S&W .38 Police Special (Victory??)


October 22, 2011, 01:13 PM
I have a Parkerized .38 Police Special (4" barrel) I inherited from My late Dad, who got his hands on it on board ship coming home from WWII sometime in 1946, by trading away his Army-issue Colt .45 to a Navy guy. It is in what I as a deep amateur would call very good to excellent condition. I'm not sure if he ever shot it, and I put maybe 20 rounds through it 35 or so years ago. It has been stored in a pretty air tight safe since then.

As I said, it is Parkerized, and it has "Smith & Wesson" stamped on one side of the barrel, and "38 S. & W. SPECIAL CTG" stamped on the other side of the barrel. It has "MADE IN U.S.A." stamped below the cylinder on what I would call the right side, and the Smith & Wesson trademark on the same side just behind the cylinder.

The gun has no other markings or stamps visible on the outside with the exception of the serial number on the butt, which is, "978xxx" with *no* "V". The serial number is repeated in a number of other places, and again with no "V". Neither is there a "Navy" stamp of any kind, nor a "Property of US Government" stamp anywhere I have been able to find.

I am hoping that possibly someone (or ones) here can help me determine when the gun was manufactured, whether it is in fact a Victory model (and if not, what model it might be), and what it might approximately be worth.



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Old Fuff
October 22, 2011, 05:57 PM
To really get answers to your questions will cost you $50.00... What you need is a historical letter from the Smith & Wesson Company.

Dates of manufacturer are difficult if not impossible to determine without a factory records search (which I will explain shortly) because revolvers were neither manufactured nor shipped in numerical order by serial number.

Over the years Smith & Wesson made a whole lot of different models chambered to use the .38 Special cartridge - which they introduced in 1899.

So to determine the model a more complete description is helpful, and posting a photograph is a big help.

What I can tell you is that you have a Smith & Wesson .38 Military & Police / 1905 Hand Ejector, 4th Chg.

This revolver preceeded the Victory Model, and I would estimate it was made during late 1941, or possibly early 1942. This was a time of great termoil, especially following Pearl Harbor. Markings are not always what you expect.

After determining EXACTLY what model the revolver is, and its serial number, you can call Smith & Wesson's customer service department, and they will tell you the approximate year it was made. THIS SERVICE IS FREE.

Now if the revolver is one that is especially important to you and/or your family, they will, for a $50.00 research fee, go back through their hand-written shipping records (some of which go back to the Civil War) until they find your particular gun, and then send you an official-letterhead letter with whatever information they find. Since the records are not in any particular order, the necessary research can be considerable, and quite frankly the research fee is very reasonable considering the work involved.

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.


October 22, 2011, 07:03 PM
Thanks Old Fuff-

Subsequent to my first post (and someone's helpful relocation of my post from General to Handguns: Revolvers), I found the Smith and Wesson ID thread. I am intent on posting a couple of photos I took of the gun this afternoon, here and/or in the Smith and Wesson ID thread, but at the moment I am unable to figure out how to do that...for some reason, I can't find the link to albums in my control panel. Senior moment(s) I presume, and I'll keep after it. BTW, the end of the butt is oval in section and the stocks are smooth walnut.

Thanks again-

Old Fuff
October 22, 2011, 07:27 PM
Darn!! I am stuck out in left field without my reference books... :banghead:

The serial number indicates when it should have been made, but not when it was shipped, which is a more important date. The day after Pearl Harbor, Uncle Sam laid hands on everything S&W had, as well as everything they would make until the end of the war in 1945.

Production either went to one of the military services (and were government inspected and marked) or to a government agency called The Defense Supply Corp. (DSC) that was in charge of supplying the need of domestic police and other law enforcement agencies; as well as the security departments of manufacturers doing government work. Some DSC revolvers had government property marks while others didn't. One might wonder how a DSC revolver (if that's what you have) ended up in the U.S. Navy, but making on-the-spot changes in shipments was not unheard of. There was of course, a war on.

October 22, 2011, 07:30 PM
Here is a basic left side and a basic right side photo of the subject S&W .38 Police Special; as can be seen, the butt is oval and the stocks are smooth walnut.

Assuming I have uploaded and attached the photos correctly, that is...

October 22, 2011, 07:42 PM
So after having been so absolute in my statement that there was nothing else stamped visibly on the gun, I happened to look down at the top of the barrel and found the following right behind the front sight:

PATENTED FEB. 8,O6, SEPT. 14,09, DEC. 29,14"

Additionally, I find the numbers, "13718" and the letter, "S" stamped on the inside of the crane when the cylinder is swung down, and the same numbers, "13718", this time with the letter "H" stamped on the frame where the crane swings up and latches. I'll give myself a pass for not mentioning these numbers earlier because they were not visible without swinging the cylinder out.

October 22, 2011, 07:46 PM
Well, for all practical purposes, it is a pre-Victory model Victory model.

As Old Fuff told you, it is a .38 Military & Police / 1905 Hand Ejector, 4th Chg.

The military was buying those right up until the Victory Model V pre-fix came to be in 1942.
And even then, there was some overlap for a brief period.

FYI: Your gun does not have the later positive hammer block safety.
Treat it like it "could" fire if dropped on a loaded chamber.


October 22, 2011, 08:13 PM
My understanding is that there was no provision for a seventh digit hence the need to restart the serials. The V for victory was selected. (Next was S, a continuation of V and VS, next C, then D..............)

The prettiest (pre) Victory I have seen was shipped to the U.S. Maritime Service in San Diego. I believe that is the answer to this dilema. If the troopship was USNS as oppossed to USS. The revolver would not bear the U.S. Navy stamp.

October 22, 2011, 08:57 PM
Waidmann, that makes sense, and would bolster Old Fuff's estimation of late '41 or early '42, because at 978xxx, 6 digits had just about been used up...

As for the USNS troop ship, I think you'd be referencing the ship that the sailor who initially had this gun shipped out on? I guess we'll never know for sure, but that seems a logical conclusion, and I dearly love it when the puzzle pieces fall together and create a picture we can recognize.


And thanks to rcmodel for the note about the lack of a positive hammer block safety....that could (but hopefully not) be a very important piece of information to me.

Jim K
October 22, 2011, 09:11 PM
It is correct that the "V" series was started because S&W had reached 999999 and their numbering machine only went to six digits, hence the need for a prefix or suffix of some kind. Some PR genius picked "V" [for Victory], and the "Victory Model" was created. The presence of the "V" is the sole and only indication of a "Victory Model" as distinct from the previous guns. There was no overlap; serials went from 999999 to V1 (no leading zeros). Later, the positive hammer block safety was introduced and the "S" was added to indicate that fact. The "S" was added to the marking, but there was no new number series.

Both the "V" and the "S" were stamped by hand on the frames before serial numbering, so their position varies, but there seems to be no special pattern and no special meaning to the positions of the letters, except to get around the hole for the lanyard loop.


October 22, 2011, 09:13 PM
Kingfish, In your postion, and I have been there, blow the fifty bucks.

October 22, 2011, 10:18 PM
:)Great minds think alike, waidmann...

October 22, 2011, 10:34 PM
So...if my handgun is a Smith & Wesson .38 Military and Police / 1905 Hand Ejector 4th Chge., and nothing about the gun changed from 999,999 to V1, did the next "model" get recognized and named at the time of introduction of the positive hammer block safety? Or did the earlier model name persevere?

October 22, 2011, 11:12 PM
The models having the positive hammer block were as Jim indicated marked SV and VS. When commercial production resumed the remainder of the second million (with a mere handful of VS exceptions) were prefixed with S, a sort of continuation (1946-48). At the tail end of this period another significant engineering change took place that shortened the hammer stroke. The short actions are what I think of as the true Pre-model 10 as opposseed to a 1905HE chg4.

If I have incorrectly interpreted, someone like JimK will straighten us out. Following the conclusion of the S series came C. The model numbers were posted inside the frame begining in 1958 and subsequent changes indicated with a dash and number. BTW the 4 line (billboard) frame marking began in 1948 or so.

How one uses terminology is less than uniform: British Service Models (commercial grade), Pre-Victories (phosphate finish,plain grips, butt swivel but no V), Victory Models (V,VS or SV). These guns were produced in .38 S&W(.38-200) for the Commonwealth countries. Lend-Lease guns were marked United States (or U.S.) Property. U.S. Navy guns were marked, sometimes with red paint in the stamping. Marking of the Commonwealth guns by them varied and a number were issued to German and Austrian police agencies post war and bear their markings.

October 23, 2011, 12:50 AM
What waidman stated is exactly what I found in researching my former Victory model stamped from the Austrian police.

Would love to have one like yours myself. If mine would have been .38 Special, would have kept it.

October 23, 2011, 11:53 AM
I think I'm getting it...(please forgive me if I seem slow; before yesterday my interest in a "crane" was centered around whether it was hydraulic or mechanical, mobile or stationary or tracked, how long its boom was and what its lifting capacity was.)

I was looking for a tightly and logically organized nomenclature that would only come (now that I think about it) from knowing *before* production began, just how many variations there would ultimately be, how many units would ultimately be produced, and for whom, among numerous other questions. I guess that doesn't happen all that often, huh?

So, in a nutshell, it appears we have to view the terms "model name" and/or "model number" a little loosely as we use them and as they pertain to these handguns. The Smith & Wesson .38 Military & Police / 1905 Hand Ejector, 4th Chg. apparently had a pretty tight definition, with some exceptions like stock material and finish, and metal finish. It looks like, on the way to the model 10, the "Victory" model appeared with no changes to the gun itself, just to the serial numbering system. Then there was a mechanical change (positive hammer block safety) and that only changed the Victory model by the addition of a stamped "S", with no interruption of the serial numbering system. Et cetera...

"...The rain is Spain stays mainly on the plain...":D

By George, I think I've got it!

October 23, 2011, 03:12 PM
I believe you do!

October 23, 2011, 04:32 PM
Pretty much:

1917 -1941 Model of 1905 4th Change serial range 1 to 999999. Mainly blue, some nickel, various military finish & grips towards the end.
1940-1941. commercial contract British Service revolver. Serial range roughly 660000 to 999999, concurrent with the Model of 1905.
1940 to 1944 Victory Model & BSR. Military finish, military grips. Serial range V1 to V769000 aprox.
1944-1945. Victory Model & BSR. Military finish, military grips, positive hammer block safety. Serial range SV769001 to SV811832.
1945 to 1948. .38 Military & Police Postwar. Commercial finish. Serial range S769000 to S990184. At this point the current short throw hammer was introduced and the gun was in the format that became the model 10. at S999999 the serial range started again at C1.
Note that some victory models were retrofitted with the hammer block safety and have an S stamped on the left side of the frame above the grips.
The overlap in SV & S serial ranges is due to frames not being used sequentially.
THE BSR was identical to the .38 Military & Police, other than being chambered for .38 S&W.
Hope this helps.

October 23, 2011, 07:43 PM
As predicted one of the true afficianados has caught up with and enlightened us.

Radagast, its good to read your words away from the usual haunts.


October 23, 2011, 07:45 PM
Outstanding Radagast - thank you. Tomorrow I'm going to prepare to shed $50 and find just where mine fits into that miasma (all indications are it will fit into your first description, and somewhere "towards the end") .

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