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This Colt Automatic Pistol model has gone by many names to include, Vest pocket, Model 1908, Pocket Model and any combination thereof. The Colt company called it the Pocket Model Hammerless in the instructions that accompanied the pistol, and it was even known as the model N in the inner circles of the Colt company. Some have even confused this pistol with its FN brother the Baby Browning. For this web page I will refer to it as the Model 1908 for the year it was first manufactured.

The pistol pictured on this page was manufactured in 1925. The total produced for the year of 1925 was 10,500.

The Colt Model 1908 is a self-loading, recoil operated, semi-automatic pistol that is chambered for the .25 ACP(Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge which is the smallest centerfire pistol round in production. This pistol is striker fired and incorporates a blade type front sight and a V notch rear sight, both of which are not adjustable and milled into the top of the slide. It is fed by a single column 6 round detachable box magazine. On the pistol's butt there is a European style heel magazine release. This pistol has a two inch barrel and a total length of 4 1/2 inches and an unloaded weight of 13 ounces. This firearm does not incorporate any type of slide hold open mechanism to inform the operator that the last round has been fired. Although the slide lock safety lever can be pushed downward when the slide is at its rearward most position thus locking the slide open for general cleaning. The grip panels are a black hard rubber and sport the Colt name as well as the famous rampant Colt symbol.

The Model 1908 was manufactured by the Colt Manufacturing Company from 1908 to 1948 and was the first handgun to use the .25 ACP cartridge that was also designed by John Browning in 1906. The .25 ACP round can propel a bullet with a weight of 35 to 50 grains between 750 to 1200 feet per second, which yields a muzzle energy of between 65 and 103 foot pounds. Although the .22 long rifle cartridge is slightly more powerful when fired from an equal length barrel, the .25 ACP is often viewed as a better choice for personal defense due to its more reliable semi-rimmed centerfire case design.  

This pistol was marketed as a small concealable firearm which could be easily tucked into a gentleman’s vest pocket for unobtrusive carry. The pistol was designed by John Moses Browning and closely followed his earlier European version which was introduced by Fabrique Nationale de Herstal as the FN Model 1905. The 1909 Colt catalog was the earliest to feature the Colt Model 1908. The first commercial shipments of the Model 1908 started with serial number 25 on November 20, 1908 and was sent to the A.M. Holter Hardware Company located in Helena, Montana. 

The Colt Model 1908 was in production for 40 years with a total of approximately 409,061 pistols being produced which made it one of Colt’s best selling commercial pistols. Only during the years between 1943 through1945 did production cease due to the demands of World War II. The highest serial number known to exist is 420,705. How can this be you ask since the total production was under 410,000? Well, shortly after WWII, Colt produced 705 pistols in the serial number range of 420,001 to 420,705.  

The photograph on the left shows the slide markings that are found on the right side of this Model 1908 vest pocket pistol. The first line is as follows, "COLT AUTOMATIC" and then underneath that is "CALIBRE 25". This top slide inscription identifies the manufacture and the type of action utilizes by the pistol. The second line gives us the French spelling of the word CALIBRE or CALIBER and also the number 25. This indicates that the pistol is chambered in .25 caliber.

The photograph on the right is of the slide markings that are found on the left side of the slide. The top line is as follows, "COLT'S PT. F.A. MFG. CO. HARTFORD, CT. USA.". The second line reads as follows, "PAT'D AUG.25,1896. APR.20,1897. DEC.22,1903. JAN.25,1910. JULY 31,1917". The first line of this inscription indicates that the pistol was manufactured by Colt patent firearms manufacturing company and that they are located in Hartford, Connecticut in the United States of America. The second line tells us that the pistol has been built with a number of registered U.S. patents.

The first patent date on the slide is August 25, 1896 which is actually the earliest patent date to appear on any Colt automatic pistol. This is the Arthur Creed Wright Patent number 566,367 that was filed on April 1, 1895 with a serial number of 543,973. This patent related to pistols that used a magazine and the object of the invention was to provide an internal hammer self-cocking pistol adapted to carry eight or more cartridges.The last patent date on the slide was for the Tansley device(safety disconnector) which was patented on July 31, 1917.

While difficult to see in the picture on the right, the upper left flat of the trigger guard has the letters "VP" stamped inside of a triangle. This is Colt's Verified Proof mark and is added after the pistol had passed the final factory inspection. The opposite side of the trigger guard on the right side of the receiver has the numbers "89" stamped on it. I believe that this is the factory worker number of the person who assembled this pistol.  

The photograph on the left is of the rear and the underside of the pistol. Nearly all of this particular pistol which was manufactured in 1925 is finished in Colt's lustrous and beautiful royal blue. The slide lock safety, grip safety, and trigger are color case hardened as can be seen in the photographs above. 

The photograph on the right is of the factory Colt Type II hard rubber grips which sport the Colt name at the top as well as the famous rampant Colt symbol toward the bottom of the grip.  

There were four standard variations of the Model 1908 grips.

The first variation had a rounded top and a stylized letter "C" over the rampant Colt, the grips were checkered and built with a black hard rubber material.

The second variation can be seen in the picture at the right above. This second variation had a square top, a rampant Colt that stood alone and checkered grips that were built with a black hard rubber material.

The third variation had a machine checkered walnut grip with a squared top and a Colt medallion pressed flushed into the upper center part of the grip. The Colt in the medallion is facing toward the right.

The fourth variation had a machine checkered walnut grip with a squared top and a Colt medallion pressed flushed into the upper center part of the grip. The Colt in the medallion is facing toward the left.

Colt also supplied these pistols with custom grips which included a deluxe checkered walnut, smooth walnut, Ivory grips, non-medallion ivory grips, carved steer head mother-of-pearl grips and carved steer head ivory grips. The Colt company appears at the time to have been quite flexible when it came to dressing the pistol in customer defined special order grip panels.

The full serial number is found on the receiver and on the underside of the slide just rear of the breech block. I found no partial serial numbers on any of the smaller parts.  

The photograph on the left is of the rearward part of the pistol. In this picture we can see the famous rampant Colt as well as a couple of the user operated manual safeties.

This version of the Model 1908 has a total of 4 operational safeties. Earlier versions before serial number 139,000 only have three. Colt's advertising and marketing literature highly touted the advanced safety features on this pistol.

The first of these involves the way the pistol is constructed. Unless the slide and barrel are in their forward position and the action fully closed the firing pin cannot be released.

A second safety involves the manual safety located on the left side of the receiver and called the "slide lock safety". This slide lock safety lever actually serves several functions. When pushed upward, it not only locks the slide in place but also puts the pistol in the safe position and does not allow the pistol to be fired by way of pulling the trigger. This safe condition is accomplished by the use of a projection on the under side of the slide lock safety, locking the sear and preventing movement of the firing mechanism. When the slide is in the furthest rearward position, the slide lock safety can be pushed downward locking the slide open for general cleaning. WARNING, It should be noted that when the slide has been removed from the receiver, care should be taken so that the slide lock safety lever is not moved upward into the safe position. Doing so will release the slide lock plunger and spring causing them to fly out and possibly become lost.

A third safety is the grip safety. Unless the handle is firmly grasped and the grip safety pushed in, it will block the movement of the sear and prevent the release of the firing mechanism.

The final safety is called the safety disconnector which was invented by Colt engineer George Tansley in 1916. This safety, which is also known as the Tansley device is only found on models with a serial number above 141,000 according to the Colt literature, but in practice the device was actually being installed on pistols with serial numbers beginning around 139,000. For this safety, if a round was left in the chamber and the magazine is removed, the safety disconnector positively breaks all connections between the trigger and sear. Colt was rather proud of this Tansley device and included a green colored brochure marking its inclusion with every Model 1908 sold for an entire year after its introduction. Colt even changed the left side of the slide inscription to include the patent date for the disconnector. The patent date on the slide for the Tansley device is the only month that is fully spelled and not abbreviated. This change in the slide marking was done some where around serial number 208,000 and can be seen in the pictures above these.

The photograph on the right is of the butt of the pistol. The factory Colt magazine was in place when the picture was taken. The bottom of the magazine which is also called the magazine floor plate is stamped as follows, "CAL. 25" and then underneath that is "COLT". The first line indicates that the magazine was made to accept the .25 ACP cartridge. The second line tells us that the magazine was manufactured by Colt.  

  

  

Resource:

Colt Mk IV Series 80 Government Model instruction manual

Colt website located at: http://www.colt.com/

Cartridges of the world by Frank C. Barnes  

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