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Old 05-29-2018, 02:00 AM
Mistress244 Mistress244 is offline
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Default Need to know more about my S&W 38 special revolver

I have an older model Smith and Wesson 38 special revolver that I'd like to know more about. Hoping y'all can help me with a year at least. I'm also wanting to find out what it is worth. Id like to know as much about it as possible. Thank you for reading and thank you in advance for replying. The serial number on it is
K 118340
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Old 05-29-2018, 02:11 AM
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Wow, Welcome to the Forum, your S&W has really been rode hard and put away wet! Correct name is a K 38 Combat Masterpiece , produced in the early 1950s. In 1957 the name was changed to a Model 15. Your are missing the extractor rod the allows you to eject spend cartridges from the cylinder. Apparently the gun as seen considered exposure to the elements and is almost in relic condition. Vlue, as is, would probably be only for what ever parts could be salvaged. Perhaps in the $100 range if someone wanted a project gun. Ed.

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Old 05-29-2018, 02:21 AM
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Looks like a model 15 - or possibly a K38

I can't tell you the year, but I can tell you that in it's condition it's value is very low. I do know it is from before 1980 since it has the pinned barrel. But others who have the book to look up serial numbers will be along to tell you more about its age.

If you soak it in ATF and then rub it with bronze wool a lot of the rust should clean off and it will look better - though it will never look all that good due to the rust pitting the surfaces.

It is missing the extractor rod, but a replacement should be pretty cheap and easy to find. It has potential to be a good shooter if the internals are in good mechanical condition, and the bore is not too rusted or pitted.
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Old 05-29-2018, 02:44 AM
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In very poor condition, story of inheriting my husband's father's hoarder farm lol. Yeah he didn't keep any of his collections, and antiques correctly or I'd never want for anything. There's a chance I have the extractor rod somewhere. Thank you.
I do hope someone with a book to look up the serial number comes along. I'm very interested in the exact year
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Old 05-29-2018, 03:25 AM
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“The Book” says 1951. Too bad about the condition. The K38 Combat Masterpiece is one of the finest revolvers ever made. That one is probably a paperweight. On the bright side, with a little tlc the grips might be salvageable.

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Old 05-29-2018, 07:43 AM
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This is a prime example of one that needs reverse electrolysis but it would need a "gun" person for all of the disassembly knowledge and time involved. Take it right down to the metal & see what you have. You rarely see a worse one.
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Old 05-29-2018, 07:48 AM
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Welcome to the forums from the Wiregrass! If you can't find the rod and extractor star (ratchet), you can get replacements from Gun Parts & Firearm Accessories | Numrich Gun Parts. Your vintage gun uses a rod with right hand threads. If you can find some Blue Wonder gun bore cleaner, it will remove the rust without damaging the remaining blue. Best of luck prettying it up.
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Old 05-29-2018, 08:23 AM
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Thank you very much for the advice and welcoming wiregrass. Thank you opoefc also.
By chance are we allowed to ask questions about guns that aren't Smith & Wesson? I got my next gun out of the collection 2 research and there's not much on Google about it. Or if there's a private message system and somebody knows about double barrel shotguns that could message me that be great. If this is not allowed I'm sorry
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Old 05-29-2018, 09:00 AM
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Thank you very much for the advice and welcoming wiregrass. Thank you opoefc also.
By chance are we allowed to ask questions about guns that aren't Smith & Wesson? I got my next gun out of the collection 2 research and there's not much on Google about it. Or if there's a private message system and somebody knows about double barrel shotguns that could message me that be great. If this is not allowed I'm sorry
You can place the questions on the shotgun in the Firearms & knives -other brands forum.
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Old 05-29-2018, 12:27 PM
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Personally, I would try to resurrect that Masterpiece:

Remove the stocks carefully, then soak it in a bath of acetone and ATF to penetrate all of the screw threads, pins, etc., for as long as it takes. Disassemble everything, degrease, and soda blast every bit of metal. I would then inspect and mic all pins, bearing surfaces, et al, to find any fitment and function problems. That is where I'd start, to evaluate the feasibility of bringing it back to life, or to just sell it off for parts.

I think that it is worth saving. It could be quite a looker, and shooter, again, with a Parkerized finish (an easy DIY) that would disguise all but gigantic surface flaws.
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Old 05-29-2018, 12:59 PM
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Welcome, Mistress244.

I for one would like to see how that badly-abused revolver cleans up, to see if it's worth restoring. Looking at it I fear the bore may be in bad shape and the internal parts rusted, but only a cleanup will tell the tale.
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Old 05-29-2018, 08:13 PM
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Does just helped you get a idea of what the inside looks like?
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Old 05-29-2018, 08:39 PM
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Actually checking the "insides" that shouldazagged is referring to requires removing the 4 screws circled in the photo below (accessing one of them requires first removing the grips) and removing the sideplate.

This should only be attempted AFTER a good soak in a 50/50 ATF/Acetone mix for a few days (with the wood grips removed first), and only with the right (hollow-ground) type of screwdrivers, and by someone who has good mechanical skills.

One way to get at least a vague idea of the condition of these "internals" is to pull the trigger. Your photo shows that there are no cartridges in the cylinder, so close the empty cylinder and then see what happens if you attempt to pull the trigger. If the internal mechanism is as rusty as the exterior, you probably won't be able to budge the trigger. If they are still lubed and rust free, pulling the trigger should cause the hammer to cock and then fall, just as it would if you were firing the revolver.

You can also try cocking the hammer with your thumb and then puling the trigger to see if the hammer releases as it should.

I would suggest starting out by giving it a good soak in the 50/50 solution and see what happens. If it limbers up and seems to function, you can clean the rust off the exterior and have a good solid shooter. If the hammer and trigger don't function (either before or after a soak) then the best advise is to take it to a qualified gunsmith to remove the sideplate and see what the internal mechanisms look like. At that point you'll know whether it is salvageable - or if it is only suitable as a wall-hanger/display.
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Old 05-29-2018, 11:49 PM
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Contrary to BC38's advice, I would not try pulling the trigger, etc. Sure, you might get things moving, but you may also be damaging tuned bearing surfaces with bits of grit and rust that break free. It would be akin to spinning a car engine that has had sand dumped into the crankcase. Not a good thing.

Play it safe!
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Old 05-29-2018, 11:55 PM
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Contrary to BC38's advice, I would not try pulling the trigger, etc. Sure, you might get things moving, but you may also be damaging tuned bearing surfaces with bits of grit and rust that break free. It would be akin to spinning a car engine that has had sand dumped into the crankcase. Not a good thing.

Play it safe!
LOL, if the innards are in such bad shape that it they are full of rust, you're not going to do more damage - there's not much left to damage at that point. You're certainly not going to "ruin" anything by cycling the action one time to test it. Especially if you've already soaked it for a few days first.

It's either full of rust and beyond damage, or it was lubed well enough to prevent rust. Either way cycling the action one time isn't going to do significant damage - unless it is binding up and you force it - which would obviously be the wrong thing to do.

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Old 05-30-2018, 02:33 PM
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Actually checking the "insides" that shouldazagged is referring to requires removing the 4 screws circled in the photo below (accessing one of them requires first removing the grips) and removing the sideplate.

This should only be attempted AFTER a good soak in a 50/50 ATF/Acetone mix for a few days (with the wood grips removed first), and only with the right (hollow-ground) type of screwdrivers, and by someone who has good mechanical skills.

One way to get at least a vague idea of the condition of these "internals" is to pull the trigger. Your photo shows that there are no cartridges in the cylinder, so close the empty cylinder and then see what happens if you attempt to pull the trigger. If the internal mechanism is as rusty as the exterior, you probably won't be able to budge the trigger. If they are still lubed and rust free, pulling the trigger should cause the hammer to cock and then fall, just as it would if you were firing the revolver.

You can also try cocking the hammer with your thumb and then puling the trigger to see if the hammer releases as it should.

I would suggest starting out by giving it a good soak in the 50/50 solution and see what happens. If it limbers up and seems to function, you can clean the rust off the exterior and have a good solid shooter. If the hammer and trigger don't function (either before or after a soak) then the best advise is to take it to a qualified gunsmith to remove the sideplate and see what the internal mechanisms look like. At that point you'll know whether it is salvageable - or if it is only suitable as a wall-hanger/display.
I know that picture I posted is not all of the quote unquote insides. Like I said with it does that give you guys an IDEA.
Just in my opinion if that looks that good compared to the outside of the gun I would think the rest of the insides would be a lot better looking than the outside.IMHO
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Old 05-30-2018, 03:05 PM
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I know that picture I posted is not all of the quote unquote insides. Like I said with it does that give you guys an IDEA.
Just in my opinion if that looks that good compared to the outside of the gun I would think the rest of the insides would be a lot better looking than the outside.IMHO
Gotcha, and I can see the logic in your thought process.

All I can say for sure is that if it were mine, I'd soak it a few days, then bronze wool the rust off the outside, then give the trigger a pull to see if the action cycles.

But that's just me...
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Old 05-30-2018, 03:38 PM
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In very poor condition, story of inheriting my husband's father's hoarder farm lol. Yeah he didn't keep any of his collections, and antiques correctly or I'd never want for anything. There's a chance I have the extractor rod somewhere. Thank you.
I do hope someone with a book to look up the serial number comes along. I'm very interested in the exact year
The year of manufacture is 1951---per Jinks "History-----".

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Old 05-30-2018, 05:52 PM
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0000 steel wool with oil on the exterior. We would need better pictures of the barrel and cylinder to comment further and disassembly on the internals. You could probably bring it back but even with a lot of time and elbow grease my guess is a $ 100.00. Although if you get it functioning decently, it would be OK as a cabin gun.

I somewhat sympathize with your situation. My grandfather on my dad's side had a farm and guns were just tools. He left Parker shotguns in the barn, one revolver, one semi-auto and he just used them on the farm. Put them in the corner when he was done and there they sat for years.

My dad, after marrying mom and graduating college, cleaned out his barn. Most went to the junk pile except for a damascus double barrel shot gun that was given to the first immigrant to come here in the 1870s. Dad cleaned off the rust and it wasn't until 2008 that I got the gun in condition to fire again. It is an heirloom and will not be fired but it could be with very low pressure rounds.
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Old 05-30-2018, 06:05 PM
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I wouldn't be too quick to cycle it, but I agree with the rest of BC38's recommendation. You can't really tell about the bore and chambers until you soak it and clean it. I once bought a C*** Woodsman Match Target (second series) from an LGS-owner friend for $50 because it had been stored wrapped in a towel, and was going to be sold for parts to Numrich. It looked like it hadn't been cleaned after it was last shot, which was common for .22s, so I had a feeling that the bore was good. I was right. When I detail disassembled it and cleaned and lubed, the only internal rust, and not much of that, was on the ejector. All this by way of saying that there is at least a slight possibility that the chambers and bore of your revolver may be OK.

About those four screws: DO NOT TOUCH THEM until you have a proper screwdriver with parallel sides to the blade and proper width and thickness. And DO NOT pry the sideplate off. The subject of sideplate removal is a whole nother thing by itself (discussed on this forum), and then there's disassembly of internals, which has a pitfall or two. Many of us disassemble revolvers, but there are also self-respecting males here who will tell you that they don't do such things, and leave it for the pros. If you choose to follow the disassembly route, a Kuhnhausen manual is probably a good idea.

It may be more time than you are willing to invest, and there is no guarantee that the potential for a happy ending is even there in the first place, but there is at least a possibility, and you will probably not know until the gun is clean.

The above-mentioned LGS owner also had a .38 Spl M&P made around 1907 and factory-redone in 1920. It had apparently been badly neglected. He dropped it into a bucket of oil (I would assume cheap motor oil, but I don't really know). Another $50-instead-of-Numrich gun. Took a while to get all of that oil out of it, but it is a fine gun, and a great example of the smooth actions back then.

Best wishes whatever you choose.
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Old 05-30-2018, 06:18 PM
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Hey Hobby, steel wool? Why not a wire wheel.
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Old 05-30-2018, 08:26 PM
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I have seen a refinish using powder coat. It is electro applied and baked to finish. I am looking or a suitable gun to try it on. won't make a collector weapon, but could preserve marginal examples of these great guns, better than parting them out!!!!
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Old 05-30-2018, 09:04 PM
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Hey Hobby, steel wool? Why not a wire wheel.
I was wondering about that one myself.

I've always used bronze wool since it is softer metal than the blued steel but not softer than the rust. Takes the rust off without removing any more of the blueing.

I have never tried steel wool, but from what I have read of other's experience it WILL remove bluing, and there is also at least a theory that the tiny bits of steel wool can remain behind in cracks and crevices, not to mention any pits and scratches, and it will actually promote rust since it is raw, unprotected steel.

Not 100% sure about the supposed pitfalls of steel wool, but I am 100% sure that bronze wool & oil does a fine job of removing rust. So I figure why take a chance with the potential problems with using steel wool? Bronze wool works for me.

I'll second Model520Fan's cautionary statements. He went into more detail than I did in my previous post, but the right screwdrivers, techniques, and mechanical aptitude are a must for removing the sideplate. I'm a lifelong mechanic and engineer with a whole shop full of tools, and I don't do it lightly or unless it is truly necessary.

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Old 05-31-2018, 12:16 AM
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LOL, if the innards are in such bad shape that it they are full of rust, you're not going to do more damage...
As a "mechanic and engineer", do you not try to keep crud and corruption out of the innards of any mechanical device during disassembly and repair? Maybe like a flake of rust chipping off and scoring the finely fitted inner workings of a S&W revolver, especially if it has not been determined whether or not said inner workings are in good condition, by cycling the action?

Just sayin'.

(Former electric motor journeyman and engine builder, if you want to compare qualifications in things mechanical. Don't cause any more problems than those that already exist is the mantra.)
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Old 05-31-2018, 01:09 AM
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As a "mechanic and engineer", do you not try to keep crud and corruption out of the innards of any mechanical device during disassembly and repair?
Certainly I do. But this isn't a question of keeping anything OUT of the action. Either the action is already as rust damaged as the outside of the revolver, or it isn't. Realistically, the gun was free and it's value at this point is NIL. If the hammer and trigger aren't rusted in place, then there is basically nothing to lose by cycling the action ONCE (after soaking it) to verify it isn't bound up.

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Originally Posted by ExcitableBoy View Post
Maybe like a flake of rust chipping off and scoring the finely fitted inner workings of a S&W revolver, especially if it has not been determined whether or not said inner workings are in good condition, by cycling the action?
Being so mechanically knowledgeable I'm sure you also know that rust is so much softer than the hardened steel of the internal parts in question that ONE cycling of the action is NOT going to ruin anything. Particularly in the case of a revolver in as poor condition as this one. There actually isn't enough value there to worry about ruining it.

So, the gun isn't worth anything but, fortunately, that is exactly what the OP has into it. In its present condition it isn't even worth what it would cost to have a gunsmith work on it. If it turns out the action is frozen up with rust the money paid to the gunsmith would be a total waste.

Unless Mistress244 has the tools, patience, and mechanical skills to remove the sideplate herself, there is no way to determine if the action is in any better shape than the rest of the revolver - other than to pay a gunsmith to disassemble it (more $ than it is worth) OR to see if it will cycle.

If I had it in hand, I'd give it a soak and at least attempt to remove the sideplate. If I didn't have the ability to do that myself, I'd give it a soak and then see if the action is frozen up. If the action would cycle, THEN maybe I'd be willing to put the money into having someone who has the tools and skill take it apart.

Hence my advice.

Mistress244, if you have the right type screwdrivers, and the mechanical skills and confidence to try to pull the sideplate, by all means, follow Model520Fan's advice on how to do so. Otherwise I wouldn't invest a penny into the gun until I determined whether the insides are locked up by rust.

ExcitableBoy, if you can suggest an alternative way for a person who isn't prepared to remove the sideplate themselves to determine if the action is frozen up, other than spending more than the gun may be worth just to find out, please feel free to share. If you don't then let's dispense with arguing what is essentially a moot point, OK?

Last edited by BC38; 05-31-2018 at 01:24 AM.
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Old 05-31-2018, 01:21 AM
Mistress244 Mistress244 is offline
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I'm on the fence here I thought I decided to go ahead and try working on it myself. I'm worried about having the right screwdrivers and any other tools I would need. But this may be a great starter gun to work on would you agree BC 38? I do have somebody that wants to buy it for $100 as is right now
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Old 05-31-2018, 01:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mistress244 View Post
I'm on the fence here I thought I decided to go ahead and try working on it myself. I'm worried about having the right screwdrivers and any other tools I would need. But this may be a great starter gun to work on would you agree BC 38? I do have somebody that wants to buy it for $100 as is right now
ABSOLUTELY! If you're willing to dig in and do the work yourself, this is just about the perfect project gun!

Take the grips off (single screw in the center of the grips) and soak for it a week in the 50/50 automatic transmission fluid & acetone mix (sealed container so the acetone doesn't just evaporate off).

Get yourself a set of hollow-ground gunsmith screwdrivers. Then
lay it on its left side on a folded up towel (one you don't mind ruining of course) and try to remove the 4 screws in the locations I circled. I'd start with the one up by the hammer since it is the biggest one. Make sure the gun is sitting firmly where it isn't going to rock or move. Probably want to have a second person holding it by the barrel and grip frame to keep it from moving.

Insert the screwdriver blade in the screw slot, making sure it is perpendicular to the side of the gun, put downward pressure on the end of the screwdriver handle with one hand and twist counterclockwise with the other hand. Don't start off twisting really hard - start with moderate force and slowly increase the twisting force. Hopefully the screws will loosen up and back out.

You want to be really careful not to snap off a screw head or to allow the screwdriver blade to jump out of the screw slot. Neither of those would be a good thing.

If you go forward then here's wishing you the very best luck with it.

On the other hand, I know I'd be pretty tempted to sell it for $100.

Last edited by BC38; 05-31-2018 at 01:37 AM.
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Old 05-31-2018, 03:46 AM
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M,
Are you able to swing the cylinder out to the left when you push the thumb latch forward? The reason I ask - the ejector rod is missing, but when in place, it pushes up through the cylinder and raises a star shaped cartridge ejector. The star/ejector sits down into the cylinder and flush with the rear surface of the cylinder. It also has a round set of rarchets I the center. If it's there, you're missing the ejector rod and probably spring. If it's missing, you're missing the entire ejector system. You need to know what's missing. Once you look, you can email me if you wish.
Here's a picture of the ejector star:
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Old 05-31-2018, 09:20 AM
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Take the $100 and let the buyer find all the missing/damaged parts that'll need to be replaced. If working on it intrigues you more than the money, spend some time on YouTube watching the disassembly/reassembly videos on the S&W guns, buy a good set of gunsmithing screwdrivers, a rebound slide spring tool, and a Kuhnhausen S&W shop manual. All that will set you back about $100 before you even buy any missing/damaged parts. Then start looking on gunbroker and in the classifieds here for some more guns you can use those tools on because we wouldn't be good S&W enablers if we didn't convince you to buy more guns .
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Old 05-31-2018, 09:50 AM
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Whatever you decide to do, please update the thread. I hate to be left in the dark
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Old 05-31-2018, 10:09 AM
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Sell it!! You don't want to sell it. Here's your chance to earn a bubba badge or maybe even save a gun. Personally I can't sell a gun. Screw driver bits are cheap. You have to at least look inside, or cycle it once after soaking it.

I just don't understand all this talk about selling it. Come on, you can do it. What's more fun. a hundred dollars or working on your gun.
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Old 05-31-2018, 10:30 AM
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I'm saying sell it if you want, just find out what you're selling and ask the right price or trade deal for it.
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Old 05-31-2018, 11:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jebstuart View Post
M,
Are you able to swing the cylinder out to the left when you push the thumb latch forward? The reason I ask - the ejector rod is missing, but when in place, it pushes up through the cylinder and raises a star shaped cartridge ejector. The star/ejector sits down into the cylinder and flush with the rear surface of the cylinder. It also has a round set of rarchets I the center. If it's there, you're missing the ejector rod and probably spring. If it's missing, you're missing the entire ejector system. You need to know what's missing. Once you look, you can email me if you wish.
Here's a picture of the ejector star:
Check the photo in post #12.
The ejector star is there. The rod & pin are missing.
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Old 05-31-2018, 12:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BC38 View Post
Check the photo in post #12.
The ejector star is there. The rod & pin are missing.
Sorry, missed that photo.
Ok well, now here's where I would be with this revolver. Buy the ejector rod parts, electrolysis all parts & parkerized finish. I would have spent $250 on a revolver worth $250. If I were unable to do this work (finish by others) myself, cost goes up and value stays the same. I'm a seller but would try for $125.
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Old 05-31-2018, 01:33 PM
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Brush it up with a wire wheel, spray paint it black, then sell it to a gun buy-back program.
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Old 05-31-2018, 02:24 PM
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Brush it up with a wire wheel, spray paint it black, then sell it to a gun buy-back program.
Put work into it to sell it at a buyback - where they don't even care if it works or not?
Yeah, that would make perfect sense
The OP already said she's got an offer on the table for $100 cash.
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Old 09-09-2018, 08:16 PM
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Haven't started trying to restore the S&W yet. I'm going to soon as I can. My boyfriend has been oiling and playing around with it. He has the chamber moving freely
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Old 09-09-2018, 08:26 PM
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I was wondering...still interested in this
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Old 09-10-2018, 12:26 AM
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Thanks for following up, Mistress244.

Please tell your boyfriend not to mess with the screws till you've soaked the gun in the 50/50 mixture of auto transmission fluid and acetone.

Here are shots of my 1953 Chiefs Special (a smaller, 5-shot version of your M&P), before and after a 30-day soak in the solution.

Unfortunately, I broke the cylinder release screw before soaking the revolver. All the rest were okay after the soak, and the internals (behind the side plate) were perfect, too. I used bronze wool after the soak to clean off the rust.

Best of luck with your project. It's most rewarding to bring one back from the scrap bin.
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