Need opinions on old revolver


July 17, 2008, 09:12 AM
I have a Smith & Wesson Military and Police .38 special with dates on it from 1902 to 1908. This was my great grandfather's issued service revolver as he was a railroad security official way back when.
My question is... should I have this gun restored or leave it as is? The gun is nickel plated and the nickel is in very bad shape. Many parts of the gun are all but black and there are a few spots that are pitting, especially on the cylinder.

I don’t want to ruin the gun, but at the same time, I want this gun to survive in the family for another 100 years and continue to pass it on thru the generations.

I also love to shoot this gun. I don’t have a gun that shoots straighter. Heck, I would even consider this as a carry gun except I’m afraid of too much use considering the age and the old metallurgical technology will not hold up to the newer ammo pressures.

Any thoughts would be great.


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July 17, 2008, 09:25 AM
Leave it as is as long as its operational, preserve it but don't erase any of the history its wearing and showing - a "restored" gun is, to me, much less desireable, it is no longer authentic, its character is lost when it is altered.

But its your gun, and your decision, if you do decide on a restoration be carefull choosing a restorer, insist on seeing his previous work. I think its great that you want to keep it in the family.

Vern Humphrey
July 17, 2008, 09:51 AM
It is permissible to replace worn or broken parts -- as long as you keep the original parts. But don't refinish if you expect to maintain the gun's collector value.

July 17, 2008, 08:26 PM

I also would have to vote in favor of leaving it in its original condition. The history is in the gun; by refinishing it, you erase the history. Yes, you may have restored it to a factory new finish, but everything that gun and its owner went through together, will be lost forever. Replace any broken or damaged parts, and just preserve this marvelous heirloom.

July 23, 2008, 11:19 AM
Thanks for the input. I have decided to leave it as is. I agree that the history of this gun is its character. This gun has seen much over the last 100+ years and i dont want to erase that, expecially since the history is family history.


July 23, 2008, 11:29 AM
Great old firearm and neat piece of family history for you --- I too agree with leaving it as is.

Don :)

July 23, 2008, 12:14 PM
I agree with previous writers. I have a 1905 Colt .45 automatic. It is a family heirloom. It essentially has no finish. I do not intend to ever sell or trade it. The bore is very corroded from firing and lack of cleaning with the old corrosive ammo. I will not change it except to keep it preserved and properly stored...

Old Fuff
July 23, 2008, 12:17 PM
Given this gun's history within your family, I suggest that you get it "lettered." To do so you will need a snapshot of the gun, a full description including the serial number on the butt, and a check in the amount of $30.00 made out to Smith & Wesson. In exchange the company's historian, Roy G. Jinks, will research the original records (which are not computerized by the way) and send you a letter containing the details of what he finds.

This comprehensive document will contain an overview of the modelís history, followed by the details of your particular gun. This usually includes the caliber, barrel length, finish, and the exact date it was shipped from the factory, and to what distributor or dealer. If there are any special features they will be listed too. This information is often invaluable to both you and future generations.

Additional information on a historical letter will be found at the Smith & Wesson company website at:

July 23, 2008, 01:30 PM
I have taken family relic guns with peeling nickel finishes and carefully removed the nickel as it lifted. Eventually it was almost all gone. I did not refinish the two pistols, merely encouraged a flawed finish to come off.

It felt right, and anyway, I was tired of getting cut on the raised edges!

July 23, 2008, 01:30 PM
I suggest that you get it "lettered."

Wow! I had no idea you could do that. Thank you for that bit of info Old Fuff. I am printing out the form and taking the photos tonight. :D

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