38 special ? 38/44 ? heavy duty


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J-TIPTON
October 9, 2011, 10:48 PM
Im having trouble confirming my model on a police issued 38spl nickel plated very heavy built 38 special. S 14922x serial# fixed sights pinned non recessed numbers in the yoke are 60324what. Any help? ?

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Oro
October 10, 2011, 01:17 AM
A .38 Special in that s/n range would be a .38/.44 Heavy Duty. The ejector rod should be shrouded (closes into a recessed portion of the lower barrel lug).

J-TIPTON
October 10, 2011, 09:23 AM
Yes that is correct is there any other details to confirm this is a heavy duty

Radagast
October 10, 2011, 10:03 AM
.38/44 Heavy Duty Model of 1950 manufactured in 1955 or 1956. Serial range for those years was S140000 to S149999, so 1956 seems certain. In 1957 model numnbers were introduced and the Heavy Duty was designated the model 20.

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

Two hundred and forty nine 4 inch nickel plated Heavy Duties were shipped to Austin Police Dept between 1952 & 1964, including some in the S149xxx serial range. The actual serial numbers were reprinted in the Smith & Wesson Collectors Association Journal, 25 anniverary reprint, Book 1 Page 476. I don't have a copy, but one of the members at http://smith-wessonforum.com/ may be able to look it up and see if yours is one of them.
If there is a screw in the top of the side plate near the cylinder then you have a five screw gun, this was deleted in 1956. If missing its a four screw. It doens't make any real difference to value or function but collectors prize the five screw models.

J-TIPTON
October 10, 2011, 10:05 AM
Now my biggest question is if indeed I have a 38/44 why is it over built and have a cylinder that holds 357 I thought 357 would not fit properly in the 38 spl...?????I do believe it is very safe to say this gun will safely shoot 38+ p all day long but why not 357 ??? Considering how strongly built this heavy duty is. what is the reason for this sort of confusion I have heard it said before 357 is too powerful for a 38 spl mainly the cylinder and frame so now im really confused

Radagast
October 10, 2011, 10:06 AM
Re other confirmation, none needed. S&W didn't make any other fixed sight shrouded ejector rod guns in .38 special. The serial number is one used for the large N frames, which apart from the heavy duty & adjustable sight outdoorsman were all chambered in .357 magnum, 44 special, .44 magnum, .44 Special or .45 ACP. It's a heavy duty.

Jim Watson
October 10, 2011, 10:10 AM
There are a good number of those Texas .38-44s that had the chambers gunsmith lengthened for .357 Magnum back when a .357 Magnum revolver was about as scarce as a post-Dirty Harry .44.

There is a debate about heat treatment of cylinders in another thread. The .38-44 has a cylinder wall as thick as a .357 Magnum's, but is it as hard and strong? I don't know and I would not pound a 55 year old gun with Magnums it was not made for.

Radagast
October 10, 2011, 10:18 AM
The .38/44 was a hot loaded .38 special built on the .44 caliber N frame for extra strength. It was supposed to fire a .158 grain load at 1200fps, where a standard .38 special would have been around 800fps. The next development at S&W after the .38/44 was the .357 magnum, which was the same case stretched by 1/10 of an inch, with velocity around 1500fps.

If a .357 magnum will chamber then a previous owner has had it bored out or a new cylinder fitted. I would _not_ shoot magnums through that gun. .357 magnums operate at pressures up to 35000PSI. .38 Special PlusP is around 20,000 PSI and .38 Special +P+ may be as high as 24000. Just because it a magnum sized frame does not mean the gun has been heat treated to suit magnum pressures. Stick to hot loaded .38 specials.

BTW the cylinder having been bored out kills a lot of the collector value, so just enjoy shooting it

Old Fuff
October 10, 2011, 10:35 AM
Those that had the cylinders of their .38/44 Heavy Duty and Outdoorsman revolvers rechambered were generally unaware that the steel and heat-treating process used to make Magnum cylinders was entirely different that those used in .38/44 cylinders, which was the same as that used in other standard chamberings such as .44 Special, .45ACP and .45 Colt which were rated at much lower pressures.

Never use Magnum ammunition in any revolver that wasn't made for it, simply because it may fit in the chamber!

Iggy
October 10, 2011, 12:03 PM
Whut Fuff sed with many many exclamation points for emphasis.

J-TIPTON
October 10, 2011, 01:24 PM
Thanks old fluff now how about +p. +p. Are those loads safe enough even if my cylinder has been modified? ???

Vern Humphrey
October 10, 2011, 02:18 PM
Thanks old fluff now how about +p. +p. Are those loads safe enough even if my cylinder has been modified? ???
The 38/44 is definitely safe for +P .38 Special rounds. It was built to take .38s Specials loaded to approximately .357 Magnum pressures.

When you say your cylinder has been modified, i assume you mean a .357 reamer has been used to re-chamber it to .357 Magnum. In that case, it is not safe for .357 Magnum ammunition.

Old Fuff
October 10, 2011, 03:12 PM
When you say your cylinder has been modified, i assume you mean a .357 reamer has been used to re-chamber it to .357 Magnum. In that case, it is not safe for .357 Magnum ammunition.

You assume correctly... :)

I agree that without question, a .38/44 N-frame revolver will handle any .38 Special Plus-P ammunition on the market. So-called Plus-P-Plus at pressure levels at or under 24,000 PSI should be safe, but I wonder about some of the loading data I see. For the record, Phil Sharpe listed one .38/44 load (158 grain lead bullet/1100 FPS) at 31,000 CPU, but if his numbers are correct (as I believe they would be) I would work up to that VERY carefully!

Now I will confuse things a bit more. Prior to about 1922 (I don't have my reference book handy) S&W didn't heat-treat cylinders. They would buy quality bar stock, machine it into cylinders, fit it to a gun, and then finish the part (blue, nickel or whatever). During the 19th and early 20th centuries when black powder was used you couldn't get enough of it into a revolver cartridge to risk blowing up a top quality Smith & Wesson or Colt. As smokeless powder came into the picture this changed, because it was quite possible to over charge a cartridge case that had been designed for black powder. That's still true today.

So in or around 1922 going forward, both Smith & Wesson and Colt started using a chrome-moly alloy that could be heat treated for some, but not all cylinders. In particular, cylinders in K-frame .38 Special and .32-20 cylinders were heat treated, and when it came along, cylinders for the N-frame .38/44 were too. I'll refer to them as "standard heat treated."

When experiments that led to the .357 Magnum came along it was soon clear that some proposed loads were well in excess of what the .38/44 was supposed to withstand. Smith & Wesson then purached a special grade of steel that could be double heat-treated for extra strength. Cylinders made for the test-bed .38/44 revolvers were fitted with cylinders made from this material, and as an additional precausion the case head was countersunk into the back of the chamber, and chambers were burnished to smooth them for easier case extraction. When the .357 Magnum was introduced in 1935 this cylinder in both design and material specifications was made standard for both it and other Magnum revolvers as they were introduced.

J-TIPTON
October 10, 2011, 03:40 PM
OLD fuff thanks again and thanks everyone. Else for heavy duty class 101 ....so let's run this rabbit a little more......357 magnum cylinder swap into a heavy duty ?????????

Old Fuff
October 10, 2011, 03:57 PM
357 magnum cylinder swap into a heavy duty ?????????

In theory you could do it, but a lot of fitting might be needed (the Magnum cylinder is longer at the back among other things) and the ratchet might not match up with the hand.

I see two other options:

Shoot it with handloaded .357 Magnum cases, matched with .38/44 or lesser loads. This should be both safe and work well.

Shoot it exclusively with .38 Special ammunition. You'll get fouling in the front of the chambers, but it can be cleaned out.

J-TIPTON
October 10, 2011, 04:22 PM
Thanks everyone for the info 357 soft loading is just the answer I needed...

Oro
October 11, 2011, 05:47 AM
so let's run this rabbit a little more......357 magnum cylinder swap into a heavy duty ?????????

With even a reamed original cylinder, you do NOT want to swap cylinders. It will De-value the revolver and cost a pretty penny.

.38/.44 loads, which it is safe for, will perform at near .357 levels. Shoot and enjoy!

Like Old Fuff said, in .357 cases these will not foul the chambers and be quite potent.

Pictures now? ;)

J-TIPTON
October 11, 2011, 12:50 PM
Yeah well I probably wont throw away the original cylinder so why would it loose value????? However it would stop wear on the original...

sixgunner455
October 11, 2011, 12:57 PM
If you don't want wear on it, don't shoot it. The whole weapon wears together. There's no real advantage to changing your cylinder for a .357. If you really want a .357, that's what you should buy. I would just shoot this old classic with the cylinder it was born with.

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