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Old January 24, 2013, 07:55 AM   #1
stevej
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Which older S&W to buy

and which to stay away from. Really want one of the old Ruger Six model but haven't seen one locally but did miss a Security Six by 1/2 day this pass week at m LGS. They have a couple of older S&W including a Model 10 if I remember right. Just wondering which to stay away from and which would be fine.
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Old January 24, 2013, 08:09 AM   #2
CajunBass
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Just about any of the "older" Smith & Wessons would be a good choice. The Model 10 you mentioned was the "bread and butter" of the line for years. I've owned a half-dozen at one time or another. Now, I just have this one (A "pre-Model 10, M&P actually).

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Old January 24, 2013, 10:11 AM   #3
carguychris
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What's the intended purpose of this gun? SD, hunting, or...? What calibers are you considering?

THAT SAID... here are some general rules.

IMHO there are only a handful of S&W models that should categorically be avoided if you want a "shooter": the .32 Hand Ejector Model of 1896, very early Airweight models with aluminum alloy cylinders, and the .22 Hand Ejector aka "Ladysmith". The .32HE Model of 1896 should be avoided because its lockwork mechanism is substantially different from any other S&W revolver ever made, and production was relatively low (and ended 110 years ago!), so if you break something, you're most likely SOL. The early Airweight cylinders are UNSAFE TO FIRE with full-power .38Spl ammo, or even low-velocity target loads in some cases, but these guns are rare. The .22HE is too delicate overall to withstand repeated firing, particularly double-action.

S&W revolvers made prior to 1914-1919- the exact year depends on the frame size and model- do not have any type of hammer blocking mechanism. They are NOT safe to carry with a live round under the hammer. The early models also have different internal lockwork than later models, making parts harder to find.

The initial "wing" or "pivoting" hammer block used prior to 1944- while better than nothing- has a tendency to break off or jam in the disengaged position with no indication to the shooter. Opinions vary on the wisdom of carrying a S&W with this hammer block and a live round under the hammer. The post-1944 sliding design is far superior and is used to this day; early postwar S&Ws with the new hammer block can be identified by an "S" prefix that was used across the product line, although it was rapidly superseded by the "C" prefix on fixed-sight K frames as production exceeded 2 million(!).

S&W revolvers made prior to 1920-1925- the exact year depends on the frame size and model- do not have heat treated cylinders, making extended use with "hot" ammo an iffy proposition.

S&W officially recommends not firing .38Spl+P ammo in pre-1957 revolvers without model numbers.

Pre-1987 .44Mag Smiths had some problems with lockwork "shooting loose" from recoil when subjected to heavy use with full-power Magnum loads using heavy bullets. S&W cooked up improved lockwork, titled it the "Endurance Package", and installed it in all Model 29s and 629s starting with the 29-3E ("E" for Endurance") and 629-1E. These revolvers have gone through several engineering revisions and successive decades of production since then, all of which have the improved mechanism. However, the early guns usually stand up fine to typical use by most shooters- i.e. a diet of mostly .44Spl with a few Magnum loads now and then. This is good, because there are a LOT of M29-2's and M29-3's out there; most of the "shooter grade" M29's I've seen are these versions.
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Old January 24, 2013, 10:29 AM   #4
carguychris
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Three other things I forgot...

.357Mag K frames have a documented tendency to split the forcing cone at the 6 o'clock position when subjected to heavy use with full-power Magnum loads using lightweight bullets. However, this issue is like the .40S&W Glock kB! issue in that many panicky folks on the 'Net have arguably exaggerated the problem. Many, many .357Mag K frames have fired thousands of rounds without this problem. A good pre-purchase inspection is in order, but if the gun checks out OK, it's more of a "take appropriate precautions" issue (like the Glock kB! thing) rather than a "gun may blow up in your hand with any given shot" issue (like the early Airweight aluminum cylinder).

.22LR Smiths made prior to about 1935 lack countersunk chambers that enclose the case head. This makes manual extraction impossible if a case head separation occurs. Post-1935 models enclose the case head and reduce the chances of a total head separation. (That said, .22LR case head failures are far less common with ammo made today than the ammo made before 1935!)

Recently-manufactured Model 67's made with a two-piece barrel, which consists of an inner liner and an outer shroud, have suffered a number of well-documented instances of the barrel catastrophically breaking off and flying downrange upon firing. S&W recently reverted to the older-style 1-piece design, although AFAIK they have not officially acknowledged the problem, and a number of J, L, and N frame models with similar 2-piece barrels curiously do not seem to have suffered from this problem at nearly the same rate. However, not many M67's have been sold with this type of barrel, due to the lessening popularity of full-size .38Spl revolvers.
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Last edited by carguychris; January 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM. Reason: minor reword...
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Old January 24, 2013, 12:16 PM   #5
Mike Irwin
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"The .22HE is too delicate overall to withstand repeated firing, particularly double-action."

Not to mention that the revolver was developed originally for blackpowder .22 LONG (not Long Rifle) cartridges, and modern .22 ammunition, especially the high velocity ammo, can split the cylinder.

But... given that an OK example of a LadySmith can easily push into four figures, and a fine example, especially with the box, can approach five figures, I really doubt that too many people are going to be buying these for shooters.
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Old January 24, 2013, 12:29 PM   #6
carguychris
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Quote:
Not to mention that the revolver was developed originally for blackpowder .22 LONG (not Long Rifle) cartridges, and modern .22 ammunition, especially the high velocity ammo, can split the cylinder.
Exactly... and matters were NOT helped by (1) the cryptic and non-standard .22 S&W CTG. barrel rollmark- an artifact from a short-lived attempt to sell S&W-branded black powder .22 Long- and (2) the fact that .22LR ammo would readily chamber in the revolvers!
Quote:
But... given that an OK example of a LadySmith can easily push into four figures, and a fine example, especially with the box, can approach five figures, I really doubt that too many people are going to be buying these for shooters.
Very true, although I HAVE seen a thread on the S&W forums where somebody fired one, albeit in single action using .22 Short CB caps.
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Old January 24, 2013, 12:36 PM   #7
stevej
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Sorry about that on calibers

357 or 38 special, know I can't afford a 9mm. So the model 10 is OK, think I saw M&P on one of them, could it have been the model 10? Just for HD, don't hunt, I'm a fisherman. I have a 07 4" GP100 which I love which is why I want a Ruger Six model but like I said hard to find around my neck of the woods. So beside the model 10 some other models that are OK?

Last edited by stevej; January 24, 2013 at 12:45 PM.
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Old January 24, 2013, 01:35 PM   #8
BigJimP
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There are a lot of K frame S&W's out there ...in .357 mag ....like the model 19's ( either blued or nickel ) that are good solid guns.../ or the newer model 66's ( stainless ) ....both can be very good values...and they're commonly availalbe in 2 1/2", 4" and 6" barrels ....

I wouldn't be afraid of any of the model 19's or 66's ....but you have to know how to inspect and at least check the timing on a used revolver ( so check the sticky thread above in this section of the forum on checking a revolver)...

A lot of the model 19's were carried by a variety of law enforcement agencies ...back in the day / they may have a lot of holster wear ...but be in great mechanical condition / and not in a higher collector value price range because of the holster wear...( I see at least 8 or 10 of them every time I go to a big gunshow ) ...they seem to be almost everywhere...
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In the bigger N frames ....there are also a lot of model 28's out there that were carried by LE Officers - have a lot of honest holster wear - and are still in solid shape ( .357 mag as well ) ...and they're really tough guns. ( the fancier model, is the model 27 - the plain one is the model 28 - so the model 27's demand a premium in the market / model 28's are generally more affordable). But the N frames are great guns...
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so I would look for some of either one ....for a really good revolver...on a budget / shoot .38's in them to keep your ammo cost down a little.
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Old January 24, 2013, 02:21 PM   #9
carguychris
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Quote:
OK, think I saw M&P on one of them, could it have been the model 10?
Before S&W instituted the current model numbering system in 1957, the revolver that later became the Model 10 was known as the .38 Military & Police or M&P for short. This is your basic K frame .38Spl fixed-sight model, most commonly seen with a 4" standard "tapered" or "pencil" barrel, or a 4" heavy barrel. The standard barrel also came in 2", 5", and 6", and the heavy barrel in 2" or 3", although the 3" is rare.
Quote:
So beside the model 10 some other models that are OK?
The Model 64 is a M10 / .38M&P with stainless steel finish. The .357Mag equivalent of the M10 is the M13; for the M64, it's the M65. (A few .357Mag M10s and M64s were made, but these are very rare.) Almost all of the fixed-sight .357Mag K frames have 3" or 4" heavy barrels.

The common adjustable-sight .38Spl K frames are the M14 (Patridge front sight, usually 6" or 8-3/8"), M15 (ramp front sight, usually 2" or 4"), and the M67 (stainless M15, but almost exclusively 4", and see the note in my second post about the 2-piece barrel). The .357Mag models were basically similar but had shrouded ejector rods; these are the M19 (M14/M15 equal) and M66 (M67 equal, but commonly found in 2-1/2", 4", or 6").
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Old January 24, 2013, 03:30 PM   #10
stevej
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Think that's what I saw

"Before S&W instituted the current model numbering system in 1957, the revolver that later became the Model 10 was known as the .38 Military & Police or M&P for short. This is your basic K frame .38Spl fixed-sight model, most commonly seen with a 4" standard "tapered" or "pencil" barrel, or a 4" heavy barrel. The standard barrel also came in 2", 5", and 6", and the heavy barrel in 2" or 3", although the 3" is rare."

A 4" tapered barrel and I believe it had a $400 price tag but not sure. All I saw were pretty rough looking from the outside. Didn't look at them too hard or handle then as my wife was waiting for me elsewhere and I was really looking for a small 22 for a friend whose wife has very small hands. Just after a few days I got to thinking about those old S&W's. Got to go back to that town to pick up my hearing aids, hi $ stuff, and will try to get a better look at what they have. So if it is a M&P what would be a good ball park price. I know it's hard without a pic but!
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Old January 24, 2013, 04:49 PM   #11
jonnyc
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Older? Try to get ahold of a Model 1917 in .45 ACP. Great old revolvers, fun to shoot.
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Old January 25, 2013, 01:41 PM   #12
stevej
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Looked at them again

1. M&P 38 was $350
2. Model 10 38 was $400
These two looked pretty good but didn't handle them, they were pretty busy. Both were tapered barrels.
At a pawn shop they had one that looked pretty rough, hammer and trigger had a good bit of pitting I guess you would call it, dark spots. It had 38 S&W CTG on the barrel.
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