Sunday, March 16, 2014

.38 Not So Special

There's a really good article over on Forgotten Weapons about the .38 S&W, not the "Special," but the shorter round that preceded it. I think it's pretty interesting. The .38 S&W round dates back to 1877 as a black powder cartridge and has survived (barely) into the smokeless powder age, mostly due to the bazillions of S&W Victory Models that flooded the market for years.

My interest in the cartridge comes from the fact that my first handgun, a gift from my parents, was an S&W "Regulation Police" revolver in .38 S& that gun for my 12th birthday! The "Regulation Police" was the 4-inch version of the S&W I-frame, the slightly smaller frame that predated the J-frame. The guns were also available in .32 as well. S&W started rolling them out in 1917-ish and they continued until the introduction of the beefier J-frame around 1960. The short-barreled version was I believe called the "Terrier."

When I was old enough to start carrying the little revolver, my father and I cooked up some "self-defense" reloads using swaged pure lead wadcutter we made on a C-H press over a stiff load of Bullseye. That made the little gun bark! I somewhat stupidly had the gun reblued back in the early 1980s, put Pachmayr grips on it and went totally tactical. Luckily, I had sense enough to save the original wood grips (unlike the wood presentation box for my Model 29 revolver).

One of these days I'll box it up and send it to Doug Turnbull for restoration.

Interestingly enough, Buffalo Bore makes a real self-defense .38 S&W round, with at 125-gr hard cast bullet at 1000 fps. A similar round, the ".38 Short Colt," a shortened .38 Special case made by Starline and NOT interchangeable with the .38 S&W (the S&W is slightly fatter, and also made by Starline) has achieved some success with ICORE shooters.


KMitch200 said...

You got rid of a Mod 29 presentation box?!?!?
Somebody hold him down so I can beat him...

tablekiller said...

Michael: Thanks for this information. My grandmother who was born in 1898 and died in 1996, left me a Smith & Wesson Regulation Police. I didn't even realize until just recently that the ammunition was still produced!

I am 44 years old now and when I was a kid, grandma showed me this revolver. She told me a fascinating story of how she came to own it.

She lived in the tiny town of Hickman Ky. My grandfather, (who died before I was born) worked for the Army Corp of Engineers. After being gassed with mustard gas back in WWI.

One of her employes, who was about to board a riverboat, saw a man, toss a gun into the Mississippi river, when he realized they were checking people for weapons as they entered the boat. Grandma's employee, Ben, waded out into the water and put a tree branch into the mud to mark the location. He returned as the water level went down and after some digging in the mud, he was able to find the S&W revolver.

Grandma sent the gun to S&W who re-blued the gun and replaced the stocks, that had been destroyed due to the water. She kept the gun from the 1940's until her death.

She told me, she actually used the gun to defend herself back in the 1940's. When she went to open her window and a man she did not know, jumped across her flower beds and was below her window. She retried the gun from her nightstand and fired 2 rounds in his direction. The Sheriff later told her, MRS. Hendrix, you sure scared that man, because there is a clear indication, his face was in the mud of your flowerbeds after you touched off those shots. Grandma said she never had any further problems.

After Grandma's death, my dad found the gun and a note, instructing the gun be given to me. It seems to be in great working order. Has a little surface rust.

I am considering sending it to CYLINDER AND SLIDE to have it redone and safety checked.

I think I'll also pick up some ammo, since the lead nose rounds I have, haven't been used since the 1940's.

Thanks for this great information! I would never sell it, because it was Grandma's gun.

Chad Hendrix
Biloxi, MS

Beaumont said...

I love the stories that go with these fine old revolvers. My grandmother gave me Granddad's duty gun, a Hand Ejector .32-20. It was the gun he carried when he and two other deputies chased an escapee from Rogersville, TN, to Tijuana. They waited on the US side until he crossed back over for cigarettes. When he stepped outside the store to light up, they offered him
" a draw of something a little more solid". Wisely, he declined.

Moosejaw said...

picked up a brace of top break .38 S&W made in the 1890 is a safety hammerless 'lemon squeezer'(led zeppelin model?). and a 'perfected model' hammer gun from 1900-1910.

I picked them up for SASS side matches. both 'look' real nice especially the 'squeezer' which has +80% nickel.

both have hand and timing problems. I shoot them anyway.

the hammer gun I can cock single action and make sure the bolt is locked into the cylinder....
the lemon squeezer does not lock up one out of 5-6 trigger pulls. most times the gun goes click...the worst times shards of lead spray out from the outside of the barrel.

went to a couple of gun stores with so called smiths who kind of shrugged their shoulders. Anybody know a good revolver smith who can fix these??.... I am in the peoples republic of NY, so I would have to surf all the draconian laws.

thanks in advance.