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38/380 and /380

Discussion in 'Firearms Research' started by waidmann, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. waidmann

    waidmann Well-Known Member

    These marking appear on some early WWII Colt's and S&W revolvers. I have observed them both .38 S&W and .38 S&W Special marked barrels.

    I have recently read that their presence on the Specials indicates conversion to .38/200.

    Anyone have a firm handle on the subject?


  2. GCBurner

    GCBurner Well-Known Member

    For revolvers supplied to Britain during WWII in the official Brit military revolver calibre of .380 with a 200 grain lead bullet, I believe. It's the same as the US .38 S&W, not the .38 Special, but some of the revolvers reimported to the USA were converted to .38 Special when they got here.
  3. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    The only such markings I have seen were non-factory, apparently put on by the British. S&W revolvers made for the British and chambered for the .38/200 were factory marked ".38 S&W CTG"; those made for .38 Special were marked ".38 S&W SPECIAL CTG"

  4. waidmann

    waidmann Well-Known Member

    Hi JimK, this one is out of the norm a bit. A Police Positive Special 1938 serial range, butt swivel, .38 Special marked, went through Enfield (crossed flags, broad arrow etc.) and is marked "/380" beside the crossed flags, on the frame not the barrel. Pate illustrates some .38 Spl. to .38-200 conversions. My reading is inconclusive as to these marks on a .38 Spl. marked gun. There are no commercial proofs.

    Since ultimately its a relic I decided to bid on it (and won). Suppose I'll have an answer before long.

  5. GCBurner

    GCBurner Well-Known Member

    If it's not a government Lend/Lease gun, it might be one of the many privately owned firearms sent to Britain after the debacle at Dunkirk. As the Brits were desperate for anything that would shoot to forestall an expected invasion, they asked US citizens to donate firearms to the cause, and got shipments of civilian rifles, pistols, and shotguns from North America to help arm the Home Guard until their own armaments industry could catch up with production. I understand that most of these were ultimately scrapped, and dumped in the English Channel after the war, but some of the handguns, which were only issued to officers or police, have survived. Maybe yours is one of these.
  6. waidmann

    waidmann Well-Known Member

    Lend-Lease kicked in April 1942. According to Pate 88 4 inch Police Positives were shipped in a period where almost anything was purchased to include Single Action Army models. This one went through the full inprocessing. The question is whether it was converted to the .38-200.
  7. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    The Lend-Lease act was signed in March 1941. It did take a while to get things organized and few guns were made/shipped under the act until late 1941. Most were shipped after the U.S. was at war and the whole "lend-lease" idea was moot. (It was a means of evading the Neutrality Act and international law banning government sale of military goods by a neutral to a combatant; obviously, after December 1941, the U.S. was no longer neutral.)

    I didn't say .38 Special revolvers (Colt and S&W) weren't converted by the British and marked ".38/200"; I said that they were not marked that way at the factory.

  8. waidmann

    waidmann Well-Known Member

    Understood, I take it the markings are Enfield's. Pate's Table 6-3 kind of covers it. Folks tend to take SCSW and Pate for Gospel but they fall short of completeness and infallability.

    If anyone has some eperience to speak of please chime in!
  9. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    I doubt anyone knows whether those markings were put on at Enfield or at some depot, but probably the latter, since Enfield was heavily involved in arms production and likely didn't have the time or personnel to deal with American revolvers. The markings appear too uniform to have been applied by unit armorers.

  10. waidmann

    waidmann Well-Known Member

    Jim and all. Determined the chamber diameters measure .394 so I suppose it had to have undergone a conversion. This dimension is far generous for the about .379 I would have expected. I beg to differ re: Enfield, I have a S&W .38-200 from the era that also got the full treatment, acceptance ;proof etc. I would not debate outsourcing, sattelite sites etc. or even that they did nothing and stamped them anyway.


    Last edited: Apr 19, 2012
  11. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    The guns that were actually issued to British forces were given "the full treatment" but how do you know that was always done at Enfield and nowhere else? Enfield was not the only arms producer or storage depot in England, though it was the best known.

    Guns that were never issued, like many M1911 pistols and other weapons that did not use the standard British ammunition, survived the war without any kind of British markings until they underwent commercial proof after being sold in the 1950's and 1960's.

  12. waidmann

    waidmann Well-Known Member

    Point taken, what letters have you seen stamped underneath the broad arrow and inspector's i.d. other than the E or a lazy E? The lone exception I know of is the W on the crown found on some Official Police 38-200s and little else.

    I can not dispute there are British revolvers from both wars that some how escaped any post factory marking.

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