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  #1  
Old 01-20-2011, 07:54 AM
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Default When exactlry did the .38 S&W Special begin?

I always thought it was 1899, and, initially, a Black Powder Cartridge, though soon changed to Smokeless.

Others insist it did not debut untill 1902, and, that it was Smokeless from the beginning.

Just when did the .38 S&W Special Cartridge make it's debut?

And, did it begin as a Black Powder Cartridge, or?

Last edited by Oyeboteb; 01-20-2011 at 08:04 AM.
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Old 01-20-2011, 07:58 AM
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Both dates are mentioned in this interesting writing on wikipedia
.38 Special - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 01-20-2011, 08:42 AM
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The 1899 date with (initially) black powder information is correct. If it was not introduced until 1902, the 1899 shipped Military & Police revolvers in .38 Special I have seen must have been fakes .
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Old 01-20-2011, 08:48 AM
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I had always heard 1899 myself.
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Old 01-20-2011, 09:00 AM
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Quote: The Smith & Wesson Model 10, previously known as the Smith & Wesson Military & Police, and for those produced during World War II, the Smith & Wesson Victory Model, is a .38-caliber, six-shot handgun initially developed in 1899 as the Smith & Wesson .38 Hand Ejector model. This model in all its incarnations has been in production since 1899. Unquote

From Wikipedia............
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Old 01-20-2011, 10:09 AM
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I've read it was loaded with black powder at first but wasn't sure of the exact date when introduced.
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Old 01-20-2011, 11:25 AM
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Black powder was only loaded for about 1 year, then switched to smokeless. There was very little velocity difference in the change. This 1899 1st model is marked for 38 Special. It was shipped Jan. 1901.
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Old 01-20-2011, 11:59 AM
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The 1899 and the 1902 are black-powder guns. Just read any catalog
of the period - its spelled out in very plain English. The warranties
were voided if smokeless powder was used, and damage resulted.

The somewhat open question is - when did the factory change their
position on voiding the warranties ? 1906 - 1907 is generally
considered to be that point in time.

Mike Priwer
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Old 01-20-2011, 12:39 PM
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The internet generation will find this difficult to accept but Wikipedia is not an authoritative source for ANYTHING!

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Old 01-20-2011, 12:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave T View Post
The internet generation will find this difficult to accept but Wikipedia is not an authoritative source for ANYTHING!

Dave
True. ANYBODY can change ANYTHING on Wikipedia. You can rewrite history until someone notices and changes it to their version of the truth.
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Old 01-20-2011, 01:17 PM
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The early Model 1899 - 38 M&P's often do NOT have a caliber marking on them. Many references state that they will be serial numbered below 250, but I can state for a fact that some well above that number will not be marked. They ARE, however, originally chambered in 38 Special.
I can state for a fact that I have seen lettered Model 1899's chambered for 38 Special that shipped in 1899.
So, the 38 S&W Special dates to 1899. Not that I'm braggin' on S&W for one of the most popular cartridges of all time, or anything....
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Old 01-20-2011, 02:39 PM
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This thread's question was " Exactly when did the .38S&W Special begin?" Lee is correct that S&W revolvers first chambered in .38 Special were Model 1899s, and those have various to no caliber markings on the barrels ( .38 Military, .38 S&W Special, etc) and all will chamber .38 Specials. However the question was not what was the first S&W revolver made for the .38 Special, but when did the .38 special begin? That answer probably lies in the S&W archives at the CVHM. The military asked for gun makers to come up with a new firearm, to replace the .45 cal. revolvers in service at the time, and basically in .38long Colt caliber. The Colt Model 1889 Navy revolver was the first military contract in .38 Long Colt caliber, a caliber that first came out in 1875 in the Colt new Line models. That's years before the S&W Model 1899, so S&W's people must have been enviously watching Colt get military contracts before S&W got on the bandwagon, and designed the S&W .38 Special cartridge, which first offered in the Model 1899. The exact birth date of when the .38 Special cartridge completed it's design, testing & trials and was "approved" by S&W engineers ,is hopefully in those CVHM archives and awaits discovery by a future researcher. My bet is approx. 1897-98. What's yours? Ed.
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Old 01-20-2011, 09:41 PM
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All citations are from "U.S. Cartridges and Their Handguns", pp. 172-173. Charles R. Suydam (C) 1977 Bienfield Publishing. Mr. Suydam is a very highly regarded authority on early U.S. Cartridge development.

"....the .38 Smith & Wesson Special cartridge was first made by UMC in early 1899; cartridges were sent to Smith & Wesson for trial in May of that year. Original loads were of 18 grains of black powder...."

"In June, 1899, the powder charge was changed to 21.5 grains;......"

"The first smokeless loadings were made in September, 1899......"

"Earliest known specimen of the First Model Hand Ejector chambered for the .38 Special cartridge is serial No. 8;....."

"....earliest known with barrel marked (on the left side of the frame) ".38 S&W SPECIAL CTG." is serial No. 11,236, although there are probably earlier ones."

Last edited by Alk8944; 01-21-2011 at 08:43 PM. Reason: Loading change to 21.5 gr.
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Old 01-20-2011, 09:57 PM
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I have one Model 1899 S & W 'M&P' Revolver to refer to.

It is Serial No. 9112.

Left side of Barrel, is stamped "38 S&W Special Ct'g"

Cylinder Chambers are Stepped.


I thought the original BP Loadings were 21.5 Grains 3F ( and, of course, the 158 Grain RNL Bullet).


18 Grains sounds a little shy.


I can get 18 or a little teeny bit more into a present day Case if I compress hard...this acheiving the same OAL then, with the same Bullet, as the originals.

If I had Balloon Head Cases, as they did then, 21.5 ought to fit just fine.


Actuyally, I think it was the .38 Long Colt Cartridge, which was 18 Grains BP.


I suspect an error there in the Book in which the Author inadvertently transposed the .38 LC Loading, to the earliest .38 S&W Special Loading.

Last edited by Oyeboteb; 01-20-2011 at 10:08 PM.
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  #15  
Old 01-20-2011, 10:31 PM
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I have Model 1899 serial number 225 - lettered as having been shipped in December 1899. The barrel is unmarked, but the cylinder chambers .38 Special cartridges. I regularly shoot it with light smokeless powder reloads, so I guess I've voided the warranty!

As to when S&W first approved their guns for smokeless powder, I've heard 1909. This would be supported by the fact that the .44 Special was originally a black powder cartridge and it was introduced in the Triple Lock in 1908. Perhaps Roy Jinks could weigh in on this.
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Old 01-20-2011, 11:10 PM
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I believe the original BP Loading, was 21.5 Grains 3F, and, 158 Grain RNL.

Rated at the time, for 950 FPS in the longer Barreled Models.


For power and satisfaction, and better performance than the present day 'SAAMI' blessed off-the-shelf 158 Grain RNL, Load them yourself Black Powder Cartridges for .38 Special are hard to beat.


Probably 'Swiss' Powder would most nearly conform to what was the de rigeur 'then'.


But, even 'GOEX' does well of course.


I have been trying to find a long Barrel M1899, and, a handful of period Baloon Head Cases ( in case anyone has a few to sell or give away? ) where, my interest would be to duplicate what I believe was the original Loading, and, to Chronograph it, from a period Revolver.

This would settle some Hash, anyway, as for how the original Cartridge could be expected to perform in it's original configuration, in at least the two Barrel Lengths of period revolvers I would then have, to test it with.


All of which of course is a little deteur from our salient Topic, but, just to meander a little...


Even 18 Grains of BP and 158 RNL in a present Day Cartridge Case, does very well in short to long Barrel Lengths of contemporaty .38 Special Revolvers.

The recoil and report are both very impressive and pleasant.


A naive observer would suppose the BP Loadings to be a lot more powerful than standard Smokeless ones, if witnessing the recoil and report.

Last edited by Oyeboteb; 01-20-2011 at 11:14 PM.
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Old 01-20-2011, 11:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HKSmith View Post
I have Model 1899 serial number 225 - lettered as having been shipped in December 1899. The barrel is unmarked, but the cylinder chambers .38 Special cartridges. I regularly shoot it with light smokeless powder reloads, so I guess I've voided the warranty!

As to when S&W first approved their guns for smokeless powder, I've heard 1909. This would be supported by the fact that the .44 Special was originally a black powder cartridge and it was introduced in the Triple Lock in 1908. Perhaps Roy Jinks could weigh in on this.


Does the Ejecter Knob have an unusual form or shape on your low serial M1899?

I have seen a couple which did, where, the Knob was the same diameter as the Rod, merely a cylindrical form, and, simpoly knurled, about as the Knobs of Post War M&Ps or Model 10s are.

I was not sure what to make of it.


Does Mr. Jinks contribute to our Forum Threads here?
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Old 01-21-2011, 01:18 AM
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The ejector rod nob appears to be a continued developement of
the nob on the model of 1896, which was slightly larger. So, if
you saw one where the nob was the same diameter as the rod, that
was not factory. Hard to say what you saw.

Generally Mr Jinks does not contribute on the public side of this
forum. Hihs participation is primarily on the S&WCA side.

Mike Priwer
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Old 01-21-2011, 01:43 AM
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I owned Model 1899 ser. number 225 for many years and fired it often with whatever .38 Special ammo. I hapened to have on hand, including G.I. ball ammo. Never had any problems. It was the higest ser. number Mod. 1899 gun I ever saw without any caliber stamping on the barrel, although Lee reports some higher numbers. It was about 50% original nickel (ugly!) but a tight shooter with a 6.5 in. barrel.
I worked with Chuck Suydam on some of his research for his book, cited above and he was a very thorough researcher. I remember extracting bullets and weighing the powder on various cartridges to determine the number of grains the powder weighed. If he said the original UMC .38 Special rounds had eighteen grains of black powder it was probably backed by his research. Chuck's library of research material and notes on the articles and books he wrote were donated to the Davis Museum in Claremore, OK. on his death. Researchers can access his material there in the Charles Suydam room. Ed.
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Old 01-21-2011, 03:17 AM
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It is possible of course, that various Manufacturers were using differing Charges in the Black Powder .38 S & W Special Cartridges...either intentionally or in error or from some problems with their Mechanized Loading Machines' settings.

18 Grains of Black Powder is what the slightly shorter and less powerful for any given Bullet weight .38 Colt ( aka U S Service Cartridge ) used, and, for .38 Special to duplicate the .38 Colt Loading, would be entirely self defeating or irrational also, given that the intention and advantage was that .38 S & W Special was a more powerful Cartridge for charge and Bullet Weight both.

18 Grains of BP in the .38 S & W Special Baloon Head Cartridge of the day, would not allow good compression once the standard 158 Grain RNL Bullet was seated to correct depth...

So, one way or another, it seems to me, that there is something odd with that 18 Grain Loading being referenced as if it were the correct or Standard Loading, even if it was noted by an expert, to have occurred in a period UMC .38 S & W Special Cartridge.

I believe such an occurance would have to have been an anomoly.

Last edited by Oyeboteb; 01-21-2011 at 03:24 AM.
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Old 01-21-2011, 06:55 AM
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If a few loose original BP rounds could be located, it would seem worthwhile to pull the bullets and weigh the charges.
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Old 01-21-2011, 08:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oyeboteb View Post
I believe the original BP Loading, was 21.5 Grains 3F, and, 158 Grain RNL.

Since the question was about the origination of the .38 Spl. I only quoted the pertinent passages. Go back to my first post, now edited, for the reference to the loading change to 21.5 gr.
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Old 01-22-2011, 01:49 AM
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Oh good...


Thanks Alk8944 for verifying the 21.5 Grain Loading.


What do we know of the Smokeless Powders which would have been used in the earliest Smokelss .38 S & W Special Cartridges?

I mean, as far as what Brands or Kinds.

I believe Bullseye, and, Unique, were available then...but, I do not recall right now, what some of the others may have been.
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Old 01-22-2011, 03:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oyeboteb View Post
Oh good...


Thanks Alk8944 for verifying the 21.5 Grain Loading.


What do we know of the Smokeless Powders which would have been used in the earliest Smokelss .38 S & W Special Cartridges?

I mean, as far as what Brands or Kinds.

I believe Bullseye, and, Unique, were available then...but, I do not recall right now, what some of the others may have been.
Bullseye yes. Unique, was introduced by Laflin & and in 1900. There is a very interesting book available titled "The History of Laflin & Rand" as I recall. It is a free download, Google the title and you can probably still find it. Here is the link to the book: http://www.laflinandrand.com/page2.html

Please note that former comments, now deleted, about "Infallible" were recalled from an article in one of the major gun magazines now known to be incorrect after referring again to the noted "History".

Suydam continues, ".....probably 3.6 grains of Bullseye."

In the early days of smokeless powder Bullseye was pretty much the "standard" powder for any revolver or pistol cartridge as factory loaded. Basically it was because there was nothing else that did the job any better, and Bullseye did it at a lower cost. Cost control in manufacturing is nothing new.

What I find interesting is that the powder most commonly loaded today in cartridges for semi-automatic pistols, by many major manufacturers, is a non-canister number known in the industry as "Bullseye 84" which is manufactured by Alliant. This has been around for many years and available only to the industry until a few years ago when it was finally released to the public as a canister grade powder for reloaders. It is marketed as "Power Pistol". Don't get confused over this, Bullseye and Bullseye 84 are not the same, and are not interchangeable!

Last edited by Alk8944; 01-23-2011 at 08:08 AM. Reason: "Unique" corrections
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Old 01-22-2011, 06:57 AM
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Old 01-22-2011, 07:12 AM
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Thank you ALK8944,


Whew...just spent three Hours reading.


Wonderful stuff...
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Old 01-22-2011, 10:50 AM
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This is my first post so be patient
I have a vitory model (i think) serial 233020
any idea when built ?
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Old 01-22-2011, 03:16 PM
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rdmeado, Welcome to the Forum. You should post your question as a " new thread" to get the best reponse. Also, if you have a Victory Model the 233020 should have a "V" prefix to the serial number, to be a true Victory Model. If that's the case, V 233020 would have been shipped in approx. Feb. 1943. Post a new thread with a good description of all markings and a picture of your gun and we can tell you much more about it. Ed.
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Old 01-22-2011, 03:27 PM
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Quote:
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What a great find...

Thanks for posting that.
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