Colt Army Special
Courtesy Virgil Caldwell
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Virgil Caldwell writes . . .

This is a beautiful, tight, smooth Colt Army Special from 1908. The problem is, when I found it in the pawn shop someone had sawed the barrel off to three inches and they hadn’t fitted it with any type of front sight.

The job was very nice, even the re-crown was well done. But the pistol was ruined for any type of collector value and, truth be told, shooter value as well.

I love old Colts and paid too much for this piece. It would have been horribly expensive to re-barrel the pistol or fit a dovetail sight to the barrel so a hole was drilled and a shotgun bead installed.

Now it’s a Colt snake gun but not in the usual sense of a Python, Cobra, or Diamondback. This is a .41 frame gun, but it rides nicely in the back pocket. The Speer shot shells are deadly on reptiles and even rodents at a few feet.

Please don’t lecture me on beneficial aspect of snakes. My wife is deathly afraid of them and the few I shoot every year wont hurt their numbers. The first two shots are shot shells. Next come Federal 148 grain wadcutters. They hit about three inches above the point of aim and they sure flatten anything they hit.

Just an old gun, and old gunner. There isn’t a scratch on this gun and it’s seeing plenty of regular use.


[This post is part of our series, What I’m Carrying Now. If you’d like to submit a photo and description of the gun, holster and gear you’re carrying in the new world in which we live, send it to us at [email protected] with WICN in the subject field.]

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  1. Cool piece, good condition.

    Sucks you overpaid but, hey, you know whatcha like and maybe if it scratches an itch you didn’t really overpay.

  2. My wife has a general fear of guns, but that doesn’t compel her to get rid of my collection. Perhaps your wife should do the same re: snakes.

  3. Wow! I’m the first to comment! I love old guns like this one. Maybe you could have had a front sight brazed onto the barrel, but the bead apparently works for what you need. Have you tried heavier bullets? I wonder if they would hit a little lower. Great find!

    • Almost first, but not. Or second. 🙂

      I live in full blown snake country. Just last week, a very handsome Pacific Patch-nosed Snake was next to me on my back yard lawn, just cruising along and minding its own business. Gopher snakes, Striped Racers, Coachwhips, King Snakes, and the rare Night Snake are among those that visit my property. They’re all non-poisonous and get a free pass.

      Rattlers, on the other hand, are no joke. I encounter three or four every summer, and they get a fast pass to the Hereafter by way of shovel or snake shot.

        • Don’t forget the garden hoe. And I don’t mean the one you “lay” in the tall corn.

        • As a follow-up, a few minutes ago I caught a baby gopher snake near my front door. Relocated it to a safer place so nobody would accidentally step on it.

        • String trimmer converts then into bite-sized breakfast sausages for the scavengers. My dad preferred a Weed Eater, but any brand will do. Poisonous snakes are pretty rare in my area however, so unless the wife’s snake alarm sounds, I help any I find over to the woods across the road.

        • The first time I saw a rattlesnake was when I was 5-6 years old. Funny thing, we were on our way to the navy range across from the top gun school.
          We got a flat on the truck and dad was fixing it when the snake showed up. Dad killed it with a shovel, buried the head, and toddd the snake in the truck.

          Dad had one of the cooks at the range prep and cook it. My first taste of snake.
          Quite good! I’ve enjoyed rattlesnake ever since.

    • Yes, sort of. Heavier bullets of the same caliber can strike lower, but not because the bullet weighs more. Heavier bullets are typically slower. Slower bullets hit lower.

      • Sometimes they hit higher because there is more muzzle flip before they leave the barrel. There are a lot of variables

    • I agree. That Colt has a much greater cool factor than the LCRX I bought for the same mission. Does an LCRX even have a cool factor?

      • “Does an LCRX even have a cool factor?”

        Yes, yes it does.

        It’s ‘cool’ is in the action of the trigger, considered by many to be excellent…

  4. Cool choice. I keep a couple snake guns handy. A SAA clone or a 12 gauge with birdshot.

    • 12-ga? How big are the snakes in your neighborhood that you need to Rambo out on them?

        • Ah, okay. One of my former friends from the late ’80s was one of those guys who bought some Burmese Pythons as babies from a pet store, and the things just kept growing. Last time I saw them, the one he allowed me to pick up (for a photo op) was 13 feet long and over 50 pounds. Have no idea what he ended up doing with them.

        • Meh, Burmese top out around that size in most cases.

          Real snake folks, or people who suck at planning, get a Reticulated Python. Those often get to be 20 feet long, and sometimes over 30. 300+ pounds.

          For more excitement there’s always the African Rock Python. My friend and I pealed a 8 footer off my buddy’s arm, fangs went most of the way through his forearm. That was messy.

          Real nutters, or serious herpaderps go venomous.

        • No, Burmese (python molurus bivitattus) get up to 20 feet and 200 lbs. I saw one close up at a zoo once. Huge. The Reticulated gets up to 30 feet, but not as thick.

        • That size Burmese is really pretty rare. They happen but they’re quite rare. Just like a 17 foot Rock Python is rare, they’re usually more like 10-11.

          The Carpet Python sitting across the room from me is considered to be a “very large specimen” by herpetologists. She’s a variegata and is almost 8′. Most don’t get much larger than 6′. The Abbott’s Okeetee next to her though is an almost exactly average specimen for length and weight but my prized breeder because of her very, very rare coloration. She’s also a total bitch but that’s another topic.

          Average for Burmese is about 12′-14′ in captivity. Big ones, like rare large, in the wild are around 17. 20 happens but it’s not common. Just because it can happen doesn’t mean it’s something most owners will ever experience. They are, however, a thick animal though a lot of that is probably overfeeding in captivity. A lot of snakes in captivity are obese because… well snakes are lazy.

          Zoos always like to show off the really big snakes because they draw eyes, especially Burmese because people like the pattern as compared to something drab like a Green Anaconda and the Burmese have a “nicer” face. The same is true of certain color patterns for Retics. It’s also true that zoos are not always honest about size. There was a zoo not long ago claiming to have a 48 foot Retic, turned out to be 23 foot when measured after death.

        • Yes, your Carpet is pretty large, though I’m surprised you say she’s ornery. While I’ve never had one myself, I’ve read that they’re allegedly common as pets in their native Australia due to their docility.

          I had a boa constrictor once when I was a teenager about 6′ in length. Not a true Red Tail, but close enough. Was too unpredictable and sometimes tried to bite, so it had to go and I sold it. Had some garter snakes, and too many gopher snakes to count (because those things are everywhere in SoCal and easy to catch). A ringed King Snake once. My absolute favorite was my Kenyan sand boa. Those days were long ago. I considered myself as an amateur herpetologist, but again…long ago.

    • Most of the rattlesnakes I’ve killed have been with a .22 revolver. A few with a 9mm pistol. Don’t know about monster snakes in swamps but in western deserts it doesn’t take much gun to fix a bad snake..

  5. I love those old Colts. I used to have virtually the same gun, but it was a Colt Police Positive 4″ .38 Special made in 1919. It was almost like new, had very little wear on the blueing, and was quite accurate. Every part in it that was stamped had matching numbers. I carried it for quite some time when working armed security back in the ’70s and I always qualified with it!

  6. In before all the mall ninjas starts bitching. (I’m just happy it’s not a sig this time)

  7. I would have to braze a new ramp on the front.

    That is a cool old gun.

    Have fun with it. I skip,the snake shot for semi-wadcutters for my snake. Shot not great for big rattlers and cotton mouths.

    • Specialist38, I hear you. Water moccasins are common sunning themselves on the rubble on the land bridge at the farm. I shoot them with whatever load I have in whatever handgun I have with me. And I have a few shot loads. Just never used them. I despise a cotton mouth. Diamondbacks I just hit over the head with the odd stick.

      • I’m with you on cotton mouths. Foul tempered as hell.

        Since Michael we have also seen a huge increase in copperheads. Number and size.

        But most the Diamondbacks I end up killing are 5 – 6 foot long. They grow big on rabbits and such and are well protected by gopher burroughs.

        I like a 158 grain to anchor them down a little.

        • Pygmy rattlers here in the central part of the state.

          Took care of one that was having a refreshing swim in my parent’s ‘cement pond’.

          Aggressive as hell, and only maybe 5 inches long. A 5-gallon bucket with a splash of chlorine took care of it…

        • Most people I know who have bitten, it’s been pygmies. Tough to see….and they are aggressive as hell (little guy complex?).

        • The rattlers that have come close to getting me have all been small. Little rattle and little size means the wind can mask their warning sounds and they are hard to see. I can imagine a pygmy rattler presenting many of the same issues.

        • I fished it out of the pool intending to relocate it, but when I put a stick in to fish it out of the bucket, *wham!*-*Wham!*-*wham!*. Strike, after strike, after strike.

          It was then I said “H’mm. That ain’t no common back snake or similar…

          After it expired I manipulated the mouth to take a peak, and what do you know!
          *Fangs*… Took the snake next door to show Carlos what I had, since he has small kids that play outside and warned him there may be more around.

          Went to a Herp show in Tampa years back, there were some gorgeous ‘hot’ (venomous) ones there, some brilliant colorings, but I don’t have the balls to raise ones that can kill me…

  8. Lately, I have been conversing with some young Marines (that are new to my IL2 squad) that have informed me that bad people are called “snake” now (with f-bombs tossed liberally to all sides). So this gun seems very topical to me right now.

    • What’s the logic behind that? As opposed to the only definition of calling someone a snake I know of, as in “beware of that guy he’s a snake”, as in manipulative/shady/sleezy.

      • It’s a kid thing or maybe just a thing for those kids and their friends, I suppose. Kids seem to like to pick a word and over use the hell out of it. I don’t know, I am an older recluse that just happens to play an online game that has put me in contact with a few kids. The way they use snake though, seems almost biblical as in the snake in the garden/devil.

        • I have a younger buddy (25) in the Marine Corp. That also calls me snake . My name is Jake so i always thought he was being funny but it must be a military thing.

  9. I’ve never seen a shotgun bead on a pistol. Cool. Was that T grip on the gun as it came from the pawn shop or did your add it?

    About 40 years ago my first wife stayed at home with our 6 month old baby. We lived in the country in WV. When I got home from work she was pissed and scared. She had been playing with the kid in the yard and had encountered a copper head. The only gun I had at that time was a .357 revolver. So I got snake shot loads for it and she used them to keep the critters out of the kids yard.

    An uncle gave me a single shot .410 when he heard about the snake. He was deathly afraid of snakes and was worried about the kid.

    • If I’m using shot for snakes, I agree it needs to be a smooth bore shotgun.

      More better than shot from a handgun, IMO.

      That not a TGrip, not an old Pachmayr adapter. I have a couple but prefer the TGrip.

  10. Excellent!

    Is that a Tyler T-Grip installed? I have one on an old Smith model 36 and it really helps.

  11. Around SoCal, a ‘snake’ is a sleazy woman(coke whore/strawberry or meth head) that would rip off anyone they could, even for a half pack if cigarettes. They are the bottom of the barrel, they are all “sucked up”.

  12. Rattlers, coppers and cottons (Napoleon complex in the latter)…. we murder them all without mercy. The non poisonous ones we let go forth and multiply! Too many little kids around here to let the bad ones slither on.

    Sweet revolver. Wish I had one myself.

  13. Kill more of them damned snakes, them big ones can swallow a possum. Oh BTW possum milk cures coronavirus

  14. I hope the “bite kit” made in the 60s is a fashion accessory and not meant to actually be used.

  15. If a snake doesn’t bother me, I don’t bother the snake. We have massasauga and timber rattlers in the area both are definitely triple S if you know what I mean. I see a lot of snakes but with one possible exception they have been harmless. I saw a possible juvenile massasauga but I wasn’t going to get close enough to get a positive ID.

  16. I wish I had a cool deadly snake story to share.

    Somehow, my tale of walking in a state park and a 6 inch grass snake slithering across the trail 4 feet in front of me just doesn’t have the same ring…

    • Though at the summer camp I went to as a kid, the shallows of the wading creek were known to have the occasional water moccasin.

      I laughed mightily in the face of the deadly moccasins….from the safety of the jon boat I was in. With my friend at the end closet to said snakes.

    • There are some places with large quantities of rattlesnakes; some are noted, some are not (sometimes to discourage snake killing). I once went backpacking into one such place and found myself in the uncomfortable position of hearing rattles from in front and behind me. Turns out the path intersected a nice warm rocky outcropping that was inhabited by at least five timber rattlesnakes that I could spot upon stopping. It felt like a minefield trying to get through about twenty yards.

      Maybe a half-mile later a guy came up jogging from behind. He had earbuds in. I stopped him and and asked if he had noticed the multiple danger noodles on the path. He said he had not. I supposed it’s possible they all coiled up under rocks before he went by… but I have a suspicion that he completely missed them and was very lucky.

  17. Old revolvers and snake slayers make for more interesting articles. A Colt with character to boot.

    Not too much slithering around here but the odd little grass snake or two that I’ve seen once or twice every few years. We had a coyote problem for a while though. These days I’m a bit more concerned about wild hog populations.

  18. Lose the snake bite kit. If you get bit and you start cutting holes in yourself, it’s going to do far more harm than good.

  19. Got bit by a pygmy rattler 5 years ago. Instant searing pain, like getting hit with a sledgehammer. Got me in the calve as I walked out my door, it was under the door stoop. They are small and hide well if you arent looking for them, they are easy to miss. That was a week in the hospital I wont forget. Still have pain to this day. I keep at at least one or two cylinders of snakeshot in my revolver I carry around the property. I always take a revolver with snakeshot or my Smith Governor with some .410 birdshot with me on the river fishing or hunting in Florida, there are water moccasins everywhere. Get bit by one of them, they say you got 30 mins to get to a hospital or its game over, true or false, I would rather not test it out.

    • “Specific data on prognosis from cottonmouth envenomation are very limited. These envenomations are considered to be less serious on average than rattlesnake bites. Cottonmouth envenomation has a lower likelihood of being a severe systemic envenomation.[5] In 2017 out of 255 cottonmouth envenomations reported to the US poison center, there were ten serious outcomes and no deaths.”

      Not specific to time before hospital admission but I suspect if it were that dangerous there would be more deaths out of those bitten as many people can’t get from the wilderness to a hospital that fast in rural areas. I think the only snakes that kill that fast are those with venom that act on the nervous system and shut down breathing (cobras for example). Bleeding venoms take a lot longer.

  20. You want snakes? We were flying RC planes at a park in Mesa, AZ, across the street is the old GM proving grounds. It is fenced and posted “NO TRESPASSING”, but a friend’s plane got lost there, so we went searching. Never again, if it crashes there it stays lost, I think every rattlesnake in Arizona lives there and they all crawl out on the slabs just before the sun goes down.

  21. snakes are cool. kid next door has a bunch, he calls when the corn one molts, beautiful.
    diving into the strip mine reservoirs in terre haute we had an encounter, pinned a cotton mouth with a good size rock, watched him drown.
    bitten while handling a garter in the quetico, very fortunate that that didn’t infect.
    there is actually a separate species around here called the chicago garter.

  22. Look at a Williams shorty ramp. It goes on with a bolt and give you a dove tail.

  23. Lose the “snake bite kit”. They are WORSE than useless. If you get bit there are THREE things you can do. NONE of them include tourniquets, cutting the skin or suction. FIRST….if you get bit is to take Benadryl. At least 50mg. It may not help but it CAN help diminish and slow tissue damage for a short time. Second is CLEAN THE BITE with soap and water, an alcohol swab or some other antiseptic. Even if a snake bite is ‘dry’…meaning no venom was injected the snakes mouth/fangs are a good source of bacteria that can cause lethal infections. Finally…..GET TO A HOSPITAL. The ONLY viable treatment for snake envenomation is proper treatment with the appropriate antivenom. Use of antivenom can mean the difference between life and death. Just as importantly it can mean the difference between saving and losing the affected body part (it is usually arms and legs that get bit). But for gods sake LOSE THE DAMN SNAKE BITE KIT.

  24. Just get a Judge and load it the 3 inch 7 1/2. You would have come out better on the deal. The Judge is the number one snake gun in my area.

    • The Judge may chamber a more effective cartridge (shell?), but the best Taurus ever can’t come close to a pristine old Colt’s revolver for panache, historical significance, graceful shape, etc. Effective the Judge may be, but it is one ugly duckling!

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