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Old 09-09-2010, 12:10 AM
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Default Special Agent .38

I have recently come across a SW Special Agent .38. I know the man who is wanting to sell the pistol, but he wants to know more about it...mainly how much I should pay him. I believe it's a 3 1/2 in. barrel possibly four...this is really my first pistol, I'm really a rifle man. I thought that it sounded like a rare pistol. Anyone have some information?
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Old 09-09-2010, 08:08 PM
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I have never heard of an S&W model called a Special Agent.
Colt made a 2" 38 Special revolver called the Agent from 1955 through the 1980s. Recently Colt introduced a compact version of the M1911 pistol they are calling the Agent. Could the gun you are thinking of buying be a Colt instead of an S&W?

Maybe some of the other members can provide some info.
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Old 09-09-2010, 09:07 PM
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I also am not aware of a "Special Agent" made by Smith & Wesson. About a year ago I ran into a short-barrel Special Agent at a local gun show, but could not find any manufacturer nor "made in Spain" markings but suspect it was a Spanish copy. It did have a markings that looked very much like S&W, but I came away convinced that it was not made by S&W.

I'm going to that same gun show on Sept 18th and will look up that seller and see if he still has it for sale. If so, I'll try to get a picture and share it.

Russ
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Old 09-09-2010, 09:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by linde View Post
I also am not aware of a "Special Agent" made by Smith & Wesson. About a year ago I ran into a short-barrel top-break Special Agent at a local gun show, but could not find any manufacturer nor "made in Spain" markings but suspect it was a Spanish copy. It did have a markings that looked very much like S&W, but I came away convinced that it was not made by S&W.

I'm going to that same gun show on Sept 18th and will look up that seller and see if he still has it for sale. If so, I'll try to get a picture and share it.

Russ
I think you hit on something here. I seem to remember a thread explaining that during the top break era an S&W copy was marketed as a Special Agent. It could have been marked as Secret Service and not Special Agent. I did a quick cursory search and couldn't find it. Maybe that's what the seller and RedRabbit are discussing.

BTW: Welcome to the S&Wforum, R.R.

Last edited by Malysh; 09-09-2010 at 09:12 PM.
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Old 09-10-2010, 12:36 AM
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This was a low quality pistol made by many different manufactures from the late 1880s to around 1915. The name 'Special Agent' was a tradename used by Fred Bifflar & Company of Chicago. They were mostly a mail order company and in direct competition with Sears and Montgomery Ward at the time. I believe they went out of business in the mid-1920s.

Many different companies contracted with them over the years to make low quality, inexpensive top break pistols in the S&W design. Two of the main ones were Crescent Fire Arms Co. and Meriden Arms Co. Iver Johnson also made some Special Agent models as well. Bifflar also stocked a close copy of the S&W top break under the name of Howard Arms Co., Chicago. It too had the name Special Agent on the left side of the barrel. This pistol was made by Crescent Fire Arms Co. as well as Meridian Arms Co.

I hope this answers some questions for you about these pistols.

Last edited by nutsforsmiths; 09-16-2010 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 09-10-2010, 09:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nutsforsmiths View Post
This was a low quality pistol made by many different manufactures from the late 1880s to around 1915. The name 'Special Agent' was a tradename used by Fred Bifflar & Company of Chicago. They were mostly a mail order company and in direct competition with Sears and Montgomery Ward at the time. I believe they went out of business in the mid-1920s.

Many different companies contracted with them over the years to make low quality, inexpensive top break pistols in the S&W design. Two of the main ones were Crescent Fire Arms Co. and Meridian Arms Co. Iver Johnson also made some Special Agent models as well. Bifflar also stocked a close copy of the S&W top break under the name of Howard Arms Co., Chicago. It too had the name Special Agent on the left side of the barrel. This pistol was made by Crescent Fire Arms Co. as well as Meridian Arms Co.

I hope this answers some questions for you about these pistols.
Thank you for sharing your outstanding insights . . . that is very helpful to me and hopefully to others.

Russ
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Old 09-10-2010, 10:48 PM
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Russ,

You are quite welcome. I have gotten some great information on this forum, and the S&WCA since I have been a member here and it is always nice to be able to contribute something of interest for others to enjoy and help them with firearms that might be encountered.

It's also nice to put some of this information that sits in ones brain for years just waiting to come out and share with others.
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Old 09-16-2010, 12:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nutsforsmiths View Post
This was a low quality pistol made by many different manufactures from the late 1880s to around 1915. The name 'Special Agent' was a tradename used by Fred Bifflar & Company of Chicago. They were mostly a mail order company and in direct competition with Sears and Montgomery Ward at the time. I believe they went out of business in the mid-1920s.

Many different companies contracted with them over the years to make low quality, inexpensive top break pistols in the S&W design. Two of the main ones were Crescent Fire Arms Co. and Meridian Arms Co. Iver Johnson also made some Special Agent models as well. Bifflar also stocked a close copy of the S&W top break under the name of Howard Arms Co., Chicago. It too had the name Special Agent on the left side of the barrel. This pistol was made by Crescent Fire Arms Co. as well as Meridian Arms Co.

I hope this answers some questions for you about these pistols.
The only weird thing is...is that the pistol I'm referring to is dated in the 1950s or 1960s and my dad claims that it clearly states Smith and Wesson on the barrel. Also, can you tell me how they measure the barrel on a pistol? I am new to this and usually only deal with rifles. Although this pistol is a top break. Does anyone know where I can find a picture?
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Old 09-16-2010, 12:37 AM
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To all who are interested in this thread...if it helps, the pistol apparently only is a five-shot. Again, I haven't seen this pistol but my dad has described it to me.
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Old 09-16-2010, 01:11 AM
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Sounds to me if the man wants to sell it, he should be the one to provide the photos, yes?

Revolver barrels are measured from muzzle to cylinder face, pistols from muzzle to breech face when in battery. This to me makes semi-auto barrels effectively shorter than measured since the case length is included in the barrel measurement, but this just might be my revolver bias showing...
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Old 09-16-2010, 09:35 AM
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The "Smith & Wesson" on the barrel may only be the caliber description, as in ".38 Smith & Wesson Special".
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Old 09-16-2010, 10:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedRabbit View Post
The only weird thing is...is that the pistol I'm referring to is dated in the 1950s or 1960s and my dad claims that it clearly states Smith and Wesson on the barrel. Also, can you tell me how they measure the barrel on a pistol? I am new to this and usually only deal with rifles. Although this pistol is a top break. Does anyone know where I can find a picture?
I'm not aware of S&W making any breaktops as late as the 1950's or 1960's.
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Old 09-16-2010, 04:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedRabbit View Post
The only weird thing is...is that the pistol I'm referring to is dated in the 1950s or 1960s and my dad claims that it clearly states Smith and Wesson on the barrel. Also, can you tell me how they measure the barrel on a pistol? I am new to this and usually only deal with rifles. Although this pistol is a top break. Does anyone know where I can find a picture?
Many of the cheaper imports used markings like

BEST WHEN USED WITH SMITH & WESSON CARTRIDGES

to fool the unwary and lend a (generally unwarranted) level of prestige to an otherwise very cheap firearm. A top break revolver in the 1950s or '60s would probably be one of these cheaper imports. Sorry, but this is not the description of a valuable S&W unless there is a lot more to the story.

froggie
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Old 09-16-2010, 04:18 PM
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Cooter Brown might be on to something here.

Also, I dug into my Iver Johnson book I have and they had a few pictures of these pistols. I was mistaken in calling them the Special Agent model. The one I was thinking of is actually called the 'Secret Service Special'. I was going from memory and didn't look in my book. Sorry about that.

Here are some shots from the Iver Johnson book that might be helpful:

Barrel markings: Top of barrel has "38 Smith & Wesson Ctg"


Iver Johnson models of Secret Service Special


Meriden Firearms hammerless model:


Hopkins & Allen model:


All these models have the same markings on the barrel. They came in 32 S&W (6 shot) and, as seen from the photo, 38 S&W (5 shot). Barrel lengths seemed to be from 3" up to 6". The Howard Arms model I have seen had a 6" barrel and must have been made by Meriden Arms Co, as it had the same front sight as the hammerless one pictured here.

Sorry for the confusion and I hope this helps a bit more with your question. If it's from the 50s-60s, it's probably a cheap Spanish import. If it says 'Special Agent' on it, then it is certainly not the one I have been talking about.

I also don't think S&W made any top break models after about 1940.

Last edited by nutsforsmiths; 09-16-2010 at 07:18 PM.
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Old 09-16-2010, 06:02 PM
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>my dad claims that it clearly states Smith and Wesson on the barrel.

Maybe it does. Plenty of the fakes are labeled Smith & Wesson and have S&W markings, or at least markings that require more than a glance to verify. Some of them are decent guns, but they are not real S&Ws.
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Old 09-22-2010, 10:41 PM
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Thanks everyone for a of your input. I had no resources to use. Although I did mean to clarify that it does for sure say Secret Service Special. and according to my dad there's a date of May 1940 or 1970 I can't remember the exact. It for sure doesn't say for S&W cartridges though. If it also helps, I may have a serial # but it is illegible now. The barrel looks blued but worn. There is a pretty large safety. Again, thanks for the input.
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Old 09-22-2010, 11:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RedRabbit View Post
The only weird thing is...is that the pistol I'm referring to is dated in the 1950s or 1960s....
Colt Agent. 1962-71. Basically a Detective Special like mine below it, except with alloy frame, alloy cylinder and shorter grips. 6-shot.





Everybody should own an old Colt or two to remind them why they prefer Smith and Wesson.
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Old 09-23-2010, 12:56 AM
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I'm still hoping the OP will be able to post some photos of the gun in question. I understand the range of possible explanations; I'd just like to know which one it is!
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Old 09-23-2010, 11:28 AM
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Pictures would help a great deal. Besides the three shown above from the Iver Johnson book, they were also made by Harrington & Richardson, Crescent Arms and some Spanish imports as well were made.
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