S&W revolver,how old?

S&W revolver,how old?

This is a discussion on S&W revolver,how old? within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; This is one of the pistols I recently inherited.I'm not really interested in the value of the gun,but would like to know how old it ...

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Thread: S&W revolver,how old?

  1. #1
    Member Array Walk Soft's Avatar
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    S&W revolver,how old?


    This is one of the pistols I recently inherited.I'm not really interested in the value of the gun,but would like to know how old it is.It's a .38(not special).
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  2. #2
    Member Array Walk Soft's Avatar
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    Also where could I find the original grip handles?I have a rough idea of the age but have found conflicting info.

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    Ex Member Array Yankeejib's Avatar
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    Model number or serial?
    My Smith bible is at my Tampa house, but I'll be there this weekend and look it up. The serial will be on the bottom of the grip frame. You'd have to remove the grips. Go easy.

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    VIP Member Array BugDude's Avatar
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    I like it!!! I like the grips too.
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  5. #5
    Member Array Walk Soft's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BugDude View Post
    I like it!!! I like the grips too.
    Thanks,as a kid I always thought they were real bone.(I never got to touch it).This was carried in a lunchbucket into a coal mine for at least 20-25 years.

  6. #6
    Member Array Walk Soft's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yankeejib View Post
    Model number or serial?
    My Smith bible is at my Tampa house, but I'll be there this weekend and look it up. The serial will be on the bottom of the grip frame. You'd have to remove the grips. Go easy.
    Thanks,Yankee.At the bottom of the grip frame it's marked 50197,but I'm almost afraid to take off the grips.

  7. #7
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    The Chief's Special was introduced at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in October, 1950, so it would not be older than that.

    If you search the net, you can find S&W forums (fora?) that can help you with dating your piece.


    Addendum: re-reading your post, you state it is NOT a .38 Special. In that case it may be an "I-frame" chambering the .38 S&W cartridge. Is it 5 shot, or 6? If 6, then it's an I frame.

    Either way, pursue the S&W forums for dating.
    Smitty
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    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    I believe it's an I frame, by looking at it. Has it been refinished?
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  9. #9
    Member Array Walk Soft's Avatar
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    IDK.If it was it was over 25 years ago.The guys at Antique and Modern Firearms(in Lexington) said it was late thirties but I have been told otherwise by several.

  10. #10
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    Yea Walk Soft!

    That's a fairly uncommon little revolver you have there. It is a Smith & Wesson Terrier. That number at the bottom of the grip frame, as you may have surmised, is the serial number. It does narrow the revolver down to a pre-World War II production date. Serial number for the Terrier began at 38976 in 1936 and continued to the beginning of the war with serial number 54474. Both the Terrier and the Regulation Police models fell into the same serial number range. It was likely made in the 1939-1941 period though it would take a factory historical letter to pinpoint. The letters are available from Smith & Wesson for $50 and well worth it for added interest. I got these serial number ranges right out of the "Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson" by Supica and Nahas.

    The Terrier was built on the Smith & Wesson "I" frame otherwise known as the .32 frame. The Terrier and it's 4-inch square butt I-Frame companion the .38 Regulation Police were also termed the .38/32 models, that is .38 caliber revolver built on the .32 frame. The Terrier was named the Model 32 when Smith & Wesson began designating their revolver models numerically in 1957.

    The I-Frame is interesting because it is the direct ancestor and close relative of the currently very popular J-Frame. The I-Frame was first marketed by Smith & Wesson in 1903. Long after your revolver was made, the J-Frame supplanted the I-Frame in the production of all small Smith & Wesson revolvers so that later Terriers were produced on standard J-frames. The J-Frame is engineered to be a bit longer and stronger so it can conveniently take the .38 Special cartridge. The first of the J-Frames are known to collectors as "modified I-Frames" since they have the longer frame window and engineering enhancements but retained the shorter grip frame of the earlier I-Frame. This "Modified I-Frame only lasted from 1950 to sometime in 1952 at which time it received the familiar dimensions and J-Frame nomenclature it still retains.

    The revolver accepts the .38 S&W cartridge, a very old centerfire revolver cartridge dating back to just after the Civil War. I rather like the old .38 S&W round. It would be about as effective and has about the same self defense application as the .380 ACP. Personally I prefer the .38 S&W cartridge because it flings a considerably heavier bullet than the .380 ACP. Besides, when handloaded, the .38 S&W's performance can be much improved. It's still available in factory loadings utilizing a 146 grain lead round nose bullet. I think Winchester now says their bullet weighs 145 grains rather than the long standard 146 grains for the loss of one big grain of bullet weight.

    I've chronographed factory Winchester and Remington .38 S&W ammunition from a 2-inch revolver barrel to find that the Winchester gave 610 fps and the Remington gave 680 fps. Both are plodders, especially because of the short barrel. Some older loadings including 19th century black powder loadings returned performance a bit better than this. A 200 grain round nose loading was once available in the U. S. I have a tiny supply of Western Lub-aloy (copperplated) 200 grain round nose .38 S&W ammunition that chronogaphed 669 fps from a 2-inch barrel. The British liked the 200 grain loading and standardized it as their military round in the 1920s as the .38/200. Later they accommodated Hague accords and reduced the bullet to 178 grains and gave it a full metal jacket. This is the load that served them in World War II.

    I've shot handloaded 158 grain semi-wadcutters from my 2-inch .38 S&W revolver to around 750 fps which makes the little round approach standard velocity .38 Special ammunition. With the sharp shouldered, soft lead semi-wadcutter bullet, this isn't a bad cartridge at all. I'm currently trying to finish up some test batches of .38 S&W with various bullets to try in a couple of .38 S&W revolvers I have around here.

    Your little revolver would have a lot of collector appeal and be worth a tidy premium except for the fact that it doesn't have it's original stock panels and has obviously been refinished over a fairly vigorous re-polish job. The line where the side plate is fitted to the frame is one indicator as it is a bit gapp-y and uneven. Additional evidence is the logo on the side plate which gives a vertically smeared appearance and is somewhat less distinct than a proper factory rolled logo should appear. The right collector would still find it interesting. I know I do. The revolver still is as useful for self defense as it was the day it left the factory in Springfield Massachusetts.

    Your stocks look to be imitation bone, likely made of plastic, and possibly produced by Franzite. Inspection of the backs could tell. Some guys are now beginning to collect old after-market stocks and grip panels so don't consider them worthless and toss them if you find originals.

    For comparison purposes and to show what the proper original walnut stocks look like, here's a revolver that is probably 10 to 13 years newer than yours. It is one of the early original production Chief's Special models in .38 Special, built on that modified I-Frame mentioned above. The stocks on this revolver are exactly what would have been on your revolver when it was originally shipped from the factory. Later J-fame factory walnut stocks will not fit either your revolver or my little Chief's Special. Unfortunately the I-Frame walnut stocks are difficult (though not impossible) to find. The Chief's Special was later designated as the Model 36 in 1957.



    Here's a early 20 century I-Frame .32 S&W Long which was known as the Model 1903. This one dates from 1917. Its hard rubber stock panels would fit perfectly on your revolver but are too early to be correct. On the I-Frame, the models chambering .32 S&W Long held 6 rounds while the models chambering the .38 S&W held 5. Even though this revolver and your revolver were made years apart the frame and lock work is the same.

    wmhawth and blizzard like this.
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  11. #11
    Member Array Walk Soft's Avatar
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    Thanks BMCGILVARY! You just made my day.Someone suggested an S&W forum(rightfully so)but this is why I posted on good ole DC.Terrier huh.............

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    Member Array Walk Soft's Avatar
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    Thanks guys for the help.

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    You're welcome. I love Smith & Wesson, at least the traditional ones. I'm a bit player over on "Big Blue" the S&W forum and occasionally look in on the smaller S&W forum. There are some "heavy hitters" on those forums who might have similar revolvers with factory letters who would be able to share snippets of information not generally found in reference books.
    Charter Member of the DC .41 LC Society

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    VIP Member Array rammerjammer's Avatar
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    I just gotta say that its amazing how much gun know how so many members of this forum are.

    Always something new to learn.
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  15. #15
    Member Array Walk Soft's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rammerjammer View Post
    I just gotta say that its amazing how much gun know how so many members of this forum are.

    Always something new to learn.
    I agree.BMGCILVARY humbly suggested I check S&W forum for more info(and I did),but I'm pretty sure I just pulled pretty much all of the info
    there is on the gun here on DC from him.

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