S&w .38 Id


April 21, 2007, 11:04 AM
I'm new to the forum, & have some questions..... can someone ID (which nos. are S/N's; DOB; etc.) an old S&W .38 I inherited: Barrel: Left side 'Smith&Wesson'; Right side 'Regulation Police 38 S&W CTG'; Top 'Smith&Wesson Springfield Mass USA PAT'd Oct 8 01.....Dec 29 14; Metal Frame: Front of Butt...4280; Rear Of Butt... 8369; Base of grip: S.207; Pat June 5 1917; Rear of cylinder: .... 4960; Cylinder swing arm: 994; Cylinder swing arm to frame seat: 994;
Butt base is oval/round, not square.... grips have bronze /gold colored S&W logo... no S&W logo on either side of metal frame.... should I remove the grips to look for additional ID nos.?..... Tx.

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Old Fuff
April 21, 2007, 11:38 AM
Great description. It helps a lot.

You have a Smith & Wesson .38 Regulation Police model. They were made in .32 and .38 versions, and the one you have is a 5-shot, chambered in .38 S&W (not .38 Special). Because the wood grips covered the bottom of the frame the serial number was stamped on the front strap, the rear face of the cylinder, and the bottom of the barrel above the ejector rod. Stndard barrel lengths were 3 1/4, 4 1/4 and 6 inches, measured from the cylinder face to the end of the muzzle. Standard finishes were blue and nickel plate. The stocks are checkered walnut, and the number on the bottom is a patent date, as are the ones stamped on the top of the barrel. The number on the inside of the yoke (you call it a "swing arm") and the frame behind it are an assembly number, made to be sure the right yoke is matched to the frame it was individually fitted to.

The Regulation Police was a variant of Smith & Wesson's 1903 Hand Ejector. Production of the Regulation Police started in 1917 at serial number 1 and pre-war production ended in 1940 at serial number 54,474. I would estimate that your revolver, serial No. 4,280 (? the number on the cylinder should match) was made during 1917 or 1918. I have no idea what the number on the backstrap (8369) might be. I doubt that there is any important additional information on the frame under the stocks, but I always remove them and look. The underside of at least one stock should be marked with the gun's serial number, probably in pencil.

April 21, 2007, 12:59 PM
Old Fluff ... Tx much for your great response.... the revolver was given to my father by his cousin, who was an NYPD Detective in the early 40's.... I'm guessing that the rear strap no... 8369.. was an NYPD 'ID stencil'... I rechecked the nos. on the cylinder, & they now appear to be the same... 4280... (eyes ain't what they were)... I use the gun on a range (using 'Cowboy .38's') & it still works great.... only problem is I must 'aim-off' due to the fixed sights...
PS: I re-measured the barrel, & from end of muzzle to cylinder face it measures 1/32" shy of 4".... could this be a home-mod for back-up carry?
PPS: is this a mdl 33, I-frame? Tx again....

April 21, 2007, 01:32 PM
A man named RM Vivas owns a NY gun shop and is an expert on NYPD guns. He actually has the records for many of the cops' guns including the name of the officer who carried it. He posts on smith-wessonforum.com if you want to ask him about your revolver.

Old Fuff
April 21, 2007, 01:40 PM
This is where a good picture would be handy...

I agree that the nunber, 8369 probably has something too do with the NYCPD, and may be the former owner's badge number.

I was unaware that anyone loaded the .38 S&W as a cowboy load.

Look on the bottom of the barrel where the flat is milled to clear the ejector rod. The serial number should be stamped there. If it isn't I would suspect that the original barrel was replaced, and the new one might be 4" long.

If the serial number, 4,280 is correct, the revolver is a pre-model 33 by a long shot, and is built on the regular I-frame. If this is the case there will be a mainspring strain screw located toward the bottom of the frontstrap - under where the serial number is stamped. The (so called) improved I-frame doesn't have this screw becase it has a coil mainspring. If this is the case the serial number should be in the over 50,000 range. The J-frame was introduced to replace the improved I-frame in 1961 as the model 33-1.

April 21, 2007, 03:10 PM
Y'all are terrific references..... there IS a screw just below the s/n on the front strap... also, I tried the S&W forum, but they won't accept my AOL e-mail address..... anyone know why? how do I register?? Tx...

Old Fuff
April 21, 2007, 04:33 PM
I tried the S&W forum, but they won't accept my AOL e-mail address..... anyone know why? how do I register??

Therein lies a story.... :uhoh:

I tried too, but couldn't get in. :( So I came over here. ;)

April 21, 2007, 04:49 PM
I too was refused admittance to the S&W forum.. Been here ever since.

April 21, 2007, 09:14 PM
A man named RM Vivas owns a NY gun shop

I just bought a very nice 4" 686 no dash from Robert. A very nice person to deal with. :)

April 22, 2007, 04:43 PM
OLD FLUFF... As you can tell, I'm a novice w/guns.... what's the diff btwn 'regular' S&W .38 (not Special), & Cowboy .38's? I'm using 158gr re-load Cows.. am I overstressing this oldie? I (Outers) bore/cylinder clean & Rem-oil after every shoot.... Tx..

April 22, 2007, 07:49 PM
.38 Smith & Wesson was a shorter and slightly larger in diameter case than the .38 Special. It was a predecessor round to the .38 Special. As each new cartridge came out, they were changed slightly to prevent the use in one gun of the other's cartridge, mainly for safety reasons. The .38 S&W is a low powered cartridge compared to the .38 Special. The .38 S&W used a lead bullet averaging 145 grains, was rimmed, had about 745 fps muzzle velocity, was 1.180 inches loaded in length by .3885 diameter and .3585 inside the neck. In a 200 grain load this was called the .38 Smith & Wesson Super Police.

A .38 Special case on the other hand is 1.540 loaded overall length and .379 in diameter.

As for overstressing, cannot help you there. What you need to do is find somebody who really knows guns to look it over to see if it is safe to shoot, i.e. cylinder does not have too much play, lock-up is good, etc...

The .38 S&W is a low-power load by today's standards. Most manufacturers load down older cartridge loads because of the possibility of using them in older guns. However, there is not much call for it these days since .38 Specials surplanted .38 S & W's a long time ago.

Hope this helps.

The Doc is out now. :cool:

Old Fuff
April 22, 2007, 08:33 PM

You're almost, but not quite right.

The .38 S&W cartridge was introduced in 1876 and designed to go into Smith & Wesson's new (and first .38) #2 single action top-break. Because it was a top-break the cartridge was shorter, but a little fatter so that the automatic ejector could throw it out.

The .38 Special was a lengthened .38 Long Colt, which in 1899 was the U.S. handgun service cartridge. By making the case a little longer it could hold a bit more black powder, and they increased the bullet weight from 150 to 158 grains. It was first used in their Military & Police revolver, the desendent of which is today's model 10. The advantage of their new model - which they quickly pointed out to the trade, was that one could fire either the .38 Long Colt service cartridge in it, or go to the more powerful .38 Special. Needless to say, Colt's were not happy with this development.

The 1903 Hand Ejector/Regulation Police model was designed around the .32 S&W Long (it could also be used with the .32 S&W) and .38 S&W. the cylinder was only 1.25" long, so obviously a .38 Special wouldn't fit. On the other hand the .38 Special was never chambered into a S&W top-break revolver.

Old Fuff
April 22, 2007, 08:50 PM

The difference between the .38 S&W and .38 Special are explained in the above post.

There is no reason you can't use handloaded cartridges as long as someone keeps the load on the mild side. Also the .38 S&W usually uses a 145 grain bullet that is .360" in diameter. The .38 Special uses various bullet weights that are .358" in diameter. Many people reload the .38 S&W using 148 grain hollow-base wadcutters that are .358 in diameter, and depend on the hollow base to expand and seal the bore. It works, but you may get extra leading and less accuracy.

There have been a number of previous threads and posts on The High Road concerning how to handload the .38 S&W. You can find them by using the search feature at the top of the page, and the key word 38S&W and maybe "load." or "handload."

April 23, 2007, 08:37 AM
Thank you, Old Fuff. I was pulling my data from BOOK OF PISTOLS AND REVOLVERS by Joseph E. Smith.

Correction and information appreciated.

The Doc is out now. :cool:

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