Rebuilt M1917 .45 Revolvers

Some WWII Gun Collectors Prefer Rebuilt M1917 .45 Revolvers
Gun Collecting: By John Kullman

Colt M1917 Revolver
Colt M1917 Revolver

Michigan –-( The United States was the only major combatant of WWI and WWII that issued handguns to non-commissioned officers.

Most nations treated handguns as a symbol status to be handed out to officers, not as a frontline battle weapon. The U.S. considered side arms an important supplement to the trench fighting of the First World War. The average combatant of the Great War carried a bolt-action rifle and the use of a quick-firing pistol is easy to understand when it comes to defending or assaulting trenches.

The standard military pistol at the time of the U.S.’s entry into WWI was the M1911 .45 automatic. But because the country was woefully unprepared to fight, a supplementary pistol was required that could be more quickly manufactured. Colt redesigned its M1909 revolver and the M1917 was born. The M1917 fired the same round as the M1911 and filled the combat gaps that weren’t able to procure the more desirable M1911’s. Colt produced 150,000 M1917s, with Smith & Wesson adding an additional 153,000 M1917s to military stocks during the war.

After the war, the M1917 was retired and became part of the country’s reserve stock. When the United Stated entered WWII, it was once again woefully under armed. The M1917’s were taken out of the reserve stock and refurbished. Most were cleaned and the original blued metal was parkerized. Most retained their walnut grips but a few were given plastic grips. The arsenal performing the refurbishing work was stamped on the frame.

Most refurbished M1917’s were used by the Military Police and as training weapons, but nearly 21,000 made it to the various fronts. Many WWII collectors prefer the refurbished M1917’s to the same model used in WWI. Evidence of parkerization, buffing and arsenal initials indicates a refurbished pistol. After WWII, the M1917 was retired and many were sold to civilians.

Colt M1917 Revolver Schematic
Colt M1917 Revolver Schematic

John Kullman is managing editor of, a website that tracks and reports on media bias against guns and Second Amendment rights.

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