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Old 06-11-2014, 12:43 PM
George_in_SD George_in_SD is offline
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Default Early Chiefs Special "Baby Chief" scarcity and variations

Here are most of the known variations of the early 'Chiefs Special'

In rough chronological order:

1. Some of the first 100 models produced as display or 'gift' models with high polish blue finish, smooth rosewood magna grips. Some of these are inscribed to an individual or group at the factory.

2. Some of the earliest models with half moon sight, service stocks, standard thumb-piece and satin blue finish.

3. Early models with half moon sight, magna grips, standard thumb-piece and satin blue finish.

4. Early models with half moon sight, magna grips, flat latch and nickel finish.

5. Early models with half moon sight, magna grips,flat latch and satin blue finish.

6. Smooth ramp front sight, magna grips, flat latch and satin blue finish.

7. Smooth ramp front sight, magna grips, flat latch and nickel finish.

8. Serrated ramp front sight, magna grips, flat latch and satin blue finish.

9. Serrated ramp front sight, magna grips, flat latch and nickel finish.

10. Serrated ramp front sight, magna grips, flat latch, satin blue finish and three inch barrel.

11. Serrated ramp front sight, magna grips, flat latch, nickel finish and three inch barrel.

12. Serrated ramp front sight, magna grips, flat latch, nickel finish and square butt.

13. Serrated ramp front sight, magna grips, flat latch, satin blue finish and square butt.

14. Serrated ramp front sight, magna grips, flat latch, bright blue finish


My 'trio' of satin blue five-screws:




Closeup of the sight variations:


Last edited by George_in_SD; 12-22-2015 at 06:45 PM.
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Old 06-11-2014, 02:14 PM
05CarbonDRZ 05CarbonDRZ is offline
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I have never seen a bright blue Baby Chief with smooth Rosewood Stocks....Do you have a picture?

EDIT: You missed the half round sight Nickel.

Last edited by 05CarbonDRZ; 06-11-2014 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 06-11-2014, 02:47 PM
George_in_SD George_in_SD is offline
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Truth be told I had never heard of a bright blue baby chief until I happened across David Carroll. I handled one that was engraved on the side plate to a general IIRC. He mentioned to me that the first 100 produced were in this configuration and were given out as favors and samples.

Unfortunately I did not take any pictures.


PS. I will edit the original post to include a half-moon sight nickel chief. Good catch!
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Old 06-11-2014, 03:16 PM
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Are there any variations that I have missed?
You forgot the square butt variation(s). IIRC, approximately 25 were produced. The photo I saw was a 2" nickel with a serrated ramp.

Edit:
Link added: Baby Chief Collection Just about complete.
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Old 06-11-2014, 03:19 PM
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Truth be told I had never heard of a bright blue baby chief until I happened across David Carroll. I handled one that was engraved on the side plate to a general IIRC. He mentioned to me that the first 100 produced were in this configuration and were given out as favors and samples.

Unfortunately I did not take any pictures.


PS. I will edit the original post to include a half-moon sight nickel chief. Good catch!
I don't think this was the norm,That sounds like a one off Gun to me.I know that I have seen two digit Baby Chiefs with the standard finish,normal cylinder latch,Diamond Magnas and round front sight.
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Old 06-11-2014, 03:48 PM
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I have held two different 2 digit BC's in my hand and both had checkered service grips (that numbered to the gun)
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Old 06-11-2014, 03:56 PM
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I don't think this was the norm,That sounds like a one off Gun to me.I know that I have seen two digit Baby Chiefs with the standard finish,normal cylinder latch,Diamond Magnas and round front sight.

S&WChad - Thank you, I will add that variation to the list. Are you aware of a square butt baby with a blue finish?

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Old 06-11-2014, 03:58 PM
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I know that I have seen two digit Baby Chiefs with the standard finish,normal cylinder latch,Diamond Magnas and round front sight.
I would love to have a two digit chief's special.

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Old 06-11-2014, 04:01 PM
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I have held two different 2 digit BC's in my hand and both had checkered service grips (that numbered to the gun)
And they where standard blue(not bright blue) with the "original" style latch...not the flat latch...correct?

EDIT:You also missed the 3" Barrel Baby Chief on your list.It looks like the first 90 or so Baby Chiefs had the smaller service style stocks,Not Magnas.

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Old 06-11-2014, 04:04 PM
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And they where standard blue(not bright blue) with the "original" style latch...not the flat latch...correct?

EDIT:You also missed the 3" Barrel Baby Chief on your list.
#84 was nickel and the other was std. blue. Both had regular thumb latches
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Old 06-11-2014, 04:37 PM
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Wow! Two digit Nickel Baby Chief....Awesome.
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Old 06-11-2014, 05:07 PM
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EDIT:You also missed the 3" Barrel Baby Chief on your list.It looks like the first 90 or so Baby Chiefs had the smaller service style stocks,Not Magnas.
#10 and #11 are the three inchers. Ever seen a nickel three inch baby?




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#84 was nickel and the other was std. blue. Both had regular thumb latches
Very interesting. So is there a half-moon sight baby, in nickel, with a flat latch? Or is the only known half moon nickel baby have a standard thumb latch?

Last edited by George_in_SD; 02-12-2015 at 10:49 PM. Reason: Updating numbered count.
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Old 06-11-2014, 05:17 PM
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Very interesting. So is there a half-moon sight baby, in nickel, with a flat latch? Or is the only known half moon nickel baby have a standard thumb latch?
As stated above it was regular thumb latch.
It was for sale at the Mobile gunshow for years and I saw a photocopy of the "letter".
#84 is from memory but definately 2 digit
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Old 06-11-2014, 06:52 PM
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Hi
Here is a adder to your post.
This gun was owned by Col Rex Applegate it was sent to him as a standard
Baby Chief. Rex was a friend of the Factory and could get any thing done he wanted. This gun was sent back to the Factory and Engraved. See picture of the butt with a start on it.
This is a early gun serial number 111. His Name was Inscribed on the gun when it was Engraved.
Enjoy the pictures.
Jim Fisher






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Old 06-11-2014, 07:06 PM
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Hi
Here are pictures of a Round butt Nickel Half round front sight.
A Square butt Nickel This is the only Square butt I have ever seen.
Jim Fisher




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Old 06-11-2014, 09:31 PM
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George, great post. Do you have SN's associated with the variations of Baby Chiefs you have listed in order? I know they tend to jump. Thanks. Jack

Here are the variations of 'baby chiefs' that I have personally seen.

Are there any variations that I have missed?

Hondo: How might you rank them in terms of scarcity? I am also curious about the evolution of the red boxes and their end labels.


In rough chronological order:

1. First 100 produced with high gloss blue finish and smooth rosewood stocks, standard thumb-piece and half-moon sight.

2. Earliest batch with half moon sight, standard thumb-piece and satin blue finish.

3. Earliest batch with half moon sight, standard thumb-piece and nickel finish.

4. Early batch with half moon sight, flat latch thumb-piece and satin blue finish.

5. Early gun with half moon sight, flat latch thumb-piece and nickel finish.

6. Smooth ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece and satin blue finish.

7. Smooth ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece and nickel finish.

8. Serrated ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece and satin blue finish.

9. Serrated ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece and nickel finish.

10. Serrated ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece, satin blue finish and three inch barrel.

11. Serrated ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece, nickel finish and three inch barrel.

12. Serrated ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece, nickel finish and square butt.



To stimulate the discussion, here is my baby 17XXX.

[/QUOTE]
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Old 06-12-2014, 10:14 AM
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Jackvs1,

Hondo has serial number ranges that are much more precise, with regard to baby chief variations. So I will defer to his wisdom.


On another note, I have found more half moon baby chiefs for sale than those with a smooth ramp. I came across a nickel baby with the smooth ramp sight, but I passed as it did not have any 'N' stamps and the authenticity of the finish was suspect. Had he not been asking top dollar, original or not, I would have brought it home.


Hondo or BMG60 what are your thoughts on nickel guns of this particular vintage as to factory markings? I would expect two 'N' stamps, one on the barrel flat and a second on the frame.
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Old 06-12-2014, 11:18 AM
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George - the two digit nickel that I held and saw letter for in Alabama did not have any N stamps either.
Not all Nickel guns from the factory have the "N" stamp. Roy conformed this for me on a 4 screw CM I had.
If you want to send me a PM with your phone number, I'll tell you where the Nickel 2 digit is in Alabama......... I let you chase it
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Old 06-12-2014, 01:17 PM
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My Nickel smooth ramp Baby Chief had no "N" stamps and letters as a factory nickel Gun.
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Old 06-12-2014, 01:26 PM
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What is different between the Baby Chief and the Chief's Special?
Is it just the shorter grip frame of the BC, or is there more to it than that?
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Old 06-12-2014, 01:29 PM
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What is different between the Baby Chief and the Chief's Special?
Is it just the shorter grip frame of the BC, or is there more to it than that?
The shorter grip frame and the more rounded trigger guard.
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Old 06-12-2014, 06:17 PM
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Many thanks.
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Old 06-12-2014, 07:02 PM
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What is different between the Baby Chief and the Chief's Special?
Is it just the shorter grip frame of the BC, or is there more to it than that?
Other engineering changes were a larger cylinder window to accomodate the longer .38 S&W Special round, necessitating a longer frame, a change from a leaf mainspring to a coil mainspring (cheaper to mfg.), the hammer strut, and internal hammer changes.
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Old 06-13-2014, 08:35 AM
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Quote:
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What is different between the Baby Chief and the Chief's Special?
Is it just the shorter grip frame of the BC, or is there more to it than that?
Quote:
Originally Posted by 05CarbonDRZ View Post
The shorter grip frame and the more rounded trigger guard.
05CarbonRDZ is correct.

The baby J and Chiefs Special are both officially ".38 Chiefs Special" models; both have the J frame size cyl window and coil mainspring. Baby J or baby chiefs are only collector nicknames.
The evolutionary change from round sight to ramp sight on a ribbed barrel came about during the baby J production.

Besides the major differences of guard and grip frames sizes, the baby Js have '5 screws' but the full size guard & grip, Model of 1953, have '4 and 3 screws'. The only other differences are also minor; the evolutionary changes to the 2nd style flat latch and new course checkered hammer.

Much more detail here: Simplified Chronology - "Model .38 Chiefs Special" - Smith & Wesson Forum
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Old 06-13-2014, 09:18 AM
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Here are the variations of 'baby chiefs' that I have personally seen.

Are there any variations that I have missed?

Hondo: How might you rank them in terms of scarcity? I am also curious about the evolution of the red boxes and their end labels.


In rough chronological order:

1. First 100 produced with high gloss blue finish and smooth rosewood stocks, standard thumb-piece and half-moon sight.

2. Earliest batch with half moon sight, standard thumb-piece and satin blue finish.

3. Earliest batch with half moon sight, standard thumb-piece and nickel finish.

4. Early batch with half moon sight, flat latch thumb-piece and satin blue finish.

5. Early gun with half moon sight, flat latch thumb-piece and nickel finish.

6. Smooth ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece and satin blue finish.

7. Smooth ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece and nickel finish.

8. Serrated ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece and satin blue finish.

9. Serrated ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece and nickel finish.

10. Serrated ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece, satin blue finish and three inch barrel.

11. Serrated ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece, nickel finish and three inch barrel.

12. Serrated ramp front sight, flat latch thumb-piece, nickel finish and square butt.
Hi George,

I'm late to the party and it looks like all the variations are listed. Although I haven't personally seen one, I 'd be hard to be convinced that there isn't also at least one blue sq butt out there.

So clearly the sq butts in either blue or nickel would top my list of most rare.

Next might be special order bright blue finishes, (I'm not an advocate of the 1st ~100 all having bright blue finishes; personally I have only seen satin finishes on 2 digit guns. Even Col. Rex Applegate's shown in this thread appears to be satin blue even though engraved.

Next would be the 1st 100 plus with the new post war thumb piece and Pre 'mini' Magna, Service stocks, observed up to at least #117, but not all inclusive and with a typical transition period. We know the 1st style flat latch was used earlier, i.e., #111 presented by S&W to Col. Rex Applegate. Nickel finish rarest.

Next would be 3" barrels in either finish. Nickel finish rarest.

Next, smooth front ramp sights; earliest #2945 and latest currently known #12340, with a lot of overlap with rd sights therefore again, clearly not all inclusive in that # range. Again, nickel finish rarest.

Next, round front sights; earliest #1 and latest reported #116XX, shipped 4/52. Again, nickel finish rarest.

Last is probably serrated ramp front sights and nickel finish rarest.

Just my observation and opinions will probably vary.
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Old 06-13-2014, 10:05 AM
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Hondo,

As always thank you for the excellent information. Can you comment as to any baby chief shipping with factory pearl grips as a special order?

I've been taking in a few strays lately so I will need to take an updated family portrait.


PS. If I remember correctly, didn't you do an extensive write up on the evolution of the 32 HE?
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Old 06-13-2014, 05:01 PM
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If the Pearls where Factory they would have the sunken Gold Medallions in them.
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Old 06-13-2014, 10:31 PM
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Hondo,

As always thank you for the excellent information. Can you comment as to any baby chief shipping with factory pearl grips as a special order?

I've been taking in a few strays lately so I will need to take an updated family portrait.


PS. If I remember correctly, didn't you do an extensive write up on the evolution of the 32 HE?
You're very welcome. Factory MOP is seen so infrequently, particularly post war, it's hard to get a handle on them (no pun intended). Alex (05CarbonDRZ) is correct, especially for pre war MOP and early post war.

Chiefs and other models have also been observed shipped after the war in the 1950s and even later with gold plated, flush curved post war medallions. I've seen maybe 1/2 dozen with MOP or Ivory, but only a couple confirmed with a letter.

Yes, my I frame evolution is now a commentary. Click on the 3 above.
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Old 06-13-2014, 10:44 PM
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Having seen so few pairs for sale, what would an appropriate price be for I frame pearls?
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Old 06-13-2014, 10:46 PM
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Having seen so few pairs for sale, what would an appropriate price be for I frame pearls?
I Frame pearls with medallions(Factory) or without Medallions(aftermarket)?
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Old 06-13-2014, 10:48 PM
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Factory pearls
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Old 06-13-2014, 10:56 PM
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I don't know....A nice set with no chips(they are VERY fragile) would bring $200 I would think.
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Old 06-14-2014, 03:53 AM
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I too think factory pearls in great shape w/medallions would bring $200 and more, especially for sq butt I frames which are scarce. I've purchased a gun just for factory pearls. When they didn't letter to that gun, I put them on a nicer gun.

Non-factory pearls (no medallions) have sold for $100 to $150. depending on condition.
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Old 10-15-2014, 04:50 PM
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Just for the record, someone recently posted a Smith ad or catalog page that show early post war guns could be ordered with no medallion pearl/ivory stocks. So no medallions no long mean non-factory.

Charlie
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Old 10-15-2014, 10:09 PM
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Just for the record, someone recently posted a Smith ad or catalog page that show early post war guns could be ordered with no medallion pearl/ivory stocks. So no medallions no long mean non-factory.

Charlie
Excellent point Charlie. Yes, the 1944-45 catalog indicated that, so post war MOP has a different rule. And basically the rule is reversed; Post war premium grips with medallions now means they aren't factory!

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Old 02-12-2015, 10:51 PM
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Thought I would dredge this up as I have added some information to the list.
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Old 02-12-2015, 11:28 PM
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George - what post has the new info? BTW; I need (want) nickel BC & 3 inch BC. Just have to figure out where they are & how to pay for.
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Old 02-12-2015, 11:47 PM
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I just edited my top post to better reflect the early production guns as I've learned about them.
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Old 05-14-2015, 12:01 AM
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[QUOTE=bmg60;137946627]Hi
Here is a adder to your post.
This gun was owned by Col Rex Applegate it was sent to him as a standard
Baby Chief. Rex was a friend of the Factory and could get any thing done he wanted. This gun was sent back to the Factory and Engraved. See picture of the butt with a start on it.
This is a early gun serial number 111. His Name was Inscribed on the gun when it was Engraved.
Enjoy the pictures.
Jim Fisher


Hi, Jim. SN 111 of yours is a sweetheart ! I'm glad it is in good hands.
PS: if you ever get tired of looking at it ... all the best Sal
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Old 05-14-2015, 08:45 PM
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I must have missed this post last year...
Picked up these New old stock unserialed Baby Chief barrels in bright blue a few years back for a future CCW project,



Always wondered why they were bright blue thinking all BC's were satin... makes sense now

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Old 11-27-2015, 04:31 PM
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Going to bring this to the top - I just saw a post in a different forum that showed a Pre 36, blue frame and barrel, SN 19XXX with what looks to be a nickel cylinder. I did not see an N on the face. Did they make Pinto's in the early Baby J's?
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Old 11-27-2015, 05:09 PM
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Jack,

Yes the factory did, but usually (perhaps only) with the nickel barrel and cylinder configuration.

The production records do not show any special group of pintos being produced. The notes from the production coordinator list the production process for pintos is to take a finished gun from stock and change the finish on the barrel and cylinder, not to build them from unfinished revolvers. "When I was handgun product manager we built some pintos from parts at the end of the fiscal year to reduce inventory. Since the pinto finish is the original finish used by S&W going back to the Model 1 it has always been a traditional finish used by S&W." Roy
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Old 11-27-2015, 05:17 PM
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Jack,

Yes the factory did, but usually (perhaps only) with the nickel barrel and cylinder configuration.

The production records do not show any special group of pintos being produced. The notes from the production coordinator list the production process for pintos is to take a finished gun from stock and change the finish on the barrel and cylinder, not to build them from unfinished revolvers. "When I was handgun product manager we built some pintos from parts at the end of the fiscal year to reduce inventory. Since the pinto finish is the original finish used by S&W going back to the Model 1 it has always been a traditional finish used by S&W." Roy
Thanks Jim
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Old 11-27-2015, 07:24 PM
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Hi George,

I'm late to the party and it looks like all the variations are listed. Although I haven't personally seen one, I 'd be hard to be convinced that there isn't also at least one blue sq butt out there.

So clearly the sq butts in either blue or nickel would top my list of most rare.

Next might be special order bright blue finishes, (I'm not an advocate of the 1st ~100 all having bright blue finishes; personally I have only seen satin finishes on 2 digit guns. Even Col. Rex Applegate's shown in this thread appears to be satin blue even though engraved.

Next would be the 1st 100 plus with the new post war thumb piece and Pre 'mini' Magna, Service stocks, observed up to at least #117, but not all inclusive and with a typical transition period. We know the 1st style flat latch was used earlier, i.e., #111 presented by S&W to Col. Rex Applegate. Nickel finish rarest.

Next would be 3" barrels in either finish. Nickel finish rarest.

Next, smooth front ramp sights; earliest #2945 and latest currently known #12340, with a lot of overlap with rd sights therefore again, clearly not all inclusive in that # range. Again, nickel finish rarest.

Next, round front sights; earliest #1 and latest reported #116XX, shipped 4/52. Again, nickel finish rarest.

Last is probably serrated ramp front sights and nickel finish rarest.

Just my observation and opinions will probably vary.
Jim/ anyone...I thought I saw somewhere that "most" nickel Baby Chiefs were produced in a batch around the 36-37K S/N range. Of course there are earlier ones. Is this true? Or does anyone know if S&W produced nickel Baby Chiefs in certain s/n range batches with the usual exceptions of course..example of exceptions...3" models and the round front ramp sight examples that Jim Fisher has shown in other posts. I had a lettered one in 36K range and I saw another in that range as well. So maybe thats where I got the idea. Also do you have the highest nickel S/N that you have documented? Thanks Happy Thanksgiving!
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Old 11-27-2015, 08:18 PM
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Jim/ anyone...I thought I saw somewhere that "most" nickel Baby Chiefs were produced in a batch around the 36-37K S/N range. Of course there are earlier ones. Is this true? Or does anyone know if S&W produced nickel Baby Chiefs in certain s/n range batches with the usual exceptions of course..example of exceptions...3" models and the round front ramp sight examples that Jim Fisher has shown in other posts. I had a lettered one in 36K range and I saw another in that range as well. So maybe thats where I got the idea. Also do you have the highest nickel S/N that you have documented? Thanks Happy Thanksgiving!
Can't answer your question; however, my nickel Baby Chief is 36764.
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Old 12-21-2015, 07:31 PM
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Quote:
Other engineering changes were a larger cylinder window to accomodate the longer .38 S&W Special round, necessitating a longer frame, a change from a leaf mainspring to a coil mainspring (cheaper to mfg.), the hammer strut, and internal hammer changes.
I may be reading this comment the wrong way but it leads me to believe that the Chiefs Special had an engineering change to a larger frame and cylinder window to accommodate the larger .38 S&W Special cartridge. This was not an engineering change in the sense that the first Chiefs Special were built with a smaller frame and cylinder/cylinder window. It is my understanding that ALL Chiefs Special were built on the new and larger J frame platform that was basically a stretched version of the I frame. This is why the grip and trigger guard of the first guns are smaller and designated by collectors as Baby Chiefs. This was at some future point changed and the grip/stocks and trigger guard were enlarged to the larger size.

In S&W speak, like their I frame predecessors, they could have been referred to as the J frame and the Improved J frame, however, S&W did not use those terms.
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Old 12-21-2015, 08:02 PM
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James you're right about the Chiefs Special, it was introduced (1950) as the 1st J frame and with coil spring. A stretched frame and cyl window version of the early Improved I frame with coil spring and round sight.

Then, both this "Baby J frame" and the early Improved I frame, evolved into the late versions with barrel rib and ramped front sight.

In 1953 both late versions of the Baby J frame and Improved I received "NEW" frame forgings with larger trigger guard, (deleted trigger guard screw, 1/8" longer round butt grip frames, and a new even longer (by another 1/8") square butt grip frame version. These are referred to as Model of 1953 New J frame and Model of 1953 New I frame respectively. However to be clear, the new J frame forging retained it's 1950 stretched frame and cyl window from the original 1950 Baby J frame. And the new I frame retained its shorter frame and cyl window length, until Oct 1960 for the .22/32s and Jan 1961 for the .32s and .38 S&Ws, when they were finally upgraded to the J frame length.

http://smith-wessonforum.com/blog.php?b=104
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Old 12-21-2015, 10:16 PM
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Hi
To add to the list. I have a friend that has a blued baby chief in Square butt. It was shipped to a police dept in New york. I have seen pictures so I know it is real.
My nickel square butt and the blued square butt are the only two documented square butt that I have seen.
Jim Fisher
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Old 12-22-2015, 01:40 AM
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I have to tell you - this thread is killing me. Because of you allll, I am on my 5th baby Baby Chief; I have a lettered nickel smooth ramp coming to the inventory very very soon. Next, have to set my sights on a nickel half moon, then I would have three of each.
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Old 12-23-2015, 01:20 PM
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Hi
To add to the list. I have a friend that has a blued baby chief in Square butt. It was shipped to a police dept in New york. I have seen pictures so I know it is real.
My nickel square butt and the blued square butt are the only two documented square butt that I have seen.
Jim Fisher
I think you should beat him up and make him sell it to you.

I'll never forget the expression on your face when I handed you that nickel square butt!
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