This is a very fine condition WWI Model 1917 double action revolver manufactured by Colt in the spring of 1918.
With U.S. involvement in WWI becoming inevitable after 1916, the U.S. government began to increase small arms production across the board. For side arms, the Ordnance Department augmented Colt’s production of the semi-automatic Model 1911, .45 Pistol by awarding a contract to Remington-UMC for additional 1911 production. Even with this additional production capability, there was a significant shortage of side arms. As a stop-gap measure, the Ordnance Department asked Colt and Smith & Wesson, the two premier revolver manufacturers in the United States, to produce a revolver based on their existing heavy frame civilian revolvers that could fire the .45 ACP rimless cartridge.
Colt had previously produced the Colt Model 1909 double action revolver that was chambered to fire the .45 Long Colt (Modified) cartridge. This cartridge was rimmed and was slightly larger than the earlier Long Colt round. The .45 ACP round, as a rimless cartridge, would not work in the Model 1909 revolver since the entire round would fall straight through the cylinder.
Smith & Wesson solved this problem initially by counterboring the chambers so that the .45 ACP cartridge would headspace on their forward rim. This did not, however, alleviate the problem of extracting the spent cases with the star ejector. This was solved by Joseph Wesson at Smith & Wesson by developing a half-moon clip that held three .45 ACP cartridges together. The clip, which was made of spring steel, secured the three rounds to the cylinder face and it also permitted the clip with three fired rounds to be extracted. The six-round revolver used two half-moon clips. As a result, this revolver is designed to only fire .45 ACP rounds using the half-moon clips.
Although Smith & Wesson invented and patented the half-moon clip, the Ordnance Department pressured Smith & Wesson to permit Colt to use the same design free of charge in its version of the new revolver.
The resulting revolver was designated by the Ordnance Department as the U.S. Revolver, Caliber .45, Model of 1917. As noted, Colt’s Model 1917 design was based on its earlier Model 1909 Revolver and was nearly identical from its outward appearance.
The New Colt Model 1917 Revolver was produced with a dull blue finish, a 5 ½” barrel and smooth walnut grips. Serial numbers for the new Colt Model 1917 Revolver continued within the sequential Colt New Service numbering series starting at approximately number 149,000 and going up to approximately 305,000. The initial contract price from the October 1, 1917 Ordnance Department contract was $14.00 for each revolver, complete with two half-moon clips. Colt manufactured approximately 151,700 Model 1917 Revolvers from October 1, 1917 until February 1919.
Besides the Colt factory serial number, which was stamped on the frame and the crane, the Army added their own service number to the butt of each revolver. These two serial numbers are completely separate and bear no relation to one another. The last known Army serial number, 154,800, was shipped from the Colt factory on February 19, 1919 to the Ordnance Department in New York. That Colt revolver would have had a Colt serial number in excess of 304,914. One Colt Model 1917 revolver, Army serial number 180,308, was shipped on January 31, 1918 to Springfield Armory. That revolver was then shipped to France and issued to artillery officer Captain Harry S. Truman.
This particular Colt Model 1917 Revolver is Colt serial number 226945, which was manufactured in the spring of 1918. The Barrel is in very fine condition and retains 95% plus of its original blued finish with some thinning and wear noted near the muzzle. The bottom of the barrel has the serif “UNITED STATES PROPERTY” stamp. Adjacent to the US Property stamp, on the bolster, is a serif “H” stamp, which I believe is the inspection stamp of Colt Inspector Frank Hosmer. The top of the barrel contains the two-line Colt address and patent dates, “COLT’S PT. F.A. MFG CO. HARTFORD, CT. U.S.A. / PAT’D AUG. 5, 188R. JUNE 5, 1900. JULY 4, 1905.” The left side of the barrel is stamped “COLT D.A. 45.” The original front sight is present and retains virtually all of its original blued finish. The bore has a mirror finish with strong, crisp rifling. Even the crown retains the vast majority of its original blue finish.
The Cylinder retains 95% of its original blue finish with only one area over noticeable wear on the exterior over one of the cylinders. All six chambers are very clean with no pitting noted. The cylinder front face retains all of its original blue finish. The cylinder rear face retains the majority of its original blue finish with very minor wear noted around the outer edge. The face has the matching serif “H” inspection stamp of Frank Hosmer.
The Star Extractor retains 98% of its original blue finish. The cylinder cogs remain polished in the white and all edges are very crisp. The extractor plunger is very smooth with no pitting noted and the hand ejector mechanism works perfectly with no play in the extractor. The exposed portion of the ejector plunger retains generous traces of the original blue finish with friction wear along its length. The exterior portion of the cylinder retains 98% of its original blue finish with only a light cylinder turn line around the circumference.
The Frame retains 95% plus of its original blue finish. The left side of the Frame has a crisp rampant Colt stamp. Above the thumb latch on the left side is the Ordnance inspection stamp, which is an eagle head over “S19.” The left, interior portion of the frame has the Colt serial number “226945” stamp along with a sans serif “H” Frank Hosmer inspection stamp and an “f” assembly stamp. The Cylinder Crane has the matching Colt serial number “226945” stamp and the crane retains 98% of its original blue finish.
The Cylinder Release Thumb Piece retains virtually all of its original blued finish and there is almost no wear on the thumb piece checkering. The lower left side of the frame, just above the left rear trigger guard, has a “3” assembly stamp.
Both Stock Pins retain all of their original blue finish and show no wear. The Mainspring remains in the white with no corrosion. The Rebound Lever retains the majority of its case-hardened finish and the Rebound Lever Pin remains in the white. The left side of the frame, under the left grip panel, has several inspection marks including a sans serif “G” stamp and several numeral assembly stamps. The exposed portion of the lanyard ring Swivel Stud retains the majority of its blued finish and the Swivel Rivet remains correctly in the white.
The Side Plate retains 95% of its original blue finish. All three external frame screws are in mint condition with no marring of the slots. The Front Grip Strip and Trigger Guard Bow retain 95% of the original blue finish with only minor wear along the edges and some thinning on the bottom of the bow. The top of the frame retains 98% of the original blue finish with wear noted along the sharp edges.
The front portion of the frame, opposite the recoil shields, retains the majority of the original blued finish with wear noted from the left recoil shield to center rod bushing. The interior portions of the frame retain virtually all of its original blue finish. The rear grip strap retains 95% of the original blue finish that is beginning to take on a plum patina with minor wear spots along its length. The bottom of the butt retains 95% of the original blue finish and is stamped “U.S. / ARMY / MODEL / 1917 / No / 75 / 134.” The Butt Swivel assembly retains traces of its original case-hardened finish.
The Trigger retains 95% of its original blue finish and exhibits very minor wear. The Trigger operates smoothly and crisply. The Hammer retains 99% of its original blue finish with the sides of the Hammer correctly polished to the white. The checkering on the thumb piece is crisp and exhibits no wear. The Firing Pin retains the majority of its original blue finish with minor wear on the point. The Firing Pin Rivet retains all of its original finish on the exposed portions.
Both original black walnut grip stocks are present and are in fine condition. The exterior finish of both stocks is the original oil finish and there are only minor compression marks with no cracks or chips noted. Both brass stock bushings are present. The Stock Screw retains 95% plus of its original blue finish and the slot is unmarred.
This Colt Model 1917 Revolver is in beautiful condition and would be very difficult to upgrade. The revolver functions perfectly and just as crisply as the day it was manufactured.