little help with 38 special

This is a discussion on little help with 38 special within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Hello All first post here, hope its the correct forum. looking for info on this 38 s&w special ctg 3'' barrell serial number on bottom ...

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Thread: little help with 38 special

  1. #1
    Member Array hardknocks1's Avatar
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    little help with 38 special

    Hello All
    first post here, hope its the correct forum.
    looking for info on this 38 s&w special ctg 3'' barrell
    serial number on bottom S 853xxx six shot.
    got from grandpa 22 yrs ago.
    any and all info is appreciated. i will have it checked out
    and see if its good to shoot.
    what frame is this?
    what ammo can it shoot?
    how old?
    thanks a bunch

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Array 1911luver's Avatar
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    Hi open the cylinder of the gun and look inside there should be a model number there a 2 or 3 digit one. Is it a five or six shot revolver? from what I'm reading i'm gonna say its a K-frame of some kind,but more inof such as finish i.e. blued or stainless and that model number would be more helpful in telling you what you have.
    Snub nose revolvers,the original concealed carry guns.

  4. #3
    Member Array hardknocks1's Avatar
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    o.k.

    Quote Originally Posted by 1911luver View Post
    Hi open the cylinder of the gun and look inside there should be a model number there a 2 or 3 digit one. Is it a five or six shot revolver? from what I'm reading i'm gonna say its a K-frame of some kind,but more inof such as finish i.e. blued or stainless and that model number would be more helpful in telling you what you have.

    hello
    this is the only numbers i can find, down near the hinge where it swings open. blue finish, 6 shot probably 70-80 yrs old.
    Y
    23103
    thanks

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    Senior Member Array jem102's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hardknocks1 View Post
    Hello All
    first post here, hope its the correct forum.
    looking for info on this 38 s&w special ctg 3'' barrell
    serial number on bottom S 853xxx six shot.
    got from grandpa 22 yrs ago.
    any and all info is appreciated. i will have it checked out
    and see if its good to shoot.
    what frame is this?
    what ammo can it shoot?
    how old?
    thanks a bunch
    If its S&W manufactured and had good care 22 years is surely not old.
    I shoot ammo that's older than that. It would most likely take a limited diet of +P but I think you will find the standard velocity 125gr.Federal NyClad very satisfactory for SD in a 3" gun.
    The 3" barrel is a little strange but wit 6 shots I guess a K-38 or one of the fixed sight police derivatives 10,15 etc.
    On many Smith's if you swing the cylinder out and check the inside of the crane arm the model is stamped there I.E. 66-2
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  6. #5
    Member Array hardknocks1's Avatar
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    my bad

    Quote Originally Posted by jem102 View Post
    If its S&W manufactured and had good care 22 years is surely not old.
    I shoot ammo that's older than that. It would most likely take a limited diet of +P but I think you will find the standard velocity 125gr.Federal NyClad very satisfactory for SD in a 3" gun.
    The 3" barrel is a little strange but wit 6 shots I guess a K-38 or one of the fixed sight police derivatives 10,15 etc.
    On many Smith's if you swing the cylinder out and check the inside of the crane arm the model is stamped there I.E. 66-2
    got the gun 22 yrs ago, but grandpa had it since WW2 i believe

  7. #6
    Senior Member Array mr surveyor's Avatar
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    it may be an old model M&P

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    Welcome...

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    Hi hardknocks1 and welcome to the Forum!

    You have a Military & Police revolver. Built on the renown K-Frame it later became known as the Model 10 after 1957 when Smith & Wesson began assigning model numbers to the firearms in their product lines.

    Opening a handy "Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson" by Supica and Nahas finds that the "S" serial number prefix began in late 1945 at S 811120 and continued into 1948 with the last "S" prefix gun stamped S 999999. Smith & Wesson then began a serial number sequence beginning with a "C" prefix which continued until C 999999 in 1967.

    Your revolver was produced not too long after the company stopped producing the Military & Police .38 Special for World War II contracts. These wartime guns were termed the "Victory" models. The last Victory model was made at close of World War II and was stamped SV 811119. The "S" prefix was continued with the wartime "V" dropped.

    Your revolver was produced sometime between the final months of 1945 and 1948. The Y 23103 marking you mention is associated with assembly and inspection and is not the identifying serial number which is properly found on the butt of the revolver's grip frame. Smith & Wesson will provide a historical letter for a $50 fee that can provide more information on the revolver's original finish, barrel length, shipping date, and original shipping destination. The letters are fun to receive if you are into old stuff.

    I'm wondering if the barrel is truly 3 inches in length or is really a common 4-inch length. Many folks measure from the front of the frame to the muzzle. The barrel's forcing cone should be included so the correct way to measure the barrel is from the front of the front face of the cylinder to muzzle. Try that and see what measurement you find.

    If it is a true 3-inch gun then the barrel has likely been cut, reduced from its original length. Smith & Wesson did not catalog a 3-inch version in the late 1940s.

    The photo of the revolver in the icon of my post shows a mid-1920s Smith & Wesson Military & Police .38 Special revolver with a typical 4-inch barrel. The 1940s Smith & Wesson "S" series revolvers look much the same except for their grips which feature a medallion with the Smith & Wesson logo. In the time period during which your revolver was produced, barrel lengths were 2-inch, 4-inch, 5-inch, and 6-inch. The revolvers could be had in blue finish or nickel plated finish.

    Smith & Wesson officially recommends that their K-Frame .38 Special revolvers manufactured before the advent of model number markings in 1957 should not be used with .38 Special ammunition loaded to "+P" pressure specifications. Only standard velocity .38 Special ammunition is recommended for use in older Smith & Wesson K-Frame .38 Special revolvers.

    Practically speaking, I regularly shoot +P ammunition in two different Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolvers from 1954 and one from 1952 and have test fired +P .38 Special in much earlier Military & Police revolvers over a chronograph. While there is no need to subject them to a regular diet of +P loads, a few rounds for familiarization and for self defense won't hurt these sturdy revolvers in my view. Don't take my word for it though.

    One is certainly safe when adhering to the factory advice in making use of +P ammunition.

    While this is now no valid recommendation for the use of high pressure ammunition in an early Smith & Wesson Military & Police revolver, this fun pre-World War II ad shows that the company once had a different philosophy about recommending powerful ammunition for their K-Frame revolvers.

    The .38-44 cartridge was a factory loaded .38 Special cartridge that, by all accounts, generated even more performance (and pressure) than our current +P loadings. Dimensionally the same as standard velocity .38 Special, it offered more power. The reason for the name was that it originally was suppose to be used only in the strongest large framed revolvers like the N-Frame Smith & Wesson gun which was especially built for the .44 Special round. Hence the "44" suffix in the cartridge name. It was also considered suitable for use in two Colt revolvers, the New Service .38 Special and the Single Action Army .38 Special. At the time it was introduced in 1930 it was considered "high-tech." It was up to low end .357 Magnum performance if the quoted velocities were to be believed. These are probably optimistic but I've read of chronograph tests with this old ammunition that still achieved well over 1000 fps with 158 grain bullets.



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    Member Array hardknocks1's Avatar
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    nice info

    hello
    thanks for all the information.
    i just measured the barrel like suggested and it measures
    3 1/4''.
    dont look like it was ever cut, unless professionally done.
    i just picked up some ammo for the gun and hope to try it soon.
    the finish is a little rough which is how i recieved the gun.
    been doing alot of reading here and trying to deciede on a ccw gun.
    like the s&w airweight. also like the kahr cw9.
    thanks again
    Mike

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    Hi Mike;

    Any chance of a photo or two? We love photos. Some of us love old Smith & Wessons too.

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    Member Array hardknocks1's Avatar
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    will try

    Quote Originally Posted by bmcgilvray View Post
    Hi Mike;

    Any chance of a photo or two? We love photos. Some of us love old Smith & Wessons too.


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    Welcome from Michigan!!!

    Great wealth of knowledge there, bmcgilvray!!
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    That's a neat old revolver. I think I'd have to shoot a few cylinders of standard pressure .38s through it. The only thing I'd do is clean it up with some good gun cleaner and just keep rubbing it with gun oil. It'll clean up just fine. I like the old salty worn look on an old revolver. The time honored look of a well used firearm to me is classic. Hope you enjoy it.
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  15. #14
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    Well, there it is!

    Yep, an immediate post WWII revolver that still features the pre-war "long action" ( has to do with the mechanical configuration of the hammer), a design which still has a reputation for a uniquely smooth double action pull. It also retains the pre-war style large ejector rod head which is more pleasant to use in my view. Such an ejector rod head digs the hand less than the later ejector rods introduced in 1948 sometimes do when briskly ejecting empties. A nice extra touch from bygone times.

    Your gun was made just prior to the addition of the Spanish "Marcus Registradas" marking Smith & Wesson added about 1948 in an effort to obtain protection under the laws of some Spanish speaking countries. From just after World War I until the eve of World War II several gunmakers in Spain cranked out rip-off copies of the Smith & Wesson M&P design and sold them everywhere, particularly in South America. The copies' quality could be anything from fair to wretched but bit into Smith & Wesson's sales. Some of the copies are nominally safe to shoot and some have poor metallurgy and are questionable.

    Your revolver is altered from its original configuration. The barrel has definitely been shortened. That length is non-standard. Note how the barrel markings are not centered between the frame and muzzle but are far forward. The front sight is a custom ramp fitted to an unusually long custom base. The original front sight would have been the ubiquitous "half-moon configuration.

    The walnut grips are original Smith & Wesson products but, with their large gold medallions, are correct for Military & Police revolvers made in the 1910-1920 time period rather than 1945-1948.

    Don't be concerned with the modifications however. They represent a former owner's notion of how to make the revolver better serve his needs. Later the factory did produce a smattering of 3-inch Model 10s, especially in the 1980s. The 3-inch Model 10 has a cult following among revolver aficionados who value concealibility yet desire enhanced cartridge performance over the 2-inch snub. Not too many were made compared with other barrel lengths. You effectively have the same thing in this revolver which will be just as useful.

    The 90+ year old walnut grips are in quite nice condition. It'd be an easy matter to arrange an even-up swap for some correct late 1940s grips with a gun show grip dealer or through the Smith & Wesson forum classifieds. If I owned the gun though, I would keep those grips as they are among the most attractive Smith & Wesson ever produced. Just clean them up with a toothbrush soaked in orange oil or even Hoppe's No. 9 and then rub them with Johnson's Floor Wax. Don't bear down and scrub too hard. Frequently, some attractive natural figuring shows right through the checkering. The fantastic medallions will clean up and shine like gold (which was the original effect Smith & Wesson was striving to achieve) with a soak and a toothbrush scrub with Hoppe's No. 9. Don't use any abrasive cleaner at all on the soft metal of the medallions.

    The metal surfaces of the revolver could use a soak in either Kroil or some sort of light machine oil for a day or so and then a scrub with a bronze brush. After that keep the exterior surfaces protected with oil or a good preservative. My favorite is RIG (stands for rust inhibiting grease). It is just now back on the market after being absent for a couple of years.

    The revolver would be a great subject for Parkerizing, plating, or coating. Any number of finishes could dress it up if so desired though if I owned it I'd leave it with it's old worn remnants of finish and just shoot it. It will still serve just as well.

    Whether they be trash or treasures I love old Smith & Wesson Military & Police revolvers. They are still useful handguns too.



    Here is the Military & Police from the mid-1920s for a comparison of barrel, sights, and barrel markings. The early post war models would have looked much the same.







    Here is an example of the Military & Police gone to war, a World War II Victory Model with the contract specified wartime finish and plain wooden grips. This revolver is likely only a couple of years older than yours is.





    I'm not recommending that you do the same but I've fired .38 Special +P 158 grain factory loads in this Victory Model and have seen a lawman use Winchester +P 110 grain JHPs in the Victory Model he carried as a duty weapon. The revolvers appeared to be none the worse for it.

  16. #15
    Senior Member Array mr surveyor's Avatar
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    my old S&W M&P was made in 1941-1942 (according to Mr. Jinx at S&W per phone conversation) for use of the British military during WWII. It was originally chambered for the shorter (and slightly larger diameter) .38 S&W, but later returned to the factory for the chambers to be deepened to handle .38 Special rounds. According to Mr. J, the old gun was fine for standard pressure rounds, but due to the loose fit of the .38 Specials in the chambers there should be no attempt to use anything in the +p ammo. Even shooting standard loads, the chambers would get awfully fouled, but it was carried as a field gun with shot shells most of the time. Gosh, it was a solid piece of work though... I would have kept it if it had been originally chambered for .38 Special, or if there was a cheap source of original .38 S&W ammo around.

    They were great old guns.

    surv

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