Another .38 S&W date & identity crisis!


September 4, 2007, 06:29 PM
I was hoping you guys could help me identify a pistol that belonged to my grandfather. It has lots of sentimental value and I am sure very little $$ value given to poor condition of the finish, and from what I remember the rifling on the barrel was quite worn... when my father passed away in 1986 I found the gun in his was loaded, and I took it out back, stood over a creek and dropped the hammer... I was greeted with something that sounded like an air gun going off ...the powder was dead and the primer was enough to push the bullet out of the barrel and it plopped into the creek right in front of me :)

It's a Smith & Wesson .38 S&W 5 shot top break revolver double action, nickel finish, SN 3589XX with a 3 1/4" barrel
I don't have a picture of it right now, but it looks like the (almost) countless others I have seen on here.

I moved to Canada in 2000 and left my handguns at a buddies house in the states... I just got my permit here to possess/aquire handguns here and i am looking to TRY to get this in (the barrel is too short so I may have a tough time)

A big question is... what makes it a 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc model?
and, can you tell me the year it was manufactured?

I am getting that buddy to email me a picture of the gun this evening if we need it.

Thanks in advance! I have learned VOLUMES just by reading the posts


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September 5, 2007, 12:51 AM
I hate to say it but I don't think you'll be able to get that into Canada. I know there's a Canadian gun owners forum out there and if you can find that maybe they can help you.

As far as giving you more info on your gun I think we need more details. I don't know if the serial number itself is enough.

If no one here can help, try over at as well.

btw, welcome to the forum and stick around awhile.

Old Fuff
September 5, 2007, 08:21 AM
Heck, you don't have to go anywhere else, we know it all... :rolleyes: :D

I presume this revolver had a hammer you could cock with your thumb, and did not have a grip safety.

If so, it is a Smith & Wesson .38 Double Action, 4th model. These were manufactured between 1895 and 1909, within a serial number range running from 322,701 to 539,000. Your serial number (358,9xx) would suggest pre-1900 or very early 1900's manufacture, and you might be able to import it into Canada as a antique or relic. While modern .38 S&W ammunition is available, it should not be fired in this revolver.

If you are willing to pay a $30.00 (US) search fee, Smith & Wesson will research their old records and confirm the details of this revolver in writing. The information would include a short history of the model, the specifics about your revolver (barrel length, finish, etc) and the date it was shipped from the factory and to what distributor or dealer. You could use this letter to confirm the antique or relic status with Canadian authorities. Additional information about having the gun "lettered," will be found at

The model number, running from 1 through 5, denote minor internal engineering changes that would effect parts interchangeability.

September 5, 2007, 11:13 AM
Thanks Old Fuff!
You presume correctly on BOTH counts! It DOES have an exposed hammer and no grip safety.

Thank You so much for the information... I am so glad I found this group! There is so much information here it makes my head spin!

I think I will look into getting the letter on the gun... do you have any idea on the approximate turn around time?

I know the gentleman does it by hand, so I am not expecting a next day turn around time by any stretch... just wondering what kind of time frame I could expect...

Thanks again and i will be a regular on here for sure!


Old Fuff
September 5, 2007, 01:13 PM
You may have to ask S&W about the time issue. The gentleman who does the research is Roy Jinks, and the records are not computerized, but rather in old ledger books. To make matters harder, these are shipping, not production records, and the guns were not shipped by order of serial number. On occasion one might remain in stock for a year or two before it went out, but I doubt that this will be what happened here.

I feel safe in saying that the gun is at least a century old, and likely more. Therefore the record on it is equally old.

Because numerous requests keep coming in I think a wait of about 8 to 10 weeks should be expected. However factory documentation is worth the wait because it is seldom challanged.

Do have your friend send you a picture of the revolver, as one is required (or at least requested) as part of the application. The purpose is to aid identification, and a snapshot will do.

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