Before there was the Python, there was the King conversion. At a time when I couldn’t afford it, an old gunsmith in Havre tried to sell me a King revolver, similar to the one shown below. The part I liked best was the small mirror, angled to catch even minimal light and reflect it onto the front sight.
From the roaring twenties into the fifties, King’s specialty Colts, Smiths and High Standards were the handguns that competitive shooters wanted.
I found mine at a show at Trinidad State – virtually all the blue worn away, the mirror in the sight covered in grime, the recessed red dot covered in dirt, the cylinder jugged by thousands of rounds of 38 special – and two notches on the right grip. I think it was one of King’s early conversions – the frame was originally on a Colt Army Special, the six inch barrel marked “Official Police Heavy Barrel, and the hammer cross-hatched by chisel . . . yet the butter smooth action that marked King’s pistols is there. We reblued it, I replaced the cylinder, restored the reflector, and replaced the notched grips with Pachmayrs. I’m uncomfortable with notches on pistol grips, and I should go over the white outline on the rear sight with a modern acrylic paint – but the old lead-based paint still has a few years left. I think it was built around 1930 – in King’s early years, probably before he left Colorado for San Francisco. I can assure you that the numbers do not match, but I don’t believe King would have cared. He might figure that it is a little too tight – but the next century of use should correct that. It lacks the “cockeyed hammer” and the ventilated matted rib – both developed at a later date.
The King Catalog can be viewed here.
A photo of another King conversion follows, showing a Smith and Wesson – the catalog above shows that the cost of that Smith & Wesson 38/44 Outdoorsman was $45 – though the custom grips would have been an additional $3.50.