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The Colt Police Positive was an improvement of Colt's earlier “New Police” revolver, upgraded with an internal hammer block safety. Colt named this new security device the “Positive Lock”, and its nomenclature ended up being incorporated as a partial namesake for the new revolver. The cylinder of the Police Positive rotated in the clockwise direction, the opposite of firearms maker Smith & Wesson's competing models. Ever a canny competitor in the firearms milieu, Colt missed no opportunity to score a coup d'éclat over its arch rival, and began a marketing campaign which accentuated this detail. In its advertising Colt proclaimed that "All Colt cylinders TURN TO THE RIGHT", and suggested that the Colt design forced the cylinder crane up against the frame, resulting in tighter lockup with less play and better chamber to barrel alignment, thus markedly increasing accuracy. The Police Positive was very successful; along with the Colt Official Police it dominated the law enforcement firearms market in the early 1900s. The Positive was itself incrementally modified in 1908, forming the basis for Colt's Police Positive Special model.
A nickel Police Positive with pearl grips & .32 calibre was used by Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey in Death Wish. The notorious American gangster Al Capone also used a Police Positive, a nickel .38 Police Positive with walnut grips and a 4-inch barrel, manufactured in 1929.
The Police Positive was made of carbon steel, and was finished with either a polished blued finish or nickel-plated.
The First issue of the Police Positive ran from the revolver's introduction in 1907 until 1927. Sporting Colt's standard hard rubber grips, it was offered with barrel lengths of 2.5 (available only in .32 caliber), 4, 5, and 6 inches, and was chambered for the .32 Long Colt (it would also accept the .32 Short Colt), .32 Colt New Police, and .38 Colt New Police cartridges. Checkered Walnut grips became standard after 1923.
The Second issue began in 1928 and ran until 1947, adding a somewhat heavier frame as well as a serrated topstrap to reduce sight glare, while retaining the wooden grips. Both of Colt's “New Police” rounds were actually slight redesigns of existing S&W cartridges, the .32 S&W Long and .38 S&W with the bullet noses flattened, as Colt resisted providing its main competitor with any free advertising.
Colt's Positive Lock safety, the innovation responsible for the gun's introduction, functioned by preventing the firing pin from striking the primer of the cartridge unless the trigger was deliberately pulled. Intended to address deficiencies of earlier models such as the Single Action Army, the Positive Lock prevented an accidental discharge even if the hammer was struck or the pistol was dropped, allowing the revolver to be safely carried with all six chambers loaded. The revolver's sights consisted of a half-moon blade front with a fixed iron open rear sight, which was a simple V-notch shaped groove milled into the revolver's topstrap.
Colt Police Positive revolvers marked with Colt D.A..32 on the barrel are chambered for .32 Long Colt. Revolvers marked with .32 Colt New Police on the barrel are chambered for .32 Smith & Wesson Long.