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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
A friend brought over his 1903 Colt hammerless in 32-ACP. He had never fired it before, so I checked it over and it looked safe. He loaded it and fired a few rounds, of which the first couple fired fine. After the third or fourth round, he pulled the trigger and nothing happened – no hammer drop--. I thought he might not be squeezing in the grip-safety far enough, but he was. He tried to rack and eject the chambered round, but the slide was locked. He handed the pistol to me and I noticed that the safety was halfway engaged. Since the 1903 has no detent on the safety, I figured it had just migrated during firing. I attempted to push the safety down with normal pressure, but it seemed to be dragging. When I applied moderate pressure on it, the safety snapped down and the pistol fired. I immediately unloaded the pistol and dry-fired it a couple of times as an op’s check. I noticed that when the slide is pulled back far enough to cock the hammer, the safety moves up slightly. When the safety moves up (about 1/8”), the hammer seems to release slightly, but gets hung up on something else. When this happens, the only way to “un-jam” it is to push down on the safety, which will cause the pistol to fire. Since the safety seems to raise up slightly when the slide is retracted and released, I tried to see if it would push down after the slide closed to battery – which it did with no resistance. After dry-firing it a few times (making sure the safety was fully down before each trigger-pull), the hammer dropped normally, with a crisp break. I decided to live-fire the pistol again and it cycled and function fine, as long as the safety was slid back down before each shot was fired.
I disassembled the pistol, and removed the hammer and safety lever for inspection. With it disassembled, I could not find anything obviously broken/worn, or out-of-place. While inspecting the hammer, I noticed that the sear notch looks fairly small, maybe about .010”-.015” tall (is this a normal notch height??). It also appears that someone has ‘dressed’ the notch up with a grinder (it appears to be grinder marks, not file marks, but looks like it was nicely done). Anyway, is it possible that someone tried to lighten the trigger-pull, but inadvertently changed the orientation of the sear and notch (moving the notch up the hammer few thousands of an inch). Would this cause the safety to not work properly??? Would it cause the hammer to hit one of the safety components???? Is the hammer over-extending when it's cocked??? --- Again, when the hammer fails to drop, it feels like it is releasing from the sear, but then hangs-up on something in the safety mechanism. If the safety is slid down before the hammer is dropped, the pistol fires fine. Also, the safety moves freely with the hammer either cocked or dropped, it only has resistance when the hammer drops slightly and hangs on sonthing internal.
Does anyone have any ideals on what is happening here??? I was thinking it may be the hammer??? Should I order one and see if it fixes it problem, or do you think something else could be the cause???
Any help/suggestions would be appreciated…
TOM
 

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Taking y0ur description in toto, I'm inclined to think your idea about the hammer may be correct.

If you can get a new hammer, I'd do it, and probably also the sear. If that doesn't do it - I dunno.
 

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There should be a half cock notch on the hammer if the serial number of the pistol is around 420,000 or perhaps a bit more and beyond. That would catch the hammer and hold it there in the event it slips off of the full cock position.

Sounds as if the sear notch or notches in the hammer have been worked over and the hammer is falling off the sear as the slide goes home. The pistols with the half cock notch hammers also have a different sear and fireing pin from the earlier guns to complete the modification/change in design.

There are a couple of changes in the internal shape of the blocking lug surface on the safety also.

Perhaps the pistol has a part or two from one era matched up with part(s) from another and improperly home gunsmithed in an attempt to get it to function.
 

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another possibility - along the lines of ktr - I disassembled my 1908 .380 and when I reassembled it the gun doubled. The main spring is like a 1911 spring with 3 tines. I had reassembled the gun incorrectly and had missed the sear entirely. Everything functioned as it was supposed to - grip safety, trigger, etc. until I put a magazine with ammo in the gun and chambered a round. boom boom so fast it sounded like 1 round! I found a gunsmith in Virginia who did a reassemble and tuneup - the gun works fine. PM me if you want his information and I'll dig it out for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Ktr,
I will have to get with him and check the S/N, but I am positive it was in the 400,000 range. The hammer did not have a half-cock notch. If it ever had one, it was removed a long time ago, as the surface around the notch has an aged patina to it.
I believe the hammer is installed correctly, but I could be wrong as you cannot inspect the arrangement—even with the grips removed.
Everyone, thanks for your suggestions. I will look the pistol over again and see what I can learn.
I think the key here is why is the safety moving up. It is not simply sliding up because of vibration, it is being FORCED up when the slide is all the way back --- possibly when the hammer is forced all the way down past the sear notch (over-extended). Once the slide has moved into battery, the safety can easily be moved back down ---- of which the pistol will function normally.

Again, thanks for your ideas and suggestions. I may need to do some research on the S/N range and look into what components should be in this pistol.
 
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