Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Colt DS II .38 Special

Colt has a long history of producing of firearms for military and law enforcement.  From their very inception Colt percussion revolvers were purchased by various military and para military units and Colt, among other manufacturers, sold rifles to the Union Army during the Civil War (or the war of Northern aggression depending upon where you live).  Colt is still producing rifles for the military but signed their first handgun contract in 1872 and continued to provide pistols to the government until 1986.  Those are both long runs.

On the law enforcement side Colt provided their early percussion revolvers to law enforcement and much of their revolver innovations through the decades originated with input from rangers, sheriffs, and city police officers.  Such is the case with the evolution of the DS-II.  

When Theodore Roosevelt was the Police Superintendent for the New York City Police Department he standardized the handgun for the NYPD and issued them the six shot Colt Police Positive in .32 Colt Police.  Eventually the NYPD upgraded to the .38 Special and it wasn't long before detectives and plain clothed police officers began requesting a smaller, more concealable handgun.  So, in 1927 Colt introduced the Detective Special with a 2 inch barrel and shortened checkered wood grips.  

In 1973 Colt beefed up the Detective Special and added an ejector shroud and oversized wooden grips.  In 1986 the handgun buying public was enamored with stainless steel revolvers and 9mm pistols thus, due to poor sales, Colt discontinued the Detective Special.

In 1993, after Colt emerged from bankruptcy, the Detective Special was reintroduced, this time with wrap around rubber grips.  But in 1995 the Detective Special was once again discontinued when Colt introduced the SF-VI revolver.  It was fairly identical to the Detective Special except this one was produced only in stainless steel with the same rubber grips as the prior version of the Detective Special.  Colt only referred to the revolver as the SF-VI which has caused speculation that it stood for Short Frame Version One or Stainless Frame Version One.  In 1996 after all prior blued versions of the Detective Special was out of their inventory Colt re-christened the SF-VI the DS-II.  As with the SF-VI Colt never revealed the the meaning of the initials DS-II.  Many speculate that is means Detective Special II and that works for me.

This DS-II comes with the wrap around rubber grip which are not as large as they look and provide enough tacky feel to ensure a positive grasp of the handgun.  Recoil is not bad even with +P loads however, after about 100 rounds, I did feel the need for a little extra cushion and put on an old leather weight lifting glove.  

The trigger pull on this revolver is pretty darn good with a very smooth double action pull of just under 8 pounds and a single action pull of 4 pounds.  The sights are the standard ramped and serrated front sight with a wide rear notch on the top strap, just in front of the hammer.  

I warmed up with 18 rounds of American Eagle 125 grain FMJ at 21 feet.

I then put 32 rounds of the same ammo into this target at 30 feet.

I then got down to business with some defensive ammunition:

This target was shot  with 10 rounds of Federal Hydra-Shok 129 grain +P Jacketed Hollow Point ammo at 21 feet.

The target below was shot with 10 rounds of Federal Hydra-Shok 129 grain +P Jacketed Hollow Point ammo at 30 feet.

For those who question the revolver's place in today's battery of arms I have to admit that a revolver generally carries less ammunition then a semi-automatic pistol (usually nine rounds less). I will also concede that a double action trigger pull is not as easy to manage as a lighter semi-automatice that also has a shorter and faster reset.  However most citizen defensive encounters are fought at a very close range with only a few rounds actually fired.  Therefore 15 rounds with a competition grade trigger will not needed.

Here the DS-II rides in one of my favorite holsters from Classic Old West Styles ( 
I love the classic look of this holster which fits the DS-II like a glove.

Lastly I would remind everyone to respect the old man with a revolver...he probably knows how to use it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,

I purchased a DS-II new in 1998, after reading an article by Massad Ayoob, for the princely sum of $349. I still have it and couldn't bear to part with it. Ayoob stated back then that for someone who planned to carry a .38 snubbie as their primary handgun, the DS-II would be the top choice. It's still a great choice today. I carry mine in either a Milt Sparks IWB holster, or a High Noon pocket holster.

I heard your review on the Gun Nation podcast, and your comments about the trigger pull. My example has a nice trigger as well, almost exactly the same as yours, and it came that way right out of the box. These revolvers were known to have excellent triggers, Colt really made an effort to get it right. I can't understand why they didn't sell a million of them.

Also, the stock grip is a copy of the Pachmayr Compac. The difference is that the Colt grip is a 2-piece grip, while the genuine Pachmayr grip is a 1-piece design. The Pachmayr also is made with a somewhat softer rubber compound that doesn't pound the "clooney" as much. It actually fit my DS-II better than the Colt grips. I highly recommend you get a pair of the Compac grips, you won't regret it.

Thanks for the outstanding website and all the hard work you put into it. Give my best to Doc and Paul as well, you three make a great team. I really look forward to the podcasts!


Scott in Columbia, SC