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Old July 4, 2010, 05:01 PM   #1
daisey53
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S&W J-K-L-N Frame Descriptions/Pictures?

On the S&W Revolver frame types can someone send me to a web site with pictures of these frames? I'm new to revolvers and do not know what the J-K-L &N demarkations actually look like and I'm trying to educate myself on these frames. Thanks...
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Old July 4, 2010, 05:16 PM   #2
dahermit
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You may have difficulty determining the difference in frame sizes with a single gun in the picture. You would need to know how big a particular frame size was and compare it to the rest. "J" is the smallest of the ones you listed and "N" is the largest. There is however, a new larger frame size to accommodate the very large new pistol cartridges. You would be better off going into a gun store and saying, "show me a J frame smith. Now show me an K frame", etc.
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Old July 4, 2010, 05:20 PM   #3
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Dont do that at Guns Galore most days!
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Old July 4, 2010, 06:06 PM   #4
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N large frame, counterbored .357, model 28-2
L medium frame, non counter bored .357, model 581-1m
K small frame, counter bored .357, model 13-1

the L frame is a slightly larger pistol than the K, but uses a K frame sized grip.
so those grips interchange with each other.
the sizes are hard to show in pictures, but easy to see and feel in person.
these cylinder pictures do a pretty good job of showing a difference.
the counter boring might mess the idea of the images a little.
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Old July 4, 2010, 06:28 PM   #5
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Ok, So help me out here. Attached is a picture of two S&W Revolvers passed down to me in my family. Both Shoot .38 and .38 Specials. The larger one says Military & Police on the original box and the smaller a snubbie. Though the barrels and grips are different the frames are almost the same size. So would both of these be considered "J" frames? Can anyone tell me what "Models" they are? Thanks...
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Old July 4, 2010, 06:31 PM   #6
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Daisey, if the cylinders are the same diameter, then they come from a revolver with the same frame - but it looks to me that the top revolver is a K frame and the bottom is a J frame.
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Old July 4, 2010, 06:32 PM   #7
daisey53
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Oh, and another question. The snubbie is missing the button to unlock the cylinder though the stubb with the threads looks ok. Does S&W have a web site where I can order the "button" or does one need to go to a gun shop for parts. The reason I ask is that I did find a web site last year where I ordered a missing "Marlin" gun part and it was an easy process, but I still do not know the "Model" the snubbie is called.
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Old July 4, 2010, 06:35 PM   #8
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CSMMS, You are correct that the cylinders are different sizes. The snubbie holds 5 bullets and the larger revolver holds 6 bullets.
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Old July 4, 2010, 06:40 PM   #9
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the 4" barreled one, certainly looks like it is whats known as a "pre model 10".
prior to 1957, s&w named, not numbered their pistols.
so that pistol would be a " military and police", after 1956 it became the model 10.
and it does not chamber both s&w .38 and s&w .38 special....it's one or the other...two different calibers. just because the other fits, does not mean it is supposed too.

smith and wesson will be of little help on a pistol as old as that one.
find an online parts supplier, google knows many.
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Old July 4, 2010, 06:51 PM   #10
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Here it is in a nutshell. J-frame smiths are 5-shot revolvers, generally (not always) made with barrels that are 2" or less. They are intended to be defensive guns and many of them easily fit into the front pocket of a pair of cargo pants.

K-frame Smiths are usually 6-shot revolvers and are considered to be medium-sized guns. They generally come in three calibers: .22 lr, .38 special, and .357 magnum. The .22s also come in a 10-shot version, the currently made Smith & Wesson 617. Typically, a K-frame will range in barrel length from about 2 1/2 inches up to 6 inches, with a few models at 8 3/8 inches. They are significantly larger than J-frames and the mainspring operates on a different principle than that of the J-frame (the J has a coil mainspring whereas the Ks and all other sized Smiths use leaf springs).

L-frames are slightly larger, and significantly beefier than the K-frame Smiths. Most L-frame models handle .357 magnum rounds although Smith made a .44 special version that was a 5-shot revolver (696). The typical L-frame Magnum comes as either a 6- or a 7-shot gun.

Ns were for many years the biggest Smith revolvers. They are much beefier in the frame and cylinder area than the Ls although their total mass is not significantly heavier than the L-frame revolvers. That's because most Ls come with full underlugged barrels whereas many Ns do not. Holding an N alongside a K or L illustrates the significant differences between the frame sizes. An N just feels bigger than a K or an L. And. with good reason. because it is a significantly bigger gun.

Smith also makes an X-frame revolver that is specially designed to handle the mammoth .50 Smith & Wesson round or the .460 round. An S & W model 500, e.g., is a huge gun. It looks and feels to be about the size of an average toaster oven.
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Old July 4, 2010, 06:59 PM   #11
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Quote:
Smith also makes an X-frame revolver that is specially designed to handle the mammoth .50 Smith & Wesson round or the .460 round. An S & W model 500, e.g., is a huge gun. It looks and feels to be about the size of an average toaster oven.

and makes an N frame look like a J frame.
it also uses the L frame sized grip.
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Old July 4, 2010, 07:18 PM   #12
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Not trying to just repeat what others have pointed out, but hopefully this will add enough to be a little more clear.


A while back there were only three:

J is the small one mostly chambered in .38 spec. -most commonly made in the 2" snub nosed configuration, but some are made with 3" barrels.

K the medium in .38 and .357. Some are two inch snub nosed, some production models came with three inch, but cops tended to carry 4" bbl.s, or sometimes 6". There are even 8" bbl'd. target models. Four inch is the most common.

And the N frame-- the large frame chambered usually in .44 Spec., in both .41 and .44 Mag, and in .357. You'll find 4 and 5" barrels, 6" and 8", also.


Then S&W came out with the L frame which is a beefed up K frame suitable for firing a lot of full power .357 Mags, which tend to beat up the K frames and wear them out. Especially those carried by cops who had to qualify with full power loads on a regular basis. Shoot full house .357's all day in your L frame on a regular basis, if you want.

Consider the L in between the K and N, and you get the general idea.

Now, as someone mentioned, there's an even larger frame than the N. I think it might be the Z, designed for firing the newer real big and powerful cartridges that I'm chicken to fire.

Hey, we old geezers tend to get beat up more by recoil than we did in our young invincible days.
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Old July 4, 2010, 07:30 PM   #13
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Quote:
And the N frame-- the large frame chambered usually in .44 Spec., in both .41 and .44 Mag, and in .357. You'll find 4 and 5" barrels, 6" and 8", also.
you will find them in 45acp and colt too.
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Old July 4, 2010, 10:43 PM   #14
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this S&W frame chart may help......................

http://www.tjgeneralstore.com/s&w_frames.htm
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Old July 5, 2010, 02:01 AM   #15
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The S&W Line consisted of a number of frames over the years.

For a quick view of the difference between the most common Large & Small frames, this photo might do...

S&W N-Frame .41 Magnum above a S&W J-frame .32 Long.

From smallest to largest:

M Frame - used on the obsolete Ladysmith .22 Long (circa 1909-1920)

Small frame
The I & J frames are commonly called the "snubby" frame or Chiefs Special frame after the 5-shot, .38 Special snubby by that name.
I Frame - obsolete: Used for .22/.32 caliber revolvers (1900-1941)
I-Frame/Improved - Obsolete: Used for .22/.32/.38 S&W revolvers (1945-1960)
J-frame - Used for .22/.32 & .38 Special (5-shot) revolvers (1950-current)
J-Magnum - New: Used for .357 Magnum 5-shot revolvers (1999-current)
Example:

Similar in size to your Chief's special, the J-frame Centennial hammerless
(Model 42) and the shrouded hammer 649 on the J-Magnum frame.

Medium Frame
There are two frames that S&W classifies as their "medium" frame. The K & L frames. The K-frame was introduced in 1899 and has been in continual production since then. It's the basis for 15 different models in .22/.32/.38/.357 Magnum.
K-Frame - Used for all six-shot .38/.357 caliber revolvers. Primary police revolver from 1900 to the 1980's.

Example: K-Frame Military & Police Model

L-frame - Slightly enlarged K-Frame to withstand the .357 Magnum. (1980-current).

S&W L-Frame 686

Large Frame
N-Frame : Introduced in 1909 for the .44/.45 caliber guns. Today it's chambered in .357, 10mm, .41, .44 and .45 calibers. Dirty Harry's .44 Mag is an N-frame.


X-Frame
Introduced in the 1990's, the X-frame is the largest frame. Created for the .500 S&W Magnum it also launches the .460 Magnum.

S&W Model 500, in .500 S&W Magnum
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Old July 5, 2010, 05:11 AM   #16
daisey53
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Wow, Thanks everyone, and BILLCA what a great set of pictures and write up! As with anything else I assume actually looking at and holding the different S&W frames would be the best way to learn the different sizes and cylinder diameters. I also have a very old Dan Wesson .357 with a 6" barrel and am curious as to the difference in "kick" running a few .38 specials through the S&W J frame Chief's special, the S&W M & P and the Dan Wesson as they are very different in size. Thanks again. I did find on the Brownell's site replacement thumb levers for the small j frame S&W but all they had listed were chromed and bead blasted units. I need one that is blued. The S&W site appeared to be down last night so I will try them again today.
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Old July 5, 2010, 08:57 AM   #17
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http://www.gunpartscorp.com/catalog/...spx?catid=9985

Numrich seems to have the blued thumb piece and screw for an M-36 (earlier j-frame).
I don't know if yours is an M-36 but that would be my guess. To be sure, open the cylinder and look at the part of the frame just forward of the cylinder and see what it says.

I'm not sure all j-frame thumb pieces were the same...but someone here or at Smith-Wesson forum could tell you.
Good luck.
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Old July 5, 2010, 09:12 AM   #18
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I'll add a few more photos just for kicks.

Here is an N frame 327 TRR8 (top); it is a 8 shot .357 magnum. Below is a K frame model 15, a 6 shot .38 spl.



Here is another N frame- the 629; a 6 shot .44 magnum. Below is a J frame 642, a 5 shot .38spl.



Note the differing size of the cylinder window- checking the cylinder itself is usually a good way to tell what size the thing is.

The really quick and dirty way to determine a frame size:

If a .38spl, it is either a J or a K frame. 5 shots is a J, 6 is a K.

A .357 might be a J, K, L, or N. 5 shots is a J, 8 is a N (unless it is an early one, the original model 27 is a 6 shot N frame), 7 is a L. 6 shots could be either a K or L, but the vast majority of them are L.

A .44 or .45 will usually be a N frame (6 shots), but as said, there's a few 5 shot L frames out there.

There are definitely a number of exceptions to this, the only for sure way is to check the model number and see about that. S&W has made a wide array of variants over the years. They've chopped down on this in recent years, but a die hard S&W collector will have all kinds of things that serve as exceptions to the rules.
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Old July 5, 2010, 01:21 PM   #19
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A lot of advice, but maybe too much.

The top gun pictured by Daisey is a K-frame Military & Police Model, probably a pre-Model 10, six shots. It is probably in .38 Special, but could be in .38 S&W, a shorter and fatter cartridge.

The bottom gun is a J-frame, probably a pre-Model 36, in .38 Special, five shots.

The missing part is the thumbpiece nut. Try www.gunpartscorp.com for the part; they run around $5. Give them the gun serial number, as S&W made a change recently.

Jim
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Old July 5, 2010, 03:33 PM   #20
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Quote:
Ok, So help me out here. Attached is a picture of two S&W Revolvers passed down to me in my family. Both Shoot .38 and .38 Specials. The larger one says Military & Police on the original box and the smaller a snubbie. Though the barrels and grips are different the frames are almost the same size. So would both of these be considered "J" frames? Can anyone tell me what "Models" they are? Thanks...
Hi Daisey,

The top revolver in your picture is a K frame M&P 38 special 4 inch with a tapered barrel. I have one much like it. Without a serial number I am judging some where from 1950 to 1956 vintage. The lower is a J frame Chiefs special 38 special. Again, without the serial numbers its hard to judge the year. I have one exactly like yours but not in as good a shape . I am rescuing the revolver do to the previous owner not taking care of the gun. Anyway, the other members have posted good descriptions on the differences in the S&W frames. Both of your revolvers are classics and I would not sell them. Here is my M&P 38 special. I don't have a good picture of my chiefs special but is identical to yours. Nice revolvers and good luck!
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Old July 5, 2010, 05:56 PM   #21
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Quote:
The top revolver in your picture is a K frame M&P 38 special 4 inch with a tapered barrel. I have one much like it. Without a serial number I am judging some where from 1950 to 1956 vintage.
more likely earlier than that.
the short throw hammer(like yours) showed up in the late '40s....his has the older style hammer.
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Old July 5, 2010, 06:16 PM   #22
daisey53
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The M&P I pictured above has serial # 953XXX. The few times I have had it out of the box I never noticed that the barrel was tapered/conical in shape! The Chief's Special has a serial # of J776XX so the "J" must stand for a J Frame. I assume folks use the X's at the end of serial numbers so no one knows exactly what gun you own so it must be a privacy issue?
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Old July 5, 2010, 06:26 PM   #23
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Technosavant - nice - very nice.
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Old July 5, 2010, 07:07 PM   #24
daisey53
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Something else I looked at after a post above about cartridge size. On the side of the Barrel of the M&P it says, " 38 S.&W. Special CTG." Does this mean one must use a S&W Special cartridge or will a regular .38 special be ok? I really do not know if I will fire this gun though the cylinder and other parts appear nice and snug. This was owned by my wife's spinster aunt who bought it to just point at any would be burgular! My wife says that the Aunt actually stored the bullets next door at my wife's parent's house and that bullets were never actually placed in the gun at any time. My wife says she does not believe the Aunt or anyone in the family has ever fired the pistol. The Aunt was very frugal and of German heritage so I doubt the gun was bought new though the box is in excellent shape. The pistol is no longer colored blue, but actually black. Below is attatched a picture of the box.
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Old July 5, 2010, 07:24 PM   #25
brian45auto
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the full name of the cartridge is .38 smith and wesson special.
this can be abbreviated many ways, but as long as there is a 38spl in it, its all the same cartridge.
serial puts it as being made some time during the war.
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