Colt and S&W Keychain Screwdrivers

Hi Guys, this is just a quick one, to show off a few novelty items that you might not have seen before–the keychain screwdrivers from S&W and Colt.

Distributor special

I think I picked these up in the early ’80s at an industry trade show–probably one of the Ordnance Expos which were held at the LAPD Academy,   in advance of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

I don’t think these were actually produced and distributed by Colt and Smith & Wesson. Instead, I think they were done by one of the big distributors that handled these brands (like the now-defunct, Lew Horton).  I now wish I’d grabbed a handful of them, as they’ve been really useful throughout the years, and I haven’t seen them elsewhere, since.

These are simple screwdrivers with blades that are (roughly) sized to fit the different screws you’ll find on these guns. Some of the blades will work for sight adjustment screws, others for side plates, yokes (cranes, if you’re a Colt guy), or stocks (grips, if you’re a Smith & Wesson guy). Even though they’re all stamped from the same thickness of sheet steel, the tips are contoured so that they’ll be a reasonable fit in the slots of the screws–not perfect, but certainly good enough for infrequent use.

I carried one of these on my key ring for a while, but eventually it came off and went into my box of gunsmithing tools. Honestly, a good screwdriver with the proper bit is a much better tool, but these are awfully convenient for emergency use on the range, or those times when you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to drag out the whole screwdriver kit.

Better Swag

If you attend trade shows like the SHOT Show or NRA Annual Meeting, you’ll see the different vendors trying to lure people into their booths with various swag items. Normally you’ll encounter stuff like pens, stickers, keychains, patches or pins. It’s basically junk, and you wouldn’t be missing out on anything if you passed it up, like I usually do.

Once in a while though, you’ll find a vendor that actually provides something useful, like a sample size of gun lubricant (great for range bags) or a tiny lens cleaning cloth for your optic. Those are good finds, and I always appreciate the vendors who go to the effort to provide something that we can actually use.

I got to thinking, how neat would it be if some of the big guys threw away their Oriental Trading Company catalogs, and made some of these keychain screwdrivers again? Steel costs more than plastic, I suppose, but I doubt one of these little screwdrivers costs more than a full-color calendar, or a thumb drive with the catalog on it, and we see crates full of those things get passed out at every show. I bet most of them go straight into the trash when the attendees get home.

I’ve had these keychain screwdrivers for almost 40 years now, and they’re still just as useful today, as they were when they were new. Plus, I think it’s kinda neat to take the grips off my S&W with a screwdriver that has the S&W logo on it. That’s way better than drinking a soda wrapped up in a can koozie with a gun company logo on it.

You wanna know how neat these really are? They’re neat enough that I’d actually spend my own money to buy a few of them. If you’ve spent any time around gun writers, then you know what a testament that really is!

I bet if you saw a bucket of these on the counter at your LGS, you’d buy one too. It’s a shame that they disappeared, but in this era of tabletop CNC machines, maybe a clever RevolverGuy will resurrect the idea?  One can hope.

*****

Note: Check out the comments for better info on these screwdrivers. The RevolverGuy audience came to my rescue and got me “edumucated” on these. Thanks fellas!

Author: Mike

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood is a bonafide revolver nut, a handgun, shotgun, and patrol rifle-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, and the author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, the definitive study of the infamous, 1970 California Highway Patrol shootout in Newhall, California. He also wrote the "Tactical Analysis" column at Police1.com for 8 years.

16 thoughts on “Colt and S&W Keychain Screwdrivers”

  1. I got my colt keychain screwdriver in 1975, only cost me $250.00. Oh yeah, that included the colt python. No idea if the python was the only model that included the screwdriver.

    1. Very interesting! That was a NIB purchase, Mike? So, maybe these things were a factory item? I suppose a distributor still could have been the one to put it in the box.

      The plot thickens!

      1. It probably was a NIB purchase. I got one with the Python I bought in 1979. I hated the Python and sold it to a copper who was infatuated them, and the screwdriver got lost sometime in the 80s when my keychain broke. But I still have the memories.

  2. Mike,
    These are pretty nifty little keychain screwdrivers. I have a Powerful Pete/four leaf clover on one, and one Craftsman (Sears). I did a quick search on fleabay for “colt keychain screwdriver” and “smith & wesson keychain screwdriver” and there are some available. Powerful Pete ones seem to always be avaliabe. Of note, the Colt ones are cheaper than the S&W ones and more plentiful.

    Tip: one of the screwdrivers also fit #1 and #2 phillips head screws. Kind of like the tip of the can opener on a Swiss Army knife will too. They can’t take a ton of torque, but will work in a pinch.

    Thanks for the “Cool Factor” article!
    Mike(nMW)

    1. Well, I’ll be darned, Mike. It never occurred to me to actually do some research on these (!) but it appears there’s a large variety out there! Your Powerful Pete and Craftsman-logoed models seem to be most common, but this fella even has a Marlin-branded one in his collection, which is neat:

      https://forum.multitool.org/index.php?topic=41248.0

      Just a few minutes of searching about leads me to the conclusion that these screwdrivers were made by the HC Cook Co. of Ansonia, Connecticut. The “Powerful Pete” logo was trademarked in 1953, so they had been around for a long time before I came across mine in the 80s.

      I presume HC Cook made all of them, and just put the different logos on them under contract/license.

      The Connecticut connection (say that three times, fast) is probably significant, as the town of Ansonia is only about 45 miles from Hartford (Colt), 67 miles from Springfield (S&W), and 11 miles from New Haven (Marlin).

      I see some of the Colt ones are in the white, not blued like mine. I wonder if that corresponds to date of manufacture, or if there was always an option for either finish? I’m not seeing any blued S&W ones, though.

      Since there were 3-bit and 4-bit models, I wonder why the Colt ones all have 3? Possibly because the S&W ones all have 4? ; ^ )

      I think you just led me down a rabbit hole, Mike!

      1. That is a cool discovery and makes the whole article that much cooler. I agree that this would make much cooler swag than what one generally sees (I’ve never been to SHOT, but I can extrapolate from other things I have attended).

        I think you are probably right on the 3- vs 4-bit variations.

  3. I’d never seen those specific ones, but forty years ago, I took a similar looking 4 blade one that came with a Craftsman tool kit from Sears and filed the blades down to fit the rear sight adjustment screws on my Ruger and S&W revolvers.

  4. My original issued Model 66 came with a double sided screwdriver in the box. Still have the screw driver. My later private purchase S&Ws that had adhjustable sights also had those two sided screwdrivers. The tiny bit fit the screws that secured the rear sight ramp to the frame while the larger screw bit adjusted the rear sight and secured frame screws as needed.

    1. Ooh, neat. I don’t recall any of those by the time I was buying these guns. They must have phased them out by then.

      Not that such a thing would make you OLD. ; ^ )

  5. I scored an unfired, boxed I-frame Trooper a few years ago. The only thing as exciting as the revolver itself was the Colt screwdriver.

    When I saw your article title I immediately thought holy crap the eBay prices are going to go through the roof now!

  6. I wonder have you guys ever made an article for new revolver owners? Just a list of advice and things to know about owning one and how to properly maintain it.

    1. Zane, we’ve produced two articles aimed at first-time gun owners, but they were more philosophical than what you’re describing, focusing on weapon selection, safety, and training. I like your idea though—sort of a “Revolver 101” article for new owners? We’ll get to work on that. Stay tuned.

      1. Another useful keychain screwdriver – but not made for firearms – was one supplied with VW Beetle automobiles in the 70’s. It was a small T-pointed tool, made to pull up the radio antenna when fully retracted. Fits many revolver screws.

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