The Colt Agent — A Classic Working-Man’s Snub Nosed Revolver

One of the repeated arguments in gun circles lately has been the viability of revolvers as effective defensive weapons in the modern days of a variety of automatics. I’ll have to admit I fell prey to the arguments against them for years and slowly came around to both their effectiveness and their charms.

Those arguments against revolvers are nothing new, having roots as deep or deeper as the introduction of the 1911 as the standard sidearm for the United States Armed Forces. That said, the revolver is here to stay. Possibly the most relevant type of revolver in today’s conversation would be the snub.

Snub Nose Revolvers

Highly concealable, easy to operate, extremely reliable, robust, and functional in adverse operational conditions, snub nose revolvers have a staying power in the market. Especially so, considering that Smith & Wesson, Colt, Kimber, Ruger, Charter Arms, and Taurus are all producing a variety of new guns to add to the hundreds of thousands still in circulation.

Those hundreds of thousands in circulation also make for an interesting market, because if there is anything a gun guy (or gal) likes, it’s a deal. There are a large number of perfectly serviceable ones out there, some of which are in like-new snubs. Snubs were often bought as the “have a gun” type of guns. These are the sock-drawer guns, carried-lots shot-little guns, carried-little shot-once guns, and even the never-carried left-in-the-box-of-the-top-dresser-drawer-with-the-receipt guns. While not overly abundant, they are at least more available than other categories of handguns of similar age.

Colt Agent: Snub nosed revolver required reading.
If you are going to run a snub, get some training and get some information. Grant Cunningham’s Protect Yourself with Your Snub Nosed Revolver, Ed Lovette’s The Snubby Revolver, and Michael DeBethencourt’s pamphlet Thirty Eight Straight Tips for Better Snub Shooting all could be considered required reading for the new snub owner or anyone seeking information on the subject.

The Colt Agent

This is what got me looking. I had picked up an excellent .38 special Smith & Wesson Model 60 with very little wear (none from firing) for a more than fair price. It quickly got a Tyler T grip and a replacement hammer with the spur bobbed to make it a bit easier on the draw. This had me looking for something even more jacket pocket friendly to carry, if and when the opportunity knocked.

Then a new acquaintance offered me a sight-unseen unknown Colt revolver for a great price, and I jumped on the opportunity. He met me at the Sheriff’s Office and handed it over and I was floored. Here was a very nice classic Colt Agent with most of the finish intact. I checked the serial numbers through the Sheriff’s Office and made sure the gun wasn’t stolen (it was that good a deal!) and paid the man his asking price plus gas money for meeting me.

My Colt Agent the day I got it.
My Colt Agent the day I got it.

The Colt Agent is an aluminum framed, lightweight, short-gripped version of the Colt Detective Special. Or it’s a short-gripped version of the oh so collectible aluminum-framed old model Colt Cobra. When the Agents were first made in 1955 the finish was exactly the same as the Cobra, it just had a shorter grip frame and grips, so it was a more concealable gun. Within a year they introduced a hammer shroud that was available on all three models, The Detective Special, the Cobra, and the Agent. The hammer shroud could also be retrofitted on guns without it. The shroud covered the hammer and made the gun a snag-free gun that retained the ability to cock back the hammer and go at it single action.

The Story Behind the Colt Agent

It’s not hard to see that Colt was chasing the market a little, following Smith & Wesson’s 1952 introduction of the Centennial model which later became the model 40 in steel and the model 42 in aluminum.

The story is they made the Centennial at the suggestion of Col. Rex Applegate, who suggested they combine the back of the old safety hammerless with the 38 special chambered Chief’s Special. This is the same Col. Applegate who helped found the OSS (precursor to Special forces and the CIA) and was famous, or rather INFAMOUS, for carrying a Fitz Special in 45 ACP. The same Applegate who had the ear of some people at Colt. Then all of a sudden Colt introduces a variant of the Cobra whose grip proportions bear a striking similarity to the Fitz special he carried. And they named the model, the Agent…..just like a CIA Agent.

Coincidence?

Later they changed the Cobra and Detective Special to a short frame to save on production costs. Colt just made longer grips with a bigger spacer between the sides on the butt to extend the length of the grip. In those years the only difference between the Agent and the Cobra was the length of the factory-installed grips and the model name stamped on the side of the barrel.

Once everyone started collecting the “snake guns” the prices on Cobras took off. The Detective Specials always seemed popular. The Agent…well later they made the Agent as a cheaper model with a parkerized finish. Still in a handful of years… an Agent is as good a gun as any, and the lack of the Cobra name makes it a bit more affordable.

Fixing Her Up

So, I had the little Agent for a song, and I being a big fan of how a Tyler T Grip works I added one to the gun. I considered bobbing the hammer, but instead, I spoke with a good friend and part-time gunsmith we will call Ed. Ed and I went through the Agent cleaning out more than a few year’s worth of old grease (it was made in 1968) and simply checked over the rest before reoiling the internals and closing it up. The trigger came alive. Simply put this is the smoothest, lightest, double-action snub-nosed action I have ever tried. Yet it had zero light primer strikes.

When I brought up bobbing the hammer Ed reminded me that changing the hammer mass would probably result in light primer strikes unless we changed the trigger. He suggested instead we find a hammer shroud. Now if you want to hunt 4 leaf clovers, I suggest it as a hobby before you try hunting a Colt hammer shroud. The factory kits run WAY more than I paid for the Agent. IF you can find one. We were patient and lucked up on one for about $75.

Ed and I spent an afternoon working mounting the shroud. It’s not every day most part-time gunsmiths drill into a Colt in a way not easily fixed, so we took our time. The shroud we found was likely a Waller and Sons aftermarket affair, but it fit perfectly, looked fantastic, and worked like a charm.

My Colt Agent a couple of days before we mounted the shroud.
My Colt Agent a couple of days before we mounted the shroud.

I painted the front sight day-glow orange and I took the old girl to the range. It is by no means the easiest gun to shoot. It’s still a lightweight .38 special. Yet the trigger is oh so smooth and the hammer shroud kind of makes “hips” on the back in the sight picture. That orange sight just pops out at you. The Tyler T grip makes it fit my hands better and it is only a hint larger than my J frames yet has a sixth-round on tap. Plus, it fits my hand better.

The Colt Agent with Six rounds at the ready and the front sight just POPs with the orange paint and the wide hips of the hammer shroud.
Six rounds at the ready and the front sight just POPs with the orange paint and the wide hips of the hammer shroud.

The Agent as Part of My EDC

I added it to my gun list at my agency and qualified with it at the first opportunity. I had more than a handful of speed loaders that fit, and several speed strips. It has served as a bag gun, a backup gun, a jacket pocket gun, a spare gun, and sometimes it’s the gun I slip into my pocket for walking the dog.

You can never have enough speedloaders. HKS #10s work fine with the Colt Agent.
You can never have enough speedloaders. HKS #10s work fine with the Colt Agent.
Colt Agent snub nosed revolver, 8 round speed strips with 2 rat shot.
I use the 8 round speed strips, with 2 rat shot in the speed strip. Every shooting problem isn’t a people problem. Rat shot provides a safer alternative at times for rodent, or pest problems.
The Colt Agent has found itself in an ankle holster in my bag with a blade by knifemaker Joe Watson.
The Colt Agent has found itself in an ankle holster in my bag with a blade by knifemaker Joe Watson.
After over a year of me carrying it the Colt shows a little more wear, yet still looks great.
After over a year of me carrying it the Colt shows a little more wear, yet still looks great.

And Then There Were Two

I’ve looked at many of the snubs out there, .22s, .327s, .38s, and .357 magnums, and I even have more than my fair share of them. Yet none seem to compare with the 1968 Agent that has a look akin to a fastback mustang of the same era.

I like it so much I jumped on the opportunity to pick up another Agent, this time a parkerized second issue model, along with a factory rampant Colt stamped hammer shroud. I’ll find a nice set of early style short Agent grips and a Tyler T grips to complete the package. It never hurts to have a spare.

2nd Issue Colt Agent, parkerized.
The 2nd Issue, parkerized Agent I snagged as a spare.

I still carry the Agent either in a bag or a pocket daily. It may technically be antique, but it will definitely get the job done and it looks good doing it.

Colt Agent snub nosed revolver, classic look.
It certainly has a classic look, doesn’t it?

You might like to read this: Colt Python: now “refined and upgraded”

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Jake Bush

Jake is a LEO down Georgia-Florida way. Jake describes himself thusly: I’m a small town deputy sheriff. I’m not special forces, I’m not SWAT, I’m not metro with LAPD or a homicide detective with the NYPD. I’m basically a problem solver. Everyday I handle calls from the mundane car in the roadway, to the worst calls for service, and everything in between. What I write will be from this perspective because I have no other. I hope something I write helps you.” Jake has been a night-shifter for years, and a cop for over a decade and a half. Despite an uncanny resemblance to Peter Griffin (especially when he’s in his uniform shirt), we really like him. In fact, we count ourselves lucky to have him aboard.


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3 thoughts on “The Colt Agent — A Classic Working-Man’s Snub Nosed Revolver

  • Pingback:Weekend Knowledge Dump- May 22, 2020 | Active Response Training

  • May 19, 2020 at 10:58 am
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    My first carry gun was a 6 round snubby by S&W. It was nickel plated and the coating was beginning to blister. I carried it in coat pockets, when pockets were holsters and strong side wrapped in leather. Worried about the blistering and reliability I sold it. I wonder about that gun now and then. Wanting a simple manual of arms for classes, I got four S&W mod 66 with 4 inch barrels and while I love them, I carry their snubby brothers in ankle holsters or fanny pack. When my father passed I got his service revolver, but my brother wanted his colt snubby. Maybe I’ll see it again.
    I’ve thought long about the limited numbers of rounds in each, even when carrying a reload speed strip. I decided, as a civilian with CCW I just needed to stop the action till you arrive, or someone like you and that I would carry significantly more than draw and draw significantly more than fire.
    Nice article

    Reply
  • May 14, 2020 at 5:46 pm
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    “The Colt Agent is an aluminum framed, lightweight, short-gripped version of the Colt Detective Special.”

    Some Agents are aluminum and some are steel. I’ve owned both.

    Reply

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