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Thread: Colt 1903 problem

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Colt 1903 problem

    I looked at a Colt 1903 .32 acp yesterday that was in great condition (not sure of the manufacture date).
    I asked if I could try using some snap caps to check the action, function, etc and they got some out. I loaded three and worked the slide and they all ejected.
    But, when I pulled the trigger, the snap caps would not eject because the extractor wouldn't drop enough to grab the rim.
    I'm guessing it was a weak spring but they wouldn't disassemble the gun to check.
    Any ideas on what was the cause? I've never handled one before.
    They won't sell the gun now.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    Nice to know there are still some ethical gun dealers. I'll bet if you go back in a couple of weeks it will be repaired and back in the case at a higher price. At least they didn't continue to offer a gun for sale that might let somebody down in a pinch.

    Your diagnosis of the problem may be a good one. About the only other possibility that I can think of is that the extractor hook is worn in such a way that the jarring of the firing pin pushes the cartridge forward just enough to skip out from under the hook. Either way, it should be a relatively easy fix.

    I think I read recently that these are being made and sold brand new again -- but kind of expensive.

  3. #3
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    If those are the plastic snap caps, I suspect that the problem lies therein. They are slippery, more so than brass casings, and wear much faster. Try a few dummy cartridges with brass cases and spent primers. Those will give you a better idea as to the real functionality of the gun.
    I have had three of them over the years and they have all been reliable with factory magazines.
    _________________________________________________It's not that I can't spell: it is that I can't type.

  4. #4
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    The snap caps ejected perfectly until the trigger was pulled. When the trigger is pulled, you can see the extractor move upwards and never return to where it could grab the rims. The rims slide right under it. Work the slide, don't pull the trigger and the extractor works. It's a shame - the gun is in great shape. They'll send it out to the gunsmith for at least three months.
    The only reason I asked to try the snap caps is that they sold me a Mauser 1914 .32 ACP a few weeks ago that didn't function as it should - the slide would not stay open without the mag in place. They insisted that's how it works and I knew nothing about the gun, so I bought it. Come to find out, the mag release/catch also acts as a slide hold-open, but the mag release on this gun was broken up inside the grip and did not extend into the innards, so it didn't hold the slide open. They said that gun should not have left the store, and they offered to take the gun back, but I liked the gun a lot and I found a mag catch on a Mauser forum for $60 and the store split the cost with me. That is now a great gun.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Battis View Post
    The snap caps ejected perfectly until the trigger was pulled. When the trigger is pulled, you can see the extractor move upwards and never return to where it could grab the rims. The rims slide right under it. Work the slide, don't pull the trigger and the extractor works. It's a shame - the gun is in great shape. They'll send it out to the gunsmith for at least three months.
    The only reason I asked to try the snap caps is that they sold me a Mauser 1914 .32 ACP a few weeks ago that didn't function as it should - the slide would not stay open without the mag in place. They insisted that's how it works and I knew nothing about the gun, so I bought it. Come to find out, the mag release/catch also acts as a slide hold-open, but the mag release on this gun was broken up inside the grip and did not extend into the innards, so it didn't hold the slide open. They said that gun should not have left the store, and they offered to take the gun back, but I liked the gun a lot and I found a mag catch on a Mauser forum for $60 and the store split the cost with me. That is now a great gun.
    And that is a great, customer focused gun store.
    Last edited by aws1963; 05-12-2018 at 12:25 PM. Reason: changed wording

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    I think that a previous owner of the Mauser .32 acp might have cut the mag catch/slide hold for whatever reason - you could slide the mag in (slide closed), work the slide and a round would chamber. Remove the mag and the slide would slam closed. Several of the salespeople thought that's how it was supposed to work but they have a collector who said Nope.
    I should have bought the Colt 1903 and just replaced the springs - too late now.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Battis View Post
    The snap caps ejected perfectly until the trigger was pulled. When the trigger is pulled, you can see the extractor move upwards and never return to where it could grab the rims. The rims slide right under it.
    If it didn't have an inertial firing-pin I would say the pressure of the firing-pin is involved, probably in combination with wear on the extractor hook or the snapcap rim - very likely both - to form inclined planes to make the extractor rise under pressure. But if the snapcap is tight enough to lodge in the chamber, it might happen with a floating firing-pin.

    My guess is that it wouldn't happen with a fired case or an unfired round. But at the worst, I think a little work squaring the inner surface of the extractor hook with a slip stone or Dremel cutting disc should do all that is needed.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    I had a 1903 that was a really nice little gun. Not original but very accurate.

    Never had a failure to extract. As mentioned above, I suspect the snap caps might be the problem. Based on headspacing it would be relatively easy for the firing pin to push the 'soft' snap cap forward.

    FWIW, it is fairly easy to find replacement parts for them. I even got a new barrel for mine from Numrich. And if you are not concerned with keeping it original larger sights make them so much easier to shoot.

    Hope you get another chance at it.

    The only reason I sold mine was brass. Those pesky little things were hard to find at the range.

    Sent from my SM-P580 using Tapatalk

  9. #9
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    I'm wondering if Ballistics in Scotland might have hit on it when he said it wouldn't happen with a fired round. The snap caps were fine - they tried several and they all ejected until the trigger was pulled. I don't know the workings of that gun but I'll bet every fired, empty case would eject - the blowback would get everything working properly. New springs would help, too.
    If that's the case, maybe the gunsmith will send it back as is...
    I bought 3 or 4 boxes of factory ammo to use in the Mauser, and I saved the brass to reload. I got 100 bullets from Montana Bullet Works (75 grs, .311") and worked up a few dummy rounds using S&W .32 dies, but the cases are too short for the expander to work. I tried the Lee universal expander die and the same thing happened. Then it dawned on me to try the Hornaday 8mm Lebel revolver dies I have and sure enough, they're close in size. Slight mouth expansion, slight crimp (they headspace on the rim) and they all chambered and ejected fine once I found the proper seating depth for the bullet. Next week I'll try some loaded rounds.
    I was told that these little 32 acps can be addicting and that might be right.

  10. #10
    I am always reminded of Rutherford the nuclear scientist, who was asked in his old age "These... electrons... of yours... hoa do you know they actually exist?" "Exist? Exist? I can see them, I tell you!"

    Well he couldn't, and like him we have to guess at things by their results. the size and springiness of plastic could play their part in both lodging in the chamber and exertion of force on the extractor. it isn't forced up against the breech face (and away from the hook) like a fired round would be. Besides improving the shape of the hook, polishing the chamber might help. I can't see it costing you much, and it might have been a useful bargaining point on price, before the shop spent money on a gunsmith. It isn't the sort of defect that could let them in for doing some fast talking at an inquest.

    Many years ago I shot a friend's .32 1903 at Bisley - and he still has it legally, under one of the various loopholes in our ban on handguns. I could perform fairly creditably in those days with the long-barrelled single-shot target Webley which General Hatcher liked, but deeply unsatisfyingly with the little .32 on the Running Man, which comes at you on a little overhead railway. Anybody discerning enough to have a French 8mm. ordnance revolver deserves to get this one right.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Unfortunately, I blew it when I pointed out the potential problem to the store. I should have bought the gun - they will take a gun back within 30 days if it doesn't work properly, as they offered to do with the Mauser .32 ACP. Now they won't sell it until the gunsmith clears it, and they'll probably add the cost of the gunsmith to the price.
    I bought the St. Etienne 8mm/Lebel revolver at the same store. It has the plexiglass(?) Sweetheart grips made from the windshield of a downed plane. I have the Hornaday dies, Accurate mold, 32-20 brass to cut, but I haven't shot it yet. I was about to buy the actual .32 ACP die set for the Mauser when it dawned on me was 8mm was - that metric system still has me puzzled.
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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Battis View Post
    Unfortunately, I blew it when I pointed out the potential problem to the store. I should have bought the gun - they will take a gun back within 30 days if it doesn't work properly, as they offered to do with the Mauser .32 ACP. Now they won't sell it until the gunsmith clears it, and they'll probably add the cost of the gunsmith to the price.
    I bought the St. Etienne 8mm/Lebel revolver at the same store. It has the plexiglass(?) Sweetheart grips made from the windshield of a downed plane. I have the Hornaday dies, Accurate mold, 32-20 brass to cut, but I haven't shot it yet. I was about to buy the actual .32 ACP die set for the Mauser when it dawned on me was 8mm was - that metric system still has me puzzled.
    Now that is interesting! My Dutch revolver is the small version of their 1873, made for private purchase by officers by JFJ Bar of Delft. It came with grips which were also of probably US air force plexiglass, rather cruder in design and clear, backed up with crepe paper. Perhaps they were all doing it!

    The current walnut grips are my own work. It has a square butt, and you can see where the steel grip frame was grafted onto the normal broomhandle shape (though like no broomhandle in creation). The joint is so well made that I can't tell whether it is brazed, silver soldered or pinned, so I don't think it could be the plexiglass person's work.

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    It solves the problem of simultaneous or separate ejection by having no ejector whatever. But it is ergonomically excellent, with a very practical.376-bullet inside lubed cartridge, plenty of metal where it counts, and about as good a single and double action pull as any revolver. It also has a better firing-pin fit and protrusion than the various Chamelot-Delvigne revolvers, a name by which the Dutch often quite erroneously called it.

    The French 1892 is a very well made and reliable revolver, in every way except the 8mm. jacketed-bullet cartridge. .32ACP performance isn't good when you don't even get a pocket pistol. It seems that this was demanded when it was found that the large-calibre 1873 wouldn't pierce a cavalry breastplate at any range. Well, the First World War didn't turn upon the piercing of cavalry breastplates, and the 1873 needed only a better loading of a potentially good .45 cartridge. Neither the 1892 nor its cartridge owe anything at all to Col. Lebel, except in the sense that any jacketed bullet might have been thought of as a derivative of his rifle version. I suspect that experienced trench soldiers often got hold of an 1873 and bought their own ammunition.

    Here is the true Chamelot-Delvigne lockwork in my 1873, as copied later by Iver Johnson. It is pretty good when you consider that Captain Delvigne was born in 1798, and probably used to shooting before he heard of an alternative to the flintlock.

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    You should find original grips by searching for "plaquettes 1892" on www.naturabuy.fr .They will be expensive, 70 and 95 euros at the moment. But in the past I have seen reproduction grips for the 1873.

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