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Old April 7, 2010, 01:47 AM   #1
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Gun Question, I'm New!

I am really new to guns, and I bought one from a death in the family. It looks kinda old. It is a Smith & Wesson and on the barrel it says 38S.&W.SPL. Is this a good gun to have? Especially for a first timer, I am planning on taking a safety class next month. Another thing I would like to know is since it is kinda old how could I make sure it fires without shooting myself, or anyone else. I am not sure the last time it was shot, I know the person that had it hadn't shot it for at least five years, but possibly a lot longer. If anyone has anymore questions just ask, please.
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Old April 7, 2010, 02:07 AM   #2
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That is a smith and wesson chambered in a 38 special. Generally a very reliable gun chambered in a fun caliber to shoot. It looks from the picture to be in good shape. I would throughly clean it before shooting. Make sure the gun is in proper working order. Cylinder should rotate when the hammer is cocked back ect. If you have any questions about it take it to your local gun store and let someone behind the counter take a look. Tell them your new to guns and want to make sure the gun is safe to fire before you shoot it.
Also with you being new to guns google cats corner and read through that website to get some insight on gun safety. Also look into sone type of gun safety course at a local range.
And death climbs the steps one by one, To give you the rose that's been burnt by her son, Point me to the sky above I can't get there on my own, Walk me through the graveyard Dig up her bones
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Old April 7, 2010, 02:44 AM   #3
Jim March
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Yeah, likely a model 36, the "basic 5-shot snubby 38".

Go here to see if it's in decent shape:
Jim March
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Old April 7, 2010, 02:53 AM   #4
Lost Sheep
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Welcome to the forum and thanks for asking our advice.

Welcome to the forum and thanks for asking our advice.

Let me amend Hellbilly5000's advice.

Don't just take it to any gun shop, unless you have a reliable recommendation for that particular shop and maybe a particular person in it. Some gun shops have trustworthy, knowledgeable, counter persons, and some have idiots. Take it to a gunsmith to render a professional opinion on its 1) safety 2) suitability for use and 2) value. There will probably be a charge, but it will be worth it, especially if he(she) shows you how to clean and care for it.

(Not to disparage retail outlets, but....) A gunsmith is less likely than a retailer to try to get you to trade it in on the latest, greatest "wondernine" pistol. A lot of knowledgeable people find the 38 Special (look it up on Wikipedia) to be the "just right" self-defense round (powerful enough, but not so overpowering as to be difficult to control) and the revolver reliable, simple and

Hellbilly5000's advice about Pax (Cornered Cat) is right on. Her web site is targeted to women (Pax is female, after all), but right on point for gun owners/users of either gender. You would be hard-pressed to find a better advisor in terms of guns and use of deadly force, either in technique or in philosophy.

For your convenience, here are some links:

Lost Sheep

Caveats and disclaimers:

I do not know you, so if my advice seems over-obvious, please take into account my ignorance of your experience level. Also, others of all experience levels are reading.

Remember, only believe half of what you see and one quarter of what you hear. That goes double for what you get from the internet. Even this post.

Do your own independent, confirming research when ANYONE gives you new facts on the web.

Lost Sheep
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Old April 7, 2010, 04:38 AM   #5
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I agree... take it to a reputable gun smith if you have the very

smallest amount of concern. Have them check it out and most probably fire it.

Since it's what you have, I guess you should go for it. It would have been slightly better to have as your first handgun one with a slightly longer barrel. That little critter is going to 'kick' just a little when you shoot it.
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Old April 7, 2010, 05:23 AM   #6
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If the gun didn't come with it's box and/or instructions, you can download a "generic" S&W revolver manual off their website. It's a .PDF file located here. It will provide you with some of the information you need to know.

Your gun appears to be a 5-shot .38 Special revolver with a 2-inch barrel. This would be built on what S&W calls their "J" Frame. The barrel should be marked ".38 S&W SPL" (as you indicated). With the exposed hammer and all-steel construction (as yours appears to be), it is referred to as the Model 36 - .38 Chiefs Special. If the frame is non-magnetic (aluminum alloy) it is the Model 37 - .38 Chiefs Special Airweight. Both are considered fine guns of excellent quality.

You say the revolver is "kinda old" - a relative term. It would not be uncommon for that gun to be in excellent condition even if it was made in the 1960's. Age can be determined if you provide the first half of the serial number, such as "123XXX" or "J 123XXX".

The .38 Special revolver is an excellent choice for self-defense and many members here own and carry them. For a first-time owner, you should know that the short barrel makes it more difficult to shoot with accuracy, especially as the distances get longer. But you can still learn to shoot your "snubby" accurately enough for self-defense with some coaching from an instructor or experienced shooter.

As a first time gun owner, you'll find shooting can be a rewarding and challenging experience. Plus a lot of fun!
BillCA in CA (Unfortunately)
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Old April 7, 2010, 11:10 AM   #7
Charles Ellis
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The only change I would make to that revolver is new grips,and I'd bet it will be a great carry gun. I just looked at the Cornered Cat website and I am impressed.Just the opening page convinced me that it is a site that deserves reading and I added it to my favorites list.
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Old April 7, 2010, 11:26 AM   #8
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Send it to me! I'll give you an honest opinion as to how it shoots and return it to you cleaned, I promise!

Another idea is to contact your local gun club/sportsmen's association. I'll bet you would find plenty of volunteers to shoot it for you first and show you how to safely handle it and clean it. You've got a great gun there!

A few easy checks regarding how the cylinder rotates and locks up and I would not hesitate to shoot it.
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Old April 7, 2010, 12:05 PM   #9
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You can see by my signature line the number of handguns I've gone through. My choice in carry after all these (for now anyway) is exactly what you have there.

If you are interested in changing the grips out, I can send you a pair of rubber hogue bantam grips if you want to trade the ones you have on yours.
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Old April 7, 2010, 01:52 PM   #10
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Until you know more about the gun make sure you don't buy some +P ammo and try to run it stick to standard 38 spec for now. Other than that, you probably have a very nice little (a) model 10, (b) chief's special, or (3) model 36. It may be marked on the frame inside where the crane fits over it just in front of the cylinder as to what it is.
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Old April 7, 2010, 01:55 PM   #11
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+1 on Jim March's recommendation - on how to check the gun ...

If you don't feel qualified to do that ...take it to a good independent gunsmith and find out what they will charge to clean it up and evaluate it for you.

The photo is a little blurry ...but it looks like its been thru some pretty tough days I would not fire it until I was certain it was in sound condition. For what its worth - it looks to me like its a model 36 S&W as well .
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Old April 7, 2010, 02:09 PM   #12
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Here's another tip...

Don't sell it.

Don't trade it.

Just hang on to it.

Those older Smith J-Frames are increasingly coveted by shooters and collecters with each passing year. It's a fine revolver and they don't make them exactly like that anymore. They don't make the grips exactly like that anymore either...
Figure The Odds...
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Old April 7, 2010, 02:25 PM   #13
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One overlooked point - Make sure you know the legalities where you live on transporting a firearm. Here in the PRK, we don't just walk it in to a gun store. It should probably be in an approved carrying case no matter where you are, just to avoid alarming anybody, and said case needs a lock on it while in the car, if you are in Cali (unless it is in the trunk).

I know I have been very vague here, as I don't want to misinform. The main point is to educate yourself on all points of firearm ownership. BTW, welcome to the fraternity
I ain't got no safe queens. I shoots em all...
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