Serial Numbers on S&W Frames and Cylinders


March 12, 2003, 12:50 AM
I recently came into an older Model 19, and I've got a question about S&W and their serial number system. The frame has a serial number stamped on it, and the arm that holds the cylinder has another number stamped on it. Not a big deal, I thought at first, maybe it's a rebarrel and recylinder deal as part of some kind of work in the past. But, then I took off the grips and in addition to the S/N being stamped on the base of the frame, the second S/N from the arm was stamped on the left side of the grip frame.

So, I'm wondering if this is a normal thing for an older S&W revolver. I thought it might be indicative of a factory job, but at the least I'm hoping to get some kind of answer here.

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Mike Irwin
March 12, 2003, 12:54 AM
You may be looking at the serial number and the assembly number.

The number stamped on the butt of the older guns is the serial number, and the number inside the crane is the assembly number, which was used to keep parts together during assembly.

March 12, 2003, 12:57 AM
The number on the butt is the actual serial number. The other numbers are assembly numbers.

Before the serial number is put, on the factory puts those assembly numbers on some key componets to insure they stay together during final finishing and assembly.

March 13, 2003, 08:59 PM
That would explain it. I checked out a Colt, and the S/N was on the frame and the arm, when the cylinder was swung open. When I saw the different numbers on the Smith, I was a bit confused, but seeing what appears to be the assembly number on both the arm and frame I think I understand.

Thanks for the replies.

Mike Irwin
March 13, 2003, 11:15 PM
Give me the first couple of digits of the serial number, including any letter prefixes, and I'll tell you approximately what year it was made.

Jim K
March 15, 2003, 09:42 PM
The fit of the crane to the frame is one of the most critical in revolver manufacture. Both S&W and Colt use a number to keep the two parts together through final finish and assembly. The difference is the point in manufacture at which the serial number is assigned. Colt assigns it early and uses it to keep the crane and frame together. S&W uses an assembly number for that purpose and later assigns and marks the serial number in several places.


Thomas Huntington
June 2, 2007, 01:24 AM
I recently purchased a 38 S&W model 10. The last patent date stamped on the barrel is Dec 29 1914. The number on the butt of the gun is 657081. The same # is on the cylinder. There is a different # on the frame which is 39700. I wondered if anyone could tell me the year it was made. It has a 5 inch barrel ,is nickel plated and has stamped on the back of the hammer Reg.U.S Pat. OFF.

June 2, 2007, 10:45 AM
Thomas- I would guess around 1937 on your Military & Police S&W. The Pre-War guns had numbers going up to 999,999 and then they started over around 1940 or so with a letter prefix. The 5" M&Ps are really cool.

BTW- It isn't really a "Model 10" until they start stamping the model numbers in 1957. Guns made prior to this time are correctly called "Military & Police models." If your gun is actually stamped "Mod 10" under the cylinder crane then that serial must have a letter prefix (like C or D). My date estimate is based on the assumption that there is no letter prefix in the serial and it's not, in fact, a post 1957 gun stamped Model 10. If there's a C prefix then it dates from around 1962 and a D prefix would be from 1974.

For a $30 fee the S&W historian will send you a letter telling you the exact day your gun was shipped and to where. I routinely "letter" all of my S&Ws made before 1970 (and a few later ones, as well). A couple turned out to have interesting original destinations. One Model 15 went to the University of Louisiana Campus Police, a Model 19 went to the U.S. Customs Service, and a 2" M&P went to a police officer's club in Los Angeles.

Thomas Huntington
June 2, 2007, 05:59 PM
Thank you so much for the info. It is not stamped model 10 and it is as you say a M & P S&W. Thanks so much for your help. I am giving it to my son-in -law as a B-Day gift and it helps to be able to pass that info down to him. I think I will miss the gun when I give it to him cause it shoots and feels great.

Had a gun dealer offer me 275 for it today so I guess they are collectable.

Thanks again. Love this forum

Old Fuff
June 2, 2007, 09:17 PM
They started stamping patent dates on the hammer and back of the trigger in June, 1926. There is a lot of speculation as to when a certain revolver was made because S&W would serial number the frame, and then draw it out of inventory later to build it into a gun. That said, I would say that a .38 Military & Police revolver with a serial number in the 657,000 range probably was made as early as 1935 or 36, and as late as 1940. The earlier dates being more likely, as the country moved toward World War Two.

Your dealer's offer might be good or bad depending on the gun's condition. Examples in near-new shape have been selling at auction upwards toward, and sometimes over $400.00.

If you enjoyed reading about "Serial Numbers on S&W Frames and Cylinders" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!