Another 38 S&W victory model question


December 27, 2006, 07:14 PM
I received for christmas an old s&w 38 that belonged to my wifes grandfather, from my research I've concluded it to be a victory model, however I still have a few questions. I believe all the parts to be original except for the grips (all other numbers match) sn# V632xx. Which from what I've seen is a very low number, but I'm unsure if that is of any significance. The difference I see is the barrel. It is a 4" barrel and it has a longer sight that says: Parker Hale England and under the barrel is stamped "S/N --- crown over bnp --- 38"-767" --- 3 1/2 ton --- and another marking that appears to be mabye crossed swords or possibly just an X with an L on the left and a 2 underneath. The right side says "Smith & Wesson" and the left side says 38 S&W CTG. There are no property markings on the top or anywhere else that I can see. And it does not have the lanyard ring on the base. Any information on this revolver would be greatly appreciated.

Another question, where could I find grips & a holster for this era pistol.

Thanks in advance

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December 27, 2006, 07:25 PM
dano6257, some of the marks that you describe are british proof marks. When read in the proper sequence they indicate where it was tested (city) and the greatest pressure that it was passed at. Some of the other marks could be an ownership cartouch. Grips and holsters are available, after a little research, at Midway (on line) and Uncle Mikes probably has a servicable holster.

December 27, 2006, 07:28 PM
That's definately in the Victory serial number range, which ran from V1 to V769000. The markings you see are probably British proof stamps. Lots of these were exported to England during WWII as part of the Lend Lease program. More than a couple were repatriated after the war.

A couple of things to bear in mind. First, 38 S&W is absolutely not the same round as 38 Special. Load 38 S&W ammo only in this gun. Second, unless there is an "S" stamp near the rear sideplate screw and/or on the butt, this gun lacks a modern-style hammer block. It could fire if dropped.

As for holsters and grips, the gun will fit in any holster designed for S&W's k-frame revolvers. Period-accurate grips (smooth walnut) can be purchased from Sarco.

Hope that helps.

December 28, 2006, 09:08 AM
Thanks for the input, but I was hoping for some information on why the barrel and sights are different. And what are the best sources for research, I found a very close S/N that was found at NAS Corpus Christi.

The Real Hawkeye
December 28, 2006, 10:09 AM
Couldn't the sights be mods put on by a gunsmith?

Old Fuff
December 28, 2006, 10:15 AM
Another 38 S&W victory model question ... and another .... and another ... :)

Between 1899 and 1942, Smith & Wesson made one million :what: K-frame, Military & Police revolvers. At this point they had to start over because the machine that stamped the number on the butt couldn't go any higher. So they started the "V" series at #V 1. The "V" was supposed to stand for "Victory," because (for us) World War Two had just started.

During the war Smith & Wesson made two versions of the Victory Model. One was called the .38-200, and it was made for the British and their Commonwealth countries. As a rule it had a 5" barrel and was chambered in .38 S&W (not Special). The second was simply called the "Victory Model." It was made for U.S. military services, and was similar to the .38-200 except it was chambered in .38 Special and had a 4" barrel, although a few were made in 2" length.

Following the war, by the middle 1950's the British had replaced the .38-200 revolvers with Browning P-35 Hi-Power pistols, and many if not most of the remaining revolvers were sold as surplus to American gun dealers and importers.

A problem developed though. American gun buyers didn't particularly like either the long 5" barrel, or the .38 S&W cartridge. They preferred a shorter barrel and the .38 Special cartridge. So in both England and the United States a large number of these revolvers were rechambered to .38 Special (which for the most part ruined them) and had the barrel shortened and the front sight replaced. A common replacement was a ramp - usual intended for a rifle - soldered to the barrel. The front sight blade might be part of the ramp, or it might be a separate sight mounted in a dovetail cut in the ramp. Some of these conversions were well done, while others were very crude.

Often the lanyard loops were removed and the hole plugged.

The original stocks, which were plain, unchecked walnut were sometimes replaced with plastic ones - as can be seen on the example shown here. Last but not least the finished gun was occasionally reblued.

Individuals with a converted revolver of this kind should check the cylinder to see if the .38 S&W chambers are still there, or if they have been lengthened to take the .38 Special round. If so, fire only regular .38 Specials, not Plus-P, and expect to get split or cracked cases. .38 S&W rounds can also be fired, but generally accuracy is poor.

Stocks that fit a current day Model 10 Square Butt will fit, or can be made to. Any holster made for the Model 10 that's long enough to inclose the barrel - whatever length it should be now - should work too. If the barrel length is still 5 inches you may have to get a 6" holster.

At the time (middle 1950's and later) they were sold for very attractive prices when compared to a new Smith & Wesson or Colt. But they are an excellent example of the old saying, "you get what you pay for.”

Old Fuff
December 28, 2006, 10:32 AM
From a previous post made on another thread...

The history of the Smith & Wesson model .38-200 revolver is an interesting one that has been covered extensively in past threads. These can be located by using the forum's search feature.

In 1940 Smith & Wesson for all practical purposes was bankrupt. During the Great Depression they had continued to build revolvers and make parts, even thought those revolvers for the most part weren't selling. While this might seem foolish, their motive was to keep their skilled and valuable work force intact. If they were laid off and moved on they couldn't be easily replaced, and management knew it. But they could only keep this up for so long, and that time was about up.

In desperation they contracted with the British to design and build a 9mm carbine. They had absolutely no experiences with such arms, and the prototypes wouldn’t work with the U.K.’s ammunition. At this point the customer ask the company to refund a one million dollar pre-payment they’d made. Smith & Wesson couldn’t do it, as they’d spent the money, and had no other available funds. To save themselves they offered the British a deal. They would pay the debt in revolvers (sold at a special lower price) rather then money.

There was one problem. What revolvers S&W had on hand were chambered in .38 Special. The British service cartridge – normally used in Enfield and Webley top-break revolvers) was based on the .38 S&W cartridge, loaded with an extra heavy 200 grain bullet, and called the .38-200. So Smith & Wesson proposed to convert .38 Special revolvers they had on hand to .38-200 by reboring the barrels and replacing the cylinders as necessary, or using both new barrels and cylinders.

By now the Germans had conquered most of Europe, including France, and were planning to invade England. Given the circumstances the harried Brits. quickly accepted Smith & Wesson’s proposal and the deal was on.

Production started in March 1940, and by September the firm discontinued its commercial business to concentrate on .38-200 revolvers to the exclusion of others. This situation continued until February 1941, when they got caught up enough to restore some commercial and U.S. government orders. However they continued to make .38-200 revolvers throughout the World War Two period. During this whole period some 568,204 .38-200 revolvers were made.

It is interesting to note that next to the .38 Special cartridge, the .38-200 is the most common chambering found in the Military & Police revolver. Yet it was never cataloged for sale in the United States.

The standard barrel length was 5 inches. However during 1940 and 41 some were made with 4 and 6 inch barrels. With Hitler on the march the British did not quibble about barrel length. After 1942 these revolvers were marked “United States Property” or U.S. Property and sent under the Lend Lease Program, rather then being purchased directly as the earlier guns had been.

After the United States entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 this country found itself facing a serious shortage of handguns. As a result many .38-200 revolvers were diverted, and rather then sent to England or her Commonwealth countries, spent the war in holsters worn by security and plant guards at U.S, manufacturing factories.

A substantial number were also sold(?) to the O.S.S, the U.S. Army’s clandestine service during the war. For what reason the “spooks” need these revolvers is still not publicly known.

Following World War Two, during the middle 1950’s, these revolvers were declared surplus by the British Army, and many – if not most – were exported back to the United States. Unfortunately, because the .38 S&W cartridge wasn’t popular a substantial number were rechambered to .38 Special. These are usually marked on the side of the barrel, “.38 S&W Ctg.” And elsewhere, .38 Special. Both cartridges can be fired in the rechambered revolvers, but split cases and poor accuracy are often the result. It is most advisable not to shoot Plus-P cartridges of any kind in these revolvers, and some will go so far as to say they shouldn’t be shot at all. Be that as it may, they have a lot of interesting history behind them.

December 28, 2006, 11:36 AM
Many thanks old fuff, that answers alot of my questions.

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