.38 Detective Special

.38 colt detective special

4 Star Rating: Recommended
Production 1927 - 1995

(1965 shown): A derivative of the old Colt Police Positive, it was produced to meet the market demand for a gun that was easily concealed. The guns were produced in .32 and .38 caliber. My gun pictured here is a .38.

I bought this gun on an online auction in 2005 for $900. It's condition is pristine, unfired, no cylinder turn mark, came with original walnut grips, box and papers.

The gun also came with the extra after-market real mother of pearl grips it's wearing, which did have some influence on my purchase. For purposes of the historic value graph, I put the value of the gun at $800, subtracting $100 for these extra grips. Sold on their own, the grips might bring $150-$300, but technically I might have paid the same price for this gun without them. So I split the difference

Real Life 40 Year Historic Value
Detective Special Chart

We know the original price of this gun in 1965 to be $110 because the price sticker is still on the original box. I know what I paid for it in 2005 and I have attempted to reflect accurate value points in 1975, 1985 and 1995. I was only five years old when this Detective Special was new and I didn't begin collecting guns until 1980, which brings me to this proposition.

If any reader out there bought a similar gun between 1975 and 1995, please contact me by clicking the comments and feedback link at the bottom of this page. I would like to share your story and adjust my price chart accordingly if need be.

I've stated many times on these pages that my goal is to buy a gun that would double in value every ten years.

This .38 Colt Detective Special did not historically meet that criteria. If it had, the history would look like this; 1965=$110, 1975=$220, 1985=$440, 1995=$880 and I would have paid $1,760 for it in 2005. It seems to have tracked well until the mid 80s and then faltered thereafter. Why, I don't know. But I think there is a good opportunity collecting these guns. Will my gun be worth $1,800 in 2015? I hope to post the outcome here in 2015 and see.

This is one of the very last Colt Detective Special .38's ever made.

box for detective special

a new colt detective special

snubnose with paperwork

detective special

colt



The Colt Detective Special morphed through four (4) variations (or series) in its almost seventy years;

1) First series Detective Specials were manufactured from 1927 to 1946, with square butt grip frames through 1933 and round butt grip frames thereafter.

2) Second variation Detective Special revolvers were manufactured from 1947 to 1972. Available calibers were .32 New Police, .38 New Police or .38 Special. Two or three inch barrels were available. Second variation grips were made of plastic from 1947 to 1954 and wood grips were used thereafter. Wrap-around wood grips were introduced in 1966.

3) Third variation Detective Specials were manufactured from 1973 to 1986 in .38 Special only. These third variation models introduced the full shrouded ejector rod.

4) Fourth variation Colt Detective Special revolvers were manufactured from 1993 to 1995.






question or comment

Comments and feedback welcome ...

My guns are always loaded (even when they're not, but they always are, really) and I mostly have Winchester Silver Tip ammo in them.

Dating Your GunQuick Assist

Prefix means the letter is at the beginning. Suffix means the letter is at the end.

If your gun has a letter... Go to
A (prefix) 1969-1970
B (prefix) 1970-1972
C (prefix) 1972-1973
D (prefix) 1966-1969
F (prefix) 1973-1974
H (prefix) 1974-1975
M (prefix) 1975-1976
M (suffix) 1976-1977
R (suffix) 1977-1978
S (prefix) 1978

Serial Number Table

These serial numbers are for the Police Positive and Detective Special. The table covers 1,430,512 guns over 70 years.

Year
of
DOM
Begin Serial Number End Serial Number Yearly
Prod.
Totals
1908 1 12999 12,999
1909 13000 22499 9,500
1910 22500 35499 13,000
1911 35500 50999 15,500
1912 51000 64999 14,000
1913 65000 89999 25,000
1914 90000 109999 20,000
1915 110000 124999 15,000
1916 125000 142999 18,000
1917 143000 144999 2,000
1918 145000 161999 17,000
1919 162000 189999 28,000
1920 190000 224999 35,000
1921 225000 241999 17,000
1922 242000 269999 28,000
1923 270000 282999 13,000
1924 283000 308999 26,000
1925 309000 324999 16,000
1926 325000 330999 6,000
1927 331000 C332999 2,000
1928 333000 372999 40,000
1929 373000 382999 10,000
1930 383000 399999 17,000
1931 400000 404999 5,000
1932 405000 411999 7,000
1933 412000 422999 11,000
1934 423000 434999 12,000
1935 435000 443999 9,000
1936 444000 451999 8,000
1937 452000 456999 5,000
1938 457000 466999 10,000
1939 467000 470999 4,000
1940 471000 473999 3,000
1941 474000 476999 3,000
1942 477000 478999 2,000
1943 479000 479999- 500
1944 479500 479999 500
1945 480000 480999 1,000
1946 481000 490000 9,001
1947 490001 493999 3,999
1948 494000 515050 21,051
1949 515051 542399 27,349
1950 542400 571499 29,100
1951 571500 607399 35,900
1952 607400 624889 24,050
1953 624850 648899 24,050
1954 648900 662649 13,750
1955 662650 672049 9,400
1956 672050 695399 23,350
1957 695400 710599 15,200
1958 710600 725599 15,000
1959 725600 749999 24,400
1960 750000 776399 26,400
1961 776400 797499 21,100
1962 797500 819499 22,000
1963 819500 839499 20,000
1964 839500 861499 22,000
1965 861500 890799 29,300
1966 890800 900100 9,301
1966 D900101 D925999 25,899
1967 D890800 900100 9,301
1968 D958500 D994999 36,500
1969 D995000 D998715 3,716
1969 A10000 A43499 33,500
1970 A43500 A59999 16,500
1970 B01001 B23000 22,000
1971 B23001 B49000 26,000
1972 B49001 B59999 10,999
1972 C01001 C26000 25,000
1973 C26001 C60000 34,000
1973 F01001 F08800 7,800
1974 F08801 F60000 51,200
1974 H01001 H18100 17,100
1975 H18101 H60000 41,900
1975 M01001 M29600 28,600
1976 M29601 M51999 22,399
1976 01001M 19200M 18,200
1977 19201M 59999M 40,799
1977 01001R 11700R 10,700
1978 11701R 59999R 48,299
1978 S01001 ?