- What's it worth?
This is overwhelmingly the number one question I am asked, and it is one that I cannot answer. The value depends very much on the exact condition and on all parts and finish being factory original, so it is not possible to give a realistic estimate without a hands on examination. Collecting the Colt Woodsman is a hobby for me, not a business. Please note that I do not do appraisals, so please do not ask me to estimate the value of your gun. I have provided input to the Blue Book of Gun Values for several years, and as of the 2005 edition I also contribute to The Standard Catalog of Firearms. Each of these publications is updated annually with Colt Woodsman values and descriptions based on my recommendations to the editor. The two publications are not identical, and each has certain advantages over the other. I recommend that you consult both publications and then make your own appraisal. You can order either one or both by clicking on the links below.
If you order via the links on this page that will help support the cost of maintaining this Woodsman web site, while the cost to you will be exactly the same as if you ordered directly. Your help will be appreciated.
If you do not feel qualified to do your own appraisal with the aid of these books, Blue Book Publications will do a written appraisal for you for only $20. There are links on their web site to their appraisal service. They also have experts available to answer specific questions about almost any type of gun for a small fee.
There are also some general guidelines for value determination in my Colt Woodsman Pocket Guide at: Value Factors
- Why is my engraved Woodsman not worth as much as a factory engraved gun?
Any Colt factory engraved Woodsman is a rarity. In all the years of production, fewer than 250 were engraved at the Colt factory. Many Colts have been engraved by someone other than a Colt engraver, but regardless of the quality of the engraving they usually will not have comparable value to an original factory engraved gun. The reason is collectibility based on rarity. An identical gun could be created by a skilled craftsman, but it could never be one of the very few ORIGINAL factory engraved Colt Woodsmans. The Colt shipping records show that only about 151 first series (pre-World War II) Woodsmans were factory engraved prior to first sale. Those consisted of 126 Target Models, 14 Sport Models, and 11 Match Target Models.
- When was it made?
Regular production began in 1915 and ended in 1977. It is possible to determine the approximate date of manufacture from the serial number by consulting my table of manufacture dates.
The following caveats apply:
- The guns were neither assembled nor shipped in numerical sequence, and overlaps of several thousand numbers are common! A single shipment of a dozen or so
guns often contained serial numbers spanning a range of several thousand, which might be typical of numbers used over a period of two or three years.
- Several different sets of serial numbers were used, so it is important to use ALL of the numbers and letters in the serial number. For example: 1001, MT1001, 1001-S, 1001-C, and 001001S are all valid serial numbers dating from 1916, 1938, 1948, 1950, and 1969, respectively.
- A few hundred guns were assembled after regular production ceased, between 1977 and the late 1980s and possibly later. The serial numbers on those guns were intermixed with numbers used years earlier.
- The latest date anywhere on it is 1918. Is that when it was made?
No. All the pre-WWII guns had the patent dates on the barrel. Normally there were two dates in 1918 and one 1903 date. Those made prior to 1918 had only the 1903 date, of course. The 1903 patent actually had nothing to do with the Woodsman, which was not even in the conceptual stage in 1903, but Colt used the earlier patent to give them some protection until the unique features of the Woodsman could be patented.
- My (Woodsman Challenger Huntsman Targetsman) has no patent dates on the barrel. Why?
The Challenger, Huntsman, and Targetsman are all POST WWII. The post WWII guns did not carry the patent dates. If your Woodsman is pre-WWII and it does not have the patent dates on the barrel, it probably has been re-barrelled. The parts replacement barrels have no patent dates on them.
- Where is the serial number located?
On the pre-WWII Target and Sport model the serial number is on the front grip strap. On the pre-WWII Match Target it is normally on the butt, near where the magazine is inserted. On some late first series Match Target models it is on the front grip strap. On all 2nd and 3rd series guns the serial number is located on the forward portion of the frame, right hand side.
- What model and series is it?
There are three series of Woodsman pistols, corresponding to three basic frame designs. First Series refers to all those built on the S frame as it existed prior to and during World War Two. Second Series includes all versions built on the second S frame design from late 1947 until mid 1955, and Third Series means the third S frame design as used from 1955 to the end of regular production in 1977.
Each series had a Sport Model with a 4-1/2 inch round barrel, a Target Model with a 6 or 6-5/8 inch round barrel, and a Match Target Model with a heavy, flat sided barrel. For the first series Match Target that flat sided barrel was 6-5/8 inches in length, while in the post war versions it was either 4-1/2 or 6 inches.
There were also three very similar economy models during the post war years only: the Challenger, the Huntsman, and the Targetsman.
The following checklist will help you determine which version you have:
- If the serial number contains only numerals, with no alphabetical characters, it is a first series.
- If the only alphabetical characters in the serial number are MT, it is a first series.
- If it is marked Challenger, it is a second series.
- If it has a push button magazine release just aft of the trigger guard, it is a second series.
- If it is marked Huntsman or Targetsman, it is a third series.
- If the magazine release is at the heel of the butt, AND the pistol has an S at the end of the serial number, it is a third series.
- My barrel length is closer to 5 inches, but it doesn't appear to have been cut. Why?
The barrel is measured from breech to muzzle: ie., from where the bullet goes in to where it comes out. It is NOT measured from where the barrel emerges from the frame.
- Why are your descriptions and names different from those in my Gun Trader's Guide? Gun Digest Value Guide? Various other publications?
That's easy! Because mine are correct and theirs are not. The
Standard Catalog of Firearms
and The Blue Book of Gun Values both correctly describes the various models and the three series, based on the same criteria used here. Some others use a misleading "issue" classification that results in some models and series being mis-identified, with resultant errors in the listed values. They also include assertions that have no basis in fact, such as the widely (and erroneously) repeated claim that the high speed mainspring housing distinguishes the first from the second "issue."
- Can I shoot modern ammo in it?
Short answer: Yes. BUT: Woodsmans made prior to 1933 were designed for standard velocity .22 LR. Those made after 1933 were all designed for high velocity .22 LR, with a stronger recoil spring and a case hardened mainspring housing, which is the part that takes the brunt of the recoil. The transition took place in the early part of 1933. They all will handle standard velocity ammo, which is what all target .22 LR is to this day. I do not recommend firing high velocity ammo in one of the early guns (before 1933). Just buy target ammo and use that. It is more accurate, and less noisy besides.
If your Woodsman is pre-WWII it will have a pattern on the mainspring housing, where the web between the thumb and forefinger touches when holding the pistol in firing position. If that pattern is checkered (left), it was made for standard velocity ammo. If the pattern is horizontal parallel lines (right), it was designed for high velocity ammo. If it is a post WWII gun it will have no such pattern, because all were designed for high velocity ammo.
- Can I convert my pre-1933 Woodsman to use high velocity ammo?
It is possible, and easy if you can find the correct parts. In the early days Colt sold a conversion kit consisting of a heat treated mainspring housing and a stiffer recoil spring. The kits are virtually impossible to find today, and expensive because they have become collectors items. It is sometimes possible to find a high speed mainspring housing that has been salvaged from a junker or a police salvage. If you should find a high speed mainspring housing, you will also need a replacement recoil spring.
- I read somewhere else that all Woodsmans with a serial number higher than 83790
were made for high velocity ammo. My serial number is 85xxx, but it has the low speed mainspring housing. Is this a rare variation?
No. The guns were not assembled in numerical sequence, so while it may be true that all Woodsmans assembled later than 83790 were made for high velocity ammo, that is not the same as saying that all with a higher serial number than 83790 were so equipped. Some with higher numbers were made earlier than 83790, and have the low speed housing, and some with lower numbers were made later than 83790 and have the high speed housing. ALL of them made after the 1933 phase in were designed for high velocity ammunition. That would of course include ALL Match Target models (introduced 6 years later, in 1938) and ALL post-WWII guns, even though many postwar guns have serial numbers lower than 83790 due to the numbering sequence being restarted several times from 1947 to 1976. Unlike the pre-WWII guns, however, all post-WWII guns have an alphabetical suffix to the serial number.
- I read somewhere else that the Woodsman marking was added to the frame at serial number 34000. I have serial number 45xxx with no Woodsman markings. Is this a rare variation?
No. The confusion over this matter all stems from a typographical error that originated in about 1941, when the author meant to say 54000, but 34000 got into print. Numerous other writers in later years then perpetuated the error. Horace Greeley IV, in his 1972 Man at Arms article, correctly stated the 54000 number based on his own original research in the shipping and manufacturing records at Colt.
- How do I take it apart for cleaning?
It's easy if you know how, but very difficult to describe. I received permission from the NRA to post an American Rifleman article from 1953 on my Woodsman web site. This article has the best explanation I have seen of assembly/disassembly of the Colt Woodsman series. The line drawings are especially good. It includes removal and replacement (on the post-WWII guns) of the firing pin, extractor, and slide stop spring - in my experience those are the Woodsman parts that most often need replacing. I have also reproduced instructions from a 1915 Colt "Owner's Manual." You can see both sets of instructions by clicking here.
- I took it apart and cleaned it, but it won't go back together. What's wrong?
The recoil spring has probably been jarred out of its captured position. The following note is part of the Colt instructions:
NOTE: If, at any time, during the taking apart or assembling, the recoil spring should jar off from the assembly lock, it should be again pressed into its forward position and held secure by pressing down the assembly lock plunger.
Unfortunately, the wording of this note is not crystal clear, but it is very important. I have had dozens, perhaps hundreds, of telephone calls, letters, and emails from people who could not put their Woodsman back together, and the cause has almost always been due to the recoil spring having been knocked out of its captured position. The assembly lock is easily jarred loose from the recoil spring guide, thereby allowing the recoil spring to expand to the rear of the slide. To someone who doesn't know what it is supposed to look like, that condition will look perfectly normal, but in fact the pistol cannot be re-assembled until the recoil spring is re-captured by the assembly lock. That is not easy to do, but it can be done with patience, some mechanical aptitude, and a tool with which to compress the recoil spring back into the slide so the assembly lock can be re-engaged in the recoil spring guide. I use a small, flat bladed screwdriver for that tool.
Recoil Spring in Captured Position (Correct)
Recoil Spring out of Captured Position (Incorrect)
Recoil Spring AND Recoil Spring Guide out of position (Really, Really, Incorrect)
A 2nd Series Match Target slide is used for the above three illustrations, but the recoil spring positioning information is the same for all models and all series. Thanks to Adam Patrick for the photos.
- My Match Target "Bullseye" model has a beautiful set of grips with a palm swell and thumb rest. Were these special order?
While a very few were special ordered with custom grips by Roper or others, the vast majority of those that have special grips were so fitted after being sold at retail.
- I got a good deal on a Bullseye Match Target. Very nice shape, but it has plastic grips. Where can I get a set of the original one piece wrap around walnut grips cheap?
If you find out, let me know! Pre-WWII Match Target Woodsmans are often fitted with replacement stocks, due to the original "Elephant Ear" stocks having been lost or broken.
The original stocks bring a very good price by themselves, so a "bargain" in a Bullseye Model with any type of replacement stocks is probably not a true bargain.
Except for military guns, which are government marked, nearly all First Series Match Target Woodsmans were equipped with Elephant Ear stocks when they left the factory.
- I bought a Woodsman magazine at a gun show, but it doesn't fit my Woodsman. Why?
The Woodsman used several varieties of magazines through the years and not all of them are interchangeable. Pre-WWII magazines will not work in post-WWII guns, and vice-versa. Second series magazines will work in third series guns, but only some third series magazines will work in second series guns. There are some after market magazines available, but they are not of good quality and frequently malfunction. If they are Colt originals, they will have Colt markings. You can see photos of various Woodsman magazines, along with a table of interchangeability, by clicking here
- I have a 2nd series Woodsman, with a push button magazine release aft of the trigger guard like on the Colt .45 Auto. The only thing wrong is that it has plastic grips. Do you have any original walnut grips for it?
No, there is no such thing. ALL 2nd series Woodsmans (those with the magazine release just aft of the trigger guard) and all Challengers came from the factory with plastic grips. The early 3rd series guns also came with plastic grips.
The plastic grips that Colt made were good quality from their introduction in 1947 until 1950, at about SN 71200-S. They were a multi-colored orange-black-brown swirl that resembled wood grain, and were made from a solid material, similar to Bakelite, which Colt called Coltwood. In 1950 Colt switched to injection molded plastic grips that are hollow on the inside, and the frame was changed slightly to secure the injection molded grips. Because of the small differences in the earlier and later frames, the new style plastic grips will not fit the earlier 2nd series guns, but the earlier 2nd series grips will fit on the later 2nd series guns, and in fact continued to be used until existing supplies were depleted. For a short while the injection molded grips had the same multi-color wood grain look as the earlier Coltwood grips, but the color was then changed to solid brown which subsequently appeared in several shades over the next few years. Colt continued to describe the grip material as Coltwood, although it was significantly different from the original Coltwood material.
The Walnut grips that were used on the later 3rd series guns can be easily modified to fit a second series gun by relieving the area on the right hand grip panel to allow space for the magazine release to move when it is pressed to release the magazine.
- The plastic grips on my 2nd series Woodsman were broken, so I bought another pair at a gun show. When I got them home I found that they did not fit. Why is this?
Not all 2nd series Woodsman plastic grips will interchange. The injection molded grips have tabs on the left side grip panel for rotational stability. When Colt switched from Coltwood (a material similar to Bakelite) to injection molded plastic, changes were made in the grip frame area to accomodate the tabs. Those later grips (bottom) will not fit an early type 2nd series Woodsman frame (top).
- My 3rd series Woodsman has black plastic grips, but I would prefer walnut. Would walnut be correct?
With the introduction of the 3rd series Woodsman the color of the plastic grips was changed to solid black, but they were otherwise identical to the late 2nd series brown plastic grips. In 1960, at about SN 189200-S, Colt switched to real walnut. Dealers were offered the opportunity to upgrade existing stock with the new walnut grips, so earlier 3rd series guns will
sometimes have the walnut stocks. Of course many others have been upgraded after the fact by their owners.
- My Woodsman is a pre-WWII Target model with a 6-1/2 inch barrel and an adjustable front sight. Was this a special order combination?
No. All pre-WWII (1st Series) Target Models came with a 6-1/2 inch barrel and an adjustable front sight, from their introduction in 1915 until phase out after WWII. The 1st Series Sport Model had a 4-1/2 inch barrel, and was offered with a fixed front sight only when introduced in 1933. Beginning in about 1938 an adjustable front sight was added as an option for the Sport Model. None of the post-WWII type guns (2nd and 3rd series) had an adjustable front sight. The First Series Match Target (Bullseye) model came with a fixed front sight only and a fully adjustable rear sight.
- Is there any difference between a Sport Model and a Target Model other than the barrel length and front sight?
No, with a couple minor exceptions early in the 2nd series only. The postwar Sport Model had no thumbrest on the left grip until 1950, and it had a fixed rear sight from mid 1949 until mid 1950.
- When I removed the mainspring housing the sear spring fell out. How does it go back in?
The narrow end goes at the top. It must be resting on the sear, and under the hammer strut.
Top End Sear Spring Tabbed End Tab
Notch for sear spring tab
Post-WWII model illustrated (2nd or 3rd Series). The post-WWII versions have a tab at the lower end of the sear spring that fits into a slot near the bottom of the grip frame area.
The sear spring for the pre-WWII Woodsman is part of an assembly with the magazine release, so it does not have the tab at the lower end.
I have a first series Woodsman, 138000 serial number range, that is in the original box with all the things that came with it, including the magazine. I have been told that the magazine is incorrect because it is blued the full length and that it should be a two-tone. Is that true?
No, although you will probably hear that a lot. In about 1939 Colt changed the manufacturing process slightly. One result is that the later magazines are all blue, while the earlier ones are "two-tone". They will freely interchange.