By the late 1960s Colt had just about priced themselves out of the revolver business. Handguns like their old model Trooper, which required considerable amounts of time consuming hand fitting to be done during the assembly process, had become too costly to make. Colt simply could no longer compete with other revolver manufacturers. A newer, less expensive method of construction was needed and in 1969 the Colt "J" Frame Mark III was the result. The new Colt was a major step forward in that most of the internal parts were made using a new "sintered" steel process. This process, which was an early version of the MIM (Metal Injection Molding) that is so popular now, formed the internal parts from powdered steel that was injected into a mold and then heated until it fused together forming the basic part. What this innovation did was to allow the new Mark III to be assembled with almost no hand fitting, saving the company in production costs but at the same time still making for a strong and reliable gun.
The double action Mark III was initially offered in four models all with a new (for Colt) transfer bar safety system. The new offerings included the Trooper, the Lawman, the Official Police and the Metropolitan. The Trooper was the top of the line heavy barrel .357 Magnum model with adjustable sights. The Lawman was the same but with fixed sights. The Official Police offered the buyer a .38 Special with a lighter contour barrel, while the Metropolitan was essentially the heavy barreled Lawman but in .38 Special.
Built on Colt's forged steel "41" frame all were rugged and reliable weapons. Many gun experts still consider the MK III Colt and its descendants to be some of the most, if not the most, robust medium frame revolvers ever made. Eventually the Mark III would evolve into the Mark V, which would later turn into Colt's famous King Cobra. While the new handgun didn't have as much "sex appeal" as other Colt offerings like the Python, what the MK III did offer to potential buyers was an accurate, well designed and constructed revolver that could easily stand up to a lifetime of shooting.
I purchased the Lawman shown here over a year ago but then sold it to my Dad when I was trying to raise funds to purchase a Smith & Wesson "Registered" Magnum. I recently re-acquired it in a trade. This is an early "snubbie" Lawman built in 1972. The Lawman was originally offered with a 4-inch barrel only but beginning in 1971 a 2-inch barrel was offered. The 2-inch Lawman in effect looked like a Colt Detective Special on steroids, but having considerably more "beef" the Lawman could easily handle higher pressure magnum loads. Earlier production guns like mine had an exposed ejector rod but this particular style was only in production for about two years before Colt changed over to a barrel with an enclosed ejector rod and a ramp front sight. The size and shape of the grip frame for the 2-inch Lawman was also different than all other MK III guns which does make purchasing aftermarket grips even more difficult. The revolver is built like a proverbial tank and lock up is like a bank vault door. Mark III Colts are solid, under appreciated weapons that offer their owners considerable bang for the buck.