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. The “snubby” – specifically the .38 Special snub nose – is possibly the most relevant type of revolver in today’s conversation.
Snub Nose Revolvers
Highly concealable, easy to operate, extremely reliable, robust, and functional in adverse operational conditions, the snub nose revolver has 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.
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 snubnose 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, 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.
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.
Colt Agent for Sale
Where to Find It
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.
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 of 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 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 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 on 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.
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 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 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.
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, which looks akin to a fastback Mustang of the same era.
I like it so much that 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 Tyler T grips to complete the package. It never hurts to have a spare, whether that’s your primary defensive weapon, secondary 38 Special snub nose, or any firearm you plan on training with and/or using.
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 so.
Learn more about the Colt Agent at the NRA Museum website.
More Jake’s Take
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