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Identity and Date of Manufacture of S&W Revolvers

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Brian Williams, Jun 21, 2008.

  1. Radagast
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    Radagast Contributing Member

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    Dicki:
    Your gun dates to late 1941 or early 1942. It will be a medium 'K' frame' gun and it is likely it started life as a 5 inch barrel .38 S&W British Service Revolver manufactured for the British govt. during World War II. After the war a large number of these had the cylinder bored out to fit the .38 Special cartridge and were sold as surplus in the USA. Many had the barrel cut down to make them 'snubbies', which meant the locking lug at the end of the ejector rod was cut off. Such guns are worth no more than $150. The bored out chamber means cartridge brass is prone to bulging and the lack of a locking lug means that using PlusP ammunition can spring the cylinder yoke - I damaged the yoke on a similar gun with 5 rounds. Even if the gun still has the original .38 S&W chambering remains it will not have much value as the round is semi obsolete and expensive. Such modified guns should be restricted to standard pressure lead loads only.

    If the barrel is stamped .38 S&W Spl and has a locking lug then it may be a rare factory snubbie and worth a few dollars to an interested collector. Post some pics if you want an opinion.

    Either way, the gun predates the internal positive hammer block safety introduced during WWII after a fatality with a dropped gun. I would treat it as a 5 shooter, leaving the chamber under the hammer empty.
     
  2. Radagast
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    Radagast Contributing Member

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    SW38: The grips are the commercial style and correct for that era. The finish is well worn so I can't guess as to whether it was originally blue or black magic.
    Some people refer to the .38 S&W as .38 short, this is incorrect. It is a caliber by itself.
    Colt made a black powder .38 Short round to compete with the .38 S&W. They also made a longer version of the same case, the .38 Long Colt. S&W stretched the .38 Long Colt, loaded it with smokeless powder and called it the .38 S&W Special. Then they stretched it again, loaded it very fast and called it the .357 Magnum. Then someone stretched the .357 Magnum, loaded it so hot it could flame cut the top strap of the revolver and called it the .357 Maximum.
    So the .38 Short Colt is truly the short version of the .38 special, .357 Magnum & .357 Maximum. It was obsolete for years until fast shooting revolver games became popular. The short case is faster to load than the longer versions, so it is back in production for the gun game crowd. .38 Short Colt _may_ chamber in a .38 S&W, but this is not a good idea as it will be loose and may bulge brass.
    Thus ends the trivia lesson.
     
  3. pawkoon

    pawkoon Member

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    Thanks again for the info Radagast.
     
  4. Dicki

    Dicki Member

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    Thanks Radagast for the info, we had no idea it was that old. I was going to post pictures but I can't figure it out here, keeps asking for a url?
     
  5. Dicki

    Dicki Member

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  6. Radagast
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    Radagast Contributing Member

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    Dicki:
    Definitely a British Service revolver, it has the remains of the British proof marks on the cylinder.
    This thread has a pic of a converted cylinder:
    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=337295

    Factory .38 S&W loads are fairly weak, intended to match the original black powder loads & will probably be safe. Check for a gap developing between the cylinder yoke & the frame before and after firing.
    I would stick to weak hand loads or factory 148 grain wadcutters if it is a .38 Special. & inspect each time.

    If you have ammo to hand, check if the gun will chamber .38 Special. If it will not then its still in the original .38 S&W chambering.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014
  7. Dicki

    Dicki Member

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    yes it takes a 38 special load, we fired 100 rounds through it and had no problems my cylinders seem to be stepped as well. Thanks again and here are some of the cylinder 38 special 004.jpg

    38 special 007.jpg
     
  8. Radagast
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    Radagast Contributing Member

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    Dicki:
    If you look in the cylinder you will see a step at the front where the .38 Special case mouth rests and a step or ring a little further back where the original .38 S&W case mouth rested.
    As I mentioned above, stick to standard pressure lead only loads if you want it to last. PlusP adds strain to the frame through increased pressure and from the round hitting the forcing cone at a higher speed.
     
  9. Dicki

    Dicki Member

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    We can see the different levels in the cylinder, we thought it was poor workmanship. Know that we know how old it is we'll treat it a little nicer, and we only shot store bought loads nothing fancy. Thanks
     
  10. Big Nugget

    Big Nugget Member

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    Would you please date a 357 Highway Patrol for me?

    a) 357mag
    b) 4"
    c) square
    d) 6
    e) adjustable (no white outline)
    f) N209XXX
    g) 28-2
     
  11. Radagast
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    Radagast Contributing Member

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    Big Nugget:
    The N2xxxxx serial range was used from 1974 to 1977. As your Model 28-2 Highway Patrolman has a relatively low serial number 1974 or early 1975 seems likely.
     
  12. Big Nugget

    Big Nugget Member

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    Thanks!! Thanks helps me out a bunch!
     
  13. berettaprofessor

    berettaprofessor Member

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    Radagast; a little help please: Please date a S&W Model 15-4, 38 special, Serial # ABR4093. Also, is there anything special about it? The barrel measures 3.5 inches, which seems odd. Thanks!
     
  14. Radagast
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    Radagast Contributing Member

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    berettaprofessor:
    Early 1983 for your Model 15-4 Combat Masterpiece, the barrel length from forcing cone to muzzle should be 2 inches or 4 inches. There were some special run guns with a 4.25 inch barrel and reportedly some .357 magnums with a 2.5 inch barrel. No 3.5 inch though.
     
  15. berettaprofessor

    berettaprofessor Member

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    Thanks Radagast. I had left out the forcing cone so it is a 4 inch. Am I correct in understanding that the 15-4 model has an "internal hammer block" and is therefore drop safe, and also that the barrel is still pinned?

    Got lucky with this one. Went in to buy a used and beat up Model 10 that had been sitting around for awhile (serial number 77000 or so). Ended up with the 15 for $65 more; and I don't think the 15 was ever fired, either that or it was cleaned up by a meticulous expert. No residue at all on the cylinder ends and no wear of bluing where it has been cleaned there, lands are bright and shiny, trigger depths look pristine, and there is only the faintest ring on the cylinder. The only mark on the gun I can find is on one 1/8-1/4" high spot on the cylinder where a little bluing is rubbed off like the gun had been laying in a drawer for 30 years.
     
  16. Radagast
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    Radagast Contributing Member

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    Yes, it has the internal hammer block introduced during WWII and is dropsafe. Unless the trigger is pulled or the hammer is cocked there is a metal bar blocking the firing pin from the hammer.
    The 15-4 was the last pinned barrel variant, in fact it was officially replaced by the 15-5 in 1982, so yours is one of the very last pinned barrel guns.

    The gun you describe sounds like a sock drawer gun. Bought, loaded, put in a sock drawer and never taken out because nothing went bump in the night.

    A model 10 with a 77000 serial number would not be a model 10, as model numbers were not introduced until 1957. It would be a .38 Military & Police Model of 1905 1st change or .38 Military & Police Model of 1905 2nd Change manufactured in 1906. It would not have a positive hammer block, so should be treated as a 5 shooter for safety. It predates heat treatment of cylinders and should be loaded with standard pressure lead ammo only, no PlusP, +P+ or jacketed if you don't want to risk a bulged cylinder.

    I think you picked the better of the two for a shooter.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2014
  17. berettaprofessor

    berettaprofessor Member

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    Yeah, but now I'm thinking of the other as a collector:D....don't run across that many 100 year old firearms. But pricewise I'm far ahead with the better shooter and in much better condition; $425 for the 15-4, $359 for the "10".
     
  18. Radagast
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    Radagast Contributing Member

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    I'd say the model 15 was under priced by $100, the M&P is overpriced by $100 if its showing a lot of wear. In 2006 the Standard Catalog of S&W gave a value of $285 for one in very good condition.
    That being said, old guns are cool. I no longer collect/accumulate, I just keep a few guns that fill certain niches. I get to ID more rare guns in this thread than I'll ever see in real life, even in my hobby job with a gun dealer. But I still feel there is something special about functional weapons made 100 or ever 130 years ago. Hand fitted & polished, parts made on machinery driven by steam or steam powered belt drives, in factories lit by skylights instead of fluorescents. No one had seen earth from space. No one had flown in a powered aircraft. Cars were rare, as were telephones. To many people the horizon was their horizon. Yet the tools made back then are in many ways as good as, if not better than the ones we have today.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2014
  19. berettaprofessor

    berettaprofessor Member

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    Looking at it again this morning Radagast, and I think my early '83 15-4 is proving the point that S&W never throws away an unused part. It is definitely stamped 15-4 near the crane, but I don't think it's pinned...so it is more like a 15-5 in that regard. I don't have pictures of mine yet, but it's missing the pin just above the forcing cone noted by the arrow in the picture that I swiped off the internet below. That's the one it should have if the barrel was pinned, correct?

    [​IMG]
     
  20. Geezer Glide

    Geezer Glide Member

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    What can you tell me about a Smith & Wesson Model 10-5? Thanks in advance.

    a) .38 Special
    b) 4"
    c) Square butt
    d) 6 shot
    e) Serial # C864XXX
     
  21. Radagast
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    Radagast Contributing Member

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    berettaprofessor:
    Yep, you have a mis-stamped Model 15-5. That is the pin referred to when talking about pinned barrels or 'pinned and recessed.'

    Geezer Glide:
    You have a Model 10-5 .38 Military & Police tapered barrel manufactured in 1966 or 1967.
    serial range for those years was C810553 to C999999, so 1966 seems likely. Value will depend upon condition, most likely falling between $250 for well worn but still functional & $350 for near new.
     
  22. K-Rod

    K-Rod Member

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    Hello Radagast. I have another Smith that I need you check. Thanks in advance.

    1) Model 19-3 357mag
    2) 4"
    3) Nickel
    4)Pinned & Recessed
    5)4K324XX
     
  23. Radagast
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    Radagast Contributing Member

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    K-Rod:
    Your Model 19-3 Combat Magnum was manufactured in 1973.
     
  24. K-Rod

    K-Rod Member

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    Thank you Sir
     
  25. evets_56_98

    evets_56_98 Member

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    Location:
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    K Frame 10-8
    .38 spcl.
    4"bull barrel
    sq. butt
    6 shot
    Fixed Sights
    Serial#9D176XX
     

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