K-38 questions


english kanigit
May 28, 2006, 01:19 AM
Howdy alls. In the interest of growing my collection I need to know a few things. First off, exactly what is a K-38 Combat Masterpiece? Is it a specific model No. or just a style? And what would be desirable features to look for? Heavy barrel? Fixed sights?

Help a kanigit out a little? :)


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Old Fuff
May 28, 2006, 01:54 AM
After World War Two S&W introduced an improved .38 Special traget revolver and called it the "K-38 Target Masterpiece." Some law enforcement officers, especially with the FBI, ask S&W to cut the barrel length from 6 to 4 inches, and mount a Baughman (quick draw) front sight in place of the target style. What they wanted was a .38 service revolver with target features such as adjustable sights, wide spur hammer (and sometimes trigger), serrated front and back straps and a ribbed barrel.

While this started as a custom configuration, it became so popular that S&W made it a catalog item and called it the "Combat Masterpiece." In 1972 it became the model 15. In addition to the 4" barrel length a 2" one was added later. Over time it became one of Smith & Wesson's all time winners, and was exceptionally popular as a police sidearm. As a mid-weight/mid-caliber revolver it remains hard to beat.

May 28, 2006, 02:09 AM
"...Combat Masterpiece..." That is a Smith marketing term for several models of .38 revolver. The model number, usually, denotes a different barrel length for the same firearm.
K-38's (AKA Model 14) are a K-frame S&W revolver and were the absolute cat's buttocks .38 Special target shooting revolvers before the semi-auto .32 S&W target pistol got less expensive. A buddy of mine used one exclusively for bullseye shooting and had no trouble competing with the guys using .32 semi's. It's the classic target shooting revolver. I used a model 19, .357 Mag shooting .38's until the Ruger GP-100 came along. Sold it for what I paid for it.
Adjustable sights only. It came with a 6" barrel. The same revolver with a 4" barrel is a Model 15. I think they came with a wide 'target' trigger. A trigger job already done would be great. Solid lock up of the cylinder when cocked. Grips don't matter, you'll likely change 'em anyway. As with all used firearms, condition is everything. You'll likely find one in top notch condition too. Target shooters tend to take very good care of their firearms.
A collector's piece it ain't, but you'll still have a top notch .38 Special revolver.

May 28, 2006, 03:08 AM
I have one: It is a K frame 38spl, 4" barrel, stainless steel, K.38 Combat Masterpiece Stainless.
Nice revolver, nose (hammer) mounted firing pin. I have put Houge grips on it and it is accurate and easy to fire.
Price was $299 last year.:neener:

May 28, 2006, 06:58 AM
Old Fuff is dead on except for one thing.
In 1972 it became the model 15.1972 should be 1957.

The stainless Model 67 (http://xavierthoughts.blogspot.com/2005/10/smith-wesson-67-1-resurrection.html) was also known as a Combat Masterpiece. There was also a .22LR caliber Model 18, which was known as the K-22 Combat Masterpiece.

The features that make up a Combat Masterpiece include:
Four inch ribbed barrel
Adjustable rear sight
Baughman Quick Draw front sight
Serrated front and back strap

You will note that these features, when first introduced, set an unprecedented standard for a .38 special revolver. The K-38 Combat Masterpiece was then (and is arguably still) the finest .38 special revolver ever manufactured.

The K-38 is simply a pre-1957 K framed revolver in .38 caliber. It would have a five screw frame. Here is a picture of my old K-38 Combat Masterpiece. It now wears a Hogue Monogrip, and is one of my sweetest shooters. I did a comparison between it and a Python here (http://xavierthoughts.blogspot.com/2005/09/range-report-pristine-python-vs-k38.html).

K-38 Combat Masterpiece

The Target Masterpiece, by contrast, had a six or eight and 3/8 inch ribbed barrel and adjustable rear sight. Over the years, the front sight varied on the Target Masterpiece, but it was usually a Partridge type sight. The Target Masterpiece came in .22LR as the K-22 Target Masterpiece and later Model 17, and .38 Special to make up the K-38 Target Masterpiece and later Model 14. To make matters worse, there are also heavy lugged barels on some Target Masterpieces, as well as a K-32 Target Masterpiece/Model 16.

Model 17-3 Target Masterpiece

I hope this info has been more helpful than confusing........

Bullet Bob
May 28, 2006, 09:21 AM
Get one. Great guns. For no particular reason other than I have time to kill, here's a limited edition "Heritage" model 15 S&W put out a few years ago with a case-hardened frame, and Roy Fishpaw stag grips. Shoots great.


And here's a two inch one I had hard chromed, and used as a "car gun" for many years until I sold it to a friend:


May 28, 2006, 09:38 AM
"...Combat Masterpiece..." That is a Smith marketing term for several models of .38 revolver.
The Combat Masterpiece is the name of a specific model not several. It is exactly as Old Fluff defined it except for the date.

May 28, 2006, 10:58 AM
Adjustable sights only. It came with a 6" barrel. The same revolver with a 4" barrel is a Model 15.

Cool Thread..I see something in a prior response that need's a minor correction. I have been looking for a model 15 in Nickel finish for a very long time, as I like the 4" barrels. I was at a local gun show, and was carrying a new in Box, Smith & Wesson model 10 Hong Kong Police issue revolver I wanted to sell or swap that day if I found a Nickel finished model 15.As usual a quick scan of dealer's tables showed NO Nickel Model 15's available again. I was taking a smoke break out side, and noticed another guy carrying a newer Lear Sigler era S&W box. I asked what he had in it, and he said a Nickel S&W .38 with a 4" barrel No one wanted. I asked if he would mind showing me it, and he handed me the box. At the same time, I asked if he could hold my revolver, which came in the newer blue S&W plastic box. I opened the Lear Sigler box,Which was not correct for this Bangor Punta revolver which was inside and had trouble hiding my awe at the shape of this Vinatge Pinned Barrel Factory Nickel Finished revolver, that didn't even show a turn line on the cylinder. The revolver appeared to be a model 15 in physical features even though the Bull Barrel did not look right for that model but when I swung the crane open it was clearly marked 14-2! I Knew of a few Revolver's S&W had made with this bull barrel but was not sure of how many as I have read this before. Mean while the guy that was holding my revolver said he had wanted to swap this model 14-2 revolver I was holding and looking at and checking out, for another S&W 4" model, but wanted Fixed sights, for easier carry. I told him to check out the one he was holding, and he seemed pleased with it, and added he always liked Blued over Nickel finish. He also told me his Grandfather had bought the model 14-2 back in the mid 60's and it had not been fired all that much and had been sitting in his night stand Loaded all these years, but he had gotten it when he passed away recently, and wanted a fixed sight model instead. I asked if he wanted to swap and we made the deal an even swap. I knew this revolver was special but had no idea how special until I reached home and was able to look it up in my Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson By Suppica & Nahas.I saw they had made as few as 183 of them in 1965, as stated in the Book but my Serial number was a little different from the group they discussed being a little higer. I Asked the Smith & Wesson Historian, Roy Jinks about this model and learned it was a special 4 Block reserved serial number model 14's built and ordered by "Dayton Outdoor Sport's", of Dayton, Ohio back in 1965. It was told that they had custom ordered this model 14 to have a special Bull Barrel that would have a Pinned Baughman quick draw front sight. The barrels would only be 4" in length,Bull barrel configuration and one could select either the wide target trigger's and hammer's or the Narrow ones when placing the order. The grip's could be either the small service diamond type or the larger diamond Target variety. This 4 Block serial number order was placed in 1965 and completed in 1968, and that was why my serial was a little higher as it was a mid way build on this reserved serial block of number's. The odd part is this was prior to S&W having a "Custom Shop" to fill these order's so this special order revolver was assembled on the daily assembly lines, and placed in special bins, and stored to be shipped when the customer requested them. It must have been tough making certain all the serial number's ran in sequence, as S&W Per-Number's Most there revolver's Frames in advance, for daily assembly worker's. I was further told the finishes offered were Blued and Nickel as well, but few were made in the Nickel finish. This revolver was for the serious target shooter in mind with the special bull barrel and total production was only 2038 for the Dayton Sports revolver over the four year period that completed there order. I am very pleased with this revolver and it is a pleasure to shoot with the bull barrel the balance is perfect and recoil was mild. Another interesting feature is this revolver has an unshrouded extractor rod, unlike most 4" barrels.As I left that show very pleased with my new find, I also thought of exactly what I had in the one I swapped to be $200.00. Not bad for a swap of Real low production and not at all common to see. I have aslo learned to "Never say Never" as far as coming across one that is said S&W Has never made...;) Hammerdown

Old Fuff
May 28, 2006, 11:01 AM
1972 should be 1957.

Darn no-good keyboard did it again... :cuss: :)

May 28, 2006, 11:24 AM
This thread inspired me to do blog page (http://xavierthoughts.blogspot.com/2006/05/deciphering-masterpiece.html) on the S&W Masterpieces this AM. If you don't mind, give me a quick fact check.

Updated feature list of the Combat Masterpiece:
Four inch ribbed barrel
Micrometer adjustable rear sight
Baughman Quick Draw front sight
Serrated front and back strap
Short fast action
Anti-backlash trigger

Another K-38 Combat Masterpiece

May 28, 2006, 01:52 PM
Not too much to add, except to say that the 6" Model 14 "K-38 Target Masterpiece" is about the best-balanced handgun I've ever held. I love mine.

May 28, 2006, 02:39 PM
I have a model 15 with the heavy barrel and smooth combat trigger currently. I use it for my IDPA revolver. I plan to sell it off soon and use my Model 19 as the IDPA revolver. I need to simplify my collection.

The Model 15 has been a great gun for me over the last 30+ years. I bought my first one in the Republic of Korea as a soldier and have owned 5 or six more since. The top dog in .38 revolvers from Smith and Wesson. I still think the Colt Diamondback I bought in Korea was prettier but the S&W had a much better (to me) action.

Here is mine:


May 28, 2006, 08:22 PM
Ahhh... The Combat Masterpiece. One of the greatest revolvers ever made.

HERE'S (http://www.fototime.com/D155BD385604384/standard.jpg) the nickel M15 for our friend Hammerdown. Got this at a show in Salt Lake City 7 years ago for $135.

HERE'S (http://www.fototime.com/28119A0EC77C722/standard.jpg) a blued Model 18. A forum member sold me this for $285.

AND HERE ARE (http://www.fototime.com/A3E498DFB56298D/standard.jpg) the pre-model number counterparts. The 22 up front and the 38 in back. Came from GB auctions at $255 and $135 respectively.

Every shooter should have a couple of these. But then I guess we'd run out, wouldn't we?

May 29, 2006, 09:18 AM
Hello Saxon Pig
Very very, Nice Combat Models you have there.I myself am a combat revolver lover and have a few different models as shown below. One interesting thing I noticed on my model 14 Dayton revolver was that the guns receiver, had to be increased alot to accept the factory Bull barrel. This can be seen when looking at the Pair my model 14 & 19 shown together for comparison, around and under where the barrel is screwed into the receiver, where the extractor rod goes through the frame. I have a model 18 No dash as well a model 57 to round out the Combat magnum frenzy.. Hammerdown

May 29, 2006, 09:42 AM
Smith & Wesson 15-3

May 29, 2006, 09:59 AM
S&W K-38 Target Masterpiece.
Standard 6" 3T Gentlemans Target Revolver


May 30, 2006, 06:26 AM
i have three sw k models. the k22 ,k32,k38.they all start with a k plus serial no,s no model number just k plus serial no.i am getting confused. have a good day, swdon:confused

Old Fuff
May 30, 2006, 11:02 AM

Perhaps I can unconfuse you a bit. :)

After World War Two, Smith & Wesson used the "K" serial number prefix from 1946 (starting at K-101). Model numbers were not used until 1957. So K-numbered revolvers under K-288989 (approximately) won't have model numbers. Those between K-288989 to K-317822 may or may not.

The K-series of numbers ended in 1970 at K-999999.

May 30, 2006, 12:44 PM
All of the post war K frames with adjustable sights had the letter K in the serial until 1983 when S&W changed the numbering system. The fixed sight guns used C until 1967and then a D until 1983. So when someone says they have a Military & Police with serial K555444 we know it's not an M&P but a Masterpiece.

June 26, 2006, 08:38 PM
To clarify a bit, both Old Fuff and Saxon Pig are correct.

K Target frame revolvers had serial numbers beginning with the letter K from 1946 until 1970.

From 1970 until 1993 K-Target frame revolvers had a one or two digit number before the letter K with either five or six numbers following the number. (ie 6K58969)

June 26, 2006, 09:40 PM
To clarify Blues Bear and Saxon Pig a bit......:D

K Target frame revolvers had serial numbers beginning with the letter K from 1946 until 1970.

From 1970 until 1993 K-Target frame revolvers had a one or two digit number before the letter K with either five or six numbers following the number. (ie 6K58969)

For fixed sight guns:
V prefix = Wartime production
S prefix = 1945-1948
C prefix = 1948-1967
D prefix= 1968-1977
In 1978, a number began to precede the D

June 27, 2006, 02:15 AM
why not just correct my zero key typos?

english kanigit
June 27, 2006, 03:00 AM
Yeesh, and I thought collecting Finnish Mosins was complicated... :o

I've been checking the pawn(-ing) grounds around my area. What's a good base price for a Model 15?

You guys are a fountain of knowledge. Thanks!
ek :D

June 27, 2006, 04:45 AM
What's a good base price for a Model 15?

In very good condition I'd say $300 give or take $25 for a 4" Bbl depending on availability in your area. The 2" tubes usually command another $25 or so premium. Thats my take; Xavier, Old Fuff please correct if needed so we keep the Kanigit on the right page so to speak.

Old Fuff
June 27, 2006, 11:04 AM
You're close. I would say that with cash in your pocket, $300.00 should buy a model 15 in 95% or better condition, but as people learn about them they are going up. Finding one mint, in-the-box can add another $100. I suspect that anyone who waits will end up paying more.

Essex County
June 27, 2006, 02:36 PM
I think very highly of the Combat Masterpiece. In high school I had both a K22 and a K 38. I sold them to finance that second year of college. Then I entered the Air Force and was pleased that the issued revolved was the model 15. I've owned a number of J,K,and L frames over the years. A couple of months ago I found a seemingly unused model 67 at a local gunshop for 2 25.00 OTD, no tax involved. Because of a broken right wrist, I've only been able to run one box through it. I am a Happy Camper.....Essex

June 27, 2006, 03:09 PM
Regarding Old Fuff's recent posting on this thread.

Seems to me that as more more people learn about the older S&W revolvers prices are going up across the board. I can remember when you could pick up a used M28 in good condition for under $250, heck less than $200.00. I remember whne I was a senior in college (1990) looking at used Model 10's that were priced between $80.00 and $120.00. Of course as a starving student that was alot of money. Might as well been $500.00. Still even in 1990 those were very good prices.

Now the Model 10's are still pretty reasonable as are the 586's. Especially if you are looking at a specimen with the six inch barrel. Everybody want barrels with 4" or less.

For example last November I found a 6" 586 (no dash) in excellent condition with the original factory grips for $300.00. I traded a 22 rifle and got $75.00 taken off the price. That was a good day.:D

These type of prices will soon be a memory. Get any and all used S&W wheelies while you can. Eventually they'll cost as much as a new one.:(

The Model 15 is a very nice revolver and I've noticed that prices have begun to climb in my area on them as well. Like I said get them while you can.

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