38 Special Identification


March 24, 2009, 09:03 PM
Hi, I own a Smith & Wesson 38 Special CTG. I am not sure when it was made or even a model number. I saw a similar post here and thought perhaps you could help me. The serial number seemed to be the key in the other post. It is S 913855. The barrel length is five inches.

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March 25, 2009, 04:13 PM
Late 1947...maybe early 1948...should have a four line address and Made in USA on lower right side of frame.

"S" prefix was from somewhere close to the end of the War, till the "C" prefix.

"C" prefix began March 22 1948 for the K Frame.

"V" prefix preceded the "S" prefix...and was war time.

Model is "Military and Police" ( which later, in 1957, was re-named to be the 'Model 10' ).

March 25, 2009, 04:28 PM
Little problem here:
An S serial number prefex indicates you have an N-frame gun.
There were no S Prefex K-frame guns.

If it is chambered for the .38 Special Cartridge (CTG) you have to have a 38/44 Heavy Duty or 38/44 Outdoorsman.

But, the last S prefex serial number made was in 1961 with S-219,999.

So the S-913,855 you posted has to be a typo or something.

Please check again and post a picture of the gun if you can.


March 25, 2009, 04:44 PM
An S serial number prefex indicates you have an N-frame gun.
There were no S Prefex K-frame guns.

RC.... I'm going to have to disagree a bit here... I have an M&P Victory model whose serial # is "SV2727XX, it is definitely a K frame Victory model chambered in 38spl. I'm thinking it has something to do w/ a hammer block?/safety? (to keep from goin' off if dropped or maybe it doesn't allow discharge w/out the trigger engagement?

March 25, 2009, 04:52 PM
Well, he didn't say anything about an SV.

If all it has is an S, it is an N-Frame gun.

The SV did signify that the new hammer block had been incorporated in the Victory model guns design. But that was the only K-frame ever to use SV in the serial number.

The S signified the same thing on the N-frames.

But only the N-frame guns used the S prefix by itself.


keyboard commando
March 25, 2009, 05:18 PM
The SV prefix on K frame Military and Police revolvers was followed by S prefix (1945-1948) and then came C prefix. This is explained in my letter from Mr. Roy Jinks, S&W Historian.

March 25, 2009, 05:26 PM
Well, thats news to Mr. Supica & Mr. Nahas, and the Standard Catalog of S&W serial number listings.

Learn something new every day.

PS: Upon further reading, they do mention the S prefix M&P's in the descriptions. But not in the serial number tables in the back of the book.
My bad.

It now appears that S-913,855 would be late 1947 - early 1948, if in fact it is an M&P.


Old Fuff
March 25, 2009, 06:01 PM
Even the Old Fuff (who never, ever makes a mistake) once got tripped up on this one too. :confused: :uhoh: :o

Smith & Wesson resumed .38 Military & Police production following a short break after World War Two ended, starting on Sept. 12, 1945. They dropped the "V" in the "SV" prefix, but retained the "S" to show that the revolver had the new, positive hammer block safety. The first post-war serial number was S 811,120, starting where they had left off on the "SV" numbers at SV 811,119. The "S" numbers continued until they reached S 999,999 on March 22, 1948

Meanwhile back at the ranch, they decided to resume .38-44 Heavy Duty production (which was built on the larger "N" frame) on June 18,1946, and also used the "S" prefix, but starting at S 62,940. Renamed the Model 24 in 1977, production ended at S 256,133 in 1966.

N-frame revolvers that had an "S" prefix were numbered well below where the K-frame numbers started. Knowing the two ranges of numbers (as explained above) is the only way to avoid confusion.

Big Daddy Grim
March 25, 2009, 06:04 PM
you guys are good very good.

March 25, 2009, 06:43 PM
you guys are good very good.

Man, you can say that again!.... Old Fuff, rcmodel and a few others on this board are what make it as good as it is. Thanks to all of them!

p.s. RC, My apologies for not realizing that he did not post a question regarding an "SV" but only an "S".

March 25, 2009, 09:01 PM
RC Model: I have been caught out that way as well. The S prefix serial numbers are listed in the back of the SCSWII under .38 Special M&P Postwar & Models 10,11,12,45 & Aircrewman.

March 26, 2009, 07:55 AM
Additional information on the 38 Special. On the right side below the trigger is a trade mark. It is a round circle with S&W in the middle with Trade above and Mark below with Reg. U.S. Pat. Off below Mark. Below magazine on right side says MADE IN U.S.A. The only other number I can find on the gun is below the end of the barrel and I believe there is a KO over the number 82200. Thanks for all the responses. The handle was modified and a bone grip added.

March 26, 2009, 09:19 AM
Buzcheadle: You definitely have a K frame S&W as the N frame serial range did not go above S333454.

The Post war K frame serial number range was S811120 to S999999 Between 1945 & 1948, these followed the V & SV prefixed Victory Models made for the US Government during WWII which ended at serial number SV811119.

The guns made in this serial number range where the commercial version of the British Service revolver in .38 S&W caliber, later known as the Model 11, the .22 Military & Police or Post Office model in .22lr and the .38 Military & Police in .38 special caliber.
By elimination you have the .38 Military & Police. This was an evolution through various minor engineering changes of the original .38 Military & Police 1st Model of 1899, which introduced the .38 special cartridge. It is still in production today in a slightly modified form as the S&W Model 10.

Standard Barrel lengths were 2, 4, 5 & 6 inches, sights were fixed, grips were checkered walnut with an un-checkered diamond around the grip screws. Finish was blue or nickel.

At or around serial number S990184 the hammer was changed to a new 'short throw' design, so a modern hammer will not fit in your gun if replacement parts are ever needed. On the other hand the old 'long throw' hammer in your gun gave a smoother trigger pull in my opinion.

in 2006 the Standard Catalog of S&W listed a value of $300 in excellent condition.

April 9, 2009, 04:01 AM
I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to read the same question over & over...

So... sorry, but:

I recently inherited two S&W .38 special revolvers from my grandfather who has passed away. He was CHP out of San Luis Obispo, CA in the '40s and '50s, and then a special investigator for the state of California for many years. They are supposed to be 1940s M&Ps, but I've only owned rifles until now, so I'm a bit of an ignoramus when it comes to handguns. I'd like to know more about them for obvious reasons, so ANY help at all would be great. I tried to add a pic of both, but it didn't work...


Revolver #1: 43547
Revolver #2: K 145448

The bottom .38sp has a "K" in it's serial, but I feel like as soon as I start thinking that's what frame it is, one of you will tell me the one has nothing to do with the other. :scrutiny:

April 9, 2009, 07:19 AM
The following information is taken from the Standard Catalog of S&W.

Bottom revolver K145448 was made in 1952, it is a K38 Masterpiece, also referred to as a K38 Target Masterpiece, in 1957 it was renamed the Model 14. This is a six inch barreled target revolver on the medium sized K frame and remained in production until 1999. The .32 long caliber K32 and the .22lr caliber K22 (model 17) were balanced so they had the same weight for ease of cross training by competition target shooters. There is still a strong interest in these guns for range use and by collectors.

Top revolver is, if in .38 Special and not .357 magnum, a prewar .38/44 Outdoorsman built on the large N frame, which was originally used for the .44 Special cartridge, hence .38/44. This was designed to use hot loaded .38 Special ammunition which was a predecessor to the .357 magnum. The original .357 Magnum & Registered Magnums where also built on the N frame. These were built in the serial number range 38939 to 62077 between 1931 & 1941. This will have more interest as a collectors gun, due to it's age and rarity. After WWII it was reintroduced in 1957 as the model 23, with only 50 to 100 produced between 1957 and its cancellation in 1966.
Fast cycling of the action can cause the cylinder notches to peen, due to the weight of the cylinder (it was sized for .44 caliber holes, the .38 caliber holes leave a lot more metal and therefore mass).

I shall now attempt to kick myself. I had an opportunity to buy an Outdoorsman a few years ago and passed due to the peening of the cylinder. If I had known they were this rare I would have bought it anyway. It might be the only one here in Australia. Bugger!

Jim Watson
April 9, 2009, 08:09 AM
The top gun is indeed a .38-44 Outdoorsman, the .357 had a ribbed barrel from the start.
It also has what looks like a King's red post front sight, either a special order or a replacement. It looks in nice shape but the plastic stag grips detract from resale value.

April 14, 2009, 06:56 AM
Thank you for the info!!

The N-framed .38-44 Outdoorsman is alot beefier than the K38, but that doesn't mean it's safe to fire .357 mag rounds does it?

I would never sell either of these as they are now family heirlooms, but I don't like the stag grips on it either. I'm definitely looking into replacing them with as close to original as I can find, any thoughts on where to look for something like that?

Jim Watson
April 14, 2009, 07:19 AM
The .38-44 should not chamber a .357 magnum. Some were reamed out... and at least a few blew up. The cylinder is big but does not have the heat treatment used on a real .357, and even if yours was reamed, it should not be shot with magnums.

Original grips would be expensive. You could ask on the S&W board, there is a guy making very fine period style grips.

They won't be cheap, either. You could haunt the gun shows and eventually find some walnut magnas - like on the K38, only bigger - which would look good even though not exactly the right period.

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