Briefly, I am not a gun collector and I am not well educated in dating firearms. My interest only extends to the guns that have sentimental value which were handed down to me from my grandfather and father. My oldest son had been saving his money and wanted to add a revolver to his guns that I have handed down to him. Yesterday we saw a S&W 38 Special at a gun show and really fell in love with it. We're not so much interested in value as we are the history and date/age of the gun. I have enclosed pictures of everything I could think of that would assist experts in identifying this gun. I think it's referred to as a 5 screw and it is nickel plated with an unusual horse engraving. fyi - we paid $250.00 for it.
Any help is GREATLY appreciated. Thanks guys. Interesting forum by the way.
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May 17, 2009, 10:43 AM
And sorry, I rambled and didn't ask a direct question. How old is this gun? There appears to be such a broad range in this popular model - anywhere from 1904 to 1954. I have not seen one with similar engravings though.
May 17, 2009, 11:24 AM
The S serial number places it post WWII, $250 is a good price for a gun that has been scratched and re-nickled.
May 17, 2009, 11:45 AM
So this seems to be the basics on the gun.
Smith & Wesson 38 Special "5 Screw"
Probably manufactured in the early 50's
Re-Nickeled (not sure exactly how I could tell)
Is it considered part of the M&P series?
Is the engraving done by the factory? I ask this because we saw numerous 38 specials similar to this and none had this type of engraving.
Glad to hear we didn't get ripped off. We didn't buy it as an investment, we just really liked the gun. It cleaned up good. Thanks again, you guys are a wealth of information! Jay
May 17, 2009, 02:02 PM
If you call S&W they will tell you when it left the factory for free.
It might have gone back to the factory for a refinish. Look under the grips for a "rn" or "n" or possibly a star.
Yes it is part of the M&P line.
Extremely unlikely that the "engraving" was done at the factory. You can request a letter, currently they cost 50 USD, that would tell you when it left the factory and in what configuation plus some background on the M&P line.
May 17, 2009, 05:26 PM
Great info. I wound up going back to the gun show today... hoping to find an older leather holster that might fit. Apparently the 5" barrel is very rare - not a single holster (leather) would fit the gun. Anyhow, yes the engraving is most likely done by a previous owner. Tight little gun that my son should enjoy when we shoot. Thanks again guys. Be safe!
May 18, 2009, 04:28 PM
The 5" barrel was once quite popular, but is uncommon today, which is why holsters are no longer available for it. The K-frame 800-900,000 range ran from 1946-1947 or 1948 when S&W continued the serial numbers from the Victory Model, but dropped the "V" from the serial number. The "S" here meant the same as on the Victory Model, the presence of the new type hammer block. (Later, the S was used as a serial number prefix for the K frame, along with other prefixes for other models. S&W was careful not to duplicate numbers, though.)
In most cases, engraving will enhance the value of a gun, but this, unfortunately, is not one of those cases. The gun, though, is still perfectly functional and even though getting some age, is safe with standard .38 Special ammunition. Limit use of .38 Special +P loads and avoid +P+ altogether.
May 19, 2009, 10:29 PM
Thanks to everyone for the good info. Just a quick update - took my son to shoot it today. Our usual outdoor range unexpectedly closed for a few months so we went to an indoor range in Birmingham. Was very impressed with the accuracy of this gun. Worked perfectly. No wonder the Model 10 was so popular. I must admit, it got dirtier than any gun I've used... lol.
Thanks again - J
June 12, 2009, 02:28 PM
It's too bad that the grips are in such condition. Were they closer to 'mint' they alone would be worth what you paid for the whole pistol.
That really is a kind of silly looking horsey! :) I mean, somehow I like it, although I'd have to go along with who said that the gun had been "scratched" rather than engraved.
Nevertheless, this is a unique piece. I'd try some 'simichrome' polish on the plating to see if it can be brought back to a high lustre.
June 12, 2009, 03:58 PM
The horse makes for a good conversation starter. :D
June 12, 2009, 04:12 PM
Awe, come on guys!...That's the happiest looking horse I've ever seen.
June 12, 2009, 04:31 PM
Animals are hard to engrave. You can get some nice looking scroll work at the journeyman level but you better have a master to do a portrait of your horse... or his owner. I have seen some upper-middle class engraving spoiled by poor critters.
June 12, 2009, 06:39 PM
This is kind of a lapsed thread but I'll throw in some other data for you.
The s/n S 850xxx would have been in early 1946 I am pretty certain. The ejector rod tip style places it at least before the fall of 1946. As Jim Keenan said, 5" guns were once pretty popular, and a 5" K frame is a pretty sweet handling gun. I was playing with one just last night. To get leather for it you want to watch on ebay and be persistent. Old ones come up now and again, but you need to know what you are looking at as most sellers don't even know what they have. Otherwise it's a custom order from a leather maker.
This gun is what is called a "transition model" M&P. It has a mix of pre-war and post-war features, and thus some of the most desirable mixes of both (rounded sight, hammer block safety, pre-war style Magna grips, and above all the pre-war style "long action" hammer). All of these features, save the safety, slowly disappeared one by one between 1948 and 1953.
As both an avid horse owner and S&W fan, I am not going to say a word about that horse. ;)
This is probably what your gun looked like when new (it was unlikely that it was originally nickel; that was just not at all common in immediate post-war production as they rushed to catch up with civilian demand):