Dating a S&W revolver by serial number


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ZoneIII
May 1, 2006, 08:58 AM
Can anyone point me to a website or other source that would allow me to determine the year of manufacture of a .32 S&W Regulation Police revolver that I just inherited? It's serial number is 374546. I also inherited a Colt 1911 and was quickly able to learn that it was manufactured in 1918 but I would like to date this little revolver too.

Thanks

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SaxonPig
May 1, 2006, 10:06 AM
The Standard Catalog of Smith and Wesson by Nahas & Supica is the Bible for all things S&W. I am sure that someone who has the book handy will post the date for your gun soon. If not, try asking at www.smith-wessonforum.com as anything about S&W can be learned there.

Ron James
May 1, 2006, 10:16 AM
Are you sure it's a .32 caliber Regulation police and not perhaps a .32 hand Ejector?

Old Fuff
May 1, 2006, 11:38 AM
ZoneIII:

Welcome to the high road. :)


Posting a picture of your Smith & Wesson would help confirm what model it is.

The .32 Regulation Police model was introduced in 1917, and serial numbered in the same series as the .32 Hand Ejector/Model of 1903. Regulation Police numbers started around 331320 and ended around 536684 in 1942. Regulation Police revolvers are numbered on the forestrap, where .32 Hand Ejectors are numbered on the bottom of the butt.

This doesn't help you much, but S&W made it a practice to number frames before they were made into guns rather then number the guns in sequence. To make matters worse, the frames that were pre-numbered could often be made into several different model guns.

The only way to date a particular revolver is to pay a $30.00 fee to S&W and ask the company historian, Roy Jinks, to look it up in the old records. Considering the work he has to go through (the records are not computerized) the fee is very reasonable. You will also get an official letter from Mr. Jinks explaining everything he found about your gun in the records.

To learn more, go to: www.smith-wesson.com

Ron James
May 1, 2006, 01:06 PM
Sorry about that, I couldn't find the .32 Reglation Model in the serial number list, but in the text I noted that , unlike the .38 Regulation Poice, they are not marked as such. As Old Fluff posted, a letter to S&W is the only way to find the actual date.

OPOEFC
May 3, 2006, 02:39 PM
Your gun was made in approx. 1926. You would need a letter from Roy Jinks, factory historian to see when & where it was shipped.

ZoneIII
May 11, 2006, 08:33 AM
Thanks for the info. Sorry I didn't get back to this forum sooner but I was out of town for a few days and I guess I assumed that I would get an email message letting me know that responses had been posted like you get in some forums.

My gun has the serial number on the butt, not the front strap of the grip so it appears that it may be a hand ejector. I assumed that it was a Regulation Police revolver because someone on another forum told me it was. Hopefully, someone can confirm this from the picture I am attaching.

The serial numbers are also marked on the rear of the cylinder and the back of the star wheel ejector. Also, the patent date is stamped on the bottom of the grips and it appears to read, "Pat June 5 1917" but the numbers are very worn. I am especially uncertain about the last digit (7).

The picture attached here was taken the day I got the gun. It has since been cleaned up but it still has wear on the finish. However, the action is tight as can be and everything is smoot as silk in operation. The cylinder is tighter than most brand new revolvers and it locks up beautifully.

XavierBreath
May 11, 2006, 10:41 AM
If you want to know for sure, a $30 factory letter from Roy Jinks (http://xavierthoughts.blogspot.com/2006/01/collectors-treasure.html) will tell you the day your revolver left the factory.

Other than that, the grips on your revolver, if original, indicate a date between 1917 and 1929. The serial number should be stamped inside one of the grips.

I suspect your revolver is actually a .32/20 Hand Ejector, Model of 1905, 4th change. If so, the right side of the barrel would read 32 WCF CTG between two Maltese crosses. Your serial number falls within the group for these revolvers. They were produced from 1915-1940.

If I am correct on the caliber, be careful of any loads for it. Stick with cowboy revolver loads and you and the revolver will be fine. If I am wrong on the caliber, then at least you know when the grips were made! ;)

Old Fuff
May 11, 2006, 10:46 AM
Your picture and the patent date "Pat June 5 1917" on the stocks confirm that you do indeed have a Regulation Police model. A serial number on the butt rather then the forestrap would be unusual, but I can see a possibility where some pre-numbred Hand Ejector frames were altered and made into Regulation Police revolvers. This I think, would be a good one to run by Roy Jinks.

These are neat, and very accurate guns. I hope you enjoy it. :)

XavierBreath
May 11, 2006, 10:51 AM
LOL Old Fuff! I can't dispute that! I guess the real question (other than the caliber) is whether it's an I or a K frame!
Looking at the pic, against my 23/20 HE, I can't say for sure.

On further research I see that Old Fuff is likely dead to nuts on the money with that grip patent date, and I defer to my elders.....

This is a great example of seeing what you want to see........ with no size indicator in the pic, I saw a K frame when the revolver is apparently an I frame.

Old Fuff
May 11, 2006, 11:11 AM
If my identification is correct, the revolver is built on the smaller I-frame, and the cylinder is only 1.250" long. A K-frame cylinder is usually 1.56" long.

At this time S&W was trying to compeat with Colt's popular Police Positive, which had a square butt. Rather then come out with a new frame they made a slight modification to the backstrap of the 1903 Hand Ejector's (round butt) frame and then fitted it with oversized stocks that made it into a square butt configuration. These stocks were then marked with the June 5 1917 patent date. The other clue is that no metal is exposed at the bottom of the grip, which is the reason the serial number was usually on the forestrap.

But when dealing with Smith & Wesson, "never say never." :)

ZoneIII
May 11, 2006, 03:37 PM
The caliber designation on the right side of the barrel says, "32 Long CTG". There are no symbols. I am not familiar with the various 32 caliber rounds. Can I use 32 long and 32 S&W ammunition with this gun?

ZoneIII
May 11, 2006, 03:39 PM
By the way, I forgot to mention that the cylinder length is 1.25".

XavierBreath
May 11, 2006, 06:22 PM
Zone,
To make sure that there is no misunderstanding, Old Fuff hit a home run and I struck out. Old Fuff is correct.

I have a feeling I had better defer to Old Fuff about the ammo query, afterall, I was just a twinkle in my papa's eye when Fuff was shootin' this stuff!

Best regards,
XB

Old Fuff
May 11, 2006, 08:26 PM
Ah, but you're coming along... :)

It is often dificult to identify a particular Smith and Wesson without either a photograph or complete description. It doesn't help that frames within a certain serial number range might be made into several different model revolvers either. Expertise comes with experience, and the Old Fuff hasn't been hurt by the fact that he's a professional firearms researcher with resources that aren't always available to everyone.

The .32 Regulation Police is chambered to use either .32 S&W or .32 S&W Long cartridges. One can also use .32 Colt New Police cartridges, but they haven't been made in many years. .32 Short Colt and .32 Long Colt are something else and won't work in S&W revolvers.

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