Victory revolver cylinder trouble.


February 5, 2008, 07:40 PM
I have a .38 S&W Victory revolver. I bought it some months ago but I did not fire it until this month. When I was able to finally find some .38 S&W ammo locally, when I go to load it, 2 of the chambers of the cylinder simply fight wanting to take the round. One chamber it isnt too bad, a push and click its in. The other one is fighting me so bad I didnt want to try anymore for safety concerns.

I am no expert with wheel guns, this is my first actually, and im confused about it. Bent cylinder? The revolver itself looks to be in good shape, cylinder included.

Ideas? Help?

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February 6, 2008, 06:10 AM
Has it been converted to .38spl? Try inserting a .38spl round and see if it goes all the way in.
If it does, it is possible that there is a crud build up in the chamber to the smaller size of the .38spl. In that case a lot of scrubing with a .40 brush might help.

Good luck, let us know.

February 6, 2008, 04:39 PM
See I thought about that.

Before I actually bought the revolver, I had assumed it was the more common .38 Special model (the Victory was made in both .38 S&W and .38 Special). I went out the day I was to pick up the wheel gun and bought a box of 50 rounds of .38 special. But after I brought the gun home to fire it out back, I see written on the barrel '38 S&W CTG'. Yet, IIRC, the .38 special rounds fit in perfectly.

Perhaps it was converted? But then why the wrong barrel? Or is it something minor? Im confused. Honestly I'd rather it be .38 Special due to the scarcity of .38 S&W.

Hope you can give me some more advise.

February 6, 2008, 05:52 PM
If it has .38 S&W barrel marking, it probably started out as a British .38/200. It is not really a Victory Model, or it would be marked as a .38 Special. It will have a V or VS serial number prefix if it was really a Victory model to start with.
Unscrupulous folks actually reamed out the .38 S&W cylinders to accept the longer .38 Spl. cartridge.

That leaves a step in the chambers because the .38 S&W was in larger dia. case. It will also have larger cylinder throats because the .38 S&W used .360" bullets, as opposed to the .38 Specials .357" bullets.
If that's what it is, you should be able to plainly see it.

Not good. Not good atall!

February 6, 2008, 06:13 PM
It does have the V prefix. Not to mention the US property stamps in several places.
The only thing I am suspicious about is the barrel. It lacks a serial number, but the rest of the revolver is all matching.

I have seen .38 S&W Victorys before that were definitely not 'converted' from a Brit gun. US Navy markings, etc. But im no expert on these.

Even if this was (at least the barrel) a Brit model, it never left the country or was brought back before 1968 - no kind of import marks whatsoever.

Old Fuff
February 6, 2008, 07:07 PM
During the middle 1950's the .38-200 model revolvers - S&W, Colt, Enfield and Webley - were declared surplus by the British government and sold. Most of them ended on our shores. The latter two had short cylinders and remained what they were. Unfortunately the S&W and Colt’s had longer ones, and were often rechambered to .38 Special. This left a non-standard chamber that didn’t properly fit either round. Also some of the rechambering was done in a rather sloppy manner. The only “right” solution would be to have a .38 Special cylinder fitted to the gun, but that could get expensive.

Incidentally to explain a confusing issue. These guns were “U.S. Property” marked on the topstrap because Uncle Sam bought them, but then sent them overseas under the Lend-Lease program.

February 6, 2008, 07:14 PM
Odd thing is, the number on the cylinder matches the number on the handle. Fake matching? Doesnt look like it. V320XXX. Looking at the cylinder more closely, it seems closer to .38 special than .38 S&W. As I said earlier, when I loaded in .38 spl they fit fine, but I wasnt about to test fire it with that barrel.

Weird. But like I said I am no expert. Does this still go along with what youre saying, Old fuff? I'd like to solve this mystery and fix the 'problem'. I wanted a relatively inexpensive, US made, WW2 handgun for home defense and this was about the only it doesnt have to be perfect...although I wont rule out restoring it in the future.

February 6, 2008, 07:15 PM
This is what a 38 Spl Victory revolver looks like, and this is what the barrel stamping reads.

Under the barrel is a serial number that matches the butt serial number.

There is no reason why someone could not have changed barrels out years ago. Maybe the original barrel got smashed or damaged.

February 6, 2008, 07:27 PM
Like I say, mine has a barrel that while marked for .38 S&W it has NO serial number. THe rest of the gun, including the grips, is all matching.

I did notice a large number of the barrels off the .38 S&W version on gunbroker. And the bore is mint, mirror like. Perhaps you're right and it was swapped. Question is, is it safe to fire .38 Spl through this barrel? .38 S&W went fine but the cylinder hates the round.

Now im wanting to get the right barrel, but I cannot find one for sale.

Old Fuff
February 6, 2008, 07:31 PM
I would expect that the cylinder number would match the frame. If and when they were rechambered it was the original cylinder (numbered to the gun) that got rechambered. Being that it was made during the rush of wartime, the number on the barrel (located on the flat on the bottom of the barrel, above the ejector rod) could have been missed. Or the barrel might have been replaced. As a rule-of-thumb the .38 Specials were 4-inches long, where the .38-200 barrels were 5 inches long - but this wasn't cast in stone, and exceptions abound.

If you are not sure about the condition of the chambers (and we can't tell over the Internet) I suggest that you clean the chambers, and then have a qualified gunsmith inspect them. Then you'll know who is on first base. :)

Firing .38 Special cartridges won't hurt the barrel or the gun, but accuracy may not be too great. Avoid Plus-P ammunition, at least until you learn the condition the chambers are in.

February 6, 2008, 07:42 PM
Well it has a 5 inch barrel. I know of some oddities, such as US Navy marked one with a 2 inch barrel - so I agree there was no perfect standard.

So then you're thinking it was simply a rechambered land-lease victory? Another poster implied it wasnt a real victory if it didnt have the V prefix, but it does.
This is a pic of the actual revolver. I will provide new ones if it will help. (

Old Fuff
February 6, 2008, 08:28 PM
History Lesson. :)

In 1940 S&W starting making their Military & Police revolver chambered to use the .38 S&W cartridge. The British and their Commonwealth used this round, loaded with a 200 grain bullet (later replaced with a 178 grain one). These revolvers were known as the .38-200 model, and prior to late 1941 or January, 1942 they were sole exclusively to the British against commercial orders from them. These revolvers were numbered in S&W's regular serial number series with no letter prefix, most being in the late 700,000 and up.

In early 1942 S&W reached serial number 999,999 and could not go higher as their stamping machine had reached its limit. So they started over at V 1 and went forward. During the war they manufactured the Military and Police revolver exclusively. All frames were serial numbered in the V series (or during 1945, VS series when they added a hammer bock). These identical frames were divided between making either .38 Special or .38-200 revolvers. Other then the cylinders and barrels they were the same. There were some exceptions to this overview, but we don't need to be concerned with them here. .38-200 model revolvers marked "U.S. Property" or "United Stated Property" was sent overseas under the Lend-Lease program to England, Canada and other Commonwealth nations. A substantial number ended up with the U.S. Army's OSS for reasons we still don't know about.

To all appearances you have a standard S&W .38-200 (Victory) model revolver, with possibly (?) reamed out chambers.

February 6, 2008, 08:33 PM
Ah thank you Old Fuff.

Now for the couple more questions - Who was the one doing the conversion? Some gun smith, or someone in the USGOV?

And if this isnt a conversion, why is the cylinder being so fussy? It looks clean in there (and I used a brush on it)

February 6, 2008, 10:02 PM
I have a converted gun like yours. With mine, I use lightly loaded .38 SPL with no problems. If it was mine & the SPLs fit, I'd get a box of light SPL loads and shoot the thing. A lot of those Victory guns were converted to .38 SPL by God knows which gunsmith and shipped back to the US for sale after the war. The SPL was a much more popular cartridge (easier to sell) so they deepened the cylinder chambers. BTW, since the SPL is a smaller bore by 3/1000", I wouldn't feel comfortable shooting the .38 S&W through it.

February 7, 2008, 12:39 AM
I have a S&W Victory Revolver I bought in unused condition in 1972. Serial no. V292xxx It has a 5" barrel and chambered in 38 S&W. Have shot plenty of 38 S&W rounds through this old revolver and used it as home defence gun when we lived out in the boonies.

I bought it mail order through an ad listed in the "Gun Runner", a firearms paper of the times. Since the gun was in new condition wrapped in brown waxed paper with cosmoline grease on it, I considered having the cylinders lenghtened for 38 spec. At the time I expected it to come as 38 spec. and not 38 S&W.

But the bad news is; the gun is not really safe to be shooting 38 special through it. I dug out an old P.O Ackley, Questions and Answers Mini-Manual from 1973. On page 34 someone asked -- " Last month I bought a second-hand S&W, US made, Victory revolver in 38 S&W with a 5" barrel. Can I rechamber it for the 38 Special cartridge?" .. P.O. Ackley answered -- "The 38-cal. Victory Revolver was made by S&W for the British as a supplement revolver. It was meant to to fire the British 38-200 consisting of a 198 gr. bullet and 3.7 gr. of chopped Cordite, or 2.5 gr. Nitrocellulose with 197 gr fmj. The muzzle velocity was about 600 fps and muzzle energy about 150 lbs. CAUTION: - Don't ever ever shoot high-velocity amunition if you value your life. Stick with 38 S&W, as the groove dia. of the S&W Victory is about.3595 to .3612. The 38 special runs .3555 to 3572. The 38 special shells are too small for the chamber, running .380 to .381. The 38 S&W runs .388 to .389. So many times the shells may split if you shoot .38 Special ammunition in a .38 S&W chamber."

So I took Parker's advice and left it the way it was. Still a nice gun to shoot but ammo is getting tough to find.


February 7, 2008, 06:17 AM

This picture (not mine) shows a converted victory cylinder, if you look at the top two chambers you can see inside two rings about 1/8" apart.
The first ring was the original chamber for the .38 S&W the second, further down is the end of the .38spl chamber. After reaming, the chamber now looks like it's made for a bottleneck cartridge.
What I think happened to your gun is that it was shot with .38spl quite a bit and not properly cleaned. The original, larger, .38S&W chamber gradually filled with crud to match a, smaller, .38spl case.
To shoot the gun you have two options (more if you reload):
- Use light .38spl loads with soft lead bullets such as .38 wadcutters and hope that the bullet will expand enough to match the .360 bore of the barrel.
Be prepared for some weird looking and possibly plit cases in that case.
- Shoot some .38S&W loads. In which case you'll have to clean up your chambers so they'll take the fat .38S&W cases. Also the step for the .38spl case might shave a ring off the bullets and make a mess...

Of course if you reload there are more options, I would suggest that you suscribe to the S&W forum and do a search there for "converted victory". You'll find tons of good info.

February 7, 2008, 09:55 AM
Excellent post dbarale! I took the liberty of lightening up your photo for other viewers

Old Fuff
February 7, 2008, 10:12 AM
Now for the couple more questions - Who was the one doing the conversion? Some gun smith, or someone in the USGOV?

The conversion work was done by private gunsmithing firms in the U.K or U.S.A. Much of the better work was done by Parker-Hale in England. I don't believe that any of this was done by either country's military establishment.

And if this isnt a conversion, why is the cylinder being so fussy? It looks clean in there (and I used a brush on it)

That's the problem with the Internet. There is no way I can personally inspect the chambers in your revolver. But if someone can, and determines that they are, or are not, converted we can go on from there.

Old Fuff
February 7, 2008, 10:24 AM
Wraco (and others).

There is no reason that one shouldn't shoot .38-200 revolvers made by S&W, Colt, Enfield and Webley as long as they are in good condition and not rechambered. The best answer to the high cost of ammunition is to handload the cartridge. The hardest part of doing this is to find .360 diameter bullets, but they are available. Additional information on sources of commercial ammunition and reloading supplies will be found in the following links.

February 7, 2008, 05:08 PM
Looking down the chambers of the cylinders, I see only one 'ring' (per dbarale's helpful post), no evidence of reaming I commonly hear about such as a stamp on the barrel either. The two chambers that fight me are the two right beneath the serial number. (with a third chamber requiring a little harder push to get it in) After doing some reading on the topic, I'd prefer it would be unconverted as it has more value (and most of the ones I see ARE converted)

February 7, 2008, 06:48 PM
At this point I would say, remove the cylinder, let it sit overnight in some penetrating oil then scrubb the chambers with a .40 brass brush until your arm hurts.
I would say it it converted but it won't be obvious until it's completetly cleaned up.
One of these cases when I would like to have the gun in front of me to take a look at it...

February 7, 2008, 07:39 PM
How far inside is the ridge? A .38 SPL case legth is 1.155" while a .38 S&W is .775" so, if you slide something down the side of the chamber, measure when you feel the ridge. If it's more than 3/4" down, it's SPL cylinder.

February 7, 2008, 11:34 PM
I had two Victory revolvers in .38 Special over the years. They were not US property marked but had the flaming bomb in the gunbutt, right next to the serial number. One serial number was V 555... as far as I recall.

Since your revolver chambers .38 Special better than .38 S&W and also has no step in the cylinder from reaming it out to .38 Special length, I guess that it was rebarreled.
If you find a proper barrel for it,you can put it back easily into a more authentic condition and imporve its accuracy.

February 8, 2008, 01:16 PM
then scrubb the chambers with a .40 brass brush until your arm hurts.Use a .40 cal. bore brush, solvent, and an Electric Drill.

If there is anything in there that shouldn't be, this will very quickly take it out!

February 8, 2008, 02:13 PM
Hey Guys I have a question, I have a 38spl victory model in great shape, 4 inch barrel, which I picked up at a pawn shop. What is it worth?

P.S. mine seems to be a civilian model with no military markings but matching numbers.

February 8, 2008, 04:23 PM
Mossy, does it have a V prefix serial on both the butt and the cylinder, does it have a lanyard loop and does it say ".38 S&W SPL CTG" on the right side of the barrel?

February 8, 2008, 05:03 PM
dbaraqle , yes to all those questions. The reason I asked is because I have seen a few of those on different gun auction sights for as much as $650.00 and the pictures they show were in no better condition than mine also some of them didn't have military markings either. I have researched it a little and it seems to either be one used for civil defense or maybe a version sold to civilians after the war. I looked up the serial number and it was made in I believe 1943. I am new to this sight and there seems to be a wealth of knowledge here so I thought I would ask.

February 8, 2008, 05:15 PM
PzGren, im confused. Another poster tells me the opposite. Like I said, only one 'ring' and not like the one pictured. Also, as I said, there is no serial on the barrel at all.

Argh too many experts :P

Old Fuff
February 8, 2008, 05:29 PM
Smith & Wesson's contracts with the government specified that the government would not sell surplus military "V" model revolvers to the public after the war, but this didn't cover guns that ended up with domestic police departments and defense plants, or were shipped overseas. Consequently there are a fair number around.

Supposedly all of the V-model frames were stamped on the topstrap, "United States Property," or "U.S. Property." But the stamping was sometimes light, and could be polished out during refinishing.

But the O.S.S. got some that weren't so marked, and there could have been others.

Jim Supica, a noted S&W authority and member of The High Road, runs an auctuion at: ( Also see: (

A number of Victory Models in both .38 Special (American) and .38-200 (British) have been sold at auction on that site, and past results are posted. You may find that helpful to determine a realistic value.

February 8, 2008, 06:16 PM
Mossy, it sounds like you do, indeed, have a .38spl victory. I would recommend that you get a letter form S&W that will provide some detail regarding the history of the gun. Also you really should register at the S&W forum and ask the same question there. Your gun is probably quite valuable but my best guess would still be a guess, these folks can help you.

Ratzinger, I am not an expert, by far.
I have two possible explanations for your gun. Neither sounds plausible:
A .38S&W Victory that was reamed for .38spl and has really dirty chambers.
A .38spl Victory that was re-barreled and has really loose chambers that will almost accept a .38S&W round.

Again, a letter form S&W will give you the original caliber and the real experts at the S&W forum can probably give you some more accurate information.

February 8, 2008, 06:29 PM
Thanks for the advice guys, I had intended to have it lettered and I really appreciate the help. The value is not the reason I bought it , I love guns connected with history, especially WWII.

February 9, 2008, 12:28 AM
check for the small flaming bomb on the bottom of the frame strap, it is a round imprint just about 1/8th of an inch big, that's all mine had and it was very shallow. One was also marked DOPC, supposedly Dept. of Public Corrections.


use your own judgement:), if there is only one ring, then this is the normal chamber as it was cut at the factory. Since it accepts .38 Special, it was cut to .38 Special, right? The cylinder markings match the frame, so it is the original cylinder, correct?
If the barrel is not serial numbered but marked .38 S&W it most likely is one of the barrels that were in the past sold by Numrich, Sarco, etc. for around $10 and installed on the gun afterwards.

February 9, 2008, 12:41 AM
That's what I am concluding if I can find a source for the .38 Special barrels. (Anyone know? GunBroker and elsewhere are bingo on the .38 special version)

Old Fuff
February 9, 2008, 11:20 AM
There is no reason to change the barrel. The difference in bore diameter is .0002" - possible less, depending on tolerances. Unless you plan to change both the barrel and cylinder (very expensive!) I'd leave things as they are.

That said, contemporary World War Two barrels (.38 Special and .38 S&W) are available from

February 9, 2008, 11:42 AM
I agree with Old Fuff, before you change the barrel, see how it patterns. If it shoots well enough, I'd let it be. The 5" barrel looks pretty neat, imho.

February 9, 2008, 01:53 PM
PzGren mine does have the bomb on the bottom of the strap just before the V in the serial number, I have owned the revolver for three or four years and had never noticied it until you told me to look for it and it is a good stamp, plain as day! Thanks for the tip.

February 9, 2008, 03:06 PM
Why would I have to change cylinders? This one appears unmodified. Not to mention whoever put on this barrel put it on a little tight, and the sighting is off. Oddly on that site you linked me, the only 4' barrel is noted as being British...confusing.

Old Fuff
February 9, 2008, 04:08 PM
I don't know that you would have to change the cylinder. But that's the problem because I have no way of knowing for sure if the present cylinder is good to go or not. If it unquestionably O.K. then it shouldn't be changed, but by the same token, it isn't necessary to change the barrel, although it might be desireable.

Understand that changing barrels isn't a case of clamping the barrel in a vise, putting a hammer handle through the frame's cylinder window, and giving the frame a twist. This is an excellent way to warp the frame, and if you don't the new barrel is unlikely to just screw in and have the front sight come up at 12:00, and have a correct cylinder/barrel gap at the other end.

Also the barrel you have may have the front sight turned a hair to correct a windage error. Before making any judgment you should target the gun and see where it shoots relative to the point-of-aim.

I haven't checked lately, but they did have some .38-200 barrels in the 5" length. That said, while the 5" length was the standard one, during the war S&W made the .38-200 with barrel lengths of 4, 5 and 6 inches. With a war on they didn't hesitate to use anything they had that might work, or could be made to work. After the war, Numrich (The Gunparts Co.) bought literally tons of surplus parts from both the U.S. government and the S&W company.

February 9, 2008, 08:03 PM
I intend to check with S&W themselves first to find out which barrel it was made with, so I will not do anything rash first.

Although you are correct, removal of the barrel will be a problem.

February 10, 2008, 02:00 AM
those pinned in barrels do not have the high torque crush fit of the later production guns. They can be removed quite easily, I rebarreled a few S&W revolvers.

Getting the barrel out is fairly easy, fitting a new barrel might not be so easy, the barrel shoulder might need to be turned but more likely the forcing cone will need to be shortened. The shoulder should be fitted so that the barrel can be handscrewed in to about 6 to 8 minutes before 12 o'clock, if my memory does not betray me, and then screwed in with some more force. It is important that you do not turn it too far, turning is back can lead to a barrel that will loosen up.

But I would really first see how the gun patterns with 158gr lead bullets ( swaged bullets should give a better seal ) before I would even think about changing the barrel. If the POI is not far off, I would take Old Fuff's advise and turn the barrel slightly - with the pin removed.

If you are mechanically inclined. and get the necessary information and some little hints, you should be able to do it yourself.

Old Fuff
February 10, 2008, 08:56 AM
those pinned in barrels do not have the high torque crush fit of the later production guns. They can be removed quite easily, I rebarreled a few S&W revolvers.

You may have been lucky. I've seen some frames that were bent, not always by much - but enough to ruin the gun. When a professional does the job, both the barrel and frame are supported in special blocks that support the thinner part of the frame, and the contour of the barrel.

Always remember, this is a job where if everything is done right you'll be O.K., but if it's done wrong the result can be a ruined frame. :uhoh:

February 10, 2008, 02:11 PM
I have done a few barrels and always made my own tools to change them. A barrel block is quickly made out of wood and I have some pretty elaborate wrenches that can handle pretty much any job up to an old Mauser.

That said, all laws of physics are applicable and with a good leverage in the wrong spot, a gun can be ruined by a thoughtless hobby gun smith as quickly as by a sloppy reloader:D

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