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  #1  
Old 04-29-2012, 11:13 AM
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The Combat Masterpiece, later called the Model 15, was probably the ultimate expression of the classic .38 Special medium-frame revolver from Smith & Wesson. Although the basic frame and rudimentary lockwork originated way back in 1899, the Combat Masterpiece debuted in 1949. It was designed to double as both a defense piece and a target arm, and it certainly filled the bill.

It was equipped with the latest S&W adjustable rear sight, and the front sight was the classic Baughman ramp model for a snag-free draw. The hammer was either semi-target or target, and the trigger came in various styles as well. This revolver was made back in the heyday of S&W production care, and the parts were hand-fitted to assure smooth and proper function. The Magna-style stocks were individually fitted to the frames. The barrel rib was grooved, as was the rear sight topstrap and the back of the grip frame. The bluing was superb; that classic S&W blue-black color that was so deep you could swim in it. A trigger overtravel stop was incorporated. The K-frame seemed to be just about right in the hands of most folks; it was neither too light nor too heavy. The .38 special was a proven round that most people could handle well, both accurate and sufficiently powerful for self-defense.

This revolver was indeed a "masterpiece."

Production of the piece continued for 50 years, finally terminating officially in November of 1999, although some special editions were subsequently made.

The revolver pictured here is a Model 15-3, which I estimate was made in 1971. It has a semi-target hammer and a grooved trigger. The stocks are numbered to the gun on the inside. This is a particularly nice specimen, virtually untouched after so many years; I acquired it just recently.

I thought I'd share a picture of this classic revolver; a somewhat larger one is available in the pictures and albums section of the forum.

John
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Last edited by PALADIN85020; 04-29-2012 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 04-29-2012, 11:34 AM
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A very fine example of the M-15 you have there. I do agree the Combat Masterpiece is one of the best platforms for the .38 Special. When I say "one of the best" I have to take into account the Model ten of course.
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Old 04-29-2012, 11:34 AM
Steve in Vermont Steve in Vermont is offline
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Brings back good memories. Was standard issue in our police academy in 1968. What more can you say about such a gun. Accurate right out of the box, rugged, dependable, easy to carry, etc. The only problem wasn't with the gun but with the ammo. 158 gr LRN was standard issue, before improvements came along. Thanks for posting.
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Old 04-29-2012, 11:40 AM
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Nice gun and nice photo!

I like that background. Can you buy that paper?
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Old 04-29-2012, 11:53 AM
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What a fine example ; can hardly discern the cylinder ring. Glad to see it does'nt wear goodyears. That Palladin ...."Have gun, camera, and computer, WILL TRAVEL."
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Old 04-29-2012, 12:05 PM
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The M&P/M10 is usually cited as the quintessential S&W but I lean towards the CM/M15 as being the truly classic 38 S&W revolver.

That's a real beauty. Good thing I didn't find it as I'd be shooting it.
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Old 04-29-2012, 12:10 PM
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Quote:
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Nice gun and nice photo!

I like that background. Can you buy that paper?
Smith & Wesson will probably send you some wrapping paper free if you call their customer service line and ask nicely. That's how I got mine!

John
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Old 04-29-2012, 09:29 PM
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I have a Model 15-3 made in 1977. There has been much discussion of Bangor Punta era guns having uneven quality control, but this gun has absolutely perfect timing, and has zero rotation at lock up and zero end shake. It also has a nice, tight .003" barrel/cylinder gap and .357" cylinder throats. It would be one of the last ones I would ever sell.
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Old 04-29-2012, 09:37 PM
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Congratulations as they are wonderful revolvers.
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Old 04-29-2012, 09:52 PM
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Very Nice!!! Those revolvers just look "right".
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Old 04-29-2012, 10:31 PM
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Nothing against the Combat Magnum, but I prefer this gun.
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Old 04-29-2012, 11:30 PM
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Very nice indeed.

My 15-3 is from 1971 and exhibits a near perfect build and finish too. I feel the Model 14 and 15 are the epitome of .38 Special revolvers.
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Old 04-30-2012, 12:25 AM
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I like all the K frames and the 15 is a fine example. Mine is actually a pre-15, made in 1957 I believe.
Personally I'm a bit more of a fan of the Combat Magnum for the extra weight of the full barrel but its all good.
I would have been quite delighted if Smith and Wesson had offered the full lug barrel on the 15 in a 4" instead of just a 6" (which is awesome by the way) but alas, not to be.
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Old 04-30-2012, 12:41 AM
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Beautiful gun.
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Old 04-30-2012, 01:41 AM
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The only improvement that they could make was taken
care of when they can out with the stainless model 67.
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Old 04-30-2012, 11:11 AM
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I agree with 15's being one of the finest S&W. My 15-3 2" shoots as well as my 4".
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Old 04-04-2014, 10:33 PM
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I always wanted to have a Combat Masterpice on a Model 19 frame with cylinder. Basically, a .357 Magnum Combat Masterpiece. I've seen them done by gunsmiths.

I never understood why (USAF contract perhaps?) WHY the 2-inch guns had the S/B frames. I saw a 2-inch Model 15-3 at my LGS that had been round-butted. Absolutely perfect in every respect.

Great posts gentlemen!
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Old 04-04-2014, 10:41 PM
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I have to agree with you, Paladin. The CM is a genuine masterpiece. I very much like the Highway Patrolman, but the CM (including the M-15) is a true classic. It is one of the S&W models I would not ever want to be without.
Here is a photo of two of mine (note the 5" barrel on the right hand gun, made special for the Missouri State Highway Patrol in 1952). The 4" example here was a gift from my father (God rest his gentle soul).
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Old 04-04-2014, 11:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gtoppcop View Post
I always wanted a Combat Masterpiece (Barrel?) on a Model 19 frame (in).357 Magnum . I've seen them done by gunsmiths.

I never understood why the 2-inch guns had the S/B frames. I saw a 2-inch Model 15-3 at my LGS that had been round-butted. Absolutely perfect in every respect.
I agree the 2" snub should have been a round butt, also should have been offered in 3" length with full length ejector rod as well.

As for the Model 15 (CM) barrel mated to a Model 19 frame...
S&W did make at least one but opted for the wide rib shrouded ejector rod barrel instead, I would guess that unless its a styling issue you couldnt tell the difference holding a Model 15 in one hand and a Model 19 in the other,
Yes the wide rib HB profile with shrouded ejector rod weighs just a bit more but that extra weight does come in handy when shooting full house 357 .

It would be an interestng project and only involve cutting the forcing cone any competent gunsmith could easily accomplish,
My Model 19 dream gun would be a 5 screw frame in satin blue.
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Old 04-05-2014, 11:20 AM
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The Combat masterpiece aka M15 is the quintessential S&W for any collection and no collection is complete without at least one.
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Old 04-05-2014, 12:20 PM
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Excellent photo and article!

I love the Model 10, and have always considered the Combat Masterpiece the "Model 10 Deluxe".
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Old 04-05-2014, 12:52 PM
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With advancements in ammo, the 38 Special is a better performer today than it was in past decades.

In 1977, I stood amazed when ushered into the gun vault at the Missouri State Highway Patrol range at General Headquarters (GHQ) by Roy Bergman, who was in charge of firearms training at the time.

Then Sgt. Bergman let me look through the neatly stacked two-piece blue boxes, arranged four high and ten across, for a total of 40 new or near-new Model 15s on one shelf, and the same arrangement on a different shelf of Model 18s, which they used at the beginning of training until a recruit was ready to move up to 38 Special ammo. These revolvers, I was told, remained in the vault and were used in training, and later in the course of training, recruits would be issued the actual revolver they would carry on duty. That was quite a sight to behold, because, at that time, I had never seen that many of the same model stacked up like that.

I recall that the wax paper was gone from each box, and the cleaning kits that came with the revolvers were assembled, the brass bristle brush on the S&W cleaning rods, and all were laying in a tray or two on tables used for cleaning the revolvers.

Later considered a big no-no, but at the time they used WD-40 for both cleaner and lube and it was in large plastic bottles with a typical squeeze handle sprayer at the top. Cleaning consisted of "slathering" WD-40 all over the exterior and down the barrel and charge holes followed by a quick scrub of the barrel and charge holes with the S&W brass bristle brushes, followed by an exterior wipe-down with a shop rag and patches in the bore and charge holes. A quick process indeed. Sgt. Bergman inspected each revolver before it went back in its two-piece box and back on the shelf.

That same room had an armorer's assembly work station with parts drawers and S&W armorer's tools neatly arranged. Those drawers had a big supply of all of the parts needed to maintain the revolvers except frames, barrels and cylinders. All of the internals were represented in those little drawers, and any firearm could be repaired for common conditions of timing, etc. right on the spot. If replacement of a major component was required, the revolver would be sent to S&W. Sgt. Bergman did real duty action jobs, the S&W preferred way, the same way the factory trained him. As might be imagined, it did not involve merely replacing some springs from a "kit" and calling it a day. Judicious stoning and polishing made the actions he did very good indeed, but completely reliable in ignition.

Back in those days, much shooting was done in the classic NRA Bullseye stance, with some shooting in an isosceles two-hand stance when shooting the PPC.

Sorry for the long post, but seeing that beautiful Model 15 brings back memories. Sgt. Bergman retired as a Captain, and although he kept himself in excellent physical shape, he passed away suddenly in 2010 at 75 years of age, and without warning of an aneurysm, I believe. No way to predict it, no way to deal with it in most cases. Terrible loss.

Here is Bergman (on the right) after a lunch with him at Madison's in Jefferson City, Missouri just a few months before he passed away. Russ, George and I were treated to a great number of the "old stories of the road" during the extended lunch meeting.
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Old 04-05-2014, 01:00 PM
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This 15-2 belonged to our Township Constable and was bought new by him in 1967. It is one I'll always keep.
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Old 05-02-2014, 11:14 PM
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Wonderful Guns indeed. I wish that S&W would attach the old monikers to their guns. Names like Combat Magnum, Combat Masterpiece, Distinguished Combat Masterpice, Military and Police (revolver-type) are names that conjer the images of reading the old Gil Hebard catalogs from the 60s.

I have a 1975-vintage 13-1 that I'm going to have a Camp Pendleton-area trophy shop engrave: .357 MILITARY AND POLICE on the smooth backstrap. I will then fill it in with gold leaf paint for a nice nod to the past. With a set of Spegels (with open backstrap), it should be a decent-looking piece.
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Old 05-03-2014, 11:11 AM
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Here is my 15-3, with 3 tees.

Combat Masterpiece!-dsc02430-jpg
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Old 05-03-2014, 12:39 PM
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This Pre 15 will soon be in my stable. A very early one shipped in August of 1950 to Gen. George Van Orden.

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Old 05-11-2014, 11:27 PM
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Great photos.

I just picked up a cherry 15-3 NIB myself last week.

Target hammer, smooth as silk and sweet as a peach.

Steve
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Old 05-12-2014, 04:46 PM
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I grabbed a k38 combat masterpiece 4" and a k38 target masterpiece 6" barrel. These are my pride and joy older s&w revolvers there both pre model numbers.

What other barrel lengths did these come in?
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Old 05-12-2014, 05:25 PM
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I was at an NRA instructor's school back in the early 80's, worked hard to shoot perfect score with my 1911. Just for drill, I took my M67 (a naked Combat Masterpeice?) to the line. With no practice, no special ammo, no special stocks, I shot wihtin one point of my best 1911 score. Now that is a "user friendly" gun.

As I thought about this over the years, this convinced me to sell my 45s. I shoot only 38/357 now, still loooking for an M15 for general shooting use. My primary gun is an M66 with 2 1/2" barrel, arguably a descendent of the Combat Masterpiece.
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Old 05-12-2014, 09:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PALADIN85020 View Post


The Combat Masterpiece, later called the Model 15, was probably the ultimate expression of the classic .38 Special medium-frame revolver from Smith & Wesson. Although the basic frame and rudimentary lockwork originated way back in 1899, the Combat Masterpiece debuted in 1949. It was designed to double as both a defense piece and a target arm, and it certainly filled the bill.

It was equipped with the latest S&W adjustable rear sight, and the front sight was the classic Baughman ramp model for a snag-free draw. The hammer was either semi-target or target, and the trigger came in various styles as well. This revolver was made back in the heyday of S&W production care, and the parts were hand-fitted to assure smooth and proper function. The Magna-style stocks were individually fitted to the frames. The barrel rib was grooved, as was the rear sight topstrap and the back of the grip frame. The bluing was superb; that classic S&W blue-black color that was so deep you could swim in it. A trigger overtravel stop was incorporated. The K-frame seemed to be just about right in the hands of most folks; it was neither too light nor too heavy. The .38 special was a proven round that most people could handle well, both accurate and sufficiently powerful for self-defense.

This revolver was indeed a "masterpiece."

Production of the piece continued for 50 years, finally terminating officially in November of 1999, although some special editions were subsequently made.

The revolver pictured here is a Model 15-3, which I estimate was made in 1971. It has a semi-target hammer and a grooved trigger. The stocks are numbered to the gun on the inside. This is a particularly nice specimen, virtually untouched after so many years; I acquired it just recently.

I thought I'd share a picture of this classic revolver; a somewhat larger one is available in the pictures and albums section of the forum.

John
Wow! I'm glad that one was brought back.
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Old 05-12-2014, 11:50 PM
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Been to more than a few gun shows and very rarely do I see model 15's up for sale. When I did they went for what I feel is overpriced and not exactly in the best of shape. To sum it up "them that has then aren't going to let them go anytime soon" 'Nuff said.And yes I have one. Frank
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Old 05-13-2014, 11:50 AM
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Just ordered a 15-2...numbers to about 1964. We'll see how it works when I get it. I think they're cool.
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Old 05-13-2014, 10:35 PM
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I disagree about the 10s and CMs being the quintessential S&W .38 revolvers.
I'm a lifelong Colt fan and find the Smith K frames to be the quintessential .38 revolvers, PERIOD. Regardless of make.
For me, they are the perfect size and are perfectly balanced.

Hell, I'd go as far as to say the CM is the quintessential DA revolver.
It's just so perfect. It's equally at home as a duty gun or a target gun.
Usually, there are compromises. Better at one, not so great at another.
With the CM, there seem to be no compromises.

I got lucky. Somebody had traded what became my 15-3 in on a Glock (BARF).
I got a good deal on it.
I ain't letting it go.
Damn sure, not for a stinking Block.
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Old 05-13-2014, 11:55 PM
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Quote:
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I grabbed a k38 combat masterpiece 4" and a k38 target masterpiece 6" barrel. These are my pride and joy older s&w revolvers there both pre model numbers.

What other barrel lengths did these come in?
The tapered barrel guns were only made in 4", 5" and 6" lengths although we have seen one special order 3" Pinto posted.

There was also a wide rib 2" HB Model 15 as well as wide rib 4",5",6" and 8 3/8" versions after the dash 4.
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Old 05-14-2014, 08:54 PM
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Great photos. Beautiful guns. Today I saw a 15-3 nickle that was in fantastic conditon. They were asking $450. I resisted today but thanks to all you enablers I will be there when he opens in the morning. It was a 2 inch. Love my 19-3s my 13-3 and my 686 but this 15-3 is calling me.
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Old 05-14-2014, 09:59 PM
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I wish mine was in that condition. Mine dates from 1954 and has been rode hard and put away wet. BUT, it still shoots great and has that smooth trigger pull that come from being shot a bunch.

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Old 05-15-2014, 08:51 AM
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Yep, picked up a very used 15-3 a couple of years ago when I was working p/t at a different LGS.
Mechanically perfect, but had obviously been a 'working gun' for many years.
Boss made me pay $150 for it.
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Old 05-15-2014, 09:53 AM
7shooter 7shooter is offline
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I gave a beautiful Model 15 to my son when he graduated from law school. I got it cheap at a gun show because someone had messed up the trigger which my gunsmith did a great job fixing.

He is one lucky attorney.
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Old 05-15-2014, 10:36 AM
glenncal1 glenncal1 is offline
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This one has had a total of 6 shots fired through it. I don't usually buy safe queens but got this at a good price and decided to keep basically unfired. They balance great in the hand:

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Old 05-15-2014, 07:58 PM
Moe Mentum Moe Mentum is offline
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i am blessed to have not one, but two of these fine pistols....
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Old 05-18-2014, 10:47 PM
tlshores tlshores is offline
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Wow. Thanks for the memories guys.
The Model 15 Combat Masterpiece was the first handgun I ever owned.
I bought mine new in 1973. I later turned my attention to Model 19's and eventually L frames but I always loved that 38.
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Old 05-19-2014, 01:12 AM
charlie sherrill charlie sherrill is offline
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I've got two. Both are nickel. The real nice one my Mom bought new back in the 60's. It's got box, papers, sales receipt ($67.00) and tools. She shot it just enough to win a first place trophy in a local police citizens match. The other was owned by my wife. I bought it for her from a New Orleans LEO when she first became a LEO in 1973. He was headed to the door of a gun shop to trade it for a magnum. He was miffed because he had emptied it into a guy the night before and the guy was still able to get another shot off at him before he died. He missed. It has an action job and is butter smooth. I tool first place at a refresher class against a bunch of rookies with bottom feeders in 1999. One goes to my son and the other my daughter one day.
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Old 05-19-2014, 04:00 PM
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My LGS just got a used Model 15-3. Serial no. 1K144xx (early 1971?). Half a blue box (the bottom half) with instruction sheets for the Model 15, Model 37, and Model 64. The gun is in good cosmetic shape, good blueing and barely discernible drag line on the cylinder, narrow grooved trigger and wide target hammer. The DA trigger pull is SMOOTH! Worst part (next to the price) was it was wearing those godawful Hogue grips that screw into a collar on the bottom of the grip. No wood grips included.

But at $600 I just can't pull the trigger (pun intended) on this. Sad.
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Old 05-19-2014, 05:30 PM
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Just bought a like new 4in blued M15-4 with box and papers today. Bonus is it has a factory Target hammer and trigger (box marked as such). I am more of a M19 / 66 guy usually but I figured it might be a long time before I found another pinned barrel M15 in this condition for the price. I have another, a M15-3, as well as a M15-3 snub, but I do loves me some K frames. :-)
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baughman, combat masterpiece, grooved, k-frame, lock, m10, masterpiece, model 10, model 14, model 15, model 19, overtravel, punta, smith & wesson, smith and wesson

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