Colt 1903/1908 32 & 380 reassembly tip

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing Forum' started by superc, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. superc

    superc Member

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    Anyone who has taken apart one of these things knows they are the devil to put back together. All pins both exit and enter through the left side of the pistol. Colt's old manual simply says, reassemble in reverse order. Yeah, right.

    The trigger with bar, the magazine release and the sear spring are pretty self explanatory but problems soon develop.

    For instance, once you finally pin the sear and disconnector in place, the little sear will spin in the gun, but pointing the frame up and pushing the bottom of the sear through the magazine well opening with a pin will position it properly. Just remember the hooks should point up inside the frame, not down through the magazine opening.

    The downwards pointing hooks on the grip safety will be engaging the hooks on the sear, but only when everything is just right. The short end of the mainspring faces to the front, not the back of the gun. When you start to place the grip safety on is when the real fun begins. The hammer and the safety will go in after (and only after) that, but before (and only before) the grip is pinned in place. Your problem is the grip safety (which hopefully by now have engaged the sears hooks with a quiet little 'snick') has to be held in a semi-compressed position until after the hammer and the safety (which is also the hammer pin) are in place, and only then fully compressed so the grip safety can be pinned.

    However, you are holding the grip safety in against the pressure of both the sear spring and the mainspring. Don't be too surprised if your hand begins to cramp in the next few minutes. This is normal. :)

    While holding the grip tightly in one hand you forcefully insert the hammer (in hammer down position) with the other hand so that the roller of the hammer slips between the back of the frame and the stub of the partially compressed leaf mainspring, then with your third hand you line up the holes so you can insert your slave pin. Start to see the problem?

    It can be done, and the U tube video shows a smith doing it, but notice how at a critical point, the gun leaves the view screen and there is a screen refresh when it comes back. :)

    Old time Colt approved Smiths had a little jig which held the gun grip in for them thereby freeing up one of their hands. I haven't seen one of those jigs in forty years. My discovery? Scotch tape. Duct tape is good too. Position the grip, engaging the sear in the process, then while holding the grip in to the barely compressed position, stick it in place with the tape. 3 or 4 layers tight around the grip safety and the frame should be more than enough to hold it for a few hours. Leave the pin hole in the bottom exposed. You will be needing it soon.

    On to the hammer. If your hammer is anything like my gun's hammer the holes will never match up so neatly that a slave pin of the proper diameter can quickly be inserted without any difficulty. What I find is the hammer will always initially be a little bit off to the left, to the right, or up or down. A slightly thinner slave pin can, in theory, be inserted into the hole from the right and with a little leverage move the hammer, left, right, up or down against the pressure of the mainspring as needed until the line up of the holes is perfect. Good theory. Sadly however, in my universe, the thinner slave pin bends but the hammer doesn't move. :mad:

    My second great discovery? On early 1,2 and early 3 generation 1903 and 1908s the diameter of the safety pin is only a hair more than the diameter of a common 6D roofing nail. :)

    Once you can see daylight through the right side when the hammer is almost in position, insert the pointy (use a smooth one, sand down any ridges or burrs if need be) nail into that space. Push. The nail moves the hammer perfectly. Now replace the slaved nail pin with the real pin (the safety, late gen 3 to 5 have keyed openings so also remember to line up the keyhole on the safety with the one on the frame) from the left side. Wiggle the nail a little if needed. The hole alignment should now be perfect and the safety just drops in. Using the nail it all takes about 20 seconds.

    Now squeeze the grip tight. Insert the grip pin from the left side. Remove the scotch tape. The gun is now ready for the grips and the slide.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2010
  2. stalkingbear

    stalkingbear Active Member

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    EXCELLENT post Superc! I'm betting a few members will need to use your post when reassembling their old pistols. Thanks for the information.
     

  3. superc

    superc Member

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    Thanks. I forgot to add, before replacing the grips, for the earlier variations, on the right side, replace the safety screw after the safety is inserted. Give consideration to adding a small drop of temporary type locktite on the safety screw's threads. That is one screw you really won't want backing out by itself.
     
  4. Monster118

    Monster118 New Member

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    Superc,
    Would the Winchester you have posted be Winchester VA?
     
  5. Monster118

    Monster118 New Member

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    Thank you

    I wanted to let anyone who owns the 1903 Colt 32 know that the methods described here to reassemble the safety in this firearm were tremendously helpful. The problem described was exactly what I faced, In my case the hole through the hammer would not come far enough forward to allow the safety to slip in. However the opening was large enough for the point of the nail to get in and then with a bit of force the nail was able to slide the hammer into proper place. I did not however not use the tape. I was able to manipulate the slide, the nail, and pin with two hands.

    Thank you to Superc for the very useful instructions.
     
  6. Monster118

    Monster118 New Member

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    OK so I completely disassembled my 1903 this evening and as advertised very easy. The only part still asssembled is the extracter. Now comes the fun!
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 8, 2011
  7. Monster118

    Monster118 New Member

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    Back together again
     

    Attached Files:

  8. fiddleman4

    fiddleman4 New Member

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    Hi folks. I just joined the forums today. My name is Jeb Stewart. I am a long time member of the GPC forums. I have been reblueing and refinishing firearms for some 30+ years now. I am having the age old problem of reassembly of a 1903, and found this thread on Google and thought it excellant. I will try the tips I learned later today to try and get it together. Freshly reblued, but a bugger to get back together.
     
  9. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi JEB! Folks, have known this gent from the Numrich forum for some time. Other than a perverted sense of humor, a good guy, and a heck of a fiddle player to boot! JEB- give my regards to Zeke- Curtis
     
  10. fiddleman4

    fiddleman4 New Member

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    Thanks C3...I just talked with Zeke today. I'm navigating around the site, and trying to figure it all out, looks like a good place. Trying to figure out how to post pics, to my profile, and of ongoing projects. I'll get it eventually. Jeb. :)
     
  11. TimL2952

    TimL2952 New Member

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    Don't want to side track your thread, but how do those 1903's shoot???

    I'm only 19 and have a couple years to go...But I was really thinking of a 1903 or a vest pocket model as my first handgun.

    I love Browning and his designs and I'm not one for most modern handguns.

    as for a 1911...I'd like to start on a smaller caliber like the 1903 or maybe the High Power???

    any info is appreciated
     
  12. fiddleman4

    fiddleman4 New Member

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    They are very smooth, easy shooters. Not a lot of takedown power, sort of between a 380 and 9mm. But they are a pain in the butt to get back together! jeeeeze/
     
  13. fiddleman4

    fiddleman4 New Member

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    Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless.

    My first one of these, after all these years of refinishing, and yup...she is a pain on reassembly. To post pics, I see (as I suspected), a webhost site, (photobucket, etc. ) Man...I wish these forums would just lift them direct from your computer, like FB....but I can see the dangers. The data I have found here is very good and helpful. I have the main body of the pistol reassembled, but its the mainspring thats giving me a problem. I know the short tab goes forward, but does the mainspring fold ride all the way down in the bottom of the grip saftey, just above the pin hole, or does it ride up higher in the grip saftey. I also found the if you insert the magazine in place, and tape it in place, with masking tape, it will elimate the flopping around of the sear. If I can get the mainspring problem (placement) figured out, I think its all done. Did a 1000 grit finish on this one after pit removal, looks dang nice. Its the reassembly thats a bugger...thanks all. Jeb.
     
  14. fiddleman4

    fiddleman4 New Member

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    Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless.

    Got it!....it was the 6d roofing nail trick, that summed it up. Worked like a champ, all reassembled, and working just fine. Lots of refinishes under my belt.....my first on the 1903. Sweet little pistol when all reassembled properly. Thanks guys/gals....(gotta be culturally correct these days)...he.e.....
     
  15. superc

    superc Member

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    Yup, the nail saves lots of time. :)