I’ve recently become enamored of the Fitz Special, a cool revolver conversion pioneered by Colt spokesman and gunsmith John Henry FitzGerald in the mid-1920s. Fitz Specials are customized revolvers with a two-inch barrel, bobbed hammer, and a cutaway trigger guard. Many have rounded ejector rods and front sights to make them a little faster on the draw and less likely to catch on clothing.
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“Fitzed” revolvers retained their single-action capability but are functionally double-action-only guns since the hammer is bobbed and smoothed. FitzGerald performed a custom trigger job on all the guns he converted. All Fitz Specials were made to order, so the Colt Custom Shop likely did the same. Some models left the hammer untouched, making what is known as a “Half-Fitz.” Full Fitz Specials are the focus of this article, so we’ll worry about Half Fitzes later.
Real Fitz Specials from the Colt factory are very rare and very expensive. There are no more than 200 of them and they’re prized by top-shelf collectors. The guns known to have been converted by FitzGerald himself are even more so. As such, they are way beyond the financial reach of most of us.
But fear not. There are gunsmiths today who can make a Fitz Special just for you. All you have to do is provide the gun for them to work on. I won’t name any of those gunsmiths here, but they aren’t hard to find with a little online research. What I will do is suggest some guns that you might want to use as the basis for a Fitz along with a few that might not be the best choices.
Neither list is exhaustive, and they are totally subjective on my part. You’d do well to check the value of any older gun before customizing it. Also, I know that many of you will deem a non-Colt Fitz unacceptable. Your objections are noted.
Five Revolvers Suitable to Be “Fitzed”
1. Colt Detective Special in .38 Special
The Detective Special appeared in 1927 and was the first Colt production gun with a 2-inch barrel. It has evolved over the years with five generations of development, and many people view the Colt Cobra as the current state of the Detective Special. There are no more than 150-200 actual Fitz Specials in the world. 120-140 of those guns were made from Detective Specials. So, the Detective Special Fitz is really the “classic” version if there is one.
You can find Detective Specials for sale and not break the bank if you don’t want to. A pre-World War II model would be period correct but that’s up to you. Those are also harder to find and potentially more expensive. The 2-inch barrel saves you the expense of having it cut down and recrowned, so you can Fitz it for a little less money.
I’m counting the Cobra here in the interest of space but be aware that the early Cobras had a lighter aluminum frame while the newer ones are steel. I think steel is the way to go for a Fitz, but that’s me.
2. Colt Police Positive Special in .38 Special
The Police Positive debuted in 1907, with the somewhat beefier Police Positive Special following a year later. Available in a variety of calibers, the .38 Special is the most viable in today’s ammunition market. There were target versions in .22 Long Rifle, but those models cost 80 to 90 percent more than the others. Some 750,000 Police Positive Specials were made by Colt between 1907 and 1995, meaning you can find one at a price that won’t have you sleeping on the couch.
The Police Positive Special was one of the models available from Colt for the original Fitz Specials and served as the basis for the Detective Special in 1927. In fact, the early Detective Specials were called “2-inch Police Positive Specials.” Like the Detective Specials, if you want a period-correct gun, you’ll need to find a pre-World War II model. There are plenty of later examples out there if not.
3. Colt New Service in .45 Colt
Colt introduced the New Service Revolver in 1898 in response to the underwhelming performance of the .38 Long Colt cartridge. The New Service was chambered in .38-40, .44-40, .45 Colt, and a couple of others that haven’t survived. Foreign models were offered in three calibers, most notably the .455 Webley. The New Service was the basis of the Colt version of the military’s Model 1917 revolver in .45 ACP and was later chambered for the .38 Special and .357 Magnum cartridges.
The .45 Colt New Service was John Henry FitzGerald’s favorite gun and he used it as a champion competition shooter. He wrote a book, Shooting, which advocated for large-caliber revolvers in the defensive role. Shooting is still in print. FitzGerald made his first Fitz Specials from the New Service. There are no more than 20 known to exist. So, if you want FitzGerald’s choice, get one of these, but it’ll cost you. The New Service guns aren’t cheap.
4. Smith & Wesson Model 36 Chief’s Special in .38 Special
I can’t just have Colt revolvers, so the next obvious Fitz candidate is the Chief’s Special. Smith & Wesson’s answer to the Detective Special was unveiled in 1950. Chambered in .38 Special, the Chief’s Special is smaller than the Colt with a five-round cylinder and was the first of the J-Frames. It’s a great little gun that’s still available as part of Smith & Wesson’s Classic line and it won’t strain your wallet.
5. Rock Island Armory Model 206 in .38 Special
This is the budget option but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap. I think of it as a (much) less expensive Detective Special. It’s not a Colt or Smith & Wesson but it is a solid little gun. There is a double-action-only version with the hammer already bobbed. That saves you some additional money on the customization alongside the 2-inch barrel.
There is some question about whether the 206 is rated for +P ammo so if that’s important to you, do a little homework. You can pick one up for about 250 bucks, though the spurless hammer version costs a little more. Now, I don’t know if anyone would want to customize a budget revolver, but far be it from me to judge. If it sounds good, I say you do you.
So, those are five suggestions. Six if you count the Cobra. Again, totally subjective and there are certainly many other good candidates. But before moving on to the “Not” category, I want to throw a couple of honorable mentions out of left field just to shake things up:
Chiappa Rhino 200DS in .357 Magnum
Before you purists blow a gasket, hear me out. There’s a lot to like here. Yeah, the Rhino looks weird. But it has a solid reputation. The trademark low bore axis helps control the .357 Magnum round launching from that 2-inch barrel. The 200DS already has a snag-free design. All you have to do is bob the hammer and cut the trigger guard and you’ve got one of the most unique firearms on the planet. Think about it.
Korth NSC in .357 Magnum
I have to admit that a Fitzed Korth might be the most awesome thing ever. Seriously, maybe the best .357 Magnum revolver in the world, slicked up to be a concealed gunfighter pistol? Truly epic. But do you really want to start cutting on a gun that cost you three or four grand? Hell, I don’t know since I’ll never own one. But the benefits listed above might be worth it if you’ve got that kind of loot. I originally had this on the “Not” side. But after putting my thoughts to the page, I had to change it.
Don’t “Fitz” These
Now for the guns that maybe wouldn’t benefit from the Fitz treatment. And by maybe, I mean definitely. Keep in mind that, at a bare minimum, a Fitz Special has the cutaway trigger guard, bobbed hammer, and 2-inch barrel. This is the absurd side of the article, so have a sense of humor.
Smith & Wesson 460 XVR
It’s probably not a good idea to put a 2-inch barrel on an artillery piece. With a chamber pressure of 65,000 psi and a 46 caliber 200-grain cartridge capable of 2,300 feet per second from the gun’s normal configuration… just, nope.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually like my Nagant. I dig the unique operating system. But since a Fitz is necessarily a double-action-only pistol, the Nagant’s DA trigger would be a problem. I’m not sure that FitzGerald himself could fix that.
The RG10 is the quintessential Saturday Night Special, and any customization on its zinc alloy components would be a waste of time, money, and effort. But, for the sake of argument, Fitzing an RG10 would at least improve the gun’s appearance. Probably. Maybe. Ah, no it wouldn’t. Honestly, any Rohm handgun will fit here. I chose the RG10 because I actually have one—found it in my Dad’s stuff after he passed. I’ve never been brave enough to shoot it. I’m waiting for a suitable local buyback program so I can unload it for a Walmart gift card.
Colt Walker 1847
Yes, I know it’s absurd. That’s why I chose it. That and the thought of Josey Wales roaming West Texas with a couple of Fitz Specials tickles my fancy. Of course, being a cap and ball revolver, complete with a seemingly footlong charging lever, Fitzing the Walker would likely encounter insurmountable problems. Plus the fact that the Walker is a single action. But still, pulling a Fitz after drawling “Dyin’ ain’t much of a livin’, boy,” would be legendary. And yes, I’m aware that he pulled a Colt 1860 Army after that line. Indulge me.
Colt 1873 Single Action Army “Peacemaker”
Besides it being single action, don’t. Just don’t.
So, there it is. My suggestions for both sides. Are there glaring omissions from either list? What would you add? Hit us up in the comments. Happy Fitzing, y’all.