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Old 04-29-2017, 11:03 PM
Boulder350 Boulder350 is offline
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Default DA 38 4th Model Target

Recently picked up this double action 38 4th model with 6" barrel and target sights. It's been well used and was returned to the factory in 1918. The numbers match on a butt, cylinder, and barrel and the serial number is under 382,000 so its an antique. No serial number is on the bottom of the latch.

Was it common on target sights of this time frame not to have a serial number? I have requested letter of authentication to see if the records mention it shipping with target sights. The stocks are replacements. What style of stocks were common on a double action target models pre 1898? Are they like the single action hard rubber target stocks? How rare are target sights on this model?

Thanks
Mark
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Old 04-30-2017, 02:29 PM
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I believe that the factory almost always stamped the serial number on factory installed sights. Sometimes where you cannot see them without removing the sights. They also stamped the sight blade on some models. Interesting gun and I have not seen a 38 DA target gun that was lettered as coming from the factory.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, you could order target sights for additional cost and maybe the 1918 return was to have target sights added. They were available on Single Shots, 38 Single Actions, and Perfected revolvers, which are all the same top-latch as your top break. I think this one might benefit from a letter to determine originality, because I do not think many 38 DAs came with target sights.
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Old 05-14-2017, 10:59 PM
Boulder350 Boulder350 is offline
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The letter for my .38 DA 4th model arrived and it shipped from the factory with target sights, front and back. That's good news for me. I took a risk when buying this one and it paid off. Searched this forum and only found reference to one other double action 4th model 38 that letters as shipping with target sights so it sounds like target sights on this model are pretty rare.

The letter just referred to the original stocks or grips as checkered black rubber. I want to replace the stocks with period correct ones. Would you install the basic rounded black rubber stocks or the target black rubber ones?

Next is trying to find info about S. W. Potts...
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Old 05-15-2017, 01:30 AM
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The latch (rear sight) should be numbered--on the bottom, IF the gun was originally assembled with target sights. If, in fact, the latch is not numbered, and given this is a special order gun shipped with target sights, it's likely they took a standard gun from inventory, and swapped out the latch/sights. That being the case, there was no need to number the latch; as such tasks were performed by the Service Department (who work on one gun at a time). I've had several guns with unnumbered latches (including two DA's) which letter as shipped as targets, letter as special orders, and the scenario outlined above is as opined by Jinks.

Ralph Tremaine

And here's a list of top-break DA revolvers available with target sights (as observed, compiled, and published by Neal): 38 DA 4th Model, 38 DA 5th Model, 38 DA Perfected Model, 44 DA 1st Model, 44 DA Wesson Favorite, 44 DA Frontier.

And Gary's correct in noting relatively few-top break DA guns were shipped with target sights, and that's entirely understandable given vastly superior alternatives were available during the entirety of top-break DA production.

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Old 05-15-2017, 09:34 AM
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General rule, which the factory regularly broke - If the serial number is on the butt, the gun shipped with standard hard rubber stocks. If the number is on the frontstrap, it shipped with targets. If, as Ralph mentioned, the absence of a number on the latch suggests a fixed sight gun was pulled and modified, the factory would not relocate the existing number on the butt.
It may have been a matter of record keeping, but not mentioning target stocks usually meant standard. Bottom line, since not specified in the letter, a case can be made for whatever you have handy.

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Old 05-16-2017, 09:12 PM
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Thanks for your help guys. For now I will install a set of standard stocks like red9 suggests. If I come across a set of rubber target stocks in the future I may upgrade them.
Mark
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Old 05-17-2017, 12:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glowe View Post
I believe that the factory almost always stamped the serial number on factory installed sights. Sometimes where you cannot see them without removing the sights. They also stamped the sight blade on some models. Interesting gun and I have not seen a 38 DA target gun that was lettered as coming from the factory.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, you could order target sights for additional cost and maybe the 1918 return was to have target sights added. They were available on Single Shots, 38 Single Actions, and Perfected revolvers, which are all the same top-latch as your top break. I think this one might benefit from a letter to determine originality, because I do not think many 38 DAs came with target sights.
I concur that not many DA 38 top breaks show up with factory target sights and, if factory, the latch should be numbered to the gun, also, stamped on the base of the front sight.

The serial number on the rear latch number is always stamped and clearly visible. If not number stamped would likely indicate a replaced latch.

Unfortunately it would require carefully removal of the front sight with the proper sided cup tip punch with hand pressure rather than tapping with a hammer to prevent accidental damage, to view the serial number stamped on the lower section of the front sight, beneath the barrel rib line, just above the retaining pin hole.

Many guns with replaced front sights are found with an over-sized pin due to a stubborn pin or extraction of the factory pin with an improper tool.

Over the years I have added to the BBGV on the New Model 3 Target revolvers (having the same but larrger front sight and rear latch set up) that there should be no deduction for a replaced (factory OEM replacement ) front sight as they are very delicate. The slightest tap could bend or damage the front sight, however, the rear latch number must match the serial number.

Naturally, the gun must letter as being shipped with target sights.

You took an educated risk and it paid off. Congrats. It is an unusual target configuration as the undisputed "king" of the target revolvers were the New Model 3 Targets which shipped to about 1912 by special order, and were still sought by target shooters for many years after. Soon after the 1899 was released all target versions of it and all subsequent revisions were an option. Very few 1899 Targets exist but all subsequent models up to and including the 1905, 4th, target variations were optional but more frequently encountered in the 1905 4th than previous models.

On the 1899 and subsequent hand ejector .38s there are few encountered in the earlier years that hold a relatively high premium, with the 1905, 4th the most frequently encountered in Target variation due to the quantity and longest year ranges of production of the series.

Frankly, had I found this gun with an un-numbered rear latch, I would likely have passed it by unless the price was extremely reasonable and / or there were some other hint of it being a factory target sighted revolver. The 6" barrel is one of those "other" indicators that would have supported a possible factory target sighted gun.

If was well known the first series of Double Action S&Ws didn't have the nicest and smoothest of trigger pulls, most noticeably the .44 DA first model was atrocious. Even with a single-action pull on the DAs were not anywhere near as smooth at the single shots.
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Old 05-17-2017, 01:57 PM
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"Frankly, had I found this gun with an un-numbered rear latch, I would likely have passed it by-------------------." (model3sw)

Me too---much to my detriment----anguish----and despair. The time is the 90's. I'm hard at work building collection #2. (Collection #1 was also S&W targets----but defined as anything with target sights. Yeah, I know---pretty dumb!

So, I had passed by several pretty spiffy guns with un-numbered latches---what seemed to be an uncommonly large number of them---but who knows(?). Along comes a 6" Model of '91 target---with an un-numbered latch. It's pretty spiffy too. Even if it wasn't, it's a Model of '91---and I'd never seen one outside of a book----much less a target. Screw it---I bought it---paid a pretty fancy price too. Then the letter arrives. It shipped as a target. (!!!) Jinks went one better, and opined as to how that likely came to pass------added a little tid-bit about it being NOT all that uncommon----never mind what the books said----including his books--which were written a long time before he came to know what he'd learned since.

I never balked at an un-numbered latch after that---paid off big time---never got burned.

Ralph Tremaine
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Old 05-17-2017, 06:14 PM
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In doing a GOOGLE search, I found a S.W. Potts that worked for the Department of Public Printing and more specifically employed in the Public Binding Department. According to the report at that time he had worked for a total of 1,378 hours earning a whopping $531.20 or roughly 38 1/2 cents an hour. Even if that gun sold for $15 back then, it would have taken the better part of a weeks pay to own.
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Old 05-18-2017, 12:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rct269 View Post
"Frankly, had I found this gun with an un-numbered rear latch, I would likely have passed it by-------------------." (model3sw)

Me too---much to my detriment----anguish----and despair. The time is the 90's. I'm hard at work building collection #2. (Collection #1 was also S&W targets----but defined as anything with target sights. Yeah, I know---pretty dumb!

So, I had passed by several pretty spiffy guns with un-numbered latches---what seemed to be an uncommonly large number of them---but who knows(?). Along comes a 6" Model of '91 target---with an un-numbered latch. It's pretty spiffy too. Even if it wasn't, it's a Model of '91---and I'd never seen one outside of a book----much less a target. Screw it---I bought it---paid a pretty fancy price too. Then the letter arrives. It shipped as a target. (!!!) Jinks went one better, and opined as to how that likely came to pass------added a little tid-bit about it being NOT all that uncommon----never mind what the books said----including his books--which were written a long time before he came to know what he'd learned since.

I never balked at an un-numbered latch after that---paid off big time---never got burned.

Ralph Tremaine
Ralph, you are undisputedly, "the MAN" with more years experience than most of us but the subject was top break DOUBLE action 38s. 1891 revolvers (3rd model .38 SINGLE action) with or without a numbered latch has a unique barrel with "MODEL of 91" roll stamped on the barrel rib. AND ... whether a revolver a single shot, who cares if the latch isn't numbered as long at the major serialized numbers match ? To me, that one is a no-brainer. A serious collector of the 3rd Model S/A 3rd & 1st or 2nd Model Single shots should have their head examined if he passed up a 1891 revolver "solely" because of an unnumbered latch.

I would think the 1891, under certain circumstances, is one of the exceptions rather than the rule, solely for an un-numbered latch.

I agree that while there are number of these top break D/As could be ordered with target sights, they are not often encountered. In that instance an un-numbered latch would give a legitimate cause for further examination (and a letter from Roy) to determine if factory equipped or added afterward. To me and most hard core S&W target collectors it is the factory equipped Target sighted revolvers that are usually sought.

I, too, collect just about any target sighted S&W from the late 1870s straight up to appx 1965. Then there are other models that I'm just a sucker for, e.g. the Masterpieces (including other K-frames) and the J-frame target models regardless if model numbered or not. So, I well understand your affection for factory equipped Target Sighted revolvers.

How many top-break (regardless of revision of change designation) .32 or .38 top break revolvers have you come by with factory target sights in all you years ? I have not seen many but you have me by a "few" years so you have surely seen more than I in my lifetime.

Recently a high condition Perfected target model went off at a well known auction website by woodlawn boys. That was one of only 2 factory equipped, target sighted, perfected revolvers I had ever happened upon in my life. (I missed logging back on in time for that one).
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Last edited by model3sw; 05-18-2017 at 06:24 AM. Reason: spelling
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