I'm looking for the year my mom's model 36 was made/shipped. The serial is 44xxx. We think it's old enough to be an original stainless steel but we may be wrong...
As FlyFish points out, a M36 should not have stainless finish, and S&W wasn't producing anything
with stainless finish in the era indicated by your serial number. If it's silver-colored and shiny, it's nickel plating
, not stainless.
Most older replating jobs are fairly easy to identify. Here's two red flags:
1) The hammer and trigger should have a color case finish. If you're a n00b to guns, color case finish appears dull grey but with colorful green, blue, pink, and purple swirls in it. A nickel plated hammer and trigger indicate a refinish.
2) The ejector star should be blued (black), while the cylinder pawls (the 5 little tabs at the center of the star) should be natural metal. Nickel plating in these areas indicates a refinish.