Colt 1903 in US Military Service (and for the OSS)

The Colt Model 1903, aka Pocket Hammerless, aka Model M, was a massively successful design for Colt on the commercial market. It was chambered for the .32ACP cartridge, with a .380 model introduced in 1908. During World War Two, the US government took an interest in the pistol. A total of 17,330 were purchased in .32 ACP, and another 3,113 in .380 ACP. The .32 caliber examples are found between serial numbers 541,103 and 572,215. Some were purchased by direct contract, and some procured independently from dealers.

These were never used as combat pistols, but instead went to a variety of services and agencies. Primarily they were used for military police and intelligence services (the Office of Strategic Services), including a full third of them being sent to the UK for use by Special Operations Executive. One of the examples we have today is documented by Colt records as being delivered to OSS, in fact.

Around October 1944, several changes were made to the pistol:

– The sights were made larger, both front and rear.
– Slide serrations increased from 17 to 19.
– The finish changed from blued to phosphated.
– The “US Property” stamp font got slightly larger.


  1. I have now watched 3 videos filmed at Morphy’s and you have yet to geek out over the FM 24-29 Chatellerault machinegun over your right shoulder. At least reach back and touch it!

  2. Colt 1903: Ian, you know all the guys at CZ. Have them bring this back in caliber 30 Super Carry. They could make a slightly fatter magazine and bill it as an “Improved Retro Model”. All the cool wartime provenance and still a nifty carry gun.
    PS: My brother found one of these concealed in a wall for about 80 years in Marin County CA when he renovated his father in laws house.

    • Maybe not advisable for straight blowback.

      Might be interesting to see if the 1907 Savage’s sort-of delayed blowback could handle that cartridge. Or – how about a Tokarev with a staggered magazine?

  3. I used to have a neighbor who was a WW2 veteran in the Pacific who brought back a 1908 Colt pocket pistol in .380 that he took from a dead Japanese officer on Saipan.

    • Quite a few Imperial officers had non-Japanese sidearms, since like the British Army they were required to purchase their own. .32 ACP automatics made in Germany, such as the DWM copy of the FN Model 1910, were popular, as were P.08s in 7.65 x 21mm. (The IJN’s Special Landing Forces used Bergmann SMGs in that caliber.)

      Since an officer’s sidearm was mainly a badge of rank, a .32 automatic was certainly “enough for the job”. And to be brutally frank, the difference in muzzle energy between a .32 ACP and an 8 x 22mm Nambu wasn’t enough to make much difference to the recipient.

      clear ether


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