Antique S&W?


March 8, 2012, 09:21 PM
Hi All,
I was hoping that someone here might be able to help me with some history on an old S&W Revolver that my wife has inherited. It is not in her posesion yet, but I have the serial #. It was apparantly bought bye her Great-Grandfather when he was a kid.
Anyways, it's a .38 serial # NF980xxx

If you enjoyed reading about "Antique S&W?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
March 8, 2012, 10:19 PM
Looks like a WWII era 'victory' revolver. More photos please.

March 8, 2012, 10:50 PM
That's all that I have right now. With any luck it will be here in a week or so.

March 9, 2012, 10:39 AM
Small clarification: The serial # is 9800xx. The "NF" was another marking. Also the caliber is .38 S&W. That is the only good info that I could get. Anyone have any thoughts?

March 9, 2012, 10:48 AM
The 38 S&W cartridge was produced since the turn of the last century and during the 40s, primarily exported to England for use during the war. They thought highly of it. After the war, some firms tried to make the revolvers into 38 Specials in order to make them more salable. Not a good idea, but they did it.

March 9, 2012, 01:43 PM
Yours is a .38 Military & Police Model of 1905, 4th Change. It was made in 1945. That's a nice little K frame 5-screw you've got there. It looks in good shape.

March 9, 2012, 01:54 PM
TXSWFAN. Thank you for the reply. That is exactly the info that I was looking for.

March 9, 2012, 02:20 PM
Have a gunsmith check it out to see if someone tried to "convert" it to S&W special. If so then crap! The cylinder is ruined.

The 38 S&W is different from the S&W 38 special. The special's case is longer but also smaller in diameter ( If I remember properly ). So any revolver that has had the chambers of the cylinder reamed out to take the longer special round will be too great in diameter for the special cartridges to work well.

Many old Victory Models that were re-imported back here from GB after the war had this done to the cylinder chambers because the 38 S&W ( not the special ) round was not popular.

March 9, 2012, 02:45 PM
Thanks for the tip. This will be my wifes gun, so it will be going to a smith to be checked out before she gets her hands on it. I take no chances with the safety of my family...

Driftwood Johnson
March 9, 2012, 03:48 PM

I concur that the gun was probably made about 1945.

Even though the photo is a bit out of focus, I can tell you the revolver has probably been refinished, and not by S&W. The joint between the side plate and the frame is very visible and shows signs of the plate being rounded over on the edges. Older revolvers that have a lot of rust and pitting are often refinished to make them look nice again. If done by someone who is a bit heavy handed, the side plate will get rounded over on its edges and when the gun is assembled the joint will be plain to see. The joint should be almost invisible. Here is a photo of a Victoy Model revolver of about the same age as yours that has been refinished. Notice how the joint around the side plate stands out.

Here is a photo of a S&W M&P with a 2" barrel, made in 1950. Notice how the joint of the sideplate is almost invisible. That is the way they looked when they left the factory.

March 9, 2012, 04:38 PM
Wow, thanks for the good info (and taking the time to post pics). Luckily I had little expectation on the value of this piece. The wife wants it for sentimental reasons, not for its "collectabilty". As long as it shoots safely we will be happy with it...

March 9, 2012, 08:32 PM
Just a note, serial numbers in the 980xxx range are from 1941, not 1945. in late 1941 or early 1942 the serial range hit 999999 and started again at 1 with a V prefix. In 1944 the prefix became SV and in 1956/46 simply S. If the serial number is S980xxx then it would be from 1948.

The S stood for safety ands refers to the positive internal hammer block designed after a dropped gun killed a sailor on a warship. If no S then your wifes gun predates the hammer block and should be treated as a five shooter, with the chamber under the hammer left empty.

S&W were still making .38 Specials dureing this period, so it could be for either cartridge. If the barrel stamping is .38 S&W CTG then its .38 S&W, it .38 S&W Spl CTG then its a .38 special. The notes about rebored guns above should also be kept in mind. If a .38 special chambers but is a little 'loose' going in, then its probably a rebore, as the diameter of the rear of the .38 S&W case is greater than the .38 special case. Reboring didn't add any metal at this point.
If it has been bored out then standard pressure .38 special lead rounds should be safe. Avoid PLusP or jacketed ammo, and expect bulged brass.

If you enjoyed reading about "Antique S&W?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!