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  #1  
Old 03-09-2011, 10:05 AM
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Default .32 S&W Top Break 5 Shot revolver need help

I am looking for any information on the possible date of production of this gun and can I shoot it with modern ammo.

I have posted the below details before. All of the data below contains the only markings on the gun.


From previous post.

Details are:
Smith and Wesson Springfield Mass, USA (stamped on top of barrel)

Pat May 11, 1880 / Jan 3, 1882 / Apr 8, 1888 (stamped on top of barrel)

Smith and Wesson trade mark (on right side of gun)
38629 marked on bottom of butt, underside of top break latch and on cylinder.

Smith and Wesson on the grips.






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  #2  
Old 03-09-2011, 01:24 PM
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OK Dave, I'll give it a shot.
The cylinder of the gun you picture is for a 38 DA. So I believe if it is a S&W it is a 38S&W. The patent dates you list do not correspond to any of the old top break numbers. It is close to one though. The 38 Double Action 4th model has the patent numbers 5-11 1880, 1-3 1882, and 4-9 1889.
Is it possible that what you list as 4-8 is really 4-9 and 1888 is 1889?
The gun has been heavily buffed when refinished and sometimes that can make them difficult to read. Also, the serial # range for 38 DA 4th models is 382701 to 539000. Your serial number is missing a digit. If the number on the end of the serial number on the butt was buffed off in refinishing that would explain it. The number was also stamped on the back of the cylinder, on the ears of the barrel latch, and on the
barrel between the ears of the latch. The last two numbers are quite small and hard to read. Another check of the serial number is on the inside of the right grip. At that time it was either penciled or stamped into the grip.
As far as shooting it with modern ammo, if what I said above is correct then your gun was produced around 1896 or 1897 which would have made it a black powder era gun. It was not rated for modern smokeless powder. Many people here on the forum shoot them with modern ammo as modern factory ammo is loaded very light. Be aware though that it could possibly self destruct and even if it doesn't firing it a lot could stretch the frame and loosen the latch.
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Last edited by cflier; 03-09-2011 at 01:27 PM.
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Old 03-09-2011, 06:02 PM
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Cflier

You are correct on the patent dates and on the serial number.
The serial number actually has one more digit than I previously stated. It is 386295.

I was told by my Dad that it was a .32 but you are saying that it is actually a .38. I thought that it looked bigger than the .32 round.

Thanks for the information. I am going to have a gunsmith look at it. I would like to fire it if it is safe to do so.
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Old 03-26-2011, 02:47 AM
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I have this exact same pistol. Bit of history - my dad inherited it from his dad. The age of this pistol must go back aways. My dad said this was a .32 cal, also. When I began competition shooting, I decided to look at this pistol & noticed at full cock (with hammer fully under my thumb in the cocked position), there was noticeable play in the cylinder. I was afraid if he tried to shoot it, it might misfire & blow up in his face. He got a shotgun. On this pistol, I see markings on the top of the barrel (which can only be seen under a magnifying glass):

"SMITH & WESSON SPRNGFIELD MASS. U.S.A. PAT'D JAN. 24. 65 JULY 11, 65, AUG. 24, 69. REISSUE JULY 25, 71, MAY 11,80, JAN. 3, 82"

These are really hard numbers/engravings to see even under a magnifying glass, and I can't swear that I got those numbers exactly right. I collect firearms, but I'll keep dad's dad's .32 S&W till I die. The action on it is still sweet, & the play isn't that bad - I wanted dad to get a more modern weapon.

Good luck.
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Old 03-27-2011, 11:26 AM
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Have what looks to be the same pistol. Serial # 12369 on the butt & cylinder. Hope you can help. Henpecked
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Old 04-10-2011, 03:53 PM
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cflier,

The serial number on the bottom of the grip of the one I have is: 304845 (there are no other numbers anywhere else on the pistol that appear to be serial numbers). From this can you tell me the manufacture date?

Many thanks.
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Old 04-10-2011, 10:09 PM
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You should be able to find numbers on the back of the cylinder, the bottom of the barrel release, and between the ears of the barrel (after you clean in there) as shown in the attached photo. Those numbers should all match if the gun is original.
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Last edited by Dosgatos; 04-10-2011 at 10:11 PM.
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Old 04-11-2011, 08:44 PM
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Dosgatos,

Thanks for the photo & info. I checked the one I have, found the numbers just where you said they were, and they all match. Is there a way to determine the manufacture date from this number?

Thanks
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Old 11-10-2011, 06:46 PM
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Gene-1 I have this exact same pistol. I just picked it up at a flea market from an old gentleman for 325 and is in new condition. Im trying to find out the age and date, the model too. the serial starts 1177xx and matches up in all places. Any help anyone has would be awesome!
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Old 11-10-2011, 07:14 PM
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Unfortunately, your serial number, if correct, puts your 4th model into the modern era, as far as BATFE is concerned (i.e., made later than 1898). Yours is likely an 1899 date, as the pre-1899 cutoff SN is about 382,002. It is still a Curio and Relic, however. You should have no problems in shooting modern smokeless ammo in it.
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Old 02-19-2012, 02:19 PM
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Default .32 S&W Top Break 5 Shot revolver

I inherited a .32 S&W Top Break 5 Shot revolver when my Dad passed last year. As mentioned in several messages below, the serial number matches on the butt, cylinder, bottom of the barrel, & between the ears of the barrel. The serial number is 14086. That's it - nothing longer. It appears to be in good working condition, but the finish is tarnished. It's very difficult to read the engraving on the top of the break part of the barrel; "PA'T AP3,20,75" (could be "APR"). Also reads, "& DEC 18, 1877". Also along the top of the barrel length, "SMITH & WESSON SPRINGFIELD MASS. U.S.A. PAT'D JAN 17 & 24.65" & "JULY 11.65 AUG 24.69 FEB 20.1877 REISSUE JULY 25.1871". I want to keep the gun, but would love to know the manf date (guessing around 1871-1877?) and an approximate value. Thanks.
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Old 02-19-2012, 04:22 PM
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Maybe it is just that a run of refinished pocket top breaks are coming through the forum lately, but almost every one has been worked on over the years. Anyone know why so many of this type pistol got a renickel during their lifetime?
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Old 12-15-2012, 11:58 PM
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Default My Legal Fee

Forty one years ago I was a young lawyer and took what I could get. Sometimes guns. I stopped doing criminal defense once I started having children, and I sold most of the guns. One I kept is this very same break top. Mine has a serial number 42512. I remember the guy's name was 'Danny' and I got him off of some misdemeanor charge. He assured me this was one of the first S&W's ever made. I didn;t believe him then and I don;t now. However, I would like to sell it. It is in very clean condition and I never fired it. It is chromed or high polished, which seems odd given its age. The serial number 42512 is on the butt and twice on the interior.

Fortunately I went on to have a very profitable career once I stopped taking guns as fees. It turns out money is the coin of the realm, not guns. However, many of the guns sold 30 years later had very high value (the junk ones I sold to the local gun shop right away). I still have a few that are truly great. Most petty criminals don't buy very good stuff I observed. But a police officer I represented had some really fine stuff and many German guns were in old guys collections from WW II. All sold.

So what is this break top worth, if anything?
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Old 12-16-2012, 11:09 AM
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Harry, welcome to the forum from the Wiregrass. I suggest you start a new thread for your inquiry and post some pictures of your gun from all angles. Condition is the prime determinant of a gun's value and folks need to see it to decide. Also, post the caliber, barrel length and whether the grips are serial numbered to the frame (look inside the right grip panel). Your gun is likely sporting a nickel finish that is hopefully original and in top condition.
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Old 01-12-2013, 01:17 PM
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I have this Double action, 38 cal., top break, 5 shot. Believed to be 2nd addition with serial number 41xxx. It does have an exposed Hammer. 95%+ nickel finish. 3.25" barrel. It is from an estate and looking for value. https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/sredir?uname=cacunningham79&target=ALBUM&id=5823426804063129121&authkey=Gv1sRgCNW8t4TTzbW5oAE&feat=email"]https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/sredir?uname=cacunningham79&target=ALBUM&id=5823426804063129121&authkey=Gv1sRgCNW8t4TTzbW5oAE&feat=email[/URL]
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Old 01-12-2013, 01:18 PM
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Old 01-15-2013, 07:30 PM
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I am looking for any information on the possible date of production of this gun and can I shoot it with modern ammo. on the top of barrel is Jan 17&24.65 July 11.65 Aug 24.69 July 25.71 Dec 2.79 May 11&25 1880 on the butt it has 73782
Thanks for any help you can give me
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Old 01-16-2013, 04:06 PM
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Welcome01 to the forums from the Wiregrass, cedrummo. It is a 2nd model from around 1881. It chambers .38 S&W cartridges and modern smokeless cartridges can be used. Maybe someone else can give you a value. You can see what they have been selling for by going to gunbroker.com and looking up the completed auctions. It's in nice shape so it ought to be easy to sell, if that's what you intend to do.
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Old 01-16-2013, 04:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by recon44095 View Post
I am looking for any information on the possible date of production of this gun and can I shoot it with modern ammo. on the top of barrel is Jan 17&24.65 July 11.65 Aug 24.69 July 25.71 Dec 2.79 May 11&25 1880 on the butt it has 73782
Thanks for any help you can give me
Welcome to the forums from the Wiregrass! Please start a new thread and post pictures of your gun. In general, .32 S&W and .38 S&W top breaks can shoot modern smokeless cartridges.
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