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Old February 10, 2010, 04:31 PM   #1
xddude
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Age of S&W .38 special?

I was given this .38 special from my father. The SN# is 626xxx. I'm trying to find out how old it is and an approximate range of value. Of course, it's priceless to me, just curious. Is there additional info needed to determine this?
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Old February 10, 2010, 07:45 PM   #2
Rastus
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If you don't get an answer here, you might try this forum, where these kinds of questions are common:

http://smith-wessonforum.com/

They will probably need the full serial number. Good luck.
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Old February 10, 2010, 07:54 PM   #3
kle
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That's a nice looking gun.

According to my copy of the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson, 3rd Edition, you have a S&W .38 Military & Police Model of 1905, 4th Change. The serial numbers for the .38 M&P 1905 4th Change run from 241704 - 1000000, being produced from 1915 - 1942. The book lists the values as:

Quote:
ANIB: $1200
Excellent+: $450
Excellent: $335
Very Good: $250
Good: $200
Fair: $135
Poor: $75
It goes on to say that nickel plating (yours is nickel plated) is worth a premium (doesn't say how much). I'd probably put yours around $400, given its nickel plating, with finish wear, and the pearl grips.

If it times and locks-up correctly (i.e. the cylinder turns and locks into place before the hammer falls, both in cocking the hammer for single-action and in pulling the trigger through the double-action), and if there aren't any issues with the bore or the chambers, it should be safe to shoot. According to the SCSW3, heat treating began approximately around serial number 316648, so it should be fine with any standard pressure .38 Special load. Personally I'd limit its use to lead-only bullets in light loads, or probably I wouldn't shoot it at all (maybe enough to be satisfied that it does shoot), given its age and heirloom status; there are plenty of S&W Model 10s out there to shoot .38 Specials through (your M&P is the precursor to the Model 10).

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Old February 10, 2010, 08:27 PM   #4
RJay
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I would guess about 1940/1941 bvased on the high serial number.
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Old February 10, 2010, 08:33 PM   #5
ScottRiqui
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I have one like yours (in nickel as well) with a serial number in the 623,xxx range. If you assume that the production was relatively steady from 1915 to 1942, (which is a big assumption), then that would put our pistols in the 1929-ish range.

I'm going to send off to S&W for a certificate of authenticity that should tell me exactly when mine was made and first shipped. When it arrives, I'll post the information here, since yours should have been made only a month or so after mine.
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Old February 10, 2010, 08:47 PM   #6
xddude
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Thank you for the quick info.
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Old February 10, 2010, 09:23 PM   #7
laytonj1
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For reference:
642XXX - 648XXX range fell in 1934
651XXX was in 1935.

Jim
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Old February 11, 2010, 07:45 AM   #8
Elvishead
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Quote:
I would guess about 1940/1941 bvased on the high serial number.
I was thinking pre-war WWII
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Old March 13, 2010, 09:16 AM   #9
spacecoast
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As a point of reference, I just picked up very similar Model 1905 from Gunbroker for $165, serial # 522xxx, which puts it somewhere in the late 20s. It has a 5" barrel rather than your 4", has a nickeled hammer and trigger and a square rather than round butt. Yours appears to be in somewhat better condition, mine has quite a bit of nickel wear on both sides although the pearl grips are in pretty good shape. The action is OK, but I would not call it smooth compared to my more modern revolvers and the mainspring adjustment screw was cranked all the way down. Loosening it a turn helped a lot. Inside the side plate was nice and clean. Do NOT attempt to remove the side plate on yours unless you know what you're doing.

I was actually a bit disappointed when I received the gun, the pictures at the bottom are from the Gunbroker ad. Apparently use of a flash is quite effective with hiding flaws, especially with nickeled guns.








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Old March 13, 2010, 11:02 AM   #10
Mike Irwin
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"If you assume that the production was relatively steady from 1915 to 1942, (which is a big assumption)"

That is a big assumption, and an incorrect one. During the depths of the depression production fell off to a fraction of what it had been in the 1920s as sales were non-existent.

When S&W began gearing up to produce firearms for the British in 1940, one of the big selling points after the Light Rifle debacle (the Brits wanted their $1 million R&D investment back, S&W didn't have it) was that the company could produce a LOT of revolvers in a very short period of time because they were sitting on huge stocks of parts that had been made in the late 1920s and early 1930s before sales tanked.

It's very difficult to say with any certainty when a particular revolver was made during this period.
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Old March 13, 2010, 11:03 AM   #11
Mike Irwin
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"has a nickeled hammer and trigger"

That's a pretty good indication that your gun didn't leave the factory as a nickel plated gun, or that it was refinished by someone other than S&W at some point.
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Old March 13, 2010, 11:39 AM   #12
spacecoast
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Quote:
That's a pretty good indication that your gun didn't leave the factory as a nickel plated gun
Interesting, could be. Is there any way to tell other than getting a letter? Maybe someone had the hammer and trigger nickeled afterward, otherwise the gun must have been nickeled early in its life because it sure wasn't done recently. The seller said he was selling it for the widow of a deceased friend and that it hadn't been shot in many years. Some of the nickel is flaking off the rear of the cylinder in pieces.

I picked up the SCSW at the library today and it says that square butt models are scarce and worth twice the value, so I guess I did alright.

Last edited by spacecoast; March 13, 2010 at 11:49 AM.
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