Early Smith & Wesson Model 10 Revolver

Early Smith & Wesson Model 10 with correct era stocks and grip adapter.

Early Smith & Wesson Model 10 with correct era stocks and grip adapter.

Smith & Wesson, .38 Special, “K” frame, Military & Police, Model 10 revolver. This is the basic blue, four inch (pinned) barrel, six shot, fixed sight offering. Once so common they were reminiscent of Passenger Pigeons or the American Bison. Also akin to the Passenger Pigeons and the American Bison, they are quite rare these days.

This is a “C” (serial number) prefix revolver. The “C” prefix ran from March of 1948 to 1967, from 1 to 999,999.

This revolver is a ‘four screw’ configuration (three screws holding on the side plate and one in the forward position of the trigger guard, holding the spring for the cylinder stop. From the same source, this configuration was used by S&W from “about 1955” to “about 1961”.

This revolver is marked “MOD-10” on the interior of the cylinder yoke. S&W started using model numbers instead of names in 1957. It is a Model 10. Not a Model 10 (dash) anything.

The stocks (Smith & Wesson handguns do NOT have ‘grips’) are of the ‘magna’ style, offering a bit wider recoil profile in the web of the hand, but no filler in the gap behind the trigger guard. This era of revolver (until 1967) should have ‘diamonds’ – unchecked section immediately surrounding the stock screw – stocks. Additionally, some commie egg-sucking dog lost the original diamond centered stocks and installed a set of later, non-diamond stocks. The stocks on this revolver are not only incorrect for the period, they don’t quite fit exactly AND they have a different serial number stamped on the interior of the right grip. Cretin.

The Lord is good! In my vast collection of odds and ends, I found a set of diamond center stocks that fit! AND they are in rather decent shape! The serial number stamped within is again the wrong serial number, but at least they look correct and they are no more inauthentic than the ones replaced. Not only that, but I found a Tyler T-grip (type at least) that fit as well. The grip adapter is the worst looking feature on the revolver.

This revolver has a ‘ramped’ front sight vice the ‘half moon’ or ‘round’ front sight of prior times. That change was effected in 1952 (same source as above).

With all that information, this revolver was made in or after 1957 and before the change to ‘three screw’ in 1961. The serial number is less than halfway through the series (1948 to 1967) so I would guess closer to 1957 than 1961.

The revolver is in pretty good shape. There is gentle holster wear on the sides of the muzzle and leading edges of the cylinder. No noted dings, gouges or scrapes from being dropped or dragged. Barrel and chambers appear to be free of bulges or scrapes.

Single action trigger pull is a reasonable three and one-half pounds and clean. No movement prior to release. Double action pull far exceeds my (somewhat cheap) gauge, but seems smooth all the way through. No stops, sudden drops or feeling of ‘what is going on here?’ Two handed dry fire indicates double action hammer fall does not disturb sight alignment. Rather typical for this era S&W revolver. One handed single action dry fire makes one quite sentimental. This is how a ‘good’ sidearm should feel.

Of course, I had to shoot this old darling. My protocol calls for accuracy and velocity testing, plus any observations on shoot-ability, reliability, or surprises.

For testing, I selected my own handloads of two variations. The 148 grain hollow base wadcutter bullet loaded to fairly minimal velocities and the 158 grain RNL loaded to the standard 750 feet per second (or thereabouts) velocity.

The 148 grain hollow base wadcutter load is my own reload. It duplicates, more or less, the standard factory target round. Fired from the revolver under discussion, it produces an average velocity of 687.3 feet per second on the basis of eighteen rounds fired. (See notes for more information regarding chronograph testing and observations.)

The resulting group – fired at twenty – five yards – has a maximum spread (between most distant shot holes) of 7 3/4 inches. The center of the densest grouping of shot holes is approximately 3 inches in the one o’clock direction. Somewhat embarrassingly, the entire group shows the ‘upper right to lower left’ oval stringing which is indicative of squeezing the entire shooting hand. My age old problem. Sigh.

Early Model 10 target results; slow fire with target ammunition at twenty-five yards.

Early Model 10 target results; slow fire with target ammunition at twenty-five yards.

Changing to the ‘service load’ the chronograph reports an average of 668.0 feet per second. This testing also based on eighteen rounds fired.

The group on a Colt silhouette target was fired double action, two handed and rapid fire; in the sense of as fast as I could line up the sights. Distance was twenty-fire yards. The group measures 5 1/4 inches between the furthest shot holes – with one flyer (that I called when I fired it). Including the flyer, the widest spread increases to 6 1/2 inches. The group center registers about 3 inches high and to the left of the aiming point. Admittedly, the ‘aiming point’ is a bit nebulous, as I aligned the sights centered in what I – subjectively – took as the high chest.

Early Model 10 results on Colt target.  Service ammunition fired double action at twenty-five yards.

Early Model 10 results on Colt target. Service ammunition fired double action at twenty-five yards.

Early Model 10 on Colt target, close up view.

Early Model 10 on Colt target, close up view.

Despite the views of some modern schools of pistol craft, this revolver does very well in putting rounds on an intended target.

As it happens this is a somewhat unique revolver – being made in a specific four year period; as it shoots with acceptable velocity and accuracy; as it cost rather less than one would expect for such a example, I am altogether pleased with this acquisition. Rather pleased indeed.

Notes for technical geeks. Or the intellectually curious.

The wadcutter loads used for this report consist of nickel plated cases, Winchester small pistol primers, a powder charge of 2.2 grains of Clays and Hornady’s 148 grain hollow base wadcutter. These loads are seated with the bullet flush with the case mouth. I also use the same ammunition in other handguns, including two target pistols – not revolvers.

The ‘service loads’ used are assembled in R-P unplated cases, Winchester small pistol primers, a powder charge of 5.0 grains of AL – 5 powder (I received this ‘obsolete’ powder by chance) and 158 grain RNL bullets of local manufacture. As the ‘advertised’ velocity of ‘standard’ loading is 755 feet per second, I think the 668.0 feet per second derived in this testing is a bit disappointing. However, the load used is a fairly mild load and not at all close to full pressure.

I always test revolvers with three rounds from each chamber of the cylinder. This allows me to determine if one chamber is significantly ‘faster’ or ‘slower’ than the other chambers. I keep track of which chamber provides which velocity by marking – or taking advantage of prior marks – and firing the cylinder in order.

An odd thing. After analyzing the velocity data I found chamber number 6 fires wadcutters an average of fifty feet per second slower than the other five chambers. However, shooting the ‘service’ load chamber number 1 is the slowest by about the same amount. The wadcutter load is one I find accurate in the semi-automatic pistols and the ‘service’ round is at the lower end of the powder charge and pressure levels. I suppose I should test a near maximum pressure load – at least according to the loading manuals.



Filed under Firearms and their use, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Early Smith & Wesson Model 10 Revolver

  1. Thomas Chumley

    Exactly what I was issued when I went to work for the US Marshals Service in 1979; mine was brand new & had been sitting in the vault in its’ original sealed package for several years. Not too much of a surprise, my supervisor had a Colt Official Police revolver made in 1929. Nice find!

    Date: Wed, 17 Jun 2015 00:57:20 +0000 To: tp_chumley@hotmail.com

  2. When I joined the Border Patrol in 1978 I was issued a Ruger Security Six. But we were then a ‘poorer sister’ in the Department of Justice, just a step above Bureau of Prisons; down the pecking order from F. B. I. and Marshals.

    Still, revolvers delivered when needed. As Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars opined “A more elegant weapon for a more civilized age”.

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