A good friend introduced me to this group, and specifically to this discussion topic. From what I've read so far, I agree with him entirely that the contributors here are far more academically inclined, and less prone to loudly assert personal opinion as fact, than what is typically found elsewhere. It is for that reason that I'm going to lay out a recent purchase, warts and all, to see what sort of comments I get. Please forgive me for creating such a long posting, but this one is a bit complex. Perhaps if you read it like a firearms mystery story, it will be easier to plow through.
In brief, this gun had been offered at auction for awhile. The seller's opening bid was too high, and nobody was nibbling, so I decided to contact him. We came to an agreement on a price. It was still higher than I really wanted to pay, but not horribly outrageous for an exceptionally nice looking Colt Government Model with some history. The challenge was to pin down that history.
In brief, what I hoped I was getting was an Argentine contract Colt from about the 1924 period--one that may have been built partially of WWI surplus parts (as is another "lettered" Argentine Colt that I have), and one that is in exceptionally fine condition.
What did I actually get? That's the point of this posting. Is it a fake? Is it a fluke? Is it something legit, but unusual? That's what I'm still trying to determine. Let's title this:
The Case of the Mystery Marina Argentina Colt
Here's what I have--or think that that I have--so far as can be determined. Corrections are welcomed and encouraged. I'm not trying to turn this into anything that it's not, but it's difficult to determine what it actually is.
On the surface, it's a very nice Marina Argentina contract gun made by Colt. Both the frame and slide appear to be in "as new condition," with very minor marks. There are no import marks on this piece.
The slide seems to be dead-on original and as-new. All edges are crisp, as are all markings. The markings on the slide appear to be correct as from Colt in about 1916. The roll marks appear to be correct, and the c. 1916 time period "pony" stamp still shows clear signs of slightly raised metal that was displaced from the stamping. I've looked at a lot of older firearms, and I'm pretty sure that the slide, at least, is legit.
There is no sign that I can discern of pitting or markings having been buffed out. It's uncertain if the frame has been re-blued, or not, but it was done quite well if it has been.
The serial number on the frame turns out to be correct for the same 1916 time period as the slide, but Colt's archives show that this gun's serial number was supposed to have been shipped to, "The Government of Russia" in late 1916. There are no British or Russian marks on the gun, however, as there should be if this had actually been sent to Russia as a lend-lease firearm. Still, the serial number does fall into a block of numbers also used to send some contract guns to Argentina. One possibility is a duplicate serial number--Colt says that did happen on occasion--but there are other problems, too.
Most obvious is the fact that the frame (and the gun in general) has most of the 1911A1-style modifications, when the serial number and the slide markings indicate that it should be a 1911. Some of these can be explained away as later add-on upgrades, but not all (such as the first mentioned in the following list).
Here are some of the 1911A1-style characteristics:
-- There's a crescent-shaped relief cut in the rear area of the trigger housing.
-- It has the arched mainspring housing.
-- It has the short trigger with the checkered face.
-- The font for "Government Model" and the serial number on frame appear to be factory-accurate, but are of a style believed to have been introduced after 1916 (around 1924).
-- The thumb safety is of the type used on the 1911A1.
Here are some of the 1911 characteristics:
-- Wide spur hammer with checkering.
-- The slide has the correct sights for a 1911 made in 1916.
-- The slide has the correct patent and "pony" marks for a 1911 made in 1916.
-- The stocks appear to be correct for a 1911 made in 1916.
-- The front slide relief cut has the smaller radius.
-- Slide stop has checkered thumb piece.
It turns out that this gun went through a regional auction by RIA about 2 years ago. They rated it, at that time, as "professionally restored or re-blued". That may be the case, but if so, the work was excellent. I've checked with Turnbull, and they were kind enough to search their databases. It has not gone through them.
One of the main questions in my mind, at this point, is that if this is faked, or partially faked, why would someone go to all that much trouble for a gun that wasn't really worth a whole lot a few years back? Almost any U.S. Military Colt would have fetched a much higher price. Even today, what I paid for the gun was substantially less than what a quality restoration would cost--and I'd have to start that process already owning a firearm.
What markings are on the inside? I don't know yet. I'm waiting for a good day to strip it, clean it very well, preserve it, and photograph it. I do know that there appears to be a "B" mark showing under the hammer, above the firing pin stop. I haven't been able to locate a source explaining what that mark would represent. I'll be posting internal photos soon, but now let me show you the external stuff.
I hesitate to say this, but the only explanation that I can come up with, that seems to fit all the evidence, is that it could have been a Colt employee-made gun assembled from left-over contract parts. I've read somewhere that happened in the earlier days. Colt says that they also have heard that, and it wouldn't be surprising if it was confirmed, but they (and I) don't expect it could ever be proved insofar as this gun is concerned. I'm just throwing that out as a possibility.
Popcorn, anyone? This might turn into a show! Don't worry about my feelings. Just be honest. I've done well enough on most purchases over the years that getting a smack in the wallet may have been overdue. I just want to figure out what's going on with this gun. Whatever that turns out to be, this is a really pretty piece that someone tuned up rather nicely. The trigger is as smooth as warm butter. It doesn't appear to have been shot much, if at all. I'll know more about that when I get inside and start cleaning.
Edited by Machodoc, 11 September 2016 - 12:28 PM.