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Old 07-20-2011, 03:12 PM
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Default .38 Top Break, how did I do?

Just won this gun broker auction for this vintage .38S&W Top break. Paid after shipping about 90 bucks. Its not the prettiest, but my plan is to strip the nickel plate totally off and refinish it with Gun-Kote or similar. I would like to find a 2'' barrel for it, may end up cutting this one down and having the sight blade re-pinned with a silver dime of the same vintage as the gun. I know some of you will cry sacrilege, but its 80-90 dollar gun and I thought it would be a fun project.

Old Smith and Wesson 38 cal Revolver : Revolvers at GunBroker.com
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Old 07-20-2011, 04:16 PM
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Old 07-20-2011, 09:24 PM
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That gun has already been refinished so you can't make it any worse. If it shoots well you have a cheap plinker. If you cut the barrel and it shoots well you have a nice little pocket pistol. If you do the work yourself it won't cost much more. Probably a great project if you are so inclined and it sounds like you are. If it were an original finsish I would feel differantly.
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Old 07-21-2011, 01:10 AM
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How did you know it had been refinished already? Can anyone give me an approximate year of manufacture? Really all I need to know is, can I use smokeless powder?
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Old 07-21-2011, 01:27 AM
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There are several indicators that it has been refinished. The trigger gaurd and trigger are nickel coated. The gaurd should be blued and the trigger would be case colored. The edges are rounded and heavily polished. The head of the stud on the right side that the side plate screws into on the left side is flattened. It is very hard to remove (read that as almost impossible) and most refinishers can't remove it, so they just polish it down. It is a 4th model and was made between 1898 and 1907. The distinguishing characteristics of the 4th model are the knurled lift latch on the barrel and the pinned front sight. It looks to me to be pinned and polished down. If it is not a pinned front sight then it is a 5th model. A gun of that age should be checked by a gun smith before firing it the first time. It was designed for black powder but the smokeless rounds sold for it are anemic enough that they should be alright too.
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Old 07-21-2011, 01:37 AM
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So, I hope I didn't get skinned too badly for 90 dollars, its fully functional, however I haven't really checked the timing yet. Glad to know I'm not defacing a master piece by cutting it down, stripping it and refinishing it.
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Old 07-21-2011, 01:40 AM
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I wouldn't object to refinishing on the grounds of destroying collectability value, as it has none. I wouldn't refinish it myself, as it is a fair amount of work, and not really worth the effort. Having someone put on a polymer coat is also not cheap. You can do it yourself, but it is best done over a Parkerized finish (phosphate) if you expect to get any coating adhesion, and that's another operation you have to (or should) perform if you expect good results. It's your money so you can do what you want - just make sure you know what's involved, the pitfalls, and what it will cost you.

Were it me, I'd leave it alone as a cheap shooter. To quote Sarah Palin - Like putting lipstick on a pig.
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Old 07-22-2011, 01:58 AM
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Would it be easier to find a 2'' barrel and just swap them or to have the one I have cut down and the sight re-pinned? I've been looking for a barrel but haven't been able to find a 2'' inch one as of yet. Does anyone know where one might find a snub nose barrel for a .38 lemon squeezer?
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Old 07-22-2011, 06:43 AM
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Nice gun, funky finish. Will the new coat be blue? I'd like to get one like yours in blue, 'cause I like the color. Whichever way you go, I'd like to see the outcome too. Thanks for posting, those are some
good pics, too. TACC1
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Old 07-22-2011, 06:48 AM
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The new coat will be "blue-ish" I'm going to strip the nickel chemically using the brownells stripping kit, then once its clean I'll gun-kote the metal. I'll still need to cut the barrel and rebraze or repin the front sight on at some point in those steps.
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Old 07-22-2011, 09:04 AM
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Sounds like a great project (particularly the vintage dime part!), hope you post the results when you are done. I have one of similar vintage, had it checked by a gunsmith, and was told it was okay for shooting standard (light) factory loads.
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Old 08-20-2011, 10:52 PM
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UPDATE: I recived the gun in the mail but the serial number on the butt had been BADLY filed out with a trianglular file. The transfer could not be completed and the ATF was called. I was given a refund for the gun by the seller. The ATF gave me the option I could either have the gun destroyed and keep my refund, or give them the gun for 6-8 months for research to try and find the number and if it could not be recovered then they would place a new number on the gun. I had it destroyed. I have just bought this as a replacement, I paid about 20 bucks more but its a 5th model in a non-standard barrel length and already blued. I'll continue with my plans to cut it down to make a pocket gun unless its very rare and I'm mistaken?




Last edited by datsun40146; 08-20-2011 at 10:55 PM.
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Old 08-20-2011, 11:42 PM
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I really like the old S&W top breaks, and the prices here have gotten outrageous. You got a deal at that price.

If it were me, I wouldn't shorten the barrel, but would leave it as is. Gun koting it won't hurt the value though, and I saw a few today at the gun show that had been Gun koted in a dark blue/black that actually looked nice.
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Old 08-21-2011, 12:08 AM
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You might want to consider a bead-blast and re-blue. Just a
thought. Actually starting blued, you could prep it yourself, and have it re-blued for $50-$100. Just reading on here of a couple of forum members like a barrel about that long for IWB. If I had one like that,
I'd follow that route, JMHO.
How about Pics from the various stages in the project. I'd Really
like to see how it all works out. TACC1
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Old 08-22-2011, 05:35 PM
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Was the ATF going to charge you anything for this service? If so I understand your option. If they were going to do it for free why not let them? Just making sure I didn't miss somthing.

Nice lemon squeezer.
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Old 08-22-2011, 05:53 PM
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They were going to do it for free, however they serial number they were going to put on it would've been very large and obviously placed. It really wasn't worth it to wait 6 months for my project gun and have it permanently marked in the end. So I took my refund, let the gun store strip it of useful parts (which were many as it was in good shape internally) and the ATF took the frame to destroy. It worked out better in the end. I found a blued gun which I wanted originally as I wouldn't have to strip the nickel and this gun seems to be in really good shape. So not a bad trade.
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Old 08-22-2011, 06:18 PM
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Datsun40146,
You won't hurt the value by shortening the barrel further as it has already been cut by someone in it's history. You will have to reset the front sight and to me it hardly seems worth it. It is already only about 2 1/2 inches which in my opinion is short enough for a pocket gun. Of course we all know how much opinions are worth.
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Old 08-22-2011, 06:29 PM
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I was planning on taking it down about 1/4 of a inch before the barrel starts to arc down into the hinge or about 1/4 inch or so in front of where the roll mark on the side of the barrel starts. Cutting and re-crowning isn't going to be the hard part. The goings will be tough trying to fit a new front sight. I had planned on using a vintage dime but I'm not sure how to attach it. Any suggestions?
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