I just picked up an old .38 M&P


March 18, 2010, 02:54 PM
I just bought an old revolver from a buddy of mine who is in dire financial straits. It is a civilian S&W First Model .38 Military and Police (Model of 1898). 6 1/2" barrel, fixed sights, made in 1899, serial number just under 1600. It still has a lot of original blue and the action is strong and tight. He shot it regularly. His grandfather bought it about 90 years ago and left it to him. It even came with a box of ammunition and an old, unmarked slim jim holster. I ended up paying $250 for it to help him out. I'm not sure what I'll do with it, but it should be a lot of fun!




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March 18, 2010, 03:14 PM
You bought yourself a beautiful old gun at a very good price. Congratulations!

March 18, 2010, 05:09 PM
Very Nice! :)

I have it's brother- a 6.5" .32-20 made in 1900 or 1901 (SN #35XX) with a little less finish. I think yours is a Model 1899, not 1898...

Excellent Shooter!

Be careful! When the gun is at rest, push forward (hard) on the hammer and the firing pin will protrude just a little bit :uhoh:. I sure would hate to drop it on a loaded chamber and just treat it like a SSA. The Model 1902's seem to have this problem as well. My Model 1905 .32-20 (made in '07) positively keeps the hammer back when at rest.

This is a completely different issue than the improved "hammer block" added in WW2!

If you have not seen it yet, check out the gunblast.com story on one just like yours...


March 18, 2010, 06:17 PM
Man, you stole it for $250! Is it .38 Special, or .38 S&W?

March 18, 2010, 06:39 PM
Very very cool.

March 18, 2010, 06:45 PM
Is it .38 Special, or .38 S&W?

There weren't no .38 Special in the 19th Century.

March 18, 2010, 06:52 PM
There weren't no .38 Special in the 19th Century.

Not quite right. This gun introduced the .38 Special in 1899. Some early guns were marked something along the lines of ".38 S&W Special and US Service CTG". The service round was, of course, the .38 Long Colt.

March 18, 2010, 06:59 PM
Well, spank my britches.

March 18, 2010, 07:02 PM
As I understand it ( I am not a gunsmith) there is no hammer block at all in these guns, the first hammer block was in the Model of 1905 4th change of 1915. I could be wrong though.
Assuming good mechanical condition that gun is in very good condition for its age and probably worth around $500 or more, per the Standard Catalog of S&W.

March 18, 2010, 07:07 PM
The reason I asked is because of how long the cylinder is. .38S&W rounds are pretty short, as I recall.

March 18, 2010, 07:16 PM
You could keep it but offer to sell it back to your buddy for what you paid for it after he gets back on his feet.

Old Fuff
March 18, 2010, 07:34 PM
If you are going to shoot it, keep in mind that it does not have a heat-treated cylinder, and was generally intended to be used with black powder. Be very careful what you feed it. Just because it fits doesn't make it right.

March 18, 2010, 07:38 PM
I agree with mbopp.

dagger dog
March 18, 2010, 08:18 PM
I like the vintage leather Mexican double loop holster, it needs some TLC by the looks of the pic,try some saddle soap, and a Lexol treatment to get it supple again stay away from neatsfoot oil.

That pistola and holster could have been carried by Panco Villa, it is definitley a good lookin' vintage rig!

March 18, 2010, 08:48 PM
Thanks for the comments. There is an open offer to sell it back to him when he lands on his feet.

There are NO markings for its chambering on the barrel or anywhere on the gun that I have been able to discern yet, even using magnification, but he has been shooting .38 Special 158gr lead round nose in it for decades. My understanding is that this was the first S&W offered in the new .38 Special using smokeless powder. Since it has no military markings, I'm sure it is not a .38 LC. Can anyone definitively verify that? Since it is civilian and not military, I think .38 Special is the proper chambering.

Using reasonable force, I cannot push the hammer to make the firing pin protrude at all beyond the breach face.

I may indeed be off by one year in my date attributions, but I have seen conflicting data. The last patent date is 10/4/98. Wouldn't that support a "Model of 1898" designation? I will try to find out for sure.

I will have to ask about the history of the holster, but it could easily be pre-WW2, if not even older. The gun came out of Rico, Colorado.

Is this worth getting a S&W letter?

March 18, 2010, 09:14 PM

Beautiful old revolver in great shape; a factory letter should be in order. And the holster can definitely be saved given the proper care and treatment. But I don't think you bought it from your friend; more like you're taking care of a family heirloom for him until he gets back on his feet. It may not be easy but try not to get too attached to it.

Old Fuff
March 18, 2010, 09:32 PM
When S&W introduced the revolver in 1899, it was chambered to use a new cartridge - the Smith & Wesson .38 Special. However it would also chamber the standard U.S. service round, the earlier .38 Long Colt.

The new .38 S&W Special had 158 grain RNL bullet backed by a charge of 21 1/2 grains of black powder. Smokeless powder followed soon after.

Your revolver is over 100 years old. The cylinder was made from low-carbon steel and is not heat treated. I am sure that it has been used for decades with smokeless powder loads, but it will only take one to expand or split a chamber and ruin it - likely beyond repair. Since it is your gun you are free to do whatever you want, but at least I have gone to the trouble to explain the pitfalls.

Concerning the holster, from the style and design I believe it pre-dates the First World War, and is probably contemporary to the revolver. Holster of this kind were often unmarked, and sold through mail-order houses.

As an aside: If you had been around in 1902 abd ordered it from Sears Roebuck & Co. it would have cost you $12.00. :eek: Obviously you paid too much... :D

March 18, 2010, 09:41 PM
For those who have mentioned it, there is certainly an up-front open offer to return it when he gets back on his feet. He is a good friend. Family heirlooms are too special to let go. I long ago bought a 1883 vintage 1881 Marlin .45-70 from the grandson of the man who bought it new and took it across the country in a covered wagon. The fellow had gotten married about 20 years ago and his new bride didn't want any guns in the house. I made the same offer to him and never heard back. The offer for this one is there. I just wish I could also offer foster care for the 1918 vintage military 1911A1 he has also put up for adoption, but that will be up to someone else.

Old Fuff, I appreciate the cautionary information and will heed your advice.

March 18, 2010, 09:51 PM
Oh my:what: That is a beautiful revolver that you have there, if you wouldn't mind could you please post that on the S&W M10 Club thread below as well? You are a stand up guy for holding on to your friends family hierloom until he gets back on his feet. I also love the honest holster wear that it sports. It shows that it served it's previous owners well and was taken care not abused.

I wish we could see more pictures of revolvers like that here. As others have said be careful with what you shoot out of it as the steel is not heat treated. Stick to standard pressure ammo only NO +P ammunition please. As far as that goes I would also shoot only lead bullets out of that great ol' revolver as well.

March 19, 2010, 02:35 AM
Very nice revolver, congratulations! :)

March 20, 2010, 11:13 PM
Beautiful old gun! I would listen to what Old Fuff has to say........ He was wrong once, but he quickly corrected himself, after Wyatt Earp boxed his young ears. ;)

In addition, I strongly reccommend removing the knurled nut on the front of the ejector rod and replacing it with some Loc-Tite on the threads. Trust me, if it is lost, you will not locate another one without a gun attached to it. On my old beater Model of 1899, I had to fabricate the missing nut. I searched for two years, online and off.

I would also recommend not storing the gun in the holster, although it has likely resided there for quite a few years. Instead, oil it, and store it in a gun rug. The beautiful blue finish, which I suspect is original, is still present in a rare quantity. Losing some it can significantly reduce the value of the gun. Treat this old girl with respect. She has earned it.

For comparison's sake, here is my old Model of 1899.


Old Fuff
March 21, 2010, 12:29 AM
What you mean...

He was wrong once, but he quickly corrected himself, after Wyatt Earp boxed his young ears.

That old man couldn't catch me. He tried and tripped over that long-barreled Buntline Special he carried in his coat pocket... :scrutiny: :D:D

Jim K
March 21, 2010, 12:50 AM
Mine is #11607. Externally, they look exactly like the modern M&P or (except for the lock) like the current one. The only obvious difference is lack of the front lug for the extractor rod. But internally, there is a world of difference, showing a continual process of product improvement over the years. The cylinder stop mechanism alone on those guns would drive modern assemblers to drink.

That model has a rebound lever, not a rebound slide, and there is not a lot of resistance should the gun be dropped on the hammer. There is no hammer block safety. In spite of its age, standard .38 Special should be fine. There was no change to the cylinder heat treatment or material of the M&P until long into the smokeless powder era. Just avoid +P, +P+ and hot handloads.

Note that the reason for a rebound hammer is not to guard against a blow on the hammer, but to make sure the firing pin is withdrawn from the primer of a fired round so the cylinder can be opened. That was not a problem with a break top, since the cylinder and cartridge are moved upward in an arc, but with a swing out cylinder, the firing pin has to be withdrawn from the primer.


March 21, 2010, 03:59 AM

Probably the sweetest of the sweetest of all 20th Century Revolvers...is the M1899 S&W 'M&P'.


March 21, 2010, 04:20 AM
S&W revolvers and Colt automatics! Vestiges of a world we'll never see again...

March 21, 2010, 12:17 PM
He was wrong once

Old Fuff is wrong on occasion.

It is true that he has forgotten more than we will ever know...BUT some of the stuff he has forgotten we DO know

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