The Colt Model 1903 .32

Experts | Shooting Iron |

After 50 years of hundreds of guns passing through my hands by buying, trading and even having them given as presents, I’ve tended to develop the attitude there’s not much I haven’t tried. Still there was a little autoloader that always intrigued me even though I had never even fired one until 2010 — Colt’s little Model 1903 .32 Auto Pocket Pistol.

Why the attraction to an obsolete pistol chambered for a dinky little cartridge? Because anyone who looks at a Colt Model 1903 has to see it was ages ahead of its time. In fact, in regards to pocket pistols, it’s still ahead of its time, except for the dinky little .32 Auto chambering. And John M. Browning and Colt addressed that issue in 1908 by making another version chambered for .380 Auto.

Why do I think the Colt Model 1903 was ahead of its time? Look at the photos: no exposed hammer, a grip safety, very thin and not a sharp edge anywhere on it. Today gunsmiths get paid actual money to “melt” the edges of autoloaders. That means make them curved and smooth. The Colt Model 1903 came right from the factory already “melted.” And show me a modern “pocket pistol” as thin as an ’03 Colt. The gun itself is only .80″ wide but the grips make it 1.10″. Look at pocket pistols designed much later than the little Colt and you will see exposed hammers. Examples would be Walther’s famous PPs and PPKs which appeared in the late 1920s. Certainly Walther’s designers recognized the problem with exposed hammers on pocket pistols because those handguns got burrs instead of spurs to help prevent snagging on clothing. Better yet to not have one showing at all.

Right now someone is saying, “Yeah but those Walther pistols had double-action triggers and the old Colt was single action only.” So what? The Colt 1903 had a grip safety and a thumb safety meaning it could be carried with a round chambered. There’s no way the thing can go off until a hand firmly grasps it, which incidentally is when the thumb lays right on the safety. I’ve shot DA pocket pistols and I think the Colt ’03 can be put into action just as fast as any double-action pocket pistol.

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