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Smith&Wesson .38S&W "Lemon Squeezer" Safety Hammerless

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by AethelstanAegen, Dec 28, 2012.

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  1. AethelstanAegen

    AethelstanAegen Member

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    So I braved the huge crowds at the "Nations Gunshow" in Chantilly today. I picked up an old Smith & Wesson Safety Hammerless in .38s&w for $250. I didn't know all that much about them, but I've been looking for a small revolver and the old-timey style and the top break really sold me.

    How'd I do on the price? It seems to be in decent shape (everything seems to work as it should). I'd say maybe 50-65% finish but that's just a guess.

    I'm also not quite sure how old the thing is...it has a 117xxx serial number. Anyone know what year that is? Is there anything else I should know about these? I assume it should be safe to shoot, correct?
     
  2. WardenWolf

    WardenWolf member

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  3. AethelstanAegen

    AethelstanAegen Member

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    Thanks for the info, WardenWolf! I noticed it has J.I.B. stamped on the frame. I assume that must be a previous owner's initials.

    Anyone know how to find out the year of manufacture from the serial?
     
  4. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    Well I havve good and bad news...

    You have a Smith & Wesson .38 Safety Hammerless; 4th Model, made between 1898 and 1907 (serial number range 116,003 to 220,000. You might want to get it lettered by the factory (see information below) because if it was made in 1898 it is defined in federal and most (but not all) state and local laws as an antique - and not subject to the usual restrictions placed on later firearms. Given your description you bought it a better then a fair price. At the time standard barrel lengths were 3 1/4, 4, 5 and 6 inches; with the longer lengths being slightly more valuable. Shorter lengths were made on special order and are substantially more valuable - but look out for aftermarket cut-off barrels that subtract from the value.

    The bad news is that because of the age, and fragile lockwork it isn't a particularly good choice as a carry gun or for defensive purposes. You can buy smokeless powder ammunition, but since it was likely made in 1898 or '99 it was intended to be used with black powder cartridges. It remained in production until 1941, and later ones are safe with standard .38 S&W loads.

    If you decide to get it lettered...

     
  5. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    .38 Safety Hammerless 4th. Change:

    Serial # range:
    1898 = 116003
    1907 = 220000

    So I'd guess your #117xxx puts it late 1898, to mid 1899 somewhere.

    rc
     
  6. AethelstanAegen

    AethelstanAegen Member

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    Here are some photos:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Here in this second one you can see the J.I.B. stamp....much nicer initialing than I often find on these old guns (electropencil *shudder*).

    Upon further inspection there is less finish remaining than I thought but I rather like the patina it has.

    So is the general concensus then that it can't be fired or that I need to be sure to use low powered ammunition? Does anyone know of such ammo (for example is the Prvi Partizan .38s&w low pressure)? Anyone know a source for blackpowder .38s&w? I don't plan to shoot it much but it'd be nice to fire it every once in a very blue moon.
     
  7. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    There is no "high pressure" .38 S&W ammo loaded in the U.S. at least.

    SAAMI pressure spec is only 14,500 PSI, and I seriously doubt anyone loads it to that.

    http://www.midwayusa.com/product/79...0-grain-lead-hollow-base-flat-point-box-of-50

    http://m.sportsmansguide.com/Product.aspx?a=899364&bi=214232&emvcc=-3

    http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/product/66257

    But as Old Fuff already said, your gun predates smokeless powder, so if you decide to shoot it, you do so at your own risk.
    If you break it, you won't have much luck finding parts for it.

    rc
     
  8. AethelstanAegen

    AethelstanAegen Member

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    Thanks again for all the info, everyone! It's definitely the 3.25" barrel version. I was considering getting the factory letter.

    Whenever I go to a gun show I always end up bringing back something old. I know I surprised the guys at the booth I purchased this one from...they had mostly modern firearms and I'm a young guy so I think they all assumed I was looking for something new. They seemed very startled when I asked to for the "lemon squeezer" and handed them my C&R. Haha. I guess I'm just a sucker for history.
     
  9. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

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    In that case you might be interested to know that two U.S. Presidents owned one, and they both had the same last name - Roosevelt, "Teddy" and Franklin D. Another user was Col. Rex Applegate of OSS fame, who was the one who talked S&W into updating the enclosed hammer design into one based on the compact J-frame platform. The result is today the company's best selling revolver.
     
  10. AethelstanAegen

    AethelstanAegen Member

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    Haha. Very neat facts. I also heard that Garfield and Teddy Roosevelt were both shot by .38S&W but I'm not sure if those were fired from "lemon squeezers" or not. Thanks for the facts, Old Fuff...I'm a big Teddy Roosevelt fan, so that's awesome to hear (not surprising that he owned one though given that he owned so many firearms).
     
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