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Old August 24, 2016, 11:09 PM   #1
jwise
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Took the old girl out for one last hurrah!

In a moment of weakness in 2014 I bought a used S&W on impulse. It was cheap, and had such a cool old look I broke down and bought it.





One thing I was drawn to about it was that it is chambered for a standard caliber: .38 S&W special. Upon learning more about the revolver, I learned that although this is true, only low-powered lead loads should be fired in it, and even that should be limited.

Well, the pistol range I typically go to is indoor, and only allows fmj rounds, no exposed lead. So, I have owned it over two years without ever firing it.

On Friday, I finally took it out to an outdoor range and put some low-powered lead round nose through her. Not too many, just enough to get a feel for her.

Most likely this was the last time she'll be fired. It's just nice to know she's still got it in her after all these years.
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Old August 24, 2016, 11:27 PM   #2
tranders
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Very cool.
Thanks for sharing the pics.
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Old August 25, 2016, 12:00 AM   #3
Driftwood Johnson
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Howdy

Your 38 M&P, Model of 1902 was made sometime between 1902 and 1904. I can't tell from the photo if it is the original model 1902 or the 1st Change.

I assume there is no screw in front of the trigger guard because this model had a different internal mechanism for returning the trigger than the 38 M&P Model of 1905 and all later S&W revolvers.

38 M&P 2nd Model (Model of 1902) Serial Numbers run from 20976 through 33803, manufactured 1902 through 1903. 38 M&P 1st Change Serial Numbers run from 33804 through 62499, manufactured 1903 through 1904.

I have S&W 38s from that time period and I am not reluctant to run low powered hand loads through them.

By the way, the barrel marking for U.S.SERVICE CARTRIDGE refers to the old 38 Long Colt cartridge, and 38 S&W SPECIAL is simply the 38 Special. The dual caliber marking was done away with in 1905.

P.S. Just did a little further checking, the barrel marking on your revolver makes it the earlier 1902 -1903 version.

Last edited by Driftwood Johnson; August 25, 2016 at 12:06 AM.
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Old August 25, 2016, 05:26 AM   #4
tallball
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Mine was made in 1915 or 1916. It still locks up pretty tight. I shoot it with 38 special target loads from time to time with no problems.
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Old August 25, 2016, 09:50 AM   #5
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There may be hope. If this stuff takes off, Federal may offer it in .38SPL soon....

https://www.federalpremium.com/ammun...Eagle-Syntech/
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Old August 25, 2016, 09:54 AM   #6
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The old gal is not bad at all. I have picked up a few of those in my time too. I have two of the old turn of the century S&W break-top lemon squeezers, or the proper name is New Departure. Then I have a S&W Pre-Victory that was Shipped to the Union of South Africa in 1940. They all use the .38 S&W round.

It is an easy round to reload, and as you stated I use lead pills for my reloads in this caliber. A couple of years ago BassPro was selling Remington factory loads with lead bullets in .38 S&W. If your nearest BassPro did not have them in stock, they would ship them to your store your pick-up without any shipping cost.

Either way, you can then still take the old girl out for more dancing and prancing.

Unless the cylinders have been bored out, the 38 Special cartridges will not fit. Even when bored out, the .38 S&W bullet is larger in diameter than the .38 Special and you will loose accuracy.
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Old August 25, 2016, 10:56 AM   #7
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Great looking old timer. I have a M&P 1905 4th change 38 special. I do take the revolver to the range once in a while. I shoot only standard pressure lead semi-wadcutters. The revolver dates back to 1923. I have owned a lot of S&W K frame revolver. But this revolver still has the smoothest action I have ever experienced. This revolver will remain with me to the end.
Enjoy yours,
Howard
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Old August 25, 2016, 11:18 AM   #8
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Quote:
It is an easy round to reload, and as you stated I use lead pills for my reloads in this caliber. A couple of years ago BassPro was selling Remington factory loads with lead bullets in .38 S&W. If your nearest BassPro did not have them in stock, they would ship them to your store your pick-up without any shipping cost.

Either way, you can then still take the old girl out for more dancing and prancing.

Unless the cylinders have been bored out, the 38 Special cartridges will not fit. Even when bored out, the .38 S&W bullet is larger in diameter than the .38 Special and you will loose accuracy.
The OP stated very plainly in his post that the gun is chambered in 38 special.

Your gun was built when 38 special was loaded closer to its full potential. The watered down stuff listed as 38 special will not hurt your gun. Go shoot and enjoy it. If you are concerned about its strength just buy target WC loads and blast away.
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Old August 25, 2016, 11:24 AM   #9
Mike Irwin
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Be gentle with it.

Finding parts for M&Ps that are that early can be a complete pain in the keister, and not a lot of today's parts interchange.
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Old August 25, 2016, 11:52 AM   #10
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Thank you ratshooter, My mistake and this time I will blame it on poor eyesight. LOL Actually, I saw the .38 S&W and must of just jumped over the special afterwards.

A whole different ball game.
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Old August 25, 2016, 03:12 PM   #11
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No problem lamarw. I have done the same thing myself.

If the OP would learn to reload he could shoot that old soldier about all he wanted if he stuck to light loads and soft lead bullets. Not the hard cast stuff sold by so many outfits. Just the swaged lead bullets from speer and hornady.

I got a new Midway flyer yesterday and they have a Lee starter press with every thing but the dies for $116. Its not a great outfit but it would load all the ammo the OP would ever need.

I am a big believer in having a loading kit for a few guns. The last few years have really shown the need to be able to make your own ammo when it can't be bought. You don't have to be able to crank out a thousand rounds a night. Just a box or two when needed.
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Old August 25, 2016, 05:11 PM   #12
lamarw
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^^^^ Agree!
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Old August 25, 2016, 07:53 PM   #13
Driftwood Johnson
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Howdy Again

If you read the OP's post, he usually shoots at a range that does not allow lead bullets, only FMJ. So that lets out reloading light loads with soft lead bullets. I have no idea if a Smith that old should be fired with FMJ bullets, I'm sure that's what was being put through the Model 1917s, but this one is a bit older than that.

So if he is going to start reloading with it for lead bullets, he is going to have to go to that out door range that allows lead bullets.
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Old August 25, 2016, 08:05 PM   #14
Mike Irwin
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Yes, the Model of 1917 were fired with FMJ ammunition, but over the years more than a few people have opined that:

1. That was a necessary expediency due to war time conditions.

2. That it's really not a great idea long-term.

3. That it's not a great idea to fire .45 ACP-level ammo of any kind through the 1917.

and

4. That the chamber mouths on the 1917 S&Ws were deliberately cut very generously as a means of reducing chamber pressure.

True or not, I don't know, but I do know that after the war S&W started employing greatly modernized heat treating processes in their production lines that greatly increased the durability of the Hand Ejectors.
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Old August 25, 2016, 09:07 PM   #15
jwise
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but all the powder and bullets in the world are useless once you run out of primers. Right?
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Old August 25, 2016, 09:13 PM   #16
jwise
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More pics:







Serial No. 5248x
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Old August 26, 2016, 08:06 AM   #17
redlightrich
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Thank you for sharing those great pix!!!! I always find it interesting that guns made over 100 years ago are still relevant in today's world. My guess is because the human hand has not "evolved" in that time, so if it worked well then, it will work now.

I hope you can find a load that you are comfortable using. It would be a pity to leave her locked away, and never give her a chance to exercise.

Thank you again for sharing, and good luck

Rich
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Old August 26, 2016, 12:48 PM   #18
ratshooter
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Quote:
If you read the OP's post, he usually shoots at a range that does not allow lead bullets, only FMJ.
Oh I caught that in his post. And I also saw he lives in Tx. If his range doesn't allow lead bullets then its time to find a new place to shoot. With all the shooters and all the land in Tx that should not be a big problem.

And wouldn't shoot FMJ bullets from that gun anyway. Gil Sengal of Handloader mag made the point in one of his articles that a lot of those old guns had rifling with lands and grooves that are equal in size and displace a large amount of lead. He stated hard cast lead bullets can split the barrels on these old guns. FMJ bullets would be even worse.

That is why in my post I specifically stated to reload with soft swaged bullets. See, there was a real point to my post based on knowledge. And I still recommend having a handloading set up for every serious shooter. Even if all you get is one of those handheld Lee presses. Or even the more basic Lee Classic Loader that uses hammer power.

Quote:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but all the powder and bullets in the world are useless once you run out of primers. Right?
You are correct. Thats why you buy them when you can and buy all you can afford. Thats why I have 25,000 on hand now. Plus 8,000 #11 caps. Shortages don't affect me.
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Old August 26, 2016, 02:45 PM   #19
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I would find another range if I could not fire lead rounds. The older revolvers from the 1900 to 1945 will last longer with lead rounds. My M&P has never had FMJ rounds since I bought the revolver. When I bought the revolver I looked at the bore of the barrel to check for wear and rifling. The revolver was in good condition for its age.
Avoid FMJ on the "old ladies"

Howard
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Old August 27, 2016, 11:49 AM   #20
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You do understand that modern 38 Special ammo is manufactured with this gun in mind? It is the reason standard 38 Special loads go 730 FPS. This gun was designed and built to handle more than the 16,000 PSI standard 38 Special ammo generates today.

But this is an old argument I never win so never mind.
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Old August 27, 2016, 01:37 PM   #21
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Saxon you won that argument with me. I have been beating the same drum for many years. I get also get ignored.
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Old August 27, 2016, 03:45 PM   #22
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I have one of those old girls. Maybe the story about the jacketed bullets is true. I am dealing with a split forcing cone right now. I have owned the gun for 25 years. No +P, no hot handloads, but lots of semi-jacketed bullets through it. I had never heard not to. I just figured the previous owner may have shot some hot stuff and cracked it, and over the years I have eroded it out just from shooting regular .38 specials. I have a picture of the crack in my post titles "Do you see a problem"
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Old August 27, 2016, 07:42 PM   #23
jwise
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I'm not afraid of standard pressure .38spl ammo, but I agree I should use only lead projectiles. Exposed lead at indoor ranges is not safe (high lead exposure for the employees).

When I go to outdoor ranges I am there to shoot rifles.
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Old August 27, 2016, 08:49 PM   #24
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For good or ill, S&W managed to update the M&P in dozens of ways over the years with almost no changes visible on the outside. That means that if you want to shoot the old timers, you need to listen to Mike Irwin and be aware than any broken or worn parts might be impossible to replace by you or S&W. For example, the simple cylinder stop of the modern guns was the result of decades of development and change and the old ones won't interchange with the later versions.

Jim
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Old August 28, 2016, 04:36 PM   #25
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The range I know of that doesn't allow cast bullets is an indoor range, and the smoke generated is too annoying, so they banned them.

Why doesn't he load, or find a load that uses the plated bullets, like Berrys?

They are essentially a soft lead bullet with a very thin copper plating on them. This means they don't smoke like cast lead/lubed bullets, and the loads you use for them are the same loads used for plain old cast bullets.

Or, the powder coated bullets... same thing applies to them, as well.
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