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  #1  
Old 06-18-2016, 09:55 PM
04gtofan 04gtofan is offline
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Default Safety Hammerless 4th Model

Newbie here, needing info on my Safety Hammerless 4th model. Recently acquired a nickel finish .38 with pearl grips and serial number 196xxx. The unusual part of this gun is a 1 1/2 inch barrel. Waiting on a factory letter as the history behind these top breaks fascinates me. I have several small frame two inch .32s from "other" manufacturers (Iver, H & A, H & R), but this Smith is my baby. The mechanics seem strong but the finish has plenty of character. Can anyone enlighten me on just how unusual this 1.5" barrel Safety is?
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Old 06-19-2016, 09:25 AM
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I'm sure there are many who would be most interested to see this one. Can you post pictures, including one from a top view and both sides of the barrel close up and clear?
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Old 06-19-2016, 09:38 AM
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I should probably wait for more knowledgeable people to weigh in, but there were about 104,000 of these guns produced between 1898 and 1907. I'm pretty certain that 1.5 inches was not a standard barrel length; it was likely shortened after-market. S&W sometimes did such modifications for customers. I am told if this is the case there will be a star added to the serial number.
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Old 06-19-2016, 10:04 AM
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To the OP, welcome to the Forum. There is no concrete production number on these short barrels.Got a favor. Measure the barrel from the face of the cylinder to the muzzle. Is the address on the top of the barrel or the right side?
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Old 06-19-2016, 10:22 AM
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There is no address anywhere, the top is bare. Left side of the barrel has 38 S & W CTG, perfectly centered. The sight is pinned on, while the right side plate has the Smith trademark. My photography leaves much to be desired, but I'm attaching some pics. Thanks for everyone's efforts.
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Old 06-19-2016, 12:17 PM
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The 1 1/2" barrels are very rare if factory original. Because of the rarity, many have been faked. The absence of the Smith & Wesson address suggests an aftermarket shortened barrel.
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Old 06-19-2016, 01:33 PM
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I've considered that but fortunately dont have too much money invested. I understand the factory letter will be the deciding factor on original barrel length among other facts. If it does turn out to be factory correct, any ideas on just how rare or valuble it may be? Although never bought as an investment, it would be cool information to have. Patiently waiting for a envelope from Mr. Jinks. Thanks again.
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Old 06-19-2016, 01:49 PM
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I stay away from the 'value' questions but I will say that in 50+ years of collecting Top Break S&Ws; I've only seen about five legitimate 1 1/2 inchers. Rarity doesn't necessarily equate to big bucks as condition plays a large factor with collectors.
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Old 06-21-2016, 01:10 AM
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04gtofan,
I'm eagerly awaiting a report when your letter arrives.
I own a .32 Safety Hammerless 3rd Model which letters as a 1.5" bbl having shipped with the pearl grips, just as yours wears. It has no barrel address stamped on it. IIRC, I once was told, or had read somewhere, that there was no barrel address stamped on the 1.5" models simply because there wasn't enough room, which makes sense to me.
As far as rarity goes, 1.5" barreled top breaks are very rare. There are times when rarity trumps condition (to a point). I hope yours letters as a factory 1.5". Good luck...

WB
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Old 06-21-2016, 03:34 AM
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Welcome to the forum. Nice aquision!! There are plenty of real experts around here that will eventually weigh in, but it looks like you may have a neat little "bicycle" gun there.

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Old 06-21-2016, 11:50 AM
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OK, I admit I flubbed the identification. I was looking for the "Smith & Wesson" on the right side of the barrel. The .38 Safety Hammerless, 4th Model, doesn't have it; the 5th Model does. I am also awaiting the outcome of your letter. These are very rare and were special orders at the factory.
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Old 06-21-2016, 04:37 PM
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Welcome to the Forum. I agree that there were no standard production 1 1/2" 38 Safety, 4th documented. There were, however, documented special order 1 1/2" guns made. I also believe the 2" was only available as a special order for the 4th Model as well. It looks as if the gun may have had a refinish and does not have the original stocks, so hard to tell if there were ever barrel rib stamps or side barrel stamps, since the side barrel stamps used very small lettering and shallow stamping.

There is only one 2" in the SWCA Database and no 1 1/2" 4th Model guns listed. The common practice was to stamp the address on the side of short barreled 32 & 38 Safety revolvers, but since I have not seen a documented 1 1/2" 38, 4th, I cannot be sure if that would be the case. It sounds like you have requested a factory letter, so be sure to keep us up to date with the results. Let's hope for some good luck.
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Old 06-22-2016, 02:00 PM
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Here is my .32 3rd Model which letters as leaving the factory in 1936 with a 1.5" bbl and pearl grips. Note the absence of any barrel markings on this one.
Not wanting to hijack this post - just wanting to show that these 1.5" models did indeed leave the factory without barrel markings. Also note that this .32 has no caliber designation on the side of the barrel. The OP's .38 appears to have caliber markings on the left side of the barrel. I have been, once again, told or read somewhere, that for some reason the .32's didn't and the .38's did have the caliber designation stamped.

Also I cannot discern from the OP's photos if his revolver has or has not been refinished. My knee-jerk reaction is that it has not been refinished. I see from the provided pics (somewhat poor) no evidence of a refinish.

Please be sure and let us know what the factory letter indicates.

WB
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Old 06-22-2016, 04:01 PM
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I notice the stocks are without medallions, I do understand there was a period when these are correct, it is good to see pictures of lettered guns without medallions.
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Old 06-22-2016, 10:01 PM
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The medallion pearl stocks were introduced in 1893. I believe the Safety in question was shipped around 1908 and that was the time when the factory was aggressively advertising their "superior" pearl stocks. WB did not state whether the letter stated medallion pearls. It is certainly possible those are replacement stocks from a later period.

I agree that it is hard to tell whether the gun was refinished, except for what looks like some soft edges. That could be, however, the way the picture was taken. Maybe some more detailed pictures would help.
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Old 06-22-2016, 11:01 PM
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Gary,
My factory letter states "1.5 inch barrel, nickel finish, and Pearl grips". No mention of medallions. Perhaps by the later '30's the medallion stocks had been replaced with non-medallion stocks ?

WB
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Old 06-29-2016, 09:55 PM
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Default Factory Letter Arrived

Thanks everyone for all your input. The mailman was kind enough to deliver my factory letter today (took about four weeks FYI). This Safety was shipped to E.K. Tryon Co in Philadelphia in early January of 1907. It was a nickel gun but was shipped with black hard rubber grips. So the pearl stocks may or may not be original Smith, but certainly aren't correct for this particular gun. Now comes the disappointing part and I will quote: "nickel finish and checkered black hard rubber grips, but did not list any barrel lengths. E.K.Tryon Co did purchase many short barrels of this model general in very small quantities". Interpretations of this info would be greatly appreciated, I'm confused.
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Old 06-30-2016, 04:43 AM
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I would think that the omission of a barrel length strongly suggests that the barrel length was a standard length, originally, and not 1 1/2", but this is, by no means, definitive.
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Old 06-30-2016, 07:14 PM
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I would call the factory and ask to be connected to Roy Jinks. I find it odd that the barrel length was omitted. I believe this is in error and that a replacement letter will be sent to you gratis. I believe you have just experienced a computer glitch.
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Old 06-30-2016, 08:00 PM
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Default Factory letter

I would be lying if I said this didn't bum me out. I would feel better being told that it was not original length then not knowing either way. Let me clarify though, the letter said "but did not list any barrel lengths". That's not my description, but a quote from the fourth paragraph. Maybe the fact that the order was for " two units" had something to do with no record of barrel length? Just a guess.
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Old 07-01-2016, 11:07 AM
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It would be interesting to 'find' the other revolver and see what barrel length it has. The odds of that happening are very slim...
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Old 07-01-2016, 01:35 PM
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I am still hopeful for you that that is a factory length barrel. The letter does not list a barrel length, which kinda puts you back at square one. Or does it ? What the letter DOES say, is that it is entirely probable that your pistol left the factory with that short barrel.

WB
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Old 07-01-2016, 06:58 PM
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Singleshot, I like your way of thinking. Care to elaborate on how you came to that conclusion? I didn't take that from the letter myself, but maybe I'm reading it wrong. I hope you're correct, please share your opinion.
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Old 07-01-2016, 07:08 PM
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Default Factory letter

On another note, Smith recommended I contact Mr Jinks directly with my concern, which I promptly did. I received a reply rather quickly, Mr Jinks stating that all pertinent information was not always recorded by the clerk on duty. Not great news, but he also requested some detailed photos sent to him to inspect. I appreciate his assistance, and maintain a glimmer of hope identifying this gun. I will report back with any news, good or bad. Fingers crossed.
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Old 07-01-2016, 07:40 PM
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Did he give you his mailing address or the new one? The new one is Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation P O Box 669, Warren, MA 01083-0669.
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Old 07-01-2016, 08:09 PM
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Default Factory letter

He did say to contact him for a "special address", I assumed that was an email address but maybe it's a physical mailing address. I have some fairly detailed pictures to send, mostly close ups of the barrel and markings.
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Old 07-01-2016, 08:37 PM
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Default Close Ups

Here are a couple close ups...
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Old 07-01-2016, 10:06 PM
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My opinion; and everyone has one like... OK. Based upon the photos that I've seen of this revolver to date, I believe it is legitimate. The barrel crown, rib set-back, sight pin and overall condition want me to believe that this revolver is authentic. I understand that photos can be deceiving but I see no hanky-panky here. If the revolver showed any evidence of a re-nickel then I would be very suspicious. 04gtofan, can/will you take a close-up of the end of the barrel where we can see the entire end of the muzzle? At this point, I believe your revolver is entirely factory made and not 'faked'. Wish I could hold it in my hands and look it over. If it is a fake then I would fall for it.
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Old 07-01-2016, 10:35 PM
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Mike...I may be new to vintage revolvers but I have been a gun owner for almost four decades. That being said, I see absolutely no evidence of a barrel chop or a refinish. I hope you are correct in your analysis.
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Old 07-02-2016, 08:03 AM
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The sight placement and pin lead me to believe this is authentic. I was going to say that the fact that the barrel address is centred on the barrel suggests authenticity except a review of other safety hammerless 4th models reveals that all of these revolvers contain a barrel address in this exact location. I suppose anything is possible, but it seems the effort to fake this would be not worth the effort. There is more money in, and more collectors of, Colt Artillery models, for example, and these are faked all the time. I am leaning towards this one being the real thing.
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Old 07-02-2016, 08:54 AM
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Two things you should try. Contact Roy to ask if there is any other records that might indicate the barrel length. It is unusual for a factory letter to come back with no reference to barrel length, and might have been an oversight. Second, The SWHF offers a service to research factory records for S&Ws, and I believe they have completed the years around your gun's ship date. It had to be a special order and there well could be an order from an individual if the gun is original.

I have a few cut barrel Safeties that look 100% original. It is not hard to do this and any competent gunsmith who knows S&Ws could shorten a barrel without anyone being able to detect any differences. Just ask me why I own so many cut barrel safeties??

Another possibility is that the revolver could have been sent back to the factory to have a barrel shortened. but not all factory returns were marked as such. The value of a factory original 1 1/2" would be quite a bit higher than a cut barrel gun and you do not yet have any documentation to state it is original. I would spend the money to obtain definitive proof. Otherwise, it will most likely sell as a cut barrel S&W down the road.
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Old 07-02-2016, 10:15 AM
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Mr. Jinks has indicated that it's entirely possible that the clerk doing the paperwork at the the time just left off the barrel length. I've gone way too far to quit at this point without a definitive answer. Just how does one go about contacting SWHF?
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Old 07-02-2016, 10:31 AM
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Gary, would love to have a 2 inch cut barrel Safety .38 to enjoy as a shooter, preferably a refinished nickel. Let me know if you ever want to part with one.
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Old 07-02-2016, 05:26 PM
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Try this link. It should give you the info on how to request information. Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation - Home Page - Insuring that the rich history of Smith & Wesson will continue for generations to come

I also like shooting the shorties. I shoot all the short barreled guns often, even my 32 Bicycle gun is lots of fun at the range. I will keep you in mind if I sell any, but they do come up for auction quite often, just keep checking.
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Old 07-02-2016, 06:47 PM
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Thank you Sir
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Old 08-23-2016, 04:52 PM
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Gary, sorry to jump on an older thread. I have posted a want ad on the forum for a chopped .38 Safety Hammerless. Please keep me in mind if you decide to release one of yours. Thanks.
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Old 08-23-2016, 06:59 PM
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Just looking at my own std barrel 4th model .38 and the position of the Cartridge designation. I note that if my gun were shortened to where the OPs is; the Cartridge Designation would not be centred as it is on the OPs gun; but more back towards the cyl. I would be more inclined to think the Gun is original than meddled with.
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Old 08-23-2016, 07:44 PM
04gtofan 04gtofan is offline
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Agreed. Nobody has been able to prove it meddled with. Just waiting on SWHF to verify the 1.5 inch barrel. Hopefully at that point someone can determine just how rare this .38 is.
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Old 08-23-2016, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by sw44russ View Post
. . . I would be more inclined to think the Gun is original than meddled with.
I have taken a picture of my 1903 4th Model and it shows the stamping in the same location as the OPs. Side barrel stampings are not centered on the barrel of most guns, only the top rib stampings exhibit that trait. Also, showing a 1893 3rd Model that does not have any stampings on the barrel, but I am confident that it was cut since they did not make 2" 3rd Models.

I tend to rely on references of Roy Jinks, who knows lots more about these guns than I. He states that only 2" barrels were shipped from the factory as a standard offering and they were only on the 5th Model. All previous models had 3 1/4" barrels as the shortest offered. Could there be special orders, absolutely but I can say there are way more 1 1/2" and 2" cut barrels out there than factory originals, so that is why the Historical Foundation documentation is important to settle the conundrum.
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Old 08-23-2016, 09:03 PM
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If only I would hear back from the foundation. One way or another. If the gun is cut...so be it. I'll take it to the range and launch some lead. If it's real, its going back in the safe. At this point, I just want an answer. Did I mention I'm looking for a cut .38 in the meantime?
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