why) and the magazines might be best described as having two sets of feed lips.

The .38 AMU cartridge tried to help that, as it was basically a .38 Spl case with the rim machined off, making it similar to a regular rimless auto case. I think they finally decided it was easier to get a .38 Spl magazine made right to start with than to re-machine a bunch of empty cases.

Oh yeah...

I am pretty sure the Colts were all called the Mark III National Match. I checked my Blue Book and it says they were made from 1961-1974, but I would bet they stopped making them earlier and only left them in the catalog until 1974 because they still had some to sell.

Although they made some prototypes and experimentals before, I think the regular production S&W 52 came out in 1961 also but don't know if they were actuallly available until later.

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Another fwiw item:

The S&W 52 had the standard barrel to slide locking system as the 9mm Model 39 it was based on (plus a barrel bushing, unlike the 39), but I think the Colt used some grooves cut in the chamber to slow the action opening. So with the case "gripping" the chamber walls, I guess it's not a true blowback as I described it.

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Well, I guess I'm a complete idiot. I called my brother to see if he knew anything about these- he's a major Colt collector and he said, "Well dimwit, we own one". I vaguely remember the gun but it's been years since it's been out of the gun vault. Looks like I have something to look forward to next time I go home.

Pablo, the comments about the website. I was a member there and asked in a thread if anybody had any experience with a Colt Double Eagle. A real simple question that I posted in the Colt forum. I was banned for 10 days because of it. Seems that posting a non-1911 item in the Colt forum is paramount to shooting the president. I don't need morons like that or care to have anything to do with twits of that caliber. A simple PM would have been a realistic approach, not banning a person. It's the only site I've ever had any issues.

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What sucks Pablo is the gun that got stolen from me. Back when Colt made the Cub in 380, they quit making them and sold the machinery to an over seas bunch. FIE started to import them but the new owner was still stamping the Colt logo on the slides. Colt filed on them and took possession of the guns with the exception of a handful....like 5 guns. I bought a FIE from an elderly lady that wanted it out of the house after her husband died. When I was reading an article about them in one of the gun rags I decided to look at mine. And there it was, the Colt logo on a FIE gun. Almost a priceless weapon to a Colt collector. It walked off about 2 months later with several Mark One 03 Springfields, a Winchester Sniper Garand complete with scope and accessories, and a Python. That's when I found out just how worthless NRA insurance was. Don't ask.

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