Colt 1908 380 hammerless thumb safety problem
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Old 09-20-2010, 07:00 AM   #1
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Default Colt 1908 380 hammerless thumb safety problem

Just purchased one of these pistols and really like it but have had a problem with the thumb safety partially engaging after firing 2-3 rounds. The safety just goes up enough to block the slide a little but is not fully engaged. Any ideas on what could be causing it? I gave it a very good cleaning/oiling the other day and maybe went overboard because I had fired about 40 rounds through it before having any problems. Thanks for the help.

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Old 09-20-2010, 10:56 PM   #2
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First, please stop by the "Introductions" section.

Do you have close up pic of the slide safety on and off the pistol? Please refresh my memory if they have the same type of plunger tube as the 1911.

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Old 09-24-2010, 03:20 AM   #3
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I'm not really sure on the plunger. I can remove the safety and get a picture of it to get a better look but can the safety be taken out and put back with out removing other parts? I've heard this is a very complicated gun to take down and reassemble.

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Old 09-24-2010, 06:34 AM   #4
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I suggest that you let a smith take a look. With that age of firearm, there is a strong possibility that parts are worn and may need replacement.

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Old 09-28-2010, 02:14 AM   #5
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Yea I was thinking I might have to do that, seems like to much of a project for me to try it myself. Thanks.

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Old 10-20-2010, 08:00 PM   #6
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I put a thread on here somewhere about re-assembling a 1903 .32, which is basically the same gun as the 1908 .308.

That said, Brunner's book shows there were a half dozen different safety designs made for these things during the life of the production run (until 1945 when the dies finally wore out and the guys who knew them retired). Colt added a magazine safety to the initial design which forced two different changes in safety piece shape. Then there was the early screw in safety which had no corresponding notch in the frame. The point is not all of the safety pieces were backwards compatible.

You haven't provided any information about the year of manufacture or the serial # range (which would +/- point to a probable period of manufacture. Likewise some guns (especially in .380 because of the ejector issue causing jams until the problem was identified and fixed) were sent back to Colt for rework and Colt sometimes upgraded the guns.

Yes, a part could just be worn. Not necessarily that of the safety piece though. The safety bears on the disconnector which is influenced by the hammer and several springs. Likewise there may be a pivot point issue as the safety pin is also the hammer pivot pin. It should all be fairly snug. A possibility, as alluded to, is you may have the wrong variation of safety. A simpler possibility is you may be brushing the safety with your thumb when firing.

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Old 12-06-2010, 10:04 PM   #7
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I don't remember the serial number range and don't have the pistol with me at the moment but I remember that it is a type IV variant made in either 1938 or 1939, cant remember the exact year. I went out last week and shot it again with similiar problems of the safety moving up just enough after firing to block the slide. I had several other people shoot it and it happened to them. I specifically fired it in a way several times so that my thumb was nowhere near the slide safety so I don't think thats the problem lol but I could see how you could think that. I ordered a spring set from wolff gunsprings and plan to have a gunsmith I know take a look at it and replace the springs. Thanks for the help and sorry I left out some of the specifics of the gun in the initial post.

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Old 12-10-2010, 01:25 PM   #8
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Most probable causes...

A worn out spring.

Or, a worn(?), very slightly, oversized frame hole allowing the safety's hammer pivot pin to occasionally move diagonally under recoil (like a worn firing pin hole, a hardened bushing welded into place would be my solution to that, but a lot of gunsmith skill would be required for that to make it all look and work right, and well beyond that of 80% of today's walk-in gunsmiths (who are too often just parts replacement guys), or conversely the safety's hammer pivot pin has become so worn it is now undersize, which would merely require a replacement safety of correct dimensions. Try Numrich or Colt Parts if the latter.

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Old 05-22-2011, 04:35 PM   #9
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Default 1903 / 1908 Colt safety loose

I realize this is an old thread but I think I know what the problem is. I have a 1903 and a 1908. On my 1908, the sear spring was installed wrong and gave no real tension to the safety mechanism. Since this pistol came to me via my father and grandfather, I believe this was this way for decades. A good cleaning with CLP only made it worse and then the safety would be set with each round fired. Sound familiar? Unless you really know what you're doing, you won't be able to reassemble it. They tell me old Colt certified gunsmiths had a special jig that would hold the frame for them during reassembly. I think even they would have cussed a great deal without it.

To fix this, you will have to remove the grip safety and at least partially disassemble. The spring may need to be repositioned correctly and should probably be refreshed with a bit of soft bending to give just slightly more arc/strength to the spring. Fair warning though, these pistols are a legendary pain in the ass to reassemble. You will think you need a third hand. What you do need is an iron grip to hold the back strap against the spring while you get a slave pin into the base of the grip safety. That is after you get the sear spring positioned correctly on the sear which will keep rolling out of position.

My 1908 always had a problem where the safety lever would slip off the slide catch when the slide was held open at a range diring cease fire. It would just slam shut suddenly by itself and was very unnerving. The safety lever always seemed sort of 'loose' compared to the .32. Since the detail strip and spring fix, it has felt just like the 1903 and has functioned flawlessly through 250 rounds of varied new .380 SD rounds. I even CC'd it for a month while my PPS was in for repairs.

These pistols are like the Warner Bros cartoons of the firearms world. Still great, but the skilled artisans who made them are long dead so there won't be any more like this. Like those shows, I wish they still made 'em like this.

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Old 05-22-2011, 05:27 PM   #10
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As I wrote elsewhere, you can substitute for the old Colt Gunsmith jig very nicely. Just wrap the frame and the grip safety with some scotch tape when reassembling. That holds the grip in and frees up your hand. It also lets you put the gun down and go grab the pizza from the microwave when the microwave bell rings without having to start all over again. To align the parts in the frame use a polished roofing nail inserted from the right side to line up your holes. Push the nail out with your safety when ready.

Do not play around with rebending sear springs. Many of them are 100 years old. They can snap. Sometimes the snapping occurs after the gun is reassembled. This is because Colt chose to brace the spring at it's bottom with the grip screw. On many of the old Colts the bluing on the sear spring is worn at this point. Call it a 'vibration mark.' I have taken several of these apart to have the spring in question come out in multi pieces. [See image] Often the break is right along the vibration mark. Deciding to add a new bend on your own in my belief increases the odds of a broken spring. As the design of the that spring never changed from 1903 to 1945 and is the same in both 32 and 380, I believe a much smarter move is to simply go to gunparts and buy 2 or 3 unused ones.

There is nothing really complex about this pistol and one should not be scared to strip it completely down and give it a good cleaning now and then. You will be surprized at where you may find rust. Using the tape and the nail as mentioned above your average reassembly time of these things should be well less than 15 minutes.

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Last edited by superc; 05-22-2011 at 05:29 PM. Reason: changed a date
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