S & W 38 special


February 22, 2011, 11:11 PM
I'm trying to find the approximate age of a stainless S&W 38 special. The serial number is C 170260. The other stamped number is H 85392. It doesn't have a model number stamped on it. Thank you for your help.

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February 22, 2011, 11:29 PM
If it's stainless steel, it's a comparatively recent model. When you open the cylinder, the model number should be stamped on the frame.

Jim Watson
February 22, 2011, 11:47 PM
I don't have the book but from other posts, I recall that the C numbers were in the late 1940s and early 1950s... before model numbers were assigned. Which leaves you with a Military and Police from when guns had names instead of numbers.

S&W did not make stainless steel guns until 1969.
If lucky you have a factory nickel, if not you may have a Bubba's Bumper Chrome job.

Pictures would help.

Another post here said C numbers ran up into the 1960s but if yours does not have a model number then it predates 1957.
You can tell a factory nickel (or a proper aftermarket) gun by the hammer and trigger. S&W does not plate the hammer and trigger so you get a case hardened hammer and trigger on a plated gun.

You could get a yoke screw from Numrich. That is a fitted part, you see at least some of them that have been filed to clear the groove in the yoke and allow an easy swing out without binding or slop.

February 23, 2011, 08:29 AM
Jim, it's not a stainless steel then. It's old enough not to have a model number stamped on it. It hasn't been cared for. It's missing the screw that holds the cylinder yoke in place. The end of the barrel has a couple of rough places you can feel with your finger...like it has his concrete maybe. It still has the original S&W wood grips. The cylinder is tight...with the exception of when you open it and the cylinder and yoke slip out into your hand.:) I don't think it's a Bubba Bumper Chrome job. The finish is more like nickel...kind of dull. I'll try and figure out how to use my cell phone camera and take a picture and learn how to post it. Thanks again.

February 27, 2011, 03:17 AM
Your .38 Military & Police Postwar dates to the period 1948 to 1951. Serial range for those years was C1 to C223998. Factory finishes were blue and nickel.
The grips if original should have an uncheckered diamond around the grip screws. If you take them off you will probably find they are serial numbered to match the gun on the inside.

The other numbers are assembly numbers used to track parts in the factory. They have no meaning after the gun is assembled.

Parts can be found at www.gunpartscorp.com

Jim K
March 6, 2011, 10:46 PM
It can't be stainless steel; if it is not nickel, it is probably just bare metal where someone for some reason removed the bluing.


March 9, 2011, 11:51 PM
As stated above, its impossible to be any older than '69 and be a factory stainless. Now if your not careful, Nickel can be quite decieving and often overlooked as Stainless. Nickeled guns are old, stainless guns are not. The stainless generally doesn't 'shine' as much as the nickel does, and is more of a solid grey than shiny, reflecting Nickel.

I have a Smith & Wesson Model 1905 3rd change Mfg. 1909, and it is Nickel. Not to be confused with stainless. Older revolvers CAN be Nickel.
You can see how the cylinder is reflected in the picture, that would be Nickel.

Now here is a much newer 629 Mountain gun. The "6" in the model number indicating that it is factory stainless.
While the lighting is different, the Stainless clearly has not as 'shiny' or reflective qualities.

Hoping this makes sense.

Ala Dan
March 10, 2011, 02:15 AM
ATT: Jim Watson My Friend-

Your post stated that Smith & Wesson did not make stainless guns 'till 1969.
Maybe that is true for the model that the OP ask a'bout; but S&W introduced
the all stainless "Chiefs Special" model 60-nothing, way back in 1965. Many
found their way to Southeast Asia during the Viet-Nam war. The remaining
ones were reportedly dumped into the South China Sea at the end of the
war; along with other equipment~! :banghead: :cuss: :mad:

Jim Watson
March 10, 2011, 07:58 PM
Could be. Life is tough when your library burns down.
In 1969 I read a report by a guy who had obtained one of the first five out the door for use in SEA.
Of course he might have written it in 1965.
There sure weren't any I could find on the Alabama retail market for some time.

Cop Bob
March 17, 2011, 10:02 AM
Dang if I know, But I can end the Stainless vs Nickle debate...

A magnet is your friend..! check it with a small magnet... if it draws to the gun hard, it is plated... if it is non-magnetic or a lighter pull, it is Stainless. 410 series stainless is still magnetic, but the attraction will be weaker..

Just to make it clear as mud.....

Chemical Composition Chart Stainless Steel
S30400 SST-304 .08 2 18-20 -- 8-10.5 BAL 1 .045 .03 -- -- -- --
S30403 SST-304L .03 2 18-20 -- 8-12 BAL 1 .045 .03 -- -- -- --
S31600 SST-316 .08 2 16-18 2-3 10-14 BAL 1 .045 .03 -- -- -- --
S31603 SST-316L .03 2 16-18 2-3 10-14 BAL 1 .045 .03 -- -- -- --
S32100 SST-321 .08 2 17-19 -- 9-12 BAL 1 .045 .03 -- -- -- Ti 5 x C Min.
N08330 SST-330 .08 2 17-20 -- 34-37 BAL .75-1.5 .03 .03 -- 1 -- --
S34700 SST-347 .08 2 17-19 .75 9-13 BAL 1 .045 .03% -- .50 -- --
S41000 SST-410 .15 1 11.5-13.5 -- -- BAL 1 .045 .03 -- -- -- --
S43000 SST-430 .12 1 16-18 -- -- BAL 1 .045 .03 -- -- --

The screw you need is widely available, Brownells, MIdwayUSA, Numeric Arms... and probably at your local gun shop.. should be able to order it in the finish you need..

Jim K
March 17, 2011, 04:57 PM
S&W introduced the Model 60 in 1965. It was identical to the then current version of the Model 36 Chiefs Special. They were originally going to call it just a stainless version of the Model 36 and use that model number (same idea as the nickel plated Model 36), but then decided to hype the gun by giving it a distinctive model number. The gun was promoted as replacing nickel plating in areas detrimental to carbon steel, like on boats and under a detective's arm.

Alas, they found that the tough stainless steel chewed up machine tools something fierce, and they were actually losing money making the Model 60. So they pulled it from the market for (IIRC) about a year, while they worked with their tooling suppliers to develop hard enough tools.

Quite a few people thought they would never solve the "stainless steel problem" and bought up at fabulous prices the few Model 60s that had been made. But S&W and the tool makers did solve "the problem". S&W brought back the Model 60 and then, as we all know, ultimately pretty much abandoned both nickel plating and carbon steel for stainless.


March 21, 2011, 07:55 PM
I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the input. I took it to a S & W appraiser. The gun is 95%. I traded a Taurus 9mm for it. I'm really happy with it. Thank you again.

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