Curious Relics #038: The Colt Police Positive Special


Curious Relics #038: The Colt Police Positive Special

Welcome, if you are a newcomer to this fun bi-weekly segment of! Last time around we covered the pistol that killed millions, the FN 1910. We started out with Part OnePart Two, and Part Three all of which covered history, variations, specifications, range time, and aftermarket parts. Today we get to dive into the Colt double action that won everyone back, the Colt Police Positive Special. What led up to this pistol’s introduction into the Colt catalog? What makes it so special? Let’s dive right into the Colt Police Positive Special!

Welcome to our recurring series of “Curious Relics.” Here, we want to share all of our experiences, knowledge, misadventures, and passion for older firearms that one might categorize as a Curio & Relic  – any firearm that is at least 50 years old according to the ATF. Hopefully along the way you can garner a greater appreciation for older firearms like we do, and simultaneously you can teach us things as well through sharing your own expertise and thoughts in the Comments. Understanding the firearms of old, their importance, and their development which lead to many of the arms we now cherish today is incredibly fascinating and we hope you enjoy what we have to share, too!

History Abridged: Colt Police Positive Special

In the late 1890s, military and police institutions started to attempt to modernize their arsenals in order to compete with what they may potentially encounter out and about. This led all sorts of manufacturers to innovate and release new small arms particularly geared towards law enforcement. The much-respected Colt Manufacturing Company released their choice for lawmen and soldiers alike. Enter the Colt New Police. The Colt New Police was an updated double-action revolver chambered in a new 32 Colt New Police cartridge. This revolver was quickly eaten up by police forces around the country (New York Police as a notable example). Unfortunately, the New Police was not entirely perfect and its cartridge tended to be inadequate.

Colt Police Positive Special
Colt New Police

Lot 701: Colt New Police Revolver 32. (n.d.). Rock Island Auction Company. photograph. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from

From there the next natural step was the Colt Police Positive. The Colt Police Positive was introduced around 1906 and boasted improved lock work. The new “positive lock” safety system (action will not allow the hammer to impact full force unless it is first pulled all the way to the rear) implemented gave the newest Colt its name. Unfortunately the new Colt Police Positive’s safety enhancement was not enough alone for it to be appealing so they also bumped up to the 38 Colt New Police cartridge (a copy of the 38 Smith and Wesson). After these necessary changes, the new Colt Police Positive gained a very good reputation and became a favorite amongst lawmen and outlaws all the same.

Colt Police Positive Special
Colt Police Positive

Lot 1683: Colt – Police Positive. (n.d.). Rock Island Auction Company. photograph. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from

Just a few years after the Colt Police Positive was introduced, Colt wanted to further improve their design as well as answer the call for more power. This leads us to our gun today the Colt Police Positive Special. The Colt Police Positive Special was introduced in late 1907 or early 1908 and is identical to the regular Police Positive; however, its frame was strengthened and the cylinder was lengthened to accommodate the widely loved 38 Special cartridge. My personal Police Positive Special is chambered for the 38 New Police cartridge (38 Smith and Wesson can be used interchangeably). These widely were bought solely for the fact that many were chambered for 38 Special. This new cartridge offering opened a big door for Colt and the Police Positive Special became one of their best-selling revolvers of the early 20th century. Suddenly all across America police officers, prison guards, security officials, government officials, night watchmen, gangsters, and outlaws adopted the newest and coolest Colt double-action revolver. A notable enjoyer of the Colt Police Positive Special was Al Capone!

Colt Police Positive Special

As I mentioned earlier, my personal Police Positive Special is made to use the 38 Colt New Police (38 Smith and Wesson) cartridge. Besides providing a wider range of cartridge options, Colt was aware that foreign countries may not have adopted 38 Special in mass or it may just not be that popular. That is why my Colt (made in the 1970s) is in the cartridge it is. It was sold and issued to the Hong Kong police. I have no information on whether they liked or disliked the 38 Special cartridges, but I am sure the more anemic quality of the other 38 is why it was chosen. It is probably less likely to go through objects or people and hit unintended people or objects.

Colt Police Positive Special

The Colt Police Positive Special was made from around 1907/1908 until 1978, at least in the form that is similar to the one today. Later additions/variations were lumped in with and renamed Police Positive (as a vague umbrella term) and those were manufactured for a brief period in the 1990s. They are still considered Police Positive Special revolvers by many sources I have read through so I will make sure to cover those and more soon!

End of Part One: Colt Police Positive Special

You folks know the drill by now, that is all for today, unfortunately. I will continue to cover the Colt Police Positive Special in a couple more articles and make sure to give it some love and appreciation at the range. Make sure to share your own Police Positive Special stories in the comments below. Until next time, stay safe out there, and see you soon!

Colt Police Positive Special

In closing, I hope our Curious Relics segment informed as well as entertained. This all was written in hopes of continued firearm appreciation and preservation. We did not just realize how guns were supposed to look and function. It was a long and tedious process that has shaped the world we live in. So, I put it to you! Is there a firearm out there that you feel does not get much notoriety?  What should our next Curious Relics topic cover? As always, let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.

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Writer | TheFirearmBlog Writer | Instagram | sfsgunsmith Old soul, certified gunsmith, published author, avid firearm history learner, and appreciator of old and unique guns.

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