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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 07-30-2020, 04:00 PM
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Default Early S&W British Service Revolver

I believe a recent acquisition is a really good example of the very early S&W British Service Revolver (BSR). All my limited information and partial knowledge is based on the research and writing of knowledgeable and experienced collectors. They have previously documented the history and development of these great historic firearms. Their writings have given me a lot of enjoyment. To them - Thank You.

This revolver is a commercial blue, six inch barrel M&P of the 4th change. It was likely produced at S&W Springfield between March and December 1940 on a direct British Purchasing Commission (BPC) contract. The research of others documents 112,854 revolvers sold directly to the BPC between June and December 1940. These guns were bright blue and were for the .38/200 British Service Cartridge. This caliber revolver began production by S&W around serial number 680,000 of the Fourth change. This was about March 1940 and was under a direct British contract for direct delivery to the U.K. and Commonwealth countries.

By October 1940 almost all the production capacity was taken up by manufacture of thee British Service Revolvers. Also in October 1940 the barrel length for the BSR was standardized at 5 inches.

These two checkpoints - beginning of sales to the U.K. in March and standardization of the 5" barrel in October - form a basis for my estimate the production period of this six inch barrel BSR. Hopefully, the data base or a future letter of authentication my further refine that estimate.

Six-inch barrel revolvers were distributed to Canada, the Union of South Africa and doubtless other areas as well. As this particular revolver has the Canadian marking on the frame and also British Proof Marks, it apparently went to Canada for service, then to Gr. Britain, probably after the War, for surplus sale. The revolver there received commercial London Proof House markings.

With the outbreak of World War II Canada elected to adopt the S&W M&P Model which would accommodate the standard British .38/200 cartridge. Over 118,000 of these revolvers were purchased from 1939 through 1943.

Configuration of the Canadian-issue arms was a double-action revolver with polished blue and checkered grips, though brushed-blue and wartime finishes were also widely used. Walnut grips were standard. Most common were 5" barrels, but 4", and 6" were also in service.

The .38/200 BSRs were called the K-200. 110,379 K-200s were sold to the British beginning with about serial number 680,000. This present BSR is less than 50,000 serial number later, confirming it is an early version.

Production under contracts between S&W and the British began in March 1940. When finally terminated by the British Purchasing Commission in March 1945 about 567,204 revolvers had been built for the British and Commonwealth forces (Gr. Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Union of South Africa).

Regarding this specific BSR (s/n 728738), it has standard S&W factory markings including "Reg.U.S. Pat. Off" visible on the upper curve of the hammer body. The gun has a nice commercial blue with very little wear. The very small age "dings" in the finish just about take a magnifying glass to see them.

The stocks are original and walnut, checkered with diamonds and silver monograms in the upper circles. The right-side stock is numbered to the gun. At some point someone has painted the stocks with varnish or some other clear finish, but otherwise they are in excellent condition.

The butt is marked with the serial number and a proof mark"P"
readable with the barrel to the right. The numbers of the serial number are of the smaller size and font-style of the period. The letter "B" is found on the grip frame under the right stock, with the letter "K" under the left stock.

The serial number 728738 is marked on the butt, the rear of the cylinder, on the barrel flat, and on the back side of the extractor star and on the side of the yoke arm visible through the chambers of the cylinder. The barrel flat on the bottom of the barrel also has the marking "O" to the left of the serial number.

Assembly numbers 63837 are on both the yoke and the yoke frame.



The Canadian mark, a Broad Arrow in a "C"is finely done and is on the rear point of the left side frame. At the top of the backstrap are post-factory stampings: "1 6 . over P. C. over 1 0 1." Thanks to knowledgeable forum members these markings stem from the revolvers service with the Canadian Provost Corps. It apparently served with No. 16 Provost Company and had a rack number of 101. There is an interesting history of the Provost Corps and it's Companies elsewhere on the internet.

Learning about this revolver, with it's interesting history, has been great fun. The added input from members who actually know about what they speak has been a enlightenment. I have re-read Pate Chapter 6 and have the best understanding of the British markings of military handguns than I have ever had. Thanks for all the help and information.

Pictures attached. Thanks.
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Early S&W British Service Revolver-dsc00580-jpg   Early S&W British Service Revolver-dsc00581-jpg   Early S&W British Service Revolver-dsc00582-jpg   Early S&W British Service Revolver-dsc00583-jpg   Early S&W British Service Revolver-dsc00584-jpg  


Last edited by grendelbean; 08-02-2020 at 11:32 AM. Reason: Corrections and Updates
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Old 07-30-2020, 04:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grendelbean View Post

This revolver is a commercial blue, six inch barrel Regulation Police of the 4th change...
Grendelbean:

Nice write-up. A couple of remarks:

I think you meant Military & Police. A Regulation Police is a different, I-frame model in .38 S&W.

Also, the London proofs are post-war, post-service commercial proofs. So these were applied after the gun had been sold to a surplus dealer in Britain. You need to reverse your chronology. It went to Canada first.

The backstrap markings are interesting. Service and unit markings on WW II era revolvers are uncommon. The South Africans and New Zealanders stamped their general country IDs there. But I donít recall seeing this kind before.

Last edited by Absalom; 07-30-2020 at 04:22 PM.
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Old 07-30-2020, 05:09 PM
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Neat example.

I will also add that there should be 6 factory applied matching serial numbers on your revolver.

1. Butt
2. Rear Cylinder Face
3. Backside of Star Extractor
4. Rear Facing Yoke Flat (as viewed through an empty chamber)
5. Barrel Flat
6. Backside of Right Stock.

We're gonna need a proper range report with 200gr ammo! I'd love to know the actual velocity you would be getting with a true 38/200 military load duplicate from your 6" example.

Dale
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Old 07-30-2020, 05:38 PM
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728738 could have shipped in early 1941, even though manufactured somewhat earlier. I have several nearby SNs on my list which did. A historical letter ($100) would be to only way to establish the exact shipping date if that information is important to you. The British did not proof the S&W BSRs prior to putting them into service. As stated they were proofed prior to selling them as surplus in the 1950s and 1960s, as British law required it. The British were not ducking V-1s then.
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Old 07-30-2020, 06:12 PM
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It wasn't hard for S&W to chamber their revolvers for the British 38/200 since that cartridge was simply the 38 S&W (not Special) with a 200 grain bullet. It seems like a giant step backwards to me from the previous 455 cartridges the British used. I guess what they really wanted was revolvers smaller than N frame or Webley Mk 6. Considering all the shortages they had in WW2, less lead in each cartridge may have been a factor also. I guess 38/200 is a powerhouse compared to the Italian 9MM Gilsenti with its 123gr bullet at 1000 fps for a whopping 300 foot pounds of energy. Not much of an improvement over the 380 ACP (9mm Kurtz) with its about 200 foot pounds.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by grendelbean View Post
At the top of the backstrap are post-factory stampings: "1 6 . over P. C. over 1 0 1." No idea. Regimental numbers? Unit markings? Rack Numbers? Does anyone have a thought or know what they mean? The periods are strong punch marks, deeply stuck and aligned about in the middle of numbers vertically.
Grendelbean:

With the starting clue that the revolver was in Canadian service, I think your puzzlement over the back strap marking can be answered in the following manner. I believe the marking is indeed a unit marking.
It can be read as No. 16 Provost Company, Weapon Number 101. In Canadian military parlance the Provost Corps is the equivalent of the U.S. Army's Military Police. The No. 16 Company was formed in 1941. You can chase down the rest of the history of that outfit.

I hope that information is helpful to you.
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Old 07-30-2020, 09:55 PM
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Originally Posted by texmex View Post
... Considering all the shortages they had in WW2, less lead in each cartridge may have been a factor also...
Well, considering the British War Office adopted the new .380 service caliber as the planned replacement for the .455 in August 1922, that is unlikely to have been a factor
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Old 07-30-2020, 11:03 PM
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The British were just going thru their bad military decision period about 70 years before the US military made the same poor decision with the Colt DA in .38 Long Colt!
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Old 07-31-2020, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by texmex View Post
It wasn't hard for S&W to chamber their revolvers for the British 38/200 since that cartridge was simply the 38 S&W (not Special) with a 200 grain bullet. It seems like a giant step backwards to me from the previous 455 cartridges the British used. I guess what they really wanted was revolvers smaller than N frame or Webley Mk 6. Considering all the shortages they had in WW2, less lead in each cartridge may have been a factor also. I guess 38/200 is a powerhouse compared to the Italian 9MM Gilsenti with its 123gr bullet at 1000 fps for a whopping 300 foot pounds of energy. Not much of an improvement over the 380 ACP (9mm Kurtz) with its about 200 foot pounds.
According to the tests done in the 1920ís, the British claimed the short wide almost full wadcutter like 200 grain bullet at a very mild velocity of around 650 FPS was nearly as effective as the larger 45ís ( where have we heard this before?)
Unfortunately by WWII they had to change to a jacketed 178 grain bullet that was a very different shape ( similar to a modern 9mm profile hardball) which proved less effective.
I believe typical muzzle energy for the 38 S&W runs right below 200 foot pounds.
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Old 07-31-2020, 08:17 AM
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The British were just going thru their bad military decision period about 70 years before the US military made the same poor decision with the Colt DA in .38 Long Colt!
Very off in the chronology here!
The US adopted the 38 long colt in the very early 1890ís ( I think the navy did first it may have even been 1889)
And had it not been for our experience in the Philippines, it is very likely a 45 would have never been adopted.
The 38 was standard from about 1892 to 1912 when the auto pistol took over.
Some units in combat in the Philippines were issued rebuilt colt single actions, and there were multiple trials over a long period from 1900-1911 with small numbers of various colt revolvers and autoloaders issued to various units to identify the best way forward in a service pistol.
According to several reference books, the 38 colt caliber revolvers were in service in limited roles through World War One.
So the lessons learned by America in 1899-1910 regarding 38 service revolvers were apparently not heeded by Britain, and based on wide spread use of the only marginally more powerful 38 special in US service from 1942-mid 1990ís at least, ignored or forgotten by America quickly too
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Old 07-31-2020, 09:20 AM
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The OP made several errors in his post. The first M&Ps in 38 S&W were ordered by South Africa in February 1940. South Africa never ordered nor received via Britain any 6" M&Ps. The BPC and subsequent Lend Lease supplies would not have been for the so-called 38-200 (.380 Mark I 200 grain lead bullet), which was already obsolete. They were for the 380 Mark II with its 178 grain jacketed bullet.

Peter

Last edited by PJGP; 07-31-2020 at 12:28 PM.
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Old 07-31-2020, 11:48 AM
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The Colt .38 revolvers saw some limited rear-area American military use during WWI, and even for a short time afterward by the National Guard. Likewise, .30-40 Krag rifles saw some limited WWI use also. I have read that some American railroad troops carried them. Railroads were very important to supplying the front lines during WWI, yet they didn't get much publicity. I've read that the U. S. Army recruited many older men having civilian railroad experience to build and operate narrow-gauge military supply railroads in Europe.

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Old 07-31-2020, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Absalom View Post
Grendelbean:

Nice write-up. A couple of remarks:

I think you meant Military & Police. A Regulation Police is a different, I-frame model in .38 S&W.

Also, the London proofs are post-war, post-service commercial proofs. So these were applied after the gun had been sold to a surplus dealer in Britain. You need to reverse your chronology. It went to Canada first.

The backstrap markings are interesting. Service and unit markings on WW II era revolvers are uncommon. The South Africans and New Zealanders stamped their general country IDs there. But I donít recall seeing this kind before.
absolom
As usual, thanks for the correct information. I learn as I go, and thank you for the help along the way. I understand regarding the "Regulation Police." I guess I really know better just let my fingers get ahead of my brain.

My head has long been in a swirl trying to understand and make understandable sense out of the British Proof system The London and Birmingham houses used the same rules and different symbols. From the readings I have done over time I had formed the idea that the guilds carried on with normal procedures right up to 1941. After than they started making allowances and not proofing "U.S. Property" guns at all since they "belonged" to the U.S., not the U.K. The London scimitar mark and the crown over NP seemed to have been continuously in use from 1904 through 1925 and through the 40s, so their appearance on the gun seemed right. I must say though, the proof stamps themselves do not appear to be 80 years old and seem by appearance much more recent.
In any event, I stand corrected and am continuing to learn. Again, thanks for that help.
Can you suggest reading/reference sources for British Proof House activities including into WW2? I have read on line what I can find and the Standard Directory of Proof Marks but as you see, I need more education on this subject. Thanks again for your help and comments.
alabamafats
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Old 07-31-2020, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by tenntex32 View Post
Neat example.

I will also add that there should be 6 factory applied matching serial numbers on your revolver.

1. Butt
2. Rear Cylinder Face
3. Backside of Star Extractor
4. Rear Facing Yoke Flat (as viewed through an empty chamber)
5. Barrel Flat
6. Backside of Right Stock.

We're gonna need a proper range report with 200gr ammo! I'd love to know the actual velocity you would be getting with a true 38/200 military load duplicate from your 6" example.

Dale
tenntex32 -
Hey! I forget that serial number. Thanks for the heads up. I looked, cleaned the yoke frame a little, and there were the tiny little digits. 728738 pristine and clear. Thanks again.
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Old 07-31-2020, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by DWalt View Post
728738 could have shipped in early 1941, even though manufactured somewhat earlier. I have several nearby SNs on my list which did. A historical letter ($100) would be to only way to establish the exact shipping date if that information is important to you. The British did not proof the S&W BSRs prior to putting them into service. As stated they were proofed prior to selling them as surplus in the 1950s and 1960s, as British law required it. The British were not ducking V-1s then.
Noted - thanks for the correction. I'll remember and appreciate the information.
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Old 07-31-2020, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by PJGP View Post
The OP made several errors in his post. The first M&Ps in 38 S&W were ordered by South Africa in February 1940. South Africa never ordered nor received via Britain any 6" M&Ps. The BPC and subsequent Lend Lease supplies would not have been for the so-called 38-200 (.380 Mark I 200 grain lead bullet), which was already obsolete. They were for the 380 Mark II with its 178 grain jacketed bullet.

Peter
Great detailed information! What a great resource this forum is. Thanks very much. Still making notes and still learning.
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Old 07-31-2020, 04:06 PM
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....
The London scimitar mark and the crown over NP seemed to have been continuously in use from 1904 through 1925 and through the 40s, so their appearance on the gun seemed right. I must say though, the proof stamps themselves do not appear to be 80 years old and seem by appearance much more recent.
In any event, I stand corrected and am continuing to learn. Again, thanks for that help.
Can you suggest reading/reference sources for British Proof House activities including into WW2? I have read on line what I can find and the Standard Directory of Proof Marks but as you see, I need more education on this subject....
The best place to start is the chapter on these markings in Charles Pateís book. It has the advantage to being specifically geared toward the guns weíre interested in here, American-made arms sold or later ďlend-leasedĒ to Britain.

As far as the London and Birmingham proofs are concerned, the central fact to keep in mind is that their function is commercial, a requirement for the trade. Military arms, including those manufactured in Britain for the British forces, do not need them and did not get them before entering military service. Instead, they received military and acceptance marks, usually at RSAF Enfield. Your gun didnít because it went to Canada and received their property stamp instead.

Only when the guns were sold in Britain did the law require commercial proofing as the military marks were not considered a valid legal substitute. Thatís why youíll find the additional post-war London commercial proofs even on British-Govít-produced guns like my 1943 Enfield below:


Early S&W British Service Revolver-f8e50708-2c00-49db-8278-90f416df98d4-jpg
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Old 07-31-2020, 05:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ordnanceguy View Post
Grendelbean:

With the starting clue that the revolver was in Canadian service, I think your puzzlement over the back strap marking can be answered in the following manner. I believe the marking is indeed a unit marking.
It can be read as No. 16 Provost Company, Weapon Number 101. In Canadian military parlance the Provost Corps is the equivalent of the U.S. Army's Military Police. The No. 16 Company was formed in 1941. You can chase down the rest of the history of that outfit.

I hope that information is helpful to you.
Thanks a million..... Is there a source I can go to and read more on this area?
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Old 08-01-2020, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Absalom View Post
The best place to start is the chapter on these markings in Charles Pateís book. It has the advantage to being specifically geared toward the guns weíre interested in here, American-made arms sold or later ďlend-leasedĒ to Britain.

As far as the London and Birmingham proofs are concerned, the central fact to keep in mind is that their function is commercial, a requirement for the trade. Military arms, including those manufactured in Britain for the British forces, do not need them and did not get them before entering military service. Instead, they received military and acceptance marks, usually at RSAF Enfield. Your gun didnít because it went to Canada and received their property stamp instead.

Only when the guns were sold in Britain did the law require commercial proofing as the military marks were not considered a valid legal substitute. Thatís why youíll find the additional post-war London commercial proofs even on British-Govít-produced guns like my 1943 Enfield below:


Early S&W British Service Revolver-f8e50708-2c00-49db-8278-90f416df98d4-jpg
I have read Mr. Pate's excellent book on the handguns of WWII. I suspect my mind was in overload by the time I got to that chapter. I will read it again more carefully, starting right now. Thanks again.
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Old 08-01-2020, 02:17 PM
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Somewhere above I saw a statement that the BSRs sold surplus after WW2 were proofed by the military before sale. Not so, many were bought by US & other dealers outside Britain and did not require any proofing as they were not going to be sold in Britain. The surplus guns bought be British dealers did require British proof to be sold in Britain. ( S&W Trivia: Off the subject a bit, but in the 80s when Clinton put a ban on imports of military guns, one of my families companies had containers of surplus Victory models bought from Israel on the docks in Cairo. Can we import ? Clinton says "No', only Police Weapons are allowed to be imported. So, with the help of some people at S&W, Clinton's people were told that these Victory Models were surplus Israeli Police guns. Bingo! Into the US they came and Victory collectors got to add an Israeli Police Victory to their collection ! ) Ed.
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Old 08-01-2020, 02:43 PM
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Somewhere above I saw a statement that the BSRs sold surplus after WW2 were proofed by the military before sale. Not so, ....
The clearest evidence for this, and that sending the BSR’s to the (most often) Birmingham and (less commonly) London proofhouses for the commercial proofing was the responsibilty of the surplus dealer/wholesaler, are the British post-war conversions to other calibers, like the Parker-Hale variants in .22 and .38 Special, which show that proofing in the new caliber.
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