King Colts

King Colts

It's one of those prolific points of discussion when it comes to guns, one that can be very touchy with some folks, and it seems that everybody who fools with guns has an example. The ones that got away. My own cases in this unfortunate study are disheartening, and I generally attempt to avoid serious thought of them as the grieving can be embarrassing. But now and again something will trigger thoughts of a fugitive firearm that I slipped up and let go, and the pining starts, regardless.

The most recent episode involved a visit with one of my brush-beating compadres, midwestern land baron, NRA Board Member, and wildfowl conservationist Lance Olson. A renowned collector and expert in firearms, Olson frequents the Southwest and other areas of the country in search of various collectibles, occasionally permitting me to catch a glimpse--or even handle--some of his acquisitions. During his latest sortie, I discovered Olson had landed a fine Colt Single Action Army in one of my all-time favorite calibers, .44 Special. A 1st Generation Colt, the revolver had been highly customized. Upon closer examination, it was clear the gun had been modified by late gunsmithing legend Dean King. I generally cringe at the sight of a good 1st Generation single action that's been modified--such behavior is villainous in my book--but I do find modifications by King to be much less offensive.


Olson's revolver was a 4¾-inch single action with original Colt hard rubber grips featuring the famous eagle. The finish was of bright blue, no casecolors. The barrel had been fitted with a ventilated rib, which ran from the front of the gun's frame to the end of the barrel, one of King's signatures. The revolver's sights were another King touch. Gunsmith King invented the famous mirror front sight, which was basically a ramped sight with the blade set high. The ramp featured a small, round mirror that had been inset into the top of the ramp in front of the sight blade at an angle. This permitted available light to be reflected directly upon the front sight for maximum clarity. The rear sight was fully adjustable and looked similar to a Smith & Wesson rear sight.


It was after World War I when Mr. King began his famous gunsmithing work. Back then nobody really thought twice about wrecking the value of a Colt Single Action Army, heck they were still in production. King's modifications were executed tastefully and really enhanced the shootability of a handgun. While most of these modifications were done on Colts, Mr. King experimented with other firearms as well.

As I looked over Monsieur Olson's King Colt, it brought back memories of a couple of guns that I'd let get away from me, including one of my dad's personal favorite revolvers. Dad had a respectable compilation of firearms, though he never considered himself a real collector. He had a number of favorites that remained constant; otherwise he never felt much emotion about trading anything off. One of the main handguns always by his bedside was a Colt SAA 1st Generation in .45 Colt. The revolver had been customized to his personal specifications and was a finely timed piece of work. The action was silky smooth, and the trigger pull was one of the lightest I'd ever felt on a revolver. While the Colt had no ventilated rib, it was fitted with a King mirror front sight, and the rear sight was what I always thought was a Smith & Wesson adjustable but could have likely been a King as well, though I never thought to ask. The revolver's backstrap had the bluing polished away to natural steel and was finished off with a beautiful set of Herrett's French Walnut grips. In all, it was a fine sixgun--one I should have figured out how to have kept after my dad's untimely passing.


The author got lucky and acquired this nice old Colt Bisley that had been modified by legendary gunsmith Dean King. The moral of this story is to not just quickly dismiss a modified gun — you might be passing up a real gem.

As luck would have it, I was contacted by an old friend of our family's a few years back, one Mrs. Bennie Dean. Her late husband, Tom, had been a dear friend of my dad's; they had worked together as U.S. Customs Investigators in South Texas in the late 1960s. Tom was a shooter and gun enthusiast, and he had told my dad that he had always wanted a Colt Bisley. He, too, admired King's stuff and was fond of Dad's single action .45. The old man scrounged up a Bisley--they weren't too hard to come by back then at a decent price--and went to work on a custom sixgun for Tom.


Upon getting in touch with me, Mrs. Dean advised that she had something of Tom's that I needed. This gracious lady and I struck a deal, and I walked away with that Bisley. The old shooter was marked Colt Single Action Army .45 Colt, yet it had been converted to shoot .45 ACP. The front sight was a ramped and mirrored King with the adjustable rear sight. I've always been fond of the Bisley, and I found the gun to be a real prize. Shortly after acquiring the old beauty, I entered in a cowboy action shoot down in the Texas Big Bend and placed decently using the old hogleg. It is definitely one revolver that I'll not let get away, and while it's not my dad's old .45, it's almost as good.

My gun-trading skills have always been mediocre at best, and Lance Olson knows it, which is likely why he allows me to peruse his trappings. During his last raid, not only was he in possession of the Colt single action, he also produced a fine little Colt Pre-Woodsman .22. Upon examining it, I noticed the adjustable sights were made by King. The front sight wasn't the mirrored variety; it was the shadow model, which is almost as good. This sight was slightly undercut towards the muzzle, again to maximize the clarity of the sight blade.

Incredibly, that little Colt is now resting in my gun safe, where I intend for it to stay, along with the King Bisley. Next time you happen across an old revolver that's been modified a bit, be sure to give it a once-over. If it has a King marking, it's liable to be a keeper.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Keith Feeley of Tactical Solutions sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to talk about the new X-Ring Takedown SBR .22LR rifle.

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

We're taking a look at what the Army's Elite Units are using for service rifles and what the future of SOCOM sniping looks like.

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

James Tarr runs through the 3-Second Headshot drill.

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Shooting Times editor Joel Hutchcroft provides a comprehensive list of ideal Father's Day gifts. Accessories

Shooting Times Father's Day 2019 Gift Guide

Joel J. Hutchcroft - May 07, 2019

Shooting Times editor Joel Hutchcroft provides a comprehensive list of ideal Father's Day...

The Smith & Wesson Model 19 revolver is back in production after being on ice for nearly two decades. Handguns

Smith & Wesson Model 19 Classic Revolver Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - March 08, 2019

The Smith & Wesson Model 19 revolver is back in production after being on ice for nearly two...

The new striker-fired STR-9 9mm semiautomatic pistol from Stoeger Industries is reliable, ergonomic, accurate, and priced right. Handguns

Stoeger STR-9 Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - May 17, 2019

The new striker-fired STR-9 9mm semiautomatic pistol from Stoeger Industries is reliable,...

Cutting-edge projectiles provide unprecedented performance in the venerable old workhorse, the .30-06. Ammo

Get the Most Out of the .30-06

Joseph von Benedikt - April 01, 2019

Cutting-edge projectiles provide unprecedented performance in the venerable old workhorse, the...

See More Trending Articles

More Handguns

The new .22 LR Ruger Lite Rack LCP II is an ideal rimfire trainer to the popular .380 ACP LCP II pocket pistol. Handguns

Ruger Lite Rack LCP II Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - June 01, 2020

The new .22 LR Ruger Lite Rack LCP II is an ideal rimfire trainer to the popular .380 ACP LCP...

The Springfield Hellcat is also available in the OSP (Optical Sight Pistol) version, which has the same open sights as the standard model but a 0.190-inch-deep mortise machined into the top of the slide is a snug fit for a micro red-dot sight. It comes with a removable steel plate that fills the mortise, giving the user the option of using the gun with or without a red-dot sight. Embedding the optic allows the open sights to be viewed without having to make them uncommonly tall. Handguns

Springfield Hellcat OSP Review

Layne Simpson - June 18, 2020

The Springfield Hellcat is also available in the OSP (Optical Sight Pistol) version, which has...

The 9mm Taurus G3 represents the next generation in the Taurus G-series semiautomatic pistol line. Handguns

Taurus G3 Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - April 24, 2020

The 9mm Taurus G3 represents the next generation in the Taurus G-series semiautomatic pistol...

While most new handguns are chambered for the popular 9mm and .45 ACP, interest in .22 LR and 10mm Auto semiautomatic pistols appears to be resurging. Here's just a taste of the many exciting new handguns for 2020. Handguns

24 New Handguns for 2020

Lane Pearce - June 02, 2020

While most new handguns are chambered for the popular 9mm and .45 ACP, interest in .22 LR and...

See More Handguns

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now