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Old August 6, 2012, 06:06 AM   #1
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S&W Victory Model - 3 1/2 inch barrel, what is it?

My dad just bought an older Smith & Wesson that has no model number on it. I looked it up in my Blue Book and at first determined it to be a Model 1905 4th Change but then I realized it is something called the Victory Model,which is basically a 1905 - 4th with a "V" before the serial number.

This gun shoots a .38 Smith &Wesson (not Special) and the serial number is in the 351xxx range. The problem is, it has a 3 1/2" barrel and is Stainless (or possibly nickel?) As far as I can tell, the Victory model did not come in Stainless or Nickel and from what my book tells me, there has NEVER been a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver with a 3 1/2" barrel.

I'm just curious about what exactly this gun is. Is it super rare? A fake, maybe? I can't see why someone would go through so much trouble to fake a $700 gun and then do it wrong anyway. It doesn't look like the barrel has bee modified in any way.

Here are some pictures, any help is appreciated
Attached Images
File Type: gif IMAG0641.gif (92.3 KB, 124 views)
File Type: gif IMAG0644.gif (88.6 KB, 84 views)
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Old August 6, 2012, 06:19 AM   #2
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Fifty years ago when those revolvers were being advertised in gun magazines, it was common to see them modified with nickle-plating, cut down barrels and different stocks. I don't think S&W had ever made a k-frame with a three-inch or 3 1/2-inch barrel through WWII (which doesn't mean they didn't), so chances are, the barrel was been cut and the front sight moved. The originals were all five-inch barrels. The ones that had the barrels cut even shorter were missing the front latch. Fake stag stocks were also popular during that period on these reworked revolvers. I believe the original stocks were smooth.

Some of those Victory model revolvers and earlier ones before switching to a wartime finish were well traveled and came home covered in marking.

I don't recall any other handgun that was so obviously modified in advertisments in those pre-1968 days as S&W K-frames but there was never any mention that they had been re-worked. They would have been pictured in an advertisment along with New Service revolvers, large and small frame Webleys, Enfield revolvers, 45 autos, and all sorts of other handguns, hardly any more than $40 and most closer to $20.
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Old August 6, 2012, 06:33 AM   #3
Mike Irwin
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Looks to be a standard 4" barrel.

How are you measuring it?

You measure from the muzzle to the face of the cylinder.
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Old August 6, 2012, 10:02 AM   #4
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Thanks for that info, I'm 99 percent sure that it must be modified just based on my research but I just want to make sure I don't have something ultra rare.

Also, I'm measuring it from the muzzle to the cylinder face...I'll post pictures this evening of how I'm measuring it.
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Old August 6, 2012, 10:49 AM   #5
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Here is my Victory model revolver....

it looks bright ...because the parkerized finish has been worn off / after being carried in the attached holster for 30+ yrs..../ its been in my family since it was purchased new in around 1946 by an uncle when he got home from WWII. He carried it for yrs as a deputy sheriff / I carried it for yrs in the woods.

Barrel length does affect value / but in my area, while they are very nice guns to shoot, they aren't particularly valuable ( $ 100 - $200 ) for the most part. A lot of them I see at the gunshows have been re-finished / and that really drops the value on them.
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Old August 6, 2012, 01:09 PM   #6
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Not stainless, maybe nickle or chrome. Most certainly plated after the fact. Never made in 3 1/2 inch barrel. Not rare nor any collector value, just a very reliable shooter.
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Old August 6, 2012, 01:34 PM   #7
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The previous posters are basically correct about the gun's provenance. It is a reimported and modified British Victory, otherwise known as a .38/200 British Service Revolver. These are actually more common than the American .38Spl versions, both because more were produced, and because the US military has reportedly retained many thousands of .38Spl Victories in inventory; they were distributed to aircrew during the 1991 Gulf War!

IMHO the barrel has clearly been cut; the front sight is sitting too far back for a factory S&W 4" barrel. Actually, the OP's father should count himself lucky; these guns frequently had the barrel cut down to 2" by removing the front locking lug under the barrel, which usually degrades the gun's accuracy.

FWIW although it is marked ".38 S&W", postwar importers often lengthened the chambers in these guns to allow them to fire the more commonplace and powerful .38 Special cartridge. While this conversion isn't necessarily unsafe, it causes problems because .38S&W uses a larger-diameter case and bullet than .38Spl. Accuracy of these converted guns is usually below par due to the undersize bullets, and the oversize chambers can cause .38Spl cases to bulge or split, creating ejection problems (and ruining the cases if you intend to reload them). Some shooters with converted British Victories stick to the original .38S&W cartridge for reliability and accuracy reasons; there is no reason the original cartridge cannot be fired if the chambers were lengthened.

BTW the reason for the generous space between the serial number and the "V" prefix is that the gun originally had a swiveling lanyard loop in the butt. The hole has been plugged and plated over. (On many nickeled Victories, you can see the outline of the plug through deteriorating nickel finish.)

Two warnings:
  • Keep +P ammo far, far away from this gun! Early .38M&P cylinders were not heat-treated as well as later examples and may come apart with sustained use of +P.
  • Early WWII-production S&Ws incorporated a "wing" or "pivoting" hammer block that is hinged to the sideplate and is pushed out of the way as the trigger is pulled. This safety device, although it's better than nothing, is prone to failure because rust, grease, and/or dirt can jam it in the disengaged position, and it is known to break with extended use. Unless it is inspected for proper function, do NOT count on it to prevent accidental discharge if the gun is dropped with a loaded round under the hammer! If the gun will be carried, it is wise to carry it "five-up" with an empty chamber under the hammer. (In 1944, this hammer block was replaced by a superior sliding design, which is nearly immune to breakage or jamming, and is more fail-safe, particularly if the revolver is dropped with the hammer cocked. The sliding design continues to be used today.)
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Old August 7, 2012, 12:19 AM   #8
Doug Bowser
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One of the guys in the club brought me a Victory model. It had the barrel cut to 2.5" and it was rechambered to .38 special. The only problem was, the fool that refinished the revolver polished the Brit proofmarks off and reduced the depth of the cylinder stop notches. This allowed the cylinder to go past the lockup point , when the revolver was used in double action mode. I replaced the barrel with a new S&W ww2 .38 S&W barrel. I lined it up by eye and drilled the pin hole. The cylinder gap was .006" and it shot in the center of the target at 25 yards. Single action works fine.

We were using .357" hollow based wadcutters and 2.7 gr Bullseye in .38 special brass. All the shots stayed in the 10 ring at 25 yards. When I tried .357 solid based bullets, the groups opened to over 5" at 25 yards.

PS: I believe the original .38 special conversion was done by Cogswell & Harrison in England. The removal of the Brit markings and shortening of the barrel were done in the good old USA.

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Old August 7, 2012, 06:15 PM   #9
James K
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Cogswell and Harrison at that time was owned by Sam Cummings, of Interarmco (later Interarms). They did good work, but some of those guns were worked over in the U.S. by other importers and the job was not done as well.

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Old August 8, 2012, 03:24 PM   #10
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I just want to say thanks to everyone who dad's response to the modification opinion is "Why would anyone want to do that?" but I mean...why does anyone modify anything? Lol, it's just something people happens in all hobbies, that's one reason why it's considered a hobby.

Sorry I didn't get around to posting the picture of me measuring it, I just keep forgetting to take the picture when I'm at my dad's and I can't remember to bring the gun with me.
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