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S&W Hand Ejectors: 1896 to 1961 All 5-Screw & Vintage 4-Screw SWING-OUT Cylinder REVOLVERS, and the 35 Autos and 32 Autos


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Old 09-05-2012, 09:33 PM
Clavin1 Clavin1 is offline
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Default 1905 .38 Special

Hello, all. I'm looking for advice on a nice .38 Special to collect - and shoot on occasion. I have a .38 S/N 3163xx that I'm told is pre-heat treated cylinder. From my understanding, the heat treat was more for wear than handling firing pressures. Looking for wisdom on that point. It's a fine shooter (148gr wadcutters) but the finish is well worn - although it has a handsome (to me) patina. It has a round butt, and I think I like the look of a square butt better. Any advice/opinion on a good years / S/N range on 1905 .38 Specials? I like the look of the mushroom ejector rod nut and the square butt.
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Old 09-05-2012, 11:13 PM
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Welcome to the forum. Any .38 M&P with a serial number between roughly 420000 and 580000 is likely to have hardened parts and a mushroom ejector rod knob. Basically you are looking for 1922-1928 production.

You'll get an argument about the purpose of heat treated steel. It definitely wears better because it is harder, but it is also a little stronger for metallurgical reasons that I don't really understand. My own suspicion is that the factory did it in the early '20s so they could get away from the process of putting those finicky little hardened shims in the cylinder notches to keep them from wearing loose too fast. Easier (and presumably cheaper) to harden the entire piece than to decorate it with little slivers.

You're in luck on the square butt, if that's what you want. In the 1920s most of them were made that way, with round butt guns far less common. Good luck in the hunt.
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Old 09-06-2012, 06:48 PM
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Thanks, David. A lot of good info in a small space. Thanks for taking the time to post. I appreciate it.
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Old 09-06-2012, 08:17 PM
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Quote:
I have a .38 S/N 3163xx that I'm told is pre-heat treated cylinder.
Post some pictures!
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Old 09-06-2012, 08:48 PM
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Try a 4th change MP target. They are square butt, adj sights but ejector rod is barrel shaped.They are really accurate and affordable. I shoot semi wadcutter in a couple of these. Mine number in the 65xxxx range. (late thirtys)
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Old 09-06-2012, 08:51 PM
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Pics. (I hope.)
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Old 09-06-2012, 08:58 PM
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Pics (.jpg) too big. I'll .pdf and try again later. One thing I'm curious about with mine is there is no "MADE IS USA" or any makings at all on the right side. And there is no S&W logo or any other markings on the left side.
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Old 09-07-2012, 07:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clavin1 View Post
Pics (.jpg) too big. I'll .pdf and try again later. One thing I'm curious about with mine is there is no "MADE IS USA" or any makings at all on the right side. And there is no S&W logo or any other markings on the left side.
Late 'teens production. Around WWI the company wasn't marking their products the way we have come to expect based on guns of other eras.

If you use Photobucket you can avoid the file size issue; pics are resized on upload, and you are posting links rather than images.
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Old 09-07-2012, 04:38 PM
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Pics (Trying again.)
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1905 .38 Special-1905left-pdf   1905 .38 Special-1905right-pdf  
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Old 09-07-2012, 06:44 PM
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For what its worth, its a Model of 1902, not 1905. 1905's have a square butt; that is
their unique characteristic. 1902's have a round butt.

Mike Priwer
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Old 09-07-2012, 09:47 PM
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S/N makes it a 1905. 1905s came with round or square butts. If I'm wrong - I'll eat my hat. Fortunately my hat looks and tastes exactly like a Snickers bar.
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Old 09-07-2012, 10:08 PM
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Default This One....

is an '05 model as well, 4th change, I think we decided.

wish I had kept it.

Ned
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Old 09-08-2012, 01:45 AM
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Default Take it up with the Catalogs

Both guns are 1902's. From their inception, until the factory dropped the 1902 & 1905
designation, somewhere between 1915 and 1918, the round butt was always the Model
of 1902, and the square butt was always the Model of 1905. The factory never referred
to a round butt K-frame as the Model of 1905. The defining characteristic of the Model
of 1905 is the square butt.

These next three pictures are from the 1913-1915 Three Pirates S&W Catalog, named
for the cover of the catalog. By 1919, the next catalog I have, the 1902 & 1905
designations have been changed, to simply Round Butt and Square Butt.







Mike Priwer
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Old 09-08-2012, 04:11 AM
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That appears to be the definitive and possibly final word on the
02-05 issue.

Then again............this is THE S&W forum....so all bets are off..........

Where is Mr. Wilson?

Great catalog pages...Thank You

FYI..........I have and like both...but prefer the look of the round butt,
how about you?
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Old 09-08-2012, 09:43 AM
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This is one of those questions where you can argue it square or argue it round and you will never get everybody to agree. I completely understand Mike's point, but engineering changes need to be considered alongside the catalog entries. It remains the case that in addition to the different frame profile the model of 1905 incorporated a major design change that was not seen in the 1902 first change -- the cylinder stop was modified, resulting in the new screw in front of the trigger guard to retain the different spring and plunger system. If we preserve the 1902 designation for RB guns, that feature means the new SB 1905 is mechanically equivalent to a hypothetical RB 1902/second change. From then on, preserving the 1902/1905 distinction based on grip profile means every new variety of the M&P results in a gun with a change designation that is a count of two higher for a 1902 than for a 1905. Add in the fact that the 1905/first and 1905/second distinction is not as crisp as most collectors would like (tens of thousands of guns were produced in a long serial number range with inconsistent features, like the presence or absence of locating pins on the rear face of the cylinder), and you are heading for a classification system that pretends to be more systematic and rigid than in fact it can be.

We can look at the catalog distinctions and come up with one classification system, or we can ignore catalog names and look at a sequence of engineering changes that will suggest a second classification system. If ownership had been more aggressive about forging alignment between the engineering and marketing divisions over a century ago, we would not be having this discussion today. (Hmm, that sounds like a familiar problem in modern industrial production. )

We have a serviceable though not completely precise classification system that was codified by Neal and Jinks nearly 50 years ago. This system considers RB M&Ps manufactured after 1905 to be variants of the 1905 regardless of how they may have been advertised. I am willing to continue using this system despite its inconsistency with the early catalogs simply because it is now so well established in the collecting world. Most people who are more than superficially involved in M&P collecting know about the gray zones anyway. Whether they write about them this way or not, I imagine many think about the later RB guns with asterisks after the model designation, or with short following explanatory notations in parentheses.
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Old 09-08-2012, 11:12 AM
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Wow. Thanks guys for all this great info! Special thanks to Mike and David. I think I'll call mine a Military & Police 5-Screw Round Butt to be safe.
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Old 09-08-2012, 11:37 AM
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Gaucho1

Personally I prefer the round-butt frame. Beyond my preferences, it is the butt style
that has survived ; square butts are no longer made, and have not been made for
several years now.

Regards, Mike Priwer
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Old 09-08-2012, 12:15 PM
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I like David's explanation. The problem is that if we strictly use the catalogs for identification, by the 1920s the "1902" and "1905" was totally dropped so we would have to change the name of the later production revolver??. I looked through my Catalog D-3 and 1925 catalog and the name for the round and square butt revolvers were simply Military & Police. I wonder in what issue catalog the year designation was dropped?

Last edited by glowe; 09-08-2012 at 12:21 PM.
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Old 09-08-2012, 12:34 PM
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David

Anecdotally, your saying that while you have a daughter named Suzie, you call her
Barbara because she looks so much like a person named Barbara. That doesn't make
her name Barbara - its still Suzie.

What you say is true: collectors generally refer to all post-1905 K-frames as Models
of 1905, regardless of butt configuration. They do this because of the inconsistency
that arise from their (not the factories) naming convention. As an aside, Roy Jinks
occasionally letters a round-butt gun as a "late 1902" .

The collectors were/are looking for a scheme to classify these guns by their engineering
changes - principally before the factories introduction of model numbers with dashes
to signifiy the changes. Prior to the late 1950's, that kind of classification only
existed internally within the factory, and it was done for the purpose of aiding the
service department in replacing parts on guns sent in for repairs.

The inconsistecy, as you aluded to, arises because the Model of 1905 was introduced
in late 1904, before the introduction of the new cylinder stop, and before the
introduction of the redesigned trigger rebound system. This made for two identical
guns - the later Model of 1902 (with the heavier frame and barrel shoulder, called the
1902 1st change by S&WCA ), and the Model of 1905. Both guns were identical,
except for the butt configuration.

The original collectors were not comfortable with this dual-designation for the same
gun - sans the butt configuration. The square butt was always a different model,
and not an engineering change - at least to the outside world. What were the collectors
to do?

For their purposes ( and not that of the factory, or the buyers of these guns ) they
opted to delay the recognition of the Model of 1905. Early square butts, before the
introduction of the 5th frame screw, were referred to as pre-1905's in the factory
letters. The collectors formally recognized the Model of 1905 when the 5th frame
screw was introduced. This, of course, is not "right" - the Model of 1905 was in
production, and being sold, months before the introduction of the 5th frame screw.

When the 5th frame screw was introduced, it was implemented on both round and
square butt models at the same time. From an engineering-change orientation, this
is when the problem developes. It is really the second major engineering change for
the round-butt Model of 1902, but the first engineering change applied to the
square butt Model of 1905, introduced several months earlier.

This is what the collectors did not want to deal with : two otherwise identical guns,
but with different engineering-change designations. Their solution was to change the
designation of the Model 1902, thus losing the notion and concept of a round-butt
model. The factory, of course, in making and selling these guns, did not do this, and
continued to have separate model identifications for at least another 60 years , or
more - well after WW2 .

The real issue here, to me, is that the distinction between round butt and square butt
is that they are two different models. They are identical in all other respects, as the
1913 - 1915 catalog so clearly says, but in their eyes, they are two different models.
This, I think, is the major error that the collectors make. They are unable to recognize
different models of the other-wise same gun; the factory was very clear in this regard.

As I said earlier, you can call your daughter Barbara, but her name is Suzie.

Regards, Mike
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Old 09-08-2012, 12:53 PM
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Quote:
I looked through my Catalog D-3 and 1925 catalog and the name for the round and square butt revolvers were simply Military & Police.
Glowe

Not quite accurate. The two pages below are from the D-3 catalog. The full name, as
shown on these pages, is "Military and Police Round Butt", and "Military and Police Square
Butt" . The factory is differentiating between the two models. As late as 1915, they
were still using Model of 1902 and Model of 1905. By the 1902's, perhaps they
wanted to be a bit more up-to-date, so they changed the nomenclature. What they
did not change, was the notion that they are two different models.



If one looks closely, they will see that there are siginificant differences between the two models.
Check out the overall lengths of the guns, and their weights. They are different. Also, the round
butt model is no longer being offered with adjustable sights.

Two different models.

Regards, Mike Priwer

Last edited by mikepriwer; 09-08-2012 at 12:57 PM.
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Old 09-08-2012, 01:47 PM
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Thanks Mike - obviously the issue remains a conundrum. BTW - What is the deal with the staples used in the D-3 catalog? Mine are just like yours - rusty and pages are loose.

On another note, I have a M&P with serial number 100007, which Roy states a ship date of 1905. Does that sound correct to you or should I ask Roy to check again? I assume, since it is a round butt that it would be classified as a Model 1902.
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Old 09-08-2012, 03:41 PM
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"You'll get an argument about the purpose of heat treated steel. It definitely wears better because it is harder, but it is also a little stronger for metallurgical reasons that I don't really understand."

There is no argument. It is a metallurgical fact. Heat treating increases both hardness and tensile strength of the steel. The degree to which that occurs depends upon the specific steel alloy used. Hardness and tensile strength are very closely correlated.
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Old 09-08-2012, 03:45 PM
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Glowe

I would have expected late 1907 or early 1908, for s/n 100007, but 1905 is not out
of the question. The frames were serial-numbered in batches, and then stored in
bins or barrels until needed for final processing and assembly into revolvers. This
storage process is best described as first-in, last-out. Or, last-in, first-out. This is
why we see later-number frames being shipped earlier than we would expect.

If its a round butt, its a Model of 1902. However, it may letter as a 1905, which it is
not. This is the resolution of the conflict that faced the (early) S&WCA members, in
their quest for an engineering-change orientation.

Earlier in this thread, someone raised the point that, since the naming of the models
was changed around 1920, maybe the lettering methodology ought to be changed, as
well. I disagree with that idea: the gun should be identified by the factory name at
the time it was made/shipped. Otherwise, there would be mass confusion . I mean-
K-frames have survived for 110 years, or so, and have had name changes from time
to time. Identifying a gun made in 1910 by its current name in 2010 would be a
disaster !

And yes - all my old catalogs that have staples have rusty ones !

Regards, Mike
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Old 09-08-2012, 05:15 PM
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Thanks Mike - I feel more comfortable with the date as supplied by Roy now. I don't know if you have the price list for the 1923 catalog, but in case you do not, I am attaching them. I would love to pick up a few 1923 S&Ws for the prices quoted!
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Old 09-08-2012, 05:23 PM
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All just one more of the things that make collecting S&W so much fun.
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Old 09-08-2012, 08:37 PM
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Glowe

Thanks for posting those two D-3 price lists. I didn't have them. My D-3 catalog
came with the original mailing envelope, but a retail price list for the D-2 catalog.

Regards, Mike
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