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Colt Detective Special vs. SF-VI vs. DS-II?

oldbuckaroooldbuckaroo Member Posts: 56 ✭✭
edited October 2013 in Ask the Experts
I am considering acquiring a Colt Detective Special .38 for a carry piece, and am trying to determine exactly what the significant differences are between a 3rd issue Detective Special (with shrouded ejector) vs. the Colt SF-VI vs. a Colt DS-II. I do know the SF-VI and DS-II are stainless steel and both supposedly rated for unlimited use of +P, and the 3rd issue Det Spec is rated up to several thousand rounds of +P, but other than that, I'm not sure what the pros and cons are of each of these. I'm partial to the .38 Special due to the wide variety of relatively inexpensive loads. Also I'm not looking for an "investment" piece. It will be fired and carried. Any advice you gentlemen have is greatly appreciated.


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    rufe-snowrufe-snow Member Posts: 18,650 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    One of our members who uses the handle of JudgeColt, posted this on another thread earlier this month. He considers himself a authority, on all things Colt? You might contact him if you need more info.

    Far as I'm concerned if you just want it for CCW? It just a case of 6 of one, against 1/2 dozen of another.

    "The Detective Special was introduced in 1927 as a variation of the Police Positive Special. These early guns had a square butt. For the sake of illustration only, I would call these guns "First Generation." In 1933, the butt was changed to what Colt calls "round butt," which would be "Second Generation." After World War II, the front sight was changed from round to ramped, which I would call "Third Generation." These early Post-War guns had plastic stocks, which were changed to wood in the mid-1950s. I do not consider the stock material as another "Generation," but some might. In 1966, the butt frame was shortened, which is "Fourth Generation." In 1972, the shrouded barrel was introduced, which I count as "Fifth Generation." In 1984, Colt introduced a "discount" version of the Detective Special with matte finish called the Commando. Some might consider that another "generation" of the Detective Special. I do not because the Detective Special remained in production during that time. The Detective Special and Commando were discontinued for 1987. Colt redesigned the lockwork in 1995 and introduced the SF-VI, which could be called the "Sixth Generation." It was replaced by the DS-II in 1997, which could be called the "Seventh Generation." The DS-II was discontinued after 1998. The Magnum Carry was introduced in 1999 and could be called the "Eighth Generation." The Magnum Carry was discontinued in 1999, along with all other Colt double-action revolvers except the Python, which has now been discontinued as well. Obviously, the mere lack of a shroud around the ejector rod does not make a Detective Special a "First Generation."

    It seems to me the best way to identify a Colt Detective Special is either by year or period of manufacture and/or by features (such as Pre-War Square Butt, Post-1965 -- Pre-1972, abbreviated butt and unshrouded ejector rod, etc.). As I have tried to illustrate, there are a lot more "generations" or "issues" than the "Blue Book" recognizes.

    Yes, J. C. Penny sold guns. I purchased my old Remington Model 1100 at Penny's in 1968.

    A Detective Special never had a serial number on the butt in any of its several variations. Off hand, I can't think of any Colt that has a serial number on its butt. (Neal may have Smith & Wesson on his mind!)

    I recommend Big Frontier Metal Cleaner for removing rust. It looks like a "Choir Girl" dish pad, but is not and will not scratch the blue when removing rust. (Google it for more information.)

    Any Detective Special that is decent is worth a lot more than $300! Buy a lottery ticket tomorrow.
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    charliemeyer007charliemeyer007 Member Posts: 6,579 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I have a model 60 S&W. Stainless steel 38 Special than I like a lot. Many 1000's of good 38 loads, still a nice tight shooting pistol. Harder to see the sights now than it was 30 years ago.
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    JudgeColtJudgeColt Member Posts: 1,790 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    rufe-snow, I know just enough about Colts to know that I do not know enough. However, I do know that the DS-II and SF-VI are not the same design as the Detective Special, even though the guns are about the same size and appearance. The Detective Special uses the old V-spring action design first introduced in the Colt New Service in 1898. The DS-II and SF-VI use a transfer bar ignition design similar to a Ruger double action revolver mechanism. (The transfer bar ignition system was introduced by Iver Johnson just after the turn of the twentieth century.)

    The original V-spring mechanism has the "bank vault lockup," where the cylinder is held tightly against the cylinder stop as the trigger is pulled. This is said to enhance accuracy, but comes at the price of the hand taking a dose of firing shock with every shot, which will eventually wear the hand.

    The DS-II and SF-VI use a "floating" cylinder like a Ruger or Smith & Wesson, so there is no wear on the hand at the moment of firing.
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