Colt Nat. Match .38 MR cartridge. - Pistolsmith

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Old 03-16-2003, 11:47 AM   #1
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7
Colt Nat. Match .38 MR cartridge.

I have a question:
I have been seeing Colt Nat Match .38 mid range pistols advertised for sale. Is the cartridge a .38 special case ? If so, what is the bullet configuration? Is it flush, similar to the S&W mod. 52 , or does it stick out . If any one knows , please let me know ---Thanks
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Old 03-16-2003, 01:22 PM   #2
Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 458
They were for the 148 grain wadcutters. They were seated completely inside the case. The case was standard .38 special.

They were very light load target pistols only.

If I remember correctly, the factory mags were also block to hold only 5 rounds.

Clark always seemed to be the expert on these guns, as they did similiar conversions and I believe still sell converted mags.
Old 10-13-2003, 06:58 PM   #3
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 5
.38 special WC

Pardon my ignorance, but could someone direct me to information concerning the .38 Sp. WC round and its use in the 1911. I am guessing that it is for Bullseye shooting? Is this Nat. Match pistol type less desirable than other types of Nat. Match pistols? Because it is in that caliber / round; post-war vs. pre-war, etc....

Thanks ahead for the guidance.

Old 10-14-2003, 06:16 AM   #4
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 91
Re: .38 special WC

Originally Posted by DHunt
could someone direct me to information concerning the .38 Sp. WC round and its use in the 1911. I am guessing that it is for Bullseye shooting? Is this Nat. Match pistol type less desirable than other types of Nat. Match pistols?
Colt started making these pistols around 1960. They were designed to shoot regular flush-seated, roll-crimped .38 Special match wadcutters, and were definitely intended for use in NRA 2700 bullseye shooting. They differ in one monstrous way from all other 1911s of the period: they are totally devoid of locking lugs. The top of the barrel is bald. No grooves in the inside of the slide. 100% straight blowback. The barrel is sprung at the back of the bottom lug, which is now simply a recoil lug, not a locking lug.

The old boys at my club tell me the first few thousand pistols came with standard chambers, but cycling was erratic due to the combination of variations in recoil impulse from different .38 loads and the straight blowback function. Colt's solution was to produce a ringed chamber to increase friction on the case and retard extraction. It was not a stunning success. Jim Clark's competing conversions apparently used the regular tilting-barrel design with locking lugs intact, and were both reliable and accurate. Smith 52s would also generally outperform the factory Colt .38s, right out of the box. They were dropped from the catalogue around the mid- or late 70s.

I've shot mine (first-generation standard chamber, made in 1962) in 2700s and in ISSF Center Fire matches enough to say that it's a very accurate and reliable pistol with Federal and Winchester factory loads, but it's a challenge to handload for. That %$/"*&ôƒ blowback system demands very consistent loads and, most importantly, extremely uniform roll-crimping. Variations in case length seem to affect this parameter immensely.

As far as desirability goes, it's definitely a collectible piece that occupies a unique niche in National Matchdom. But this is largely due to its relative scarcity and odd construction, rather than its stellar shooting qualities. Its fussiness makes it easy to leave in the vault. I gladly use my NM .45 for NRA Center Fire instead.

Old 10-14-2003, 07:30 AM   #5
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 5
Thanks on the NM.38 Mid Range

Dear coach,

I appreciate the great enlightenment. I was not familiar with the configuration, but have heard and read alot able the desirability of NM pistols and wondered about these particular ones.
One of the shops around here has one for sale, and I will go and look more closely at the barrel and chamber.
What would be a fair price for one of these?

Thanks again.

Old 10-14-2003, 08:27 AM   #6
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 91

Price is hard to pin down. Use as a guide; there's one there now for $1795 US, but it's in supposedly superb condition. I could have easily sold mine (somewhere between NRA Very Good and Excellent condition) for $1300 US.

A cosmetically-worn but intact and shootable example should trade for well under a grand.

By the way, Jim Clark's magazines for Clark .38 Special conversions fit these pistols, according to Clark Custom Guns. $75 US each, in current production. I mention this because original Colt factory magazines are very hard to find. Most pistols shipped with two, but NRA shooters like to have upwards of six, so there has been some hoarding....

Bear in mind that the average pistolsmith will be unable to employ his usual bag of 1911 barrel accurizing tricks on this pistol. Weld up the locking lugs? Hah! WHAT locking lugs?? Hard fit the slide stop pin? Pffft!! The hole is an OVAL. Some younger 'smiths may never even have SEEN one of these. There is NO aftermarket support for the barrel and barrel rebound spring. And the frame is different as well; abandon any hope of putting a .45 top end on this frame without cutting on the feedramp first.

Finally, I can almost guarantee that the pistol (any encountered specimen) will have its original recoil spring in it. The spring will either be compressed from a life of vault-dwelling or pounded to sh#t, and a good spring is CRUCIAL to this weapon's proper operation, as it's the only thing that controls slide timing. (Remember: there's no link, no bottom lugs to cam onto the slide stop pin, and and no top lugs to unlock.) No idea what weight they shipped with, either. Better put Wolff on speed dial, or buy a calibration pack and a case of wadcutters.

I wouldn't buy a second one. I'd get another late 50s NM .45, instead.

Your mileage may vary.

Old 10-25-2003, 03:40 PM   #7
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 91
If it wasn't for bad lugs, I wouldn't have no lugs at all.

(With apologies to Mssrs. Jones & Bell.)
Old 05-18-2004, 07:57 PM   #8
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 1,420
The Clarks' will still play with one of these for you. Even if you don't play with it, they are one of the MOST rare of the rare...I'm not a collector, but if I was, I'd certainly TRY to get a good specimen of this short-lived pistol.

If you wanna' SHOOT a 1911 in 38, try the Super...great all-around cartridge and a ball to shoot...plenty of 'em around too...g2
Have fun...

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