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S&W Model 66 with serial number removed!

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Quentin, Sep 14, 2005.

  1. Quentin

    Quentin Well-Known Member

    A friend who is a widow has a S&W Model 66. I was looking at it and the serial number has been removed. No doubt about it - it is filed right off where my Model 19 clearly has a SN. Her late husband bought the gun and she has no knowledge where he bought it.

    Anyway, a little Googling shows this is serious, especially transporting it across state lines. She does carry it in her car and has crossed state lines with it. I said this may not be a good idea but she doesn't want to be stuck buying a new gun plus there is sentimental value as he bought it for her. And the gun is in perfect condition otherwise.

    She'll never use it in a crime but it's possible she would use it to defend herself. Wonder what can of worms that would open?

    I guess there's no legal way to have it reserialized? Would appreciate any thoughts on this subject. Don't want to worry her to death but this could be a real problem. I feel real bad about this because I may have made it worse as before she didn't KNOWINGLY possess a firearm with an obliterated serial number.
  2. farscott

    farscott Well-Known Member

    Yeah, this can be a bad situation since it is a felony to have a firearm with an obliterated serial number. A couple of thoughts:

    1) Has the serial number been obliterated on both the yoke cut and on the butt? Most older K-frames were serialized in those two places. If one of the serial numbers is intact, the issue is not so serious.

    2) If the serial numbers are really obliterated, it is best to contact BATFE, explain what happened, and ask if the serial number can be recovered or a new number issued. Usually the number can be recovered. It is my understanding that BATFE is pretty decent when they are contacted about this kind of thing.
  3. Quentin

    Quentin Well-Known Member

    Thanks, farscott! The grips on my Model 19 obscure the SN on the butt but when I removed them the second stamping of the serial number was there as you said. I believe her grips cover this area, too - or I would have seen the SN. I'll go back and look at that gun. Hope the SN is there!
  4. Ala Dan

    Ala Dan Member in memoriam

    Obliterated serial numbers may be recovered using a form of muric acid;
    as used in most major crime labs. :uhoh: :D
  5. Trebor

    Trebor Well-Known Member

    The serial number on the butt of a S&W revolver is the REAL serial number. The number on the yoke is an "assembly number" used to keep the parts together during production. That number can be removed or defaced with no problems.

    The assembly number is usually different then the serial number. There are exceptions. I know that some S&W revolvers would also have the serial number stamped on the yoke IN ADDITION to the serial number stamped on the butt. This was so the serial number could be read when grips covered the butt. The serial number on the butt is still the REAL serial number though.

    I've never seen a S&W without the serial number on the butt. They may be out there though.
  6. Majic

    Majic Well-Known Member

    If all the serial numbers have been removed then contact the BATFE and they will restamp a new serial number on it. The numbers they used to stamp on firearms started with "ATF".
  7. Carbonator

    Carbonator Well-Known Member

    Is anyone else thinking she should just destroy the gun?

    Sounds like more potential problems than it's worth. It's not clear if her late husband bought it new or used. Either he filed the SS# off and had an illegal reason to, or he bought a stolen gun, which may or may not have been used to commit a crime. Why else would someone file off a serial #, or something they thought was a serial number? If a crime was involved it could become an issue if she ever had to use the gun to defend herself. Could she be slammed with a record for "carrying across state lines" or being in possession of a stolen firearm or anything else that could remove her right to carry in the future? Even if it was an "assembly number" it seems like the intent was to remove it thinking it was a serial number, so intent and motive and likely a crime... If she ever tries to sell the gun she could face charges of selling a stolen firearm etc...

    Sounds shady to me...
  8. CAS700850

    CAS700850 Well-Known Member

    I have prosecuted a few cases where handguns turned up with the serial number gouged or filed. Lab guys can do amazing things to recover the number. Once the number was recovered, the owner was tracked down (always keep a copy of your serial numbers for the theft reports, the best chance you have of getting your guns back.), BATFE was involved long enough to re-stamp the gun with the original serial number, and the gun was returned.

    In this situation, she may need to contact local law enforcement for assistance, rather than going right to BATFE.
  9. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member


    In times past, S&W stamped the serial number on the butt of some models, and on the forestrap of others where the stocks covered the butt. They also sometimes stamped the number on the back of the cylinder, on the underside of the extractor star, the inside of the sideplate, and the bottom of the barrel.

    Following World War Two they continued to stamp the serial number on the butt, and sometime a different (assembly) number on the frame under the barrel, and on the inside of the yoke.

    A problem developed when target stocks became common on revolvers that weren't commonly used as target guns. The serial number couldn't be viewed when the stocks were assembled, and the assembly number was sometimes mistakenly used as the serial number.

    To address this, S&W changed their past procedure, and discontinued stamping the serial number on the butt, and moved it to where the assembly number had previously been. Sometimes they stamped the serial number in both places.

    The location of the serial number therefore is dependent on the time frame in which the revolver was manufactured.

    Earlier model 19 revolvers did indeed have the serial number stamped on the butt, but later ones did not.

    One of our members, who is an attorney, posted a thread on this forum concerning a case where one of his clients was charged with removing the serial number from a revolver, because the authorities weren't aware that the location had been moved. I believe that when the facts were revealed the charges were dropped.
  10. elric

    elric Well-Known Member

    Hmmm, well, in the case of my Model 66, which is from the early-mid 90s, its on the butt.
  11. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Question: Is this a round-butt or square-butt frame?

    Also, to further confuse the matter, S&W would produce and serial number frames before they were built into guns. Thus the serial number could pre-date the actual date of manufacture, although this was less common with popular models that turned over fairly quickly.
  12. Sunray

    Sunray Well-Known Member

    What it is or where it came from doesn't matter. She should talk to the local constabulary to avoid any fuss.
  13. Quentin

    Quentin Well-Known Member

    I just looked at the Model 66 again, removed the grips and the serial number is intact on the butt. (To answer Old Fuff's question, it is a square design, not rounded.) Thank you again, farscott, for first pointing out the SN should be there.

    We talked about the issues and she wants to keep her gun. I said in that case it would be smart to get new grips that do not obscure the serial number and she is agreeable. In fact the grips are too big and she'd like something smaller.

    It bothers me just why the SN inside the yoke was removed but I have not brought up this issue with her and won't. Whatever happened, she is innocent and I don't want to cast doubt on what he did or how he obtained the gun. She believes he bought the gun new but I can't imagine a new gun would come with the yoke SN buffed off and the butt SN covered unless he got large grips installed when he bought the gun.

    Oh, well, she's a little old lady, 5' 1" and about 125 pounds and the SN will be prominent again. I think she'll be fine.

    Still, it's a mystery and it's tempting to run that number to see if anything turns up. But I'm letting sleeping dogs lie!

    Thanks to everyone for your help!
  14. Quentin

    Quentin Well-Known Member

    Oh, in regard to my Model 19, I've had the wrong SN recorded in my files for many years because I used the one inside the yoke. Even with a jeweler's loupe I read a "6" as a "G", however it's clearly a "6" on the butt. The rough stamping on the yoke still looks like a "G" but really is a deformed "6". Otherwise both SNs are the same.

    Thanks guys for helping me get that straightened out!
  15. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Depending on when the gun was made, it is quite possible - if not probable - that the serial number was never stamped on the frame behind the yoke. If you look in that area the model number (19) is likely stamped. it may be just "19," or it may include a dash number (for example" 19-2). This would determine the approximate era it was made in, and therefore how it might have been serial numbered.

    Clearly understand that over the years the model 19 was made (1955-1999) some guns were serial numbered on the butt, some under the yoke, and some in both places. Quite frankly, I don't think the lady's revolver was altered at all.

    You might obtain more specific and authorative information by calling Mr. Roy Jinks, who is Smith & Wesson's in-house historian.

    Why a question about square butt vs. round? Because the round butt version usually wan't supplied with stocks that covered the butt, and so was serial numbered there longer then the the square butt - where oversized stocks were usually a stock item.
  16. Trebor

    Trebor Well-Known Member

    Old Fuff,

    Thanks for the info. All the S&W revo's I've seen have had the serial number on the butt. These guns date from the 50's to the 80's. I know there's more than I've seen, so I appreciate the update.

    Would you agree that when there IS a serial number on the butt, that it is regarded as THE serial number? (Even if that number is repeated on the yoke)

    Btw, I agree that it's likely the number on the butt was never actually defaced. I bet it's an assembly number.
  17. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Yes, I would agree that if it's original to the factory, the number on the bottom of the butt, or in a few cases on the frontstrap, is "the" serial number.

    Smith & Wesson never put assembly numbers on the bottom of the butt. They do stamp various inspection marks on the side, under the stocks. The reason for an assembly number (not matching the serial number) on the yoke and frame is because at one time they fitted the yoke before the frame was serial numbered. They also serial numbered frames before they were made into guns, which is the reason that in some cases the serial number can only give one an approximate date of manufacture. However for a reasonable $30.00 fee (part of which goes to the U.S. International Shooting Team) Smith & Wesson's own historian, Roy Jinks, will research a particular gun and determine when it was shipped from the factory, and to whom.

    On more then one occasion, charges have been brought against an individual for having a revolver where the serial number has been removed, when in truth it hasn't. In other instances S&W revolvers have been registered under an assembly number because someone found it stamped on the frame at the yoke cut. and the butt was covered by target stocks. Part of the confusion was (is) caused because Colt did stamp the serial number under the crane (yoke) starting during the early 20th century, and still do. Colt military revolvers, such as the models 1909 and 1917 have the factory serial number stamped under the crane, but a U.S. Army number stamped on the butt. Ruger (bless them) puts the serial number on the side of the frame, and a prefix denotes the particular model.
  18. farscott

    farscott Well-Known Member

    I agree with Old Fuff that it is unlikely that the serial number in the yoke was never obliterated. I believe it was never there in the first place. In fact, you may find the serial number etched on the inside of the top strap if you swing out the cylinder and look at the inner surface of the top strap. If the serial number is there, you will find it was laser etched.
  19. unspellable

    unspellable Well-Known Member

    Serial numbers

    The confusion here about what is or isn't the serial number reminds me of the situation in regard to military issue Lugers. Most people do not realize that if there is a small letter under the four digit number at the front of the frame it is part of the serial number or that if absent, its absence should be recorded as part of the serial number. Even fewer realize that the chamber date is part of the serial number. So a typical number might be "1917 1234 a". people record only the second four digits. Its likely that a fair number of Lugers were produced with the same second four digits.

    The regular commercial versions had more conventional serial numbers.

    There is a hybred, the Commercial Model 1920 which were asembled from military parts in storage at DWM when WWI ended. These have military type serial numbers.

    In the case of Lugers with a chamber marking of 1920, this is not the date the pistol was made but rather is the "permission date" of the terms under which Germany was allowed to produce pistols for use by the police and the like.
  20. tgf600

    tgf600 Member

    Serial # removed

    I have no dog in this fight but, let me make a suggestion, If I owned this gun, I would take it to the local sheriff and explain the situation.
    Call him FIRST and let him know that you have a gun in your possession that the Serial number has been removed and that you would like to meet with him and have the Serial number checked thru NCIC to see if it is a stolen weapon. Explain that your husband purchased this for you.
    This gun could have been used in the commission of a felony etc.

    This is only my suggestion as I am, lets say involved in law enforement.

    This is a highly recommended suggestion.

    Good luck.

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