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ID help please on a S&W

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by overcast_days, Feb 12, 2011.

  1. overcast_days

    overcast_days Well-Known Member

    Today I was talking a gunsmith and walked out with my first Smith and Wesson.
    He only knew it was in good shooting condition and that it was a .38 special.

    It is a 6 shot hand ejector. It is double action. It has nickel plate. The grips appear original, they are blackwith the S&W crest int the same material as the grips. The sights are nonadjustable.

    The barrel reads, "38 S & W SPECIAL" squiggle then "U.S. SERVICE CTG"S"
    The other side of the barrel is a bit faded, but I can read "SMITH&WESSON SPRINGFIELD MASS. U.S.A. PAT APRIL" ( I think 9 8 9) "MARCH 97.94 MAY 91.9" (BLUR) "JULY 16.95 M AUG 4 96 DEC" BLUR "OCT 4 9 6 OCT 01 DEC 1301"

    The serial number is 58898.

    The longer I handle this gun the more I like it. The is handling wear, but it is in really good condition. Since the gunsmith doesn't carry holsters and the shops were closed. I went to the gunshow to get a holster. In less than 5 minutes of walking in I was turning down offers from 3 vendors.

    They claimed they didn't know the model, but wanted the gun.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2011
  2. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Well-Known Member

    I think this is a very early Military & Police Model made something like 1910 or so.
  3. overcast_days

    overcast_days Well-Known Member

    That is what I was thinking on the model. There is no ring at the end of the butt by the serial number. I thought the Military & Police had a ring in the early 1900s.

    The gunsmith that sold it to me mentioned that a friend of his thought its manufacture date was around 1904. The gunsmith was not sure though.
  4. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Well-Known Member

    Hi overcast days,

    Lanyard Rings/Loops were standard on Militrary Issue revolvers in those days, but, optional on Civillian Revolvers.

    People who had things to do in rough terrain, sometimes liked having the Lanyard Rings.

    Your Revolvcer would be the Military & Police Model of 1902 1st Change...and is the 'K-Frame'.

    Serial Numbers of this Model ran from 33804 - 63449, from 1903 to 1904.

    Frame should lack the Screw which on the next model, occurred in the upper front part of the Trigger Guard, as your Trigger Return Spring is a little Leaf Spring held or pinned to the front Grip Strap instead, visible if you remove the Stocks...so, yours is a pre-five-screw, four screw, in effect.

    Supposedly the first Square Butts came out about when your Serial Number was made.

    Is yours a Square Butt, or, round Butt?
  5. overcast_days

    overcast_days Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the information. I knew it was an old revolver, but I wasn't sure it was that old. Your right it is a four screw. I'm sorry my gf has my camera at the moment or I'd post a picture. It has a squarish butt.

    It looks like a nickel platted version of this:

    Now I just need to decide if I want to shoot it.
  6. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Well-Known Member

    You have what in my opinion, should be considered as being a Black Powder Revolver.

    I have a few S&W 'M&P' of that vintage and I never fire any off the shelf or smokleless Ammunition in them, I strictly use Black Powder Cartridges for those...and I load the Cartridges myself ( which is easy and fun to do ).

    If you do wish to use store bought smokeless Cartridges, I would suggest you stay with mid range Wadcutters only, and, forgoe any full loadings of present day Ammunition.

    Avoid anyone else's "re-loads' or and or all old or iffy partial Boxes of what look like mid range wadcutters, also.

    I myself have a 1950s 3/4 full Box of what is labeled as and appears to be the usual 148 Grain Mid Range Wadcutters, someone gave me many years ago, something they found when cleaning out 'Grand Pa's Shed' or other. I noted at the time, that their primers did not appear to be the same look as Factory Ammunition.

    25 or so years later, I tried a few rounds of these in an S & W Model 10-6 3 inch Barrel revolver, at the Range, through a Chronograph, and, they clocked around 1,200 FPS, with a pretty good recoil.

    No idea what these are, other than VERY 'stout'! I would guess they are well into .357 Magnum territory loadings wise.

    Had I put one of those through my Model of 1902, it might have burst the Cylinder.

    So, always beware of anyone else's re-loads or old partial boxes of Ammunition which might just be someone else's unknown or incompetent re-loads.

    These early 'M&P' Revolvers were made for use with pure Lead or plain Lead Bullets only, no jacketed, no hardball, no +P of course.

    M&Ps made after about 1906 or so, far as my own acceptences, one is fine to shoot any "SAAMI" compliant, Reputable Factory offering of 'Smokeless', Standard Pressure, Lead Bullet .38 Special Cartridges one likes.

    These earlier ones though, I say, may as well play it safe, respect them as they wish to be respected, and, thus ensure the Arm will live on indefinitely, for one's own enjoyment and appreciation of History, and for others yet to come also.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2011
  7. overcast_days

    overcast_days Well-Known Member

    Oyeboten thank you for all the advice. What grain would you stick with about 128, 130? And what about cowboy loads from the store.
  8. aHFo3

    aHFo3 Well-Known Member

    Oyeboten is right. The M&P was made for smokeless powder, but the cylinders weren't heat treated until serial number 316648.

    The serial number range puts it as a Model of 1902 1st change with 28,645 manufactured between 1903 & 1904 The standard catalog says "the first square butt K frames show up in the middle of this model serial number range at about 58,000."
  9. overcast_days

    overcast_days Well-Known Member

    aHFo3 thank you for the additional information. Where did you learn this? It is interesting. I would like to learn more.
  10. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Well-Known Member

    Hi overcast days,

    Run it past "Radagast" in the S & W Date of Birth Thread...very top of the menu in the Revolver Section.
  11. Radagast

    Radagast Well-Known Member

    The info re heat treating of cylinders is from the Standard Catalog of S&W 3rd Edition in the subsection on the .38 Military & Police Model of 1905 4th Change.
    Heat treating began in either 1917 or 1919, depending on who is being quoted.

    In addition THR member Saxon Pig has recommended not using PlusP in guns made before 1930 due to poor metallurgy.

    IIRC S&W began advertising their topbreaks as being suited for blackpowder in 1909.
    I've read a claim, but have not seen proof, that S&W catalogs stated the M&P was suitable for smokeless owder from 1906, so take that with a grain of salt.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that if dropped these guns could fire. The current internal hammer block safety was not introduced until 1944. Best to leave the chamber under the hammer empty.

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