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Old December 9, 2008, 12:46 PM   #1
itbnyc
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help with S&W .38

hi there. i know almost nothing about guns. grew up shooting, but never took the time to learn...anyway, i recently found my father's old police issued revolver. he passed away in 1983. i am just wanting any info on it that anyone can shed some light to. here is what i know:

- on the barrel: 38 S&W Special CTG
- on the side "made in the usa, marcas registradas, smith & wesson, springfield MA"
- the number (is this the serial #??) on the bottom of the gun is S 88XXX
- it has a wooden handle
- it has a 4" barrel

anything anyone can tell me?

THANKS!
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Old December 9, 2008, 12:56 PM   #2
joneb
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Open the cylinder the model # should be stamped on the frame where the cylinder yoke mates with the frame. MOD 10-?
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Old December 9, 2008, 12:58 PM   #3
itbnyc
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5253?
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Old December 9, 2008, 12:58 PM   #4
MrBorland
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Got a photo? They help a lot.

If it was made after 1957, there ought to be a model # stamped on the yoke. Open the cylinder, and right where the "arm" of the cylinder (the yoke) meets the frame, it'll be stamped "Mod-10" or something. If so, pass that info on, too.
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Old December 9, 2008, 01:02 PM   #5
itbnyc
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i will take a picture now. i don't see any model number. the only number there is: P 5253...picture soon. thanks
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Old December 9, 2008, 01:13 PM   #6
itbnyc
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here are 2 pics. thanks
Attached Files
File Type: pdf full2.pdf (101.4 KB, 135 views)
File Type: pdf close3.pdf (334.5 KB, 81 views)
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Old December 9, 2008, 01:31 PM   #7
Mike Irwin
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It's very very difficult to really see that first picture, but it appears that the gun MIGHT have adjustable sights.
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Old December 9, 2008, 01:34 PM   #8
itbnyc
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yes it does have adjustable sights. any ideas on when the gun was made? is there a way to tell that from the serial number?
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Old December 9, 2008, 01:48 PM   #9
Sam06
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It looks kind of like a 38-44 S&W model 23 or maybe a model 20 Heavy duty. Either way its a nice looking gun and is worth between 500-600 bucks.

The outdoorsman had adj sights and the heavy duty did not. But that said I have only seen outdoorsman with 6.5" barrel's. That looks like a 5 incher.

I just looked at it again and I think its a Heavy duty. But I don't think they came with adj sights. They could have been added. I would take it to a gunsmith to have it looked at. You can tell alot more in person with the gun in hand.

Heavy duty's were made between 1930-1941 then reintro'ed in 1946

The outdoosman was made from 1930-1967

So without seeing it in person I would say its either a Cut down Outdoorsman or a Heavy duty with adj sights added. Hope that helps.
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Last edited by Sam06; December 9, 2008 at 01:56 PM.
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Old December 9, 2008, 01:56 PM   #10
itbnyc
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thanks sam. i just looked at a picture of a model 23...looks pretty close. the only difference i can see is that the sights are different. my gun definitely has adjustable sights. the barrel length is 4"...i can't find a model number anywhere on the gun! i guess it is pretty hard to get the production year???
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Old December 9, 2008, 01:58 PM   #11
itbnyc
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sam...thanks. sorry. i didn't finish reading your last post
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Old December 9, 2008, 02:44 PM   #12
Jim Watson
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Agree with Sam, pretty much.
It looks like a .38-44 Heavy Duty with adjustable sights added. It also has a target hammer and maybe a target trigger, probably added along with the sights.

The "S" serial number prefix makes it a post-WWII gun, the lack of a "Model 20" stamp makes it pre-1957. So it was made sometime 1946-1956. I don't have the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson to pin it down any closer than that, but if somebody with that book comes along, he can give the year.

The alterations largely eliminate the collector interest and reduce the dollar value, but it is still a heck of a fine .38 for actual shooting instead of show and tell. And, of course, it is a family heirloom.
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Old December 9, 2008, 02:48 PM   #13
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Quote:
i can't find a model number anywhere on the gun! i guess it is pretty hard to get the production year???
Your gun was made in 1953 and therefore predates the modern model numbering system, which started in 1958. Pre-1958 S&W revolvers with swing-out cylinders only had names, not numbers. Collectors refer to the postwar pre-numbered guns as "pre-models" to differentiate them from the earlier prewar guns, which had some design features that were phased out during the war.

I concur with several other posters; IMHO the gun is either a .38-44 Heavy Duty (pre-model 20) or .38-44 Outdoorsman (pre-model 23) with modified sights. It would take some higher-quality pictures to say for sure.

FWIW these guns were built to fire a hot-rod version of the .38 Special known variously as the .38-44, .38-44 High Velocity, or .38 Special Hi-Speed. It is roughly equal to a modern .38 Special +P and is considered a predecessor of the .357 Magnum, except it used a standard .38 Special case.

On that note, many of these guns used by LE agencies had the cylinders reamed out to fire .357 Magnum cartridges during the 40s and 50s as a cost-saving measure vs. replacing them with new .357 Magnum guns. .38-44s are so doggone strong that this modification is generally safe if the Magnum loads are kept on the light side, but since it's not 100% safe, many collectors avoid Magnum loads so they won't risk blowing up a rare and historical gun.
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Old December 9, 2008, 03:11 PM   #14
itbnyc
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great. thanks for all your help. i am looking to keep the gun. like i said, it was my father's and i don't have much from him. thank you all for your help.

last question, is it worth having someone clean it up and take it to the gun range?
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Old December 9, 2008, 04:46 PM   #15
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Hell yea! By all means take it to the range and shoot it. It was your Dads gun and I cannot think of anything I will want more than my Dads gun when he is gone. It will remind you of him when you shoot it. Get it checked out and find out what it is and what its worth when you take it to a gun smith. Try to find a gunsmith that works on guns not some big retail store. Go to the range and ask around, someone will know one that is good. Have fun with it.
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Old December 10, 2008, 09:29 AM   #16
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Hell yea! By all means take it to the range and shoot it. It was your Dads gun and I cannot think of anything I will want more than my Dads gun when he is gone.
+1! FWIW as I mentioned in my earlier post, this gun is built to handle hotter-than-normal .38 Special ammo. It can easily withstand a constant diet of modern high-pressure +P self-defense ammo, unlike most of its contemporaries. Fire away!

However, as I also mentioned before, I would avoid .357 Magnum ammo if you discover that the cylinder has been reamed out. Although the gun probably won't blow up, you can't replace it if it does. If you want to fire .357s, IMHO you should buy yourself a new .357 revolver that's built to handle it and has no sentimental value.
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Old December 10, 2008, 10:39 AM   #17
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Carguychris, Good post. You are most correct that some of the old M20's were reamed out for 357 mag by Police agency's on a budget. The gun was almost a M27 when came down to it. I would not shoot 357 in that gun either unless I handloaded 357 brass to a hot 38+p MYSELF. I have reamed out and rechambered guns and I was never happy about it in the long run. I have a Pre 64 M94 that was reamed out and lined to shoot 38-55, I thought I had to have a 38-55, now I wish it was a 30-30 again That gun is kind of a period piece like when Swenson put S&W adj sites on 1911's, I would leave it like it is and shoot it. It should be a pussycat with 38's in it. It would look good in one of those old Sam Brown rigs with Nickled 38 bullets in loops all over it. Kind of like a Bad ass Barny Fife rig, like Bill Jorden had. I could see Bill Jorden all crouched down DA shooting it one handed at a bunch of Beatniks with peace signs.........................PTSD attack coming on
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Old December 10, 2008, 01:43 PM   #18
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Those are indeed rugged pistols. One of the rounds developed for those pistols was the 'Hiway Master' cartridge. Cars were getting heavier and heavier back in those days, and troopers who encountered bad guys in those cars were unable to affect the vehicle much with standard .38 Special ammo. So special Hiway Master rounds were created that were hi velocity and made to penetrate metal. Of course this created more stress for the pistol, but these pistols were able to handle it (as opposed to the old M&P Service Pistols).

You should have NO problem firing any .38 special ammo. Enjoy!
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Old December 10, 2008, 04:06 PM   #19
Jim Watson
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Quote:
last question, is it worth having someone clean it up and take it to the gun range?
Quote:
Get it checked out
I don't understand the Internet Flight to a Gunsmith. The pistol served Dad for 20-odd years and unless poorly stored and rusted, it is just as good as it ever was.

It is worth your learning how to take care of it yourself. It is not hard to maintain a good quality revolver. Get somebody to SHOW you if you must, but be your own man.

There are sticky threads on examination of revolvers at:

http://www.thehighroad.org/forumdisplay.php?f=32
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