Gun Digest
 

Classic Guns: “Vintage Carry” and the Colt Model 1903 Hammerless Pistol

In the world of carrying handguns, a number of phrases have evolved to describe exactly what reason or method a handgun is carried in a particular way. There is “open carry” which is simply to carry a sidearm in plain sight. There is “concealed carry” which is self-explanatory. There is “constitutional carry” where a person is not restricted by law or permit to carry a firearm. There is the concept of “home carry” where a person carries the handgun around their home at all times because they want to be ready for a possible home invasion. “Backyard carry” is another one. That is for rabid raccoons and off-leash pit bulls.  Related to that is “barbecue carry” which is to open carry a very fancy looking sidearm to a social gathering like a barbecue for the sole purpose of showing it off. There is also “church carry” where a person carries a firearm in a place of worship since a violent scenario could just as well happen there. There is also “bath carry” for those that think they might be attacked while in the shower like in the movie Psycho. They keep their handgun in plastic baggies. Likewise there is “swim carry” for self-defense options at the beach against man-eating sharks or armed sand-kicking bullies. There is also “sex carry,” usually done with an ankle holster since a belt or shoulder holster could get in the way of the lovemaking gymnastics. This type of carry is smart for those that fool around with other people's spouses and want to be prepared when the scorned other half barges into the love nest with a loaded shotgun.

Adding to this lexicon is “vintage carry.” It will be first coined in print in the upcoming May 21, 2012 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine. In his Collector's Corner column, Phillip Peterson defines vintage carry as using older handguns for concealed carry. He writes, “One of my favorite vintage carry guns is the Colt Model 1903 Hammerless Pistol. Designed by firearms genius John Browning it was introduced in 1903. This single-action, semi-automatic pistol was known to Colt as a Model M .32ACP but was marketed as the Model 1903 Hammerless. It is chambered for the .32 automatic / 7.65mm cartridge. It has a 3 ¾-inch barrel. The dimensions of the gun are 6 ¾ inches long, 4 ½ inches high and one-inch wide at the grips. It has both a grip safety and a manual safety.  The magazine holds eight rounds and is marked “CAL. .32 COLT” on the base. The magazines usually have what is called a two-tone blue finish. The top section is bare white metal with the rest being blued. The gun weighs 26 ounces with a loaded magazine.”

He continues, “Colt made the Model 1903 Hammerless from 1903 to 1945. There were over 570,000 Colt 1903s made during that span.”

So the Colt that Mr. Peterson carries, depending on when it was manufactured, could be around century to over a half-century old. Imagine that. And he trusts the firearm enough to use it to defend himself in a dangerous encounter. And if it is mechanically sound, dependable and accurate, why not?  I know of plenty of people that carry modern Glocks, Kimbers, Kel-Tecs, and other modern pistols but rarely have I met someone that carries what would be classified as a “vintage” handgun being used for concealed carry use.

It is an interesting concept in today's new-is-better world. And maybe the older handgun is already combat-proven. The Colt Model 1903 that Mr. Peterson writes about were given to agents of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA, and also to US military officers during and after WWII.

The vintage carry challenge: if you were to carry a pre-WWII handgun for concealed carry, what would it be?

After paging through the Standard Catalog of Handguns, the Collector's and Price and Reference Guide (763 pages), I realized that the pre-WWII requirement really knocks out many of the handguns in existence and limits of the pool of sidearms to choose from (unless you want to carry around a flintlock pistol). After some perusal, I decided on a Smith & Wesson .32 Automatic pistol. Only 957 were manufactured between 1924 and 1936. Seems like it would fit the bill.


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