Colt Trooper Mk III (circa 1980), 4" barrel
shown with custom aftermarket grips
|Place of origin||United States|
|Manufacturer||Colt's Manufacturing Company|
|Feed system||six round cylinder|
|Sights||iron sights, both fixed and adjustable|
Introduced to the firearms market by the Colt's Manufacturing Company in 1953, the Colt Trooper is a medium frame double-action revolver featuring a six-round cylinder, chambered for .22 and .38 caliber cartridges. Designed as a less expensive alternative to the upscale Colt .357 and the later Python, it was marketed to law enforcement agencies as well as civilian firearms enthusiasts and collectors.
Development and history
The Trooper and its high-end cousin, the .357, were introduced with the intention of addressing the medium frame revolver market, as law enforcement officers had long complained about the weight of earlier models. The two guns were seen as ideal in size and handling characteristics for the .38 Special and its big brother the .357 Magnum. Offered as an alternative and competitor to Smith & Wesson’s Model 28 "Highway Patrolman", the Colts were lighter and handier.
The Border Patrol is a rare early variant on the Trooper frame, chambered in .38 Special only. Only about 500 were made, in 1952 only. They have "BORDER PATROL" roll stamped on a heavy barrel. These often sell for $4,000+ and are considered one of the Holy Grails for Colt double action collectors.
1953 - 1969 The original Trooper was basically a heavy-barreled version of the Officers Model Match, and was based on Colt’s medium .41[clarification needed] frame. It was offered in .22 Long Rifle and .38 Special chamberings. Manufactured with fine carbon steel, it was available in both blued and nickel plated finishes. Early blued Troopers boasted a two-tone color scheme with dull Colt Royal Blue on the flat surfaces and a black bead blasted texture on the edges and cylinder flutes. Both Target and Service versions of the Trooper were available, the Target models sporting hand-filling Walnut grips, larger and wider target hammers, and adjustable iron sights. Service versions featured smaller more basic hammers and stocks, and fixed sights. Barrel lengths available included four inch in .22 caliber and four and six inch in .38 Special; the .22 was intended as a ‘practice’ weapon. All the Troopers from this series had hammer mounted firing pins. The Trooper was targeted at the entry-level and Law enforcement service-level segment of the firearms market while the highly polished and expensive 357 model revolver was intended to be their premium offering. Both models shared the same forged and labor intensive hand-fitted internal lockwork, however.
After the introduction of the more expensive Python in 1955, most purchasers bypassed the .357 model, in favor the Python for a top-end revolver or the Trooper for a more basic one. This development motivated Colt to discontinue the basic .38 Special Trooper in 1961, and to do away with the .357 moniker, so they renamed it Trooper. The new offering retained the .357 magnum chambering and frame-mounted firing pin, but kept the entry-level revolver’s more subdued finish. The Trooper continued to be offered in .22 Long rifle, and like all .357 Magnums, offered the capability of firing .38 Special ammunition as well.
1969 - 1982 In the late 1960s, Colt began to be concerned with a decline in its market share because of price increases brought about by the high labor costs inherent in its manufacturing processes. In response, an entirely new product line of revolvers dubbed the MK III series debuted in 1969. Intended to be the first major advancement of Colt’s designs since the beginning of the 20th Century, the MK IIIs used a new ‘J’ frame and had no parts interchangeability with older models. The new revolvers were considered groundbreaking as they were the first modern revolver designs to employ a state of the art transfer-bar lockwork system. This lockwork was not only more sophisticated, but inherently safer due to its superiority to the older hammer-blocking designs; the revolver could fire only if the trigger was deliberately pulled completely to the rear. It also vastly improved on the earlier design in durability, and offered the advantage of employing sintered iron internal parts rather than expensive forged ones. The sintered parts also allowed for improved fabrication tolerances, and could be given a special heat treatment resulting in a harder more wear-resistant composition. Using these parts virtually eliminated hand fitting, significantly lowering labor costs associated with the assembly and manufacture of the MK III line. The springs used in the Mark III internals were also an improvement. Unlike the older flat style, they were coiled and made entirely of corrosion-resistant stainless steel.
The MK III series incorporated a number of models, several of which were updates of existing designs. Classic models included the venerable Colt Official Police chambered in .38 Special as the basic/entry-level offering, and the Trooper in .357 Magnum. New members of the line up included the Lawman, Metropolitan Police, and Border Patrol.
The .357 Trooper was the premier offering of the new product line, featuring a heavy barrel with a solid top rib as well as a shroud which protected the ejection rod. For the first time, the Trooper was offered with an eight inch barrel length, and as the top of the product line model it boasted a target-grade hammer, target stocks, and adjustable sights. The finish was upgraded to the lustrous Royal Blue or bright Nickel which had been typical on the .357 model, and an additional duller satin-nickel finish option, known as “Coltguard” was added. A new ammunition chambering option, the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, also became available for the first time.
The Lawman was a .357 Magnum 'service grade' or 'police issue' version of the Trooper, equipped with smaller 'Magna Service' type stocks, a standard hammer, fixed sights, and barrel lengths of two inch and four inch only. The two inch barrel has an attribute unique to the Lawman, the only Lawman barrel equipped with shrouded ejector rod.
1982 - 1985 As with the MK III, the Mark V series was an entirely new product line of models which included Official Police, Lawman, and Trooper variants. The MK V series was based on a new, slightly smaller ‘V’ frame, similar in size to Smith & Wesson’s ‘K’ frame. Changes from the MK III models were minor and many parts remained identical. Internally, Colt did away with the sintered iron MK III lockwork in favor of cast parts, and improved the trigger action with new components and a shorter hammer fall. These improvements made the MK V triggers smoother, while the diminished lock times increased accuracy. Exterior modifications included a compact grip frame with rounded grips; other changes were engineering-based with the goal of simplifying and facilitating production.
Options in general remained the same as they were with the MK III models, but the launch of the MK Vs denoted the initiation of a ventilated barrel rib option similar to the Python. The legacy solid rib remained available as well.
External options and finishes for the MK V Lawman remained identical to the MK III version.
- “Colt Model .357 and Trooper”, Colt Revolvers Web site. Accessed November 4, 2008.
- R.K. Campbell. "Colt's Trooper", Gunblast Web site. Accessed November 4, 2008.
- “Colt mk. III revolvers: Trooper, Lawman, Official Police (USA)”, World Guns Web site. Accessed November 4, 2008.
- “Colt mk. V revolvers: Trooper, KingCobra, Anaconda (USA)”, World Guns Web site. Accessed November 4, 2008.