S&W identification Help!


July 15, 2011, 03:01 PM
I have my grandfathers old guns. He was not a collector but he has a strange collection of mostly revolvers in very good condition. I cannot determine this Smith and Wesson with all my Internet searches. It does not identify the caliber on it. Its a 5 shooter and has engraving that is barely visible on the top of barrel indicating the company, patent dates, etc. ANY HELP is much appreciated, please see the pictures.

Also, any advice on cleaning the stainless steel body would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance.

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Old Fuff
July 15, 2011, 07:12 PM
Your Grandfather's revolver is a Smith & Wesson .38 Double Action, 2nd. Model, made between 1880 and 1884 (most likely 1881 or '82) and as such is classified by federal and most state laws as an antique, not a firearm. At the time it was made they didn't have stainless steel, so the finish you are looking at is nickel plate. It will be more valuable if you don't polish it, but you can help preserve what finish is left by giving it a coat of paste wax (such as Johnson's Wax or Mother's Automobile Wax).

It was chambered to use .38 S&W cartridges, but given it's age it would be unwise to fire it using modern ammunition. The stocks are not plastic, at least as we know it, but black hard rubber.

If you want more specific information you can obtain it from Smith & Wesson in exchange for a $50.00 research fee. Exact details follow:

Information concerning historical letters of authentication from Smith & Wesson’s historian, Roy G. Jinks can be obtained from the link listed below.

In exchange for a $50.00 research fee (make any check out to Smith & Wesson, not Mr. Jinks) he will search through the company’s original records until he finds your particular revolver. He will then send you an official letter which usually includes:

A short history of the revolver model’s background.

What the barrel length, caliber/cartridge, finish and stocks were, as well as the exact date it was shipped from the factory – and to what distributor, dealer or individual – as whatever the case may be.


July 15, 2011, 07:42 PM
Wow thanks for the great information it helped me out a lot! I'm thinking of doing the research option you mentioned. Any ideas or suggestions on how to or where I can sell it?
Thanks again!

July 15, 2011, 07:56 PM
Its not considered a firearm and you don't need a license to sell it. You can sell it pretty much any way you choose. You could sell it on THR if you wanted.

July 16, 2011, 08:18 AM
i wouldn't bother with a factory letter if you plan to sell it. 115,000 .38 DA second models were manufactured and over 610,000 of all versions 1880 & 1920. They are not especially valuable, in excellent condition around $300 maximum.

Jim Watson
July 16, 2011, 08:47 AM
It looks like a refinish to me, S&W did not nickel plate hammers, triggers, and separate trigger guards. Knock that resale price estimate down a good bit.

July 16, 2011, 08:55 PM
Good catch Jim. The fact that the markings are hard to read suggests buffing, as does the poor fit of the side plate. A closer look at the pics suggests flaking nickle on the hammer, which I took to be the mottling from color case hardening. Pearlina. the value is probably closer to $150 to $200 as collectors tend to go for original guns only.

Jim K
July 16, 2011, 11:08 PM
It is definitely a refinish; the giveaway is not only the hammer and trigger but the rounding and wavy appearance of the frame. I can't tell if it is nickel or chrome (the latter material being used in recent years, though no gun that old would have been chrome plated), but Jim and Radagast are correct.


July 16, 2011, 11:09 PM
Just wanted to thank everyone for time taken to answer my post. It was very useful and I'm really not trying to make money. My dad just gets very excited about any information I am able to give him on his own father's (my grandfather's) strange collection of firearms
that were forgotten when he died in 1992. So
Thanks again!!

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