What is it and what's it worth?


September 26, 2005, 06:24 PM
A guy at work want's to sell me a Smith and Wesson Airweight 38 spl revolver. I'm trying to find out what model it is and what to give the guy for it. From my research I belive that it is a Model 42 Cennteniel made between 1955-1974. The serial # is 1209xx, if there is a way to find out when it was made. I think I know what it is and about what it is worth, but wanted to check with the vast knowlege of gun here. Thanks

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Old Fuff
September 26, 2005, 07:38 PM
If it has an aluminum frame it is indeed a model 42. These were made between 1952 through 1974, and are noteable because they had a grip safety. They were numbered in the same serial number range as the model 40 (steel frame). Together, some 40,000 revolvers were made. In this model the serial numbers (stamped on the bottom of the butt) didn't get to 120,9xx. In 1968 they went to an "L" prefix in the serial number and continued on from L-1 to L-9861 at the end of production.

September 27, 2005, 03:58 AM
I'm not 100% sure on value but they used to go for a healthy premium as they were discontinued and many gun knowledgeable people sough them out as carry pieces until S&W reintroduced them sans grip safety in 1990.

They still go for a good price but more for collectability I'd say. The grip also had a pin under it that could be used to pin the grip safety in the off position if desired.

September 27, 2005, 06:43 AM
If you're looking to get a collectors' price for it, I'd flash it around smith-wessonforum.com

September 27, 2005, 11:08 AM
Is there a letter prefix to the serial number?

If the revolver is not marked as to model (under the crane where the cyl swings out) it is what is called a "pre" model 42, probably made prior to about 1961 or so... and it is more valuable.

Because this revolver has a flat cyl release it is probably an earlier gun, (though some airweights continued to have flat releases a lot longer.) I don't have my references at hand, so can't set a year with any accurace.

Under the grip, near the back end of the frame there should be a pin that can be used to lock the grip safety... these are often missing...but if present adds to value. Likewise a box/papers/accessories also increase the value of the gun.

From the pic I can't tell the exact condition of the gun, but as it stands I would price it $300-350 depending on condition... add the other items discussed and get in the 95% condition range and you will get the gun up into the $500 area.



September 27, 2005, 05:03 PM
ALL Model40/42 Centennials had 5 digit serial numbers.
Pre1968 it was 5 numbers
Post68 was the letter L and 4 numbers.

1966 was the last year of the flat thumbpiece.

1957 was the year they started stamping frame numbers inside the yoke opening.

Since you have not mentioned a stamped model number I would guess that it was made between 1952 & 1957.

It's good to see that one still has the original high horn grips.

Have you determined if it's a steel frame Model 40 or an alloy frame Model 42?
The anodized aluminium frame on the 42 will appear black.
The model 40 frame is magnetic.

Or you can put it on a scale.
If it weights more than a pound (19oz) it's a model 40
If it weighs less than a pound (13oz) then it's a model 42

I found the grip safety on my 1973 Model 40 to be extremely uncomfortable with light loads and downright painfull with +P.
I removed it, installed a wide target trigger, Pachmayr Compact grips and carried it in an ankle holster for about a dozen years.

September 27, 2005, 09:51 PM
The frame is anodized aluminium, the magnet will not stick to the frame. There are numbers stamped on the thing (technical term) that holds the cylinder when it swings out, they are 1337). The serial number is 6 digits and has no letter prefix. I think I'm going to go to the book store and find a book on S&W's. Thanks for all the help so far and if you all know anymore please let me know.

Old Fuff
September 27, 2005, 11:05 PM
Getting a reference book is always a good idea. I recommend you look for:

"Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson (Second Edition)" by Jim Supica and Richard Nahas. It has estimated vlaues too.

You can also go to Jim's website at:


The number "1337" is an assembly number, that was stamped on the "yoke" thing (tech-term) :) and also on the frame back of the barrel and in the yoke cut-out. You should be able to see both when the cylinder is swung out.

The purpose of the number was to insure that the right yoke would get back into the right frame, and it was stamped on the gun prior to it being stamped with a serial number on the bottom of the butt.

Smith & Wesson has its own in-house historian, Roy Jinks, who among other things can access the company's records. Perhaps he might help you as well.

I should also note that Roy has written several excellent books on Smith & Wesson. I believe the latest can be obtained directly from the author.

September 27, 2005, 11:35 PM
According to The Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson (Second Edition) by Jim Supica & Richard Nahas;

The Centennial Airweight (Model 42) was introduced in 1952 at serial number 1 and continued until serial number 30160 was reached in 1971. At that time the serial number switched to a L prefix starting at serial number L1 and continuing through L9861 when the model was discontinued in 1974.

The Centennial airweight shared the serial number series with the standard all steel Centennial (Model 40)

It appears, by the features, that you have a Centennial Airweight that was manufactured no later than early 1957

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