The 23″-Barreled Colt

A Custom Conundrum

By Dylan Stocker

When you encounter a gun like this, you often envision a story of grandeur involving kings, or famous people or amazing events — or all of them combined. But it simply doesn’t happen at times, and we’re left wishing for more.

A great client of mine brought this firearm to me for an appraisal. I’ve spent hours working to discover the person behind the trigger on this one. I’ve pounded the internet, made phone calls and spoke with other collectors in my extensive contact list about this piece. All I know for sure is the plaque on the box says: “This weapon Colt 38 special 23″ barrel took 2nd place in the International Competition in Paris, France in August 1978, represented by the New York Pistol Team Syracuse, N.Y.”

You can’t always get the full back story, however this kind of curio has many interesting questions about how it was built and why. This piece of old world gun art was clearly done by the hands of a master. It was built on a 1962 Colt Official Police frame, chambered in .38 Special and stamped N.Y.S.T on the back of the frame. The N.Y.S.T means it was delivered to the New York State Troopers. It includes a rear adjustable target sight and what looks to be a Marlin lever action ramp front sight, minus the sight hood. It was perfectly finished in brilliant nickel with a gold plated trigger, cylinder, hammer and release. This thing is immaculate.

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The choice to use a Colt Official Police I-Frame on the surface would be because it was likely issued to him. On the other hand, Colt Official Police revolvers by themselves are some of the greatest factory handcrafted and tuned revolvers of their time and would make a great choice on which to build a target. Throughout their original build, each one was hand-fitted by a Colt factory guru. They had a choice of parts and they insured each one fit as best as possible, with all the best tools and information available. A factory Colt Official Police revolver is a tremendous reflection of quality and reliability in the American handgun world.

Not only is the build interesting, it’s hard to imagine what class of competition he was using this revolver for. Did he use bags to rest it? Even with bags, that barrel has quite of bit of weight out to the end. If he was outside, wind blowing against that barrel could be a factor too. A 23″ barrel? I could imagine seeing a gun like this on the set of Looney Tunes or Roger Rabbit. I can assure you, though, its accuracy outweighs the novelty. It shoots like a rifle.

I always love being able to offer the backstory on a special gun I’m investigating. If you pick one up in a pawn shop, or stumble onto something of note in a gun store display case, you often never get the chance to know. But, every once in awhile you come across a piece which — by itself — is interesting, and this one certainly fits the mold. But it would add to the mystique if we could somehow learn more about the people involved in its creation.
If you have any information or ideas, feel free to give me a call or drop the editor a note at editor@nullamericanhandgunner.com and Roy will make sure I get your email.

Dylan Stocker is a Certified Firearms Appraiser who does business as “Old Arms of Idaho, LLC.” His website is www.oldarmsofidaho.com, Ph: (208) 602-6027.

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