Sunday, July 15, 2007
Sunday Smith #7: .38 Regulation Police, 1928
Realizing that not everyone would accept the .32 Regulation Police as a viable sidearm, Smith & Wesson released a parallel model at the same time. The small I-frame was able to accept a five shot cylinder chambered for the .38 S&W cartridge, originally introduced back in the 1870s in their top-break revolver line, and so a .38 Regulation Police only made sense. While the .38 S&W, which in its most common smokeless incarnation launched a 145 grain bullet at something just less than 700 feet per second, is not considered to be a serious defensive cartridge nowadays, at the time it was considered perfectly adequate, and was in fact adopted by Great Britain as their standard service handgun cartridge (albeit with a heavier bullet.)
The .38 Regulation Police was never Smith's strongest seller, with less than 55,000 copies sold between its introduction in 1917 and its first cancellation in 1940. While Smith did bring it back into production after the war and it was made as the "Model 33" as late as 1969, it's not the most common gun on the used gun market today. Still, like most I-frames, it is considerably cheaper than the larger-framed revolvers of the same vintage.
The blued example in the above photo, a good condition shooter with honest cosmetic wear and a dark bore with mild pitting, but good mechanicals and matching numbers, was made in 1928. It was picked up at a gun show in late 2003 for $190 and while it has appreciated a small amount since then, similar examples can be turned up for $200-ish still. A really outstanding prewar example might run over $400, possibly well over $400 if it has a matching box and all accoutrement.