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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 10-16-2020, 05:31 PM
22hipower 22hipower is offline
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When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat?  
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Default When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat?

Recently acquired a four screw K22 (17 no dash) SN K378994. It has the SN on the back of the cylinder, on the underside of the ejector, on the frame in the yoke area and on the butt. I expected to find it on the barrel flat as well but it isn't there. Barrel appears to be original to the gun. Should it have the SN or did S&W phase the stamping of multiple locations out and it is not surprising to not have the SN on the barrel? Or maybe it was completed on a Friday afternoon and that stamp was overlooked? Or. . . .?

I think all my others either have stamps in all the expected places or only on the butt and frame in the yoke area, although I haven't dug them all out to check. Thanks.

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Old 10-16-2020, 06:59 PM
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When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat?  
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The serial number puts it in 1959, well after S & W 'should' have been stamping matching numbers (past the era of soft fitting). I have seen post-1957 revolvers with the stamped numbers on guns that went back to the factory for parts changes, so perhaps this explains the lack of the number on the barrel. A letter and records search may tell.
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Old 10-16-2020, 07:50 PM
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Conventional wisdom says most of the serial number stamps were eliminated in 1957, coincident with the end of the soft-fitting process. But it is clear from the available evidence that this was not a hard-and-fast matter. Lots of guns show up in the later 1950s that still have at least some of those number locations.

Moreover, I have owned two four screw K-38 Masterpiece revolvers that both shipped in 1956. Neither of them had serial numbers on the rear face of the cylinder nor on the barrel flat.

So, trying to put a firm date on these changes is impossible. We can only say they were phased out during the 1950s.
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Old 10-16-2020, 08:14 PM
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When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat?  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JP@AK View Post
Conventional wisdom says most of the serial number stamps were eliminated in 1957, coincident with the end of the soft-fitting process. But it is clear from the available evidence that this was not a hard-and-fast matter. Lots of guns show up in the later 1950s that still have at least some of those number locations.

Moreover, I have owned two four screw K-38 Masterpiece revolvers that both shipped in 1956. Neither of them had serial numbers on the rear face of the cylinder nor on the barrel flat.

So, trying to put a firm date on these changes is impossible. We can only say they were phased out during the 1950s.
My 56 or 57 vintage 4 screw K38 came lettered with a target hammer and target trigger. Both the cylinder and the bbl. are numbered. Big Larry
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Old 10-16-2020, 08:20 PM
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I believe your gun may be right. I have observed many 4 screw guns with a numbered cyl that did not have a numbered barrel. To me, that means that hard fitting must have been phased in, with barrels being the first part to be hard fitted and no longer needing a number.
I have owned several 4 screw Pre 29s that had numbered cyls, but no barrel numbers.
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Old 10-16-2020, 08:30 PM
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My 1958 model 17 (4 screw) has the extractor star and grips numbered...also of course the s/n stamped on the gun butt
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Old 10-16-2020, 08:37 PM
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When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat?  
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Dumb question:

I don’t know what “soft fitting “ or “hard fitting” is.

I’ve tried the search function here with no luck.

Would one of you gentlemen tell me what these terms refer to and elaborate on the change from one to the other? I’d really appreciate it.
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Old 10-16-2020, 09:31 PM
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When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat?  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rpg View Post
Dumb question:

I don’t know what “soft fitting “ or “hard fitting” is.

I’ve tried the search function here with no luck.

Would one of you gentlemen tell me what these terms refer to and elaborate on the change from one to the other? I’d really appreciate it.
I am curious about this too.
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Old 10-17-2020, 06:01 AM
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So am I , regards, Ray
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Old 10-17-2020, 09:24 AM
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Hondo44 offered a wonderful explanation of soft fitting, but I can't put my fingers on it right now.

Simply put, it related to all the serial numbered parts being "fit" together before they proceeded through the "finish" process, then they were ganged back together for a final assembly.

To the OP's question, S&W didn't do anything without a "change order." I haven't seen a change order to eliminate serial numbers on the various parts, but I'm sure there is at least one (and maybe more based on frame-specific requirements).

The progression I've observed with J-frames, specifically Chiefs Specials, suggests S&W ordered the change for the number of frame screws from 4 to 3 in December '55, then stopped stamping serial numbers on the barrel, cylinder, and yoke, and then ordered the change to add Model numbers in June '57.

Every change order I've seen is delayed in full implementation due to parts on hand. It's well documented that S&W never threw parts away so it was only through attrition that supplies were exhausted long after a change order was issued.

One example is my Chiefs serial number 113172, which shipped in January '58. It has 3 screws, no serial number on the barrel and cylinder, and no model number. Accepted wisdom says Chiefs gained the Model 36 name (Model 37 for Airweights and Model 38 for Bodyguard Airweights) around serial number 125000, but my database suggests it was even later, somewhere around 132000.

It's interesting to note that the serial numbers on the back of the extractor star and inside the right grip panel were used through the early '80s, about the same time the pin was eliminated from the barrel.
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Old 10-17-2020, 10:31 AM
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When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat?  
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My notes state that S&W stopped putting the butt serial number on the rear surface of the cylinder and on the barrel when the Soft Fitting operation was discontinued in May 1957. S&W continued to number the extractor well into the 70s.
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Old 10-17-2020, 11:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rpg View Post
Dumb question:

I don’t know what “soft fitting “ or “hard fitting” is.

I’ve tried the search function here with no luck.

Would one of you gentlemen tell me what these terms refer to and elaborate on the change from one to the other? I’d really appreciate it.
An explanation by Mr. Jinks...........

Gun Trader's Guide to Handguns: A Comprehensive, Fully Illustrated Reference ... - Google Books

I have read this description a few times over the years and I have to add a few assumptions.....

First, with regards to soft fitting and the description provided by Mr. Jinks in the link provided above, I am to assume that after the parts were soft fitted they were removed prior to being serialized. It doesn't say this specifically but since it was stated the revolvers were assembled twice this assumption must be made.

Second, with regards to hard fitting I am to assume that if the gun was assembled only once (and after the parts were individually blued) that the fitting was done after the parts were finished. This seems odd to me as it seems to invite the risk of damaging the parts' finish during hard fit/assembly. Maybe they were extremely careful during assembly or any part with a finish that was damaged was removed and refinished only to have to be installed yet again?

This brings another question..............if the intent was to only assemble the revolver once during manufacture why blue the parts individually? Why not hard fit the parts in the white and then blue the entire assembled revolver (minus any parts that were not to be blued) in a single process so as to avoid color differences? You aren't serial numbering the individual parts any longer so why not finish it as a mostly assembled revolver in a process similar to the old style that provided a more uniform bluing overall?

I'm sure there is a simple explanation but I am curious as to the why.

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Old 10-17-2020, 12:05 PM
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When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat? When did S&W stop stamping SN on Barrel Flat?  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larryofcc View Post
My 56 or 57 vintage 4 screw K38 came lettered with a target hammer and target trigger. Both the cylinder and the bbl. are numbered.
Yes. Which only goes to show that the practice was uneven.

If I had only seen one from 1956, that was missing the serial number on both the barrel and cylinder, we could say it was simply a mistake. But to find two of them with serial numbers not too far apart and both shipped in 1956, tells us something else was going on. Someone had stopped, at least for a time, putting all the serial numbers in the normal spots.
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Old 10-17-2020, 01:15 PM
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The Soft Fitting Department was eliminated on May 3, 1957 resulting in the barrel and cylinder being "hard fitted" to the frame after all parts were polished and finished in bright blue or nickel (for the 44 Magnum). The new method was instituted on April 8, 1957 with both soft and hard fitting being run concurrently until May 3. Some 44 Magnums (and other models) are found with a serial number (without the S) stamped on the cylinder (most often) or barrel through the late 1960s. This is due to these revolvers being reworked during manufacture and the serial number being stamped on selected parts to keep them together. I have two 44 Magnums shipped in 1956 that do not have any numbers stamped on the cylinder or extractor. I assume these parts were replaced and not numbered as part of a rework operation as there is a lightly stamped R on the left side of the grip frame indicating rework during manufacture.

The difficulty is just when you think you have figured out what was going on, an example shows up that blows up your theory. Jack is most likely correct when he stated, "something else was going on".

Bill

Last edited by Doc44; 10-17-2020 at 01:16 PM.
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