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Smith & Wesson 32 WCF - Need Information

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by carbine85, Mar 17, 2012.

  1. carbine85

    carbine85 Well-Known Member

    My Father-in Law gave this to me. I believe it's a 32 WCF Military & Police, however I can't find any information on a Model 0011. This number is stamped on the frame just below the barrel on the frame. Any help is appreciated.
  2. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Well-Known Member

    The 32-20 was made 1899-1940. Model numbers started in 1957. This means that no 32-20 has a model number. You are looking at an assembly number which is meaningless to us.

    You have a Military & Police Model 32-20 or 32 WCF (Winchester Center Fire).

    The large ejector rod head suggests it is a gun made before 1923. The serial will pin down the exact variation (First Model, Second Model, etc.) and the date of manufacture.

    The gun appears to have been plated. The hammer and trigger look plated and S&W never did this. Also, the front sight had been cut down. The stocks are post 1968 versions.

    In this condition the pistol has little monetary value. As a family heirloom it is priceless. Try to see if anyone in the family knows any history on the gun.
  3. carbine85

    carbine85 Well-Known Member

    The serial number on this is 75xxx. Where does that put age wise?
    It's the original the nickle plate. The trigger isn't plated, it's worn and lost it's finish.
    The front sight does appear to be cut down when compared to some pictures I found
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2012
  4. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Well-Known Member

    A serial of 75,000 would make it a M&P 4th Model 5th Change made 1915-1916.

    The last patent date on the barrel should be 1914.

    I, personally, don't like to shoot guns made before the late 1920s due to the vagaries of metal tempering back then. If I recall correctly S&W didn't even attempt to heat treat M&P cylinders until around 165,000. Like I said earlier, to me this gun is a family heirloom and not a shooter.
  5. carbine85

    carbine85 Well-Known Member

    I didn't realize it was that old.
    Thanks for the information.
  6. Radagast

    Radagast Well-Known Member

    Heat treatment began at serial number 81287, so yours predates that by a year or two.
    It will probably be safe to shoot with modern lead only 'cowboy' loads. These are downloaded lead only rounds for target use. The old jacketed hi-speed rifle ammo had a reputation for bulging the barrels of these pistols and I would not want to fire it through a gun without a heat treated cylinder. Old Western Scrounger or Black Hills should be able to supply you with cowboy ammo.

    It's actually a .32-20 Hand Ejector Model of 1905 4th change, there was no fifth design change on that model.

    Keep in mind that it lacks the positive internal hammer block safety introduced during WWII. If dropped it could fire, so load five and leave the chamber under the hammer empty until you are ready to shoot.

    It may not have been refinished, camera flash can deceive. Look closely at the hammer and trigger. If they are a straw color (color case hardened) then they are original. If they are nickel plated like the rest of the gun then they have been refinished. Its also possible the gun has been refinished with the hammer and trigger left original, which is what S&W would do if the gun was sent back to them.

    Should be safe to shoot with cowboy loads, wear good shooting glasses if you do, only load five leaving the chamber under the hammer empty.
  7. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Well-Known Member

    It's late. 4th Change is correct as is the serial for tempering.

    BTW- Did somebody engrave his SSN on the front of the grip frame? Special place in Hell for people who do that.
  8. Radagast

    Radagast Well-Known Member

    Saxon Pig:
    I'm in Australia, so I had the advantage of sleep when posting that. I've made my share of errors in the past when posting after midnight Australian time.
  9. carbine85

    carbine85 Well-Known Member

    It's not a SSN. I think it's State Hwy Patrol engraving. I guess it didn't matter back then.
  10. TRob ARob

    TRob ARob New Member

    I just acquired my great-grandmother's .32-20. It appears to be in good shape and in good working order. The cylinder has little to no play and locks quite nicely. The bluing, if it had any, on the frame is worn off. There remains some bluing, I think, on both the barrel and the cylinder. The serial number, found in 3 different places, 1- butt handle, 2-cylinder back, and 3-under the barrel, is 826XX. The barrel is stamped "Smith & Wesson" on the left side, "*32 W.C.F. CTG*" on the right side, and "SMITH & WESSON SPRINGFIELD MASS. U.S.A. PATENTED OCT 8, 01, DEC 17, 01, FEB 6, 06, SEPT 14, 09, DEC 29, 14". What kind of info. can you give me on this firearm? Also, I was thinking of having it cleaned and re-blued. The wood is worn but original. Also, though it is kind of unfortunate, but my great-grandmother etched her initials on the left side of the frame. (This could be considered an added bonus because I have an actual sample of her handwriting!) It does not have a post-war transfer safety bar, so presumably that would prevent carying six in the cylinder? Please help. Thanking you in advance for your kind assistance.
  11. Radagast

    Radagast Well-Known Member

    TRob ARob:
    Heat treatment of cylinders began at serial number 81287, on May 7th, 1919. So your grandmothers gun almost certainly dates to 1919.
    Personally I would treat it as a non heat treated gun and only shoot lead cowboy loads through it. Never shoot any old jacketed 32-20 Hi Speed ammo through these old guns, they have a reputation for stripping the jacket in the rifleing, with the next round fired resulting in a bulged barrel.

    You are correct that it lacks the positive transfer bar/hammer block. The 1914 patent dates refer to a non-positive hammer block, a failure of which with fatal consequences lead to the development of the current system in 1944.

    S&W will not work on pre-57 guns.
    I would try http://www.turnbullmfg.com/ or http://www.fordsguns.com/ Fords can also restore rollmarks. They may be able to do something with the initials.
  12. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    .32-20 Cautions

    We are commonly warned not to shoot .32-20 High Velocity, High Speed, High Power ammunition in revolvers (or 1873 rifles) because of its higher chamber pressure and a propensity for bulging barrels by some mechanism.
    OK, but...
    Even though .32-20 HV was the last of the hotloaded dual purpose calibers, it still dropped out of production sometime in the 1950s, as best I can tell. While I guess it is possible that you might get Grandpa's antique revolver and Grandpa's antique rifle ammunition, it seems a bit far fetched to make such a fuss over the lack of compatibility.

    We are also recommended to shoot "cowboy" ammunition in such old guns, on the premise that since it is at low velocity, it should be at low pressure. This is not necessarily the case. They might be using a small charge of a very fast burning powder developing maximum pressure but low speed for economy on a production line basis. This is common in Cheapmart shotgun shells, might be in bulleted rounds, too.

    SAAMI maximum chamber pressure for .32-20 is 16,000 CUP.
    .38 Special is 17,000 CUP and nobody worries much about shooting standard velocity .38s in an old .38 revolver.

    I don't own a "pre-S" S&W, perhaps somebody can say if it is possible to check operation of the old style hammer block by looking at it, as you can the later, more positive type.

    Refinishing: A good commercial reblue (or replating) will cost as much or more than the resale value of the gun whether in worn or refinished state. A real restoration to factory appearance will be extremely expensive, running into the thousands of dollars. I would leave nearly any well used looking family gun alone, just like Grandpa (Grandma) last saw it.
  13. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Well-Known Member

    Smith & Wesson did not return the .32 WCF Military & Police into production after World War Two. The last ones were made in or about 1940 or '41. Consequently while some may have a hammer block of some kind if they were made in the 1930's, the block is not an unquestionably positive one.

    So carry any Smith & Wesson .32-20 (.32 WCF) revolver with the hammer resting on an empty chamber. This may be seen as some as being overkill, but it is better to be safe then sorry.
  14. TRob ARob

    TRob ARob New Member

    Radagast et al.,

    Is there a Model or series that it belongs to? I saw an early mention of Mod 4 5th change. What would be the iteration of this particular .32-20?
  15. Radagast

    Radagast Well-Known Member

    .32-20 Hand Ejector Model of 1905 4th Change.
  16. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    There are some questions about that "rifle" and "handgun/revolver" ammo in .32-20. There was little concern about .32-20 being fired in revolvers until the 1920's, when tons of cheap cast-iron Spanish revolvers in that caliber flooded the market in the U.S. Many of those blew up (in both .32-20 and .38 Special) and users (naturally) blamed the ammo, not their judgement in buying $4 revolvers. So the ammo makers came out with "rifle" ammo at the original specs and "revolver" ammo at reduced pressures.

    While it is conceivable that an S&W M&P might be strained by "rifle" ammunition, the idea that a Colt New Service or SAA would be bothered is ludicrous.


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