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Old March 6, 2011, 04:17 PM   #1
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ADDED PICS - Serial# 276XXX Identify age old S&W 38 that was my great-grandfather's

Hello - I am looking for some info on a family gun.
I was told the S&W 38 Special I have was my Great Granddad's and was most likely used when he was a constable in CT in the 40's. The top of the barrel has the Smith & Wesson Springfield Mass. USA and then a string of patent dates that begin with Oct 8 1901 and end with Dec. 29 1914. The serial number is 6 digits only and begins with 276XXX.

I would be interested in learning anything there is to know about what year this gun was made or how many were made in this series or any other info you might have!
Thank you, Chris

Last edited by Krazykhrystyne; March 6, 2011 at 04:49 PM. Reason: added pics
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Old March 7, 2011, 06:17 AM   #2
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I'm no expert on old S&W's, but it looks an awful lot like a model 10 I used to shoot as a kid. Still trying to recover it from my father's estate, in fact.

Is there a pre-model 10? Seems like I read something to that affect somewhere, and I suspect that may be what you have...or a variation of the model 10 my dad had. The grips on his are shaped a little different at the top from what I remember, but it's pretty close. His would definitely be a newer made gun; maybe from the late 50's or some time in the 60's.

Open the cylinder, and look on the frame under the crane and see if there's a model number there.

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Old March 7, 2011, 06:48 AM   #3
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There won't be a model number under the crane, it's too early.

It is a pre-Model 10.

The serial number would put date of manufacture sometime in the 1920s, I believe.
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Old March 7, 2011, 07:06 AM   #4
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Nice gun!

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Old March 7, 2011, 08:30 AM   #5
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Very nice gun. That looks in great shape for a gun pushing 100 years old or so.
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Old March 7, 2011, 10:24 AM   #6
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.38 Military & Police Model of 1905, 4th Change.
Serial numbers ran from 241704 in 1915 to 999999 in 1942.
276xxx is likely late teens, maybe early 20's.

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Old March 9, 2011, 05:26 PM   #7
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I had several over the years and the pre model 10s I had were called "Victory Models".
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Old March 9, 2011, 05:57 PM   #8
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Nice family heirloom. That gun pre-dates the Victory models. Those were made during WWII.
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Old March 10, 2011, 01:58 AM   #9
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laytonj1 has already provided the model/serial number range. It's a reasonable estimate it was made right around 1920. It is unlikely it was made earlier, as during WWI S&W was busy making large frame revolvers in .45 and .455 for military use. In fact production of all revolvers except these large frame models was suspended for nearly a year in order to meet military demand.

The full name was S&W Hand Ejector Military & Police, more conveniently called the M&P. It was introduced in 1899 on the intermediate size K frame and became S&W's most famous and most prolific revolver, with production in the millions.

Skeeter Skelton in an article on the M&P noted how glamor guns like the Luger, P-38, Broomhandle Mauser, Colt SAA and so forth get all the attention in books and movies. But the plain, simple, unpretentious M&P probably took care of business more than all of them combined.

When S&W adopted a model numbering system in 1957 they began at number 10, assigning it to their dependable workhorse of a revolver, the M&P.

S&W began making M&Ps in .38 S&W for British service on March 11, 1940, continuing the regular serial number sequence and producing over 6,100 revolvers a month. By April 24, 1942 they had reached s/n 1,000,000 and had to begin a new numbering sequence. They chose to use the letter V as a prefix. The "V for Victory" slogan had already been made famous by Churchill. This was only about four months after Pearl Harbor and of course everyone was hoping for a quick victory.

Most had just the V prefix. A new hammer block safety system was added at the end of 1944, from then on the prefix was VS (a very few were stamped SV. On these the V and s/n had already been stamped so they just added an S in front). The last Victory model was s/n VS811119 made August 27, 1945. When commercial production resumed the V was dropped and the S prefix retained.

I went into some detail as there is a common assumption any M&P made in WWII is a Victory model. In fact a considerable number, likely in excess of 100,000, were made for military use before the V prefix was adopted. Collectors only use the Victory model term for those with a V in the prefix.

This information is from the fine book "A History of Smith & Wesson" by Roy G. Jinks, published in 1977 and since reprinted at least 13 times. I'm very lucky to have a personally autographed copy and find it an excellent reference.

This old revolver is a good example of one of the all-time great handguns.

Last edited by Dave Anderson; March 11, 2011 at 07:40 PM.
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Old February 23, 2012, 02:51 PM   #10
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thats my gun, i have that gun sn 276XXX THATS COOL
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Old February 23, 2012, 02:59 PM   #11
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.38 Military & Police Model of 1905, 4th Change.
Serial numbers ran from 241704 in 1915 to 999999 in 1942.
276xxx is likely late teens, maybe early 20's.

Would those be the correct grips for a late teens / early 20s example? I thought the grips didn't get the medallions in them until the early 30s.
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Old February 23, 2012, 04:18 PM   #12
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The 1905 4th change had hard rubber or walnut stocks with a diamond around the grip screw, the wood stocks came with and without the gold S&W monogram. Smith and Wesson truly mixed things up with the same pistol family having a name then a pre-number then a number with serial numbers from numbers only to a mixed assortment of alpha-numeric numbers. Best way to sort it out is to get a copy of the 'Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson'.
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Old February 23, 2012, 07:00 PM   #13
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Would those be the correct grips for a late teens / early 20s example? I thought the grips didn't get the medallions in them until the early 30s.
The medallions came and went several times, and their use isn't necessarily well documented. Many transitional S&Ws produced in this era have a puzzling mix of features that don't always match up with the changeover dates and serial number cutoffs published in the reference books. If you hang around on the S&W forum, you'll see quite a few interesting discussions about these sorts of things.

FWIW those medallions look correct compared to similar S&W stock medallions I've seen from this time period. The only way to know for sure is to check under the RH panel and request a factory letter. (This seems to be a zombie thread from a single-post OP, however, so we're probably not going to get an answer about this particular gun. )
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Old February 24, 2012, 12:45 AM   #14
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If all serial numbers in the Hand Ejector Military & Police Fourth Change are consecutive, I would share that Roy Jinks has record of mine being a revolver shipped in 1921 and it's got a 357xxx serial number.

I know they made a lot of them, but with a 276xxx serial number, that's EIGHTY ONE THOUSAND revolvers before mine -- shipped in 1921.

How many revolvers could Smith & Wesson build in a year?
Isn't it possible that this one is pre-1920?

Not stating any sort of fact, just hoping to learn also and sharing what I do know. (or rather, what Roy Jinks knows! )
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Old February 25, 2012, 10:52 PM   #15
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I have one like this only it has a 6 inch barrel and is a "Target Model". It's got some mileage on it but I have never regretted buying it - one of the nicest 38spl shooters I own.

Your g-grandfather's pistol is a beautiful piece! I hope you hang on to it and keep it in the family - it's a nice piece of family history that will make you think of him everytime you look at it and handle/shoot it.
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