Click here for Ed Buffaloe’s very complete article on the Colt Model M, which includes a table for cross-referencing serial numbers to the year of manufacture.
Although the Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless is large compared to the pocket pistols of today (it is nowhere near as compact as a Seecamp), you can indeed carry it in a pants or coat pocket. It is not a true hammerless pistol; the hammer hides inside the slide. Since there is no exposed hammer spur, there is nothing to snag on the inside of a pocket. Unless you have gigantic mitts, the Model 9 provides a good grip area. There is no chance for hammer-bite and only a faint chance of suffering slide cuts from having a high grip. I find the grip safety much more agreeable than that on the Colt 1908 Vest Pocket Pistol.
The subject Model M of this blog entry is a 1918 vintage Type III, making it around 91-years-old. While not in pristine condition, it is still a tight, fully functional pistol. It would not be my first choice for concealed carry or home defense, but worse choices are ever possible. If I were on a super tight budget and had inherited a pistol like this as an only gun, I believe I could sleep well. Many feel the .32 ACP is sub-marginal for stopping power; my humble opinion is that it is smidgen better than they believe it to be; .32 ACP ball looks to have the same stopping stats as does .380 ACP ball and .38 Special round nose lead, about 50% according to Evan Marshall. Those are not impressive numbers, but far better than .22 L.R. and .25 ACP. The jury is still arguing the merits of using .32 ACP hollowpoint ammunition. That case is moot unless an old design like this proves to be 100% reliable feeding hollowpoints. With its 8-round magazine, the Model 9 does have adequate capacity and its mild recoil makes fast follow-up shots a sure bet. Since the slide does not lock back after firing the last round and the mag release is located on the butt, the pistol’s design is not ideal for fast mag swaps. While my search for them has not been exhaustive, I am of the opinion that spare mags for the Model M are as rare as hens’ teeth.
The main concern with using these old designs for defense is carrying a round in the chamber, cocked-and-locked using the manual safety. While some gunnies are very fast at racking the slide to bring a pistol into action, many people would fumble the maneuver under pressure. Modern guns seem to be relatively safe with a round in the pipe, but pistols like this one, and the striker-fired pistols like the Colt Vest Pocket and the Browning Baby, have reputations for sometimes discharging when dropped. Whether those stories are truth or fiction I cannot say, but they do give me pause. If my personal safety gave me no choice, I would pay a competent gunsmith to detail the pistol, and then I would carry it locked and loaded, ever mindful that I am legally and morally responsible for every bullet that races from the barrel, intentionally or negligently.