Help Identify This S&W Wheelgun, Please


July 28, 2008, 08:12 PM
First, sorry for the bad pics. I was in a hurry. I picked this up yesterday at Bass Pro and they had it marked as a "Pre-model 10, Fourth Series" whatever that is. By the serial number, 51xxx, it would be a Model of 1902, First Change. I asked Old Fuff without showing him any pictures and that is what he thought. The only problem is there are things that don't jive with this. It is a five screw while the book says it should be a "pre-five screw four screw". It is a square butt which doesn't jive, either. And, I'm not sure there should be any lug at all on the barrel. The serial number is on the butt, the cylinder and under the ejector rod on the lug and they all match. It is a 6-shot .38 S&W Special with a 5" bbl. What the heck is this thing?

By the way, I paid $269.99.

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.38 Special
July 28, 2008, 08:16 PM
What is the caliber?

July 28, 2008, 08:18 PM
It is a .38 Special.

July 28, 2008, 08:18 PM
Looks a heck of a lot like a .38/44 Heavy Duty. You sure it's not an N frame? That serial would put production around 1937. The 5-screw/square butt/5" barrel all match up with the .38/44 Heavy Duty pre-war.

July 28, 2008, 08:20 PM
Would it say .38/44 Heavy Duty on it? It is marked .38 S&W Special on the barrel. I am confused.

Jim Watson
July 28, 2008, 08:22 PM
Shade is right, that is a .38-44 Heavy Duty.
Bass Pro had it listed wrong and paid the price - $100 or more below a fair price.

July 28, 2008, 08:26 PM
Man, I love this forum (when people are civil). You can learn a lot very quickly. I started having doubts about the Model of 1902 because of the lug. The pictures I saw of that vintage didn't appear to have a lug.

July 28, 2008, 08:39 PM
That is a pre-war Heavy Duty 38/44 (pre-Model 20) made around 1937 wearing pre-war Magnas (maybe original to the gun).

Such a gun in average condition is worth $400-$500.

Those Magna stocks are worth $500-$600 all by themselves.

If the stocks are numbered to the gun (look at the inside of the left one) I would ask $1,200 for this gun.

Bass Pro screwed the person they bought it from by giving him $125 for what they thought was a M&P model then they screwed themselves by selling it to you for $270.

July 28, 2008, 08:39 PM
You are one lucky son of a gun to get that firearm at that price. A pre-war S&W in good condition... nice find!

July 28, 2008, 08:40 PM
Did you wear a mask when you stole that? You had better if you go back. They will be looking for you!!:evil::D

Brian Williams
July 28, 2008, 09:26 PM
I picked up a transitional HD for about the same price and sold it for almost triple, a prewar in that shape should go for much more.

Nice gun.

July 28, 2008, 09:51 PM
The only reason I identified it so quickly was that I briefly looked at what I believe to be a pre-war HD with the old style grips today. Now that we've established what they're worth, I think I'll be going back tomorrow to take a closer look... might be taking my Police Positive MK V as trade fodder...

July 28, 2008, 10:18 PM
Seeing someone pick up such a cool old gun for that kind of money just makes me smile.
Good for you Phydeaux642.

Hey but it is an early N frame right? Tom

July 28, 2008, 10:30 PM
Definitely an 5 screw N frame.

Nice find, the folks at Bass Pro really goofed on that one.

July 28, 2008, 10:32 PM
Well, I sure am feeling pretty good about that find. And, to top it off I also picked up an N frame .357 model 520 for $369.99. There were only 3000 of these made in 1980 and they are the only N frames ever made with fixed sights. Yesterday was a good day.:D

And, I have to apologize to Old Fuff for not having any pictures as I'm sure he would have identified it quickly. Sometimes S&W serial numbers are a bit confusing.

Old Fuff
July 28, 2008, 10:46 PM
That's why a phtograph can be so important. Correct identification can only be as accurate as the information that's provided. When the revolver was stated to be a "pre-model 10" in the first place, research started at that point. Had the heavy underlug been metioned there would have been a quick change of direction.

Yes, the the revolver is a .38-44 Heavy Duty, although the model name is not stamped on the gun. It also has a set of early magna stocks which usually came on the .357 Magnum being made at the same time. It is built on Smith & Wesson's N-Frame (not the K-frame), and it is worth much more then the buyer paid. :)

July 28, 2008, 10:54 PM
Fuff, I know I've been pestering you with PMs lately, but I sent you another regarding this subject. ;)

July 28, 2008, 10:55 PM
When I first looked at the gun, the tag listed it as a pre-model 10, which I didn't question until I started reading about these. The serial number kept bugging me and as I started looking at pictures I noticed that none of the guns that I was looking at had the underlug. That confused me a bit more as I was still trying to make it a Model of 1902. I guess you can't always believe what you read on a tag, but this time I came out on the long end of the stick.

July 28, 2008, 11:08 PM
Good golly gee gartion! Phydeaux, what Bass Pro Shop did you go to?

I concur, a 38/44 Heavy Duty, and a nice one at that! Are the grips numbered to the gun?

I wouldn't want to speculate on what it might bring from a knowledgeable buyer, but Supica has a similar revolver ( with a 6.5" barrel listed at $985. I'd wager your 5 incher would sell for more.

July 28, 2008, 11:18 PM
Interesting. It was my understanding that the 6.5" barrel Heavy Duties are more scarce than the 5". That gun also has the box, which would bring a hefty premium from collectors, but alas, the grips are not matching. Matching numbered grips should make up some of the distance. I too would not want to speculate on the value (because it's really worth what someone will give ya for it), but I can say with certainty that it is worth FAR more than you paid for it.

July 28, 2008, 11:32 PM
WOW, nice,nice,nice, find !!

Phydeaux, you made out like a bandit on that S&W.

The stocks are worth as much or more than what you paid for the whole gun!! :)


Old Fuff
July 28, 2008, 11:35 PM
Originally the Heavy Duty was only offered with a 5" barrel, as its intended market was law enforcement. Later 6 1/2 and 4 inch lengths were added. Even though the other lengths are less common, the 5 inch seems to be the more popular.

Following World War Two S&W made some pre-model 20's with the pre-war "long action" but post-war positive hammer block. I'm not sure that collectors noticed, but the Old Fuff did... :evil:

July 28, 2008, 11:39 PM
Holy cow.

I'm going to go get a drink, catch my breath, then start planning a trip and driving around the country to all the Bass Pro Shops over the next month...

What a buy. I'd have to say the best I've seen reported on this forum or others this year. I do quibble with XavierBreath about the comparable gun being listed at $985. The comparable one is the one lower than that listed at $1,250 with the magna grips, and that one with an altered barrel (most likely).

John Fugate
July 29, 2008, 12:03 AM
Nice Pre War Magnas,, a set on Ebay brought 910.00 about 6 months ago. Thats was a little high but Pre War Magnas are bringing 6-7 fairly steady around the loop. You have a 1500.00 item easy,, Nice Find. Those do not come around very often like that. I would hang on to it, they are smooth as slik and built like a swiss watch. Plus getting higher everyday,,
John Fugate

July 29, 2008, 12:33 AM
Interesting. It was my understanding that the 6.5" barrel Heavy Duties are more scarce than the 5". I'm no expert in the Heavy Duty stuff guys. I note that Jim also didn't say the box was original to the gun, just that it was a "worn gold picture box for this model."

I agree matching grips will make up the difference handily.

John Fugate
July 29, 2008, 01:31 AM
Hey if you got a gold box with the gun, thats an extra 150.00 dollar bonus. Your gun being a pre war would not have came in a gold box but it still has value in itself. The box does not help the pre war gun a dime, but if the box is decent it could fetch 150.00 plus on Ebay. That would put you in the gun around a hundred bucks or so, now dont you feel better about your deal knowing you will not have so much invested in your pre war HD with Magnas,, This reminds me of the guy who bought a registered magnum from Gander Mountain for 550.00 a couple of years ago. Everybody deserves a catch like this every once in a while. Thats what keep you on the hunt and keeps it interesting. Good for you ,,,,,,,

July 29, 2008, 03:31 PM
I wanted to thank everyone for their input. You guys are a wealth of information. This sure has made my week a lot sweeter.

July 29, 2008, 04:00 PM
I believe the 6.5" is most uncommon for the HD. Actually, I hear that maybe a handful were made with 8" barrels and those would be most rare.

The 5" was standard on pre-war models with (I am told) about 80 or so 4" HDs made.

The post-war models reversed, with the 4" becoming standard and the 5" version less common.

The 520 at $370 is about 1/3 market value.

July 29, 2008, 07:36 PM
The grips for the .38-.44 are numbered to the gun. Man, this just keeps getting better and better.

July 30, 2008, 11:16 PM

Way to go!! What a great story. Your luck really has turned around! So good to hear you got such a great deal!! Looking forward to the range report with more pics.

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