Smith and Wesson 38 help and gramp's guns

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by Old Wheelgun, May 7, 2010.

  1. Old Wheelgun

    Old Wheelgun New Member

    Aug 14, 2009
    Hello. some time ago I inherited my grandfather's old Smith and Wesson revolver in 38 special. He passed away back in 1976 when I was a 20. Before he passed on, he told me that he wanted all his guns to go to me someday being his only grandson. I was always close to him and we spent lots of time together. He took me hunting for the first time and I shot my first buck with him. I always considered him to be my dad since I never knew my father. He passed away a year after I was born so gramp took on the role of being my dad. Anyway the guns he gave me was... this gun the smith and wesson, a Colt double action Lightning 38 with 6 inch barrel made in 1900, a Colt 25 auto made 1920's, his Colt 1911 45 ACP, and his Colt Official Police which was the last revolver he bought new back in 1963. The rifles are an all original Springfield Armory 1898 30/40 KRAG that my great grandfather's that he brought back from the Spanish American war which was my grandfather's favorite hunting rifle, an 1873 Winchester 44/40 made 1899, and lastly a Winchester 1894 30/30 made in 1940. Gramp was born in 1902 and many of the older guns were bought by his father and passed along to my grandfather. Two weeks after he passed away, I went over to my grandparent's house and my grandmother had all the guns upstairs on the bed with his letter he wrote to me. He left me ammo for all the guns which I won't ever use. I just hang on to it. Anyway, out of all the guns, I left the Smith and Wesson with my grandmother for her to keep at the house just in case and brought the rest home with me. When she passed away 5 years later, I acquired the Smith 38 again. I never fired it yet. It's been cleaned and oiled in my safe with the rest of the guns. It's an interesting gun that I haven't seen too many of. It's very similar to a model 10 38 but much older. It was the only gun that came with a holster which was an old black flap holster. Holster doesn't have any name of make stamped on it. Anyway I'm trying to find some info on this Smith. I know my great grandfather bought it new and he carried it. It has a nickle finish, 4 inch barrel, and the old hard rubber grips with no chips or scratches. The rest of the gun has some brown patina spots from being carried but the grips are not even worn. The serial number to the gun is marked on the underneath of the grips. It has the Smith and Wesson logo on the frame opposite side of the cylinder release button. The gun has some light pitting here and there in the bore but chamber are clean. All serial number marked on different parts of the gun all match up too. I can't remember when it was last fired. I think it was when I was 14. Gramp had it tucked in his old shoulder holster when we went for a walk in the woods and he let me shoot it at a tree stump 6 times. That was probably the last it was used. I realy don't think the gun was fired that much. Maybe a few boxes of shells. Below are some pictures. The box of shells in the picture are the ones that came with the gun with 6 empty shells that I fired when i was a kid I think. There was also short and long colt cartridges that came with it. The colt lightning uses the short and long colt shells only but gramp said they work in the Smith. The shells in the picture are old Remington-UMC 38 specials. The patent dates are marked on the top of the barrel. It says
    PAT'D APRIL 9, 89. MARCH 27, 94. MAY 21, 95. JULY 15, 95
    AUG 4, 96. DEC 22, 96. OCT 4, 98. OCT 8, 01. DEC. 27, 01

    On the left side of the barrel is has the caliber which says
    38 S.&W. SPECIAL

    I never saw U.S. Service cartridges marked on a smith 38 before. The gun's chamber will also accept 38 short and long colt cartridges but not 38 S&W's I would like to find some info on when the gun was possibly made. All these guns mean a lot to me and I could never see myself selling them. Any help on this gun is greatly appreciated.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: May 7, 2010
  2. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

    Feb 3, 2007
    NW Florida
    I know these aren't the questions you asked, but -

    I suggest you not fire the Lightning. They are, from all I've been able to find out, fragile. Delicate. They break kinda easy, and parts and smiths that know how to repair them are both hard to find.

    You are correct about the Short and Long Colts working in your Smith. Colt invented the "38 Colt". Later they lengthened the case so they could add more powder to it, making it more powerful. This became the "38 Long Colt", so they started calling the 38 Colt "38 Short Colt". When the army went from the Colt Single Action Army, in 45 Colt, to a new pistol, they chose the Colt double action revolver, in 38 Long Colt. So the 38 Long Colt was also known as the "US Service Cartridge". When Smith and Wesson invented the 38 Special, it was an attempt to get the government business away from Colt. They took the 38 Long Colt, lengthened the case so they could put in more powder and make it more powerful. They called it the 38 Smith and Wesson Special, and invented a new gun for it, which they called the 38 Military and Police. The army didn't buy it, because by then they had decided that the 38 had been a bad choice, and were looking for a 45. More than you wanted to know, right? :p But that's why the barrel says "US Service Cartridge". It lets you know that 38 Long Colts work, without having to put the evil word "Colt" on their gun.

  3. oscarmayer

    oscarmayer New Member

    Jun 24, 2008
    nice bit of history Alpo, now it makes me wonder. wasn't a colt new police the same as a 38 s&w but colts way to not use s&w on their guns ?
  4. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

    Feb 3, 2007
    NW Florida
    Absolutely. Also, Winchester called their cartridges 30 Winchester Central Fire, 44 WCF, 38 WCF and 32 WCF. It was Marlin, who did not want to put "Winchester" on their guns, that started calling them 30/30, 44/40, 38/40 and 32/20.

    Kinda weird, really. The 44/40 Merwin & Hulbert revolver caliber marking was "Winchester Rifle Cartridge". No "44" anywhere on it, just "Winchester Rifle". I have a 32/20 S&W that is marked "32 Winchester".

    So, I guess it was the major competitors - Winchester/Marlin and S&W/Colt - that didn't want to use the enemy's name. The other gun companies didn't seem to care.

    The actual difference between the Colt New Police and the Smith and Wesson was the S&W used a 148 grain Round Nose bullet, while the Colt loading used a 150 grain Round Nose Flat.

    Last edited: May 7, 2010
  5. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

    Dec 6, 2009
    S&W used the ".38 S&W SPECIAL & U.S. SERVICE CTG'S" marking up to about 1909 when the .45 replaced the .38 as the U.S. service cartridge. The gun is a .38 Hand Ejector, Military & Police, and is the direct ancestor of the Model 10. Based on the patent dates, it would appear to be the Model 1902, probably the First Change.

    The earliest M&P revolvers look almost identical to the Model 10, but there have been dozens of changes to the mechanism over the years.

    Last edited: May 7, 2010
  6. Old Wheelgun

    Old Wheelgun New Member

    Aug 14, 2009
    Thank you for your help Alpo. I shot the lightning years back when I was a kid with my grandfather and then again in 1991 which was the last time... but I remember he told me he never used it much. His father bought that gun new. Your right about it having delicate parts...I read a lot about them. Since mine is in really good shape i don't want to risk breaking anything by shooting it. Last time I used it was back in 1991. I had it loaded with 38 short colts. Only took 3 shots then cleaned and put it back in the safe. I bought the 38 short colts at a gun show that were newer ones made recently by Remington. It also works good with 38 long colts which are the ones I first shot through it. Gramp put the empty cases back in the old box of shells so I think they are the ones I fired. They were old Winchester WRA shells. I don't shoot the ammo for any of the guns he left me. I just hold on to it. This gun was dated 1899 which makes it a smokeless era revolver. It's easily 90% with lots of case colors left on the frame and finish is really good on the rest of the gun. The action is in very good shape...not one chamber out of time... nice and tight... but I don't intend on using it anytime soon. Thank you for your help on my smith 38. I appreciate it. You sure know your older smiths.
    Last edited: May 7, 2010
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