Sunday, August 12, 2007
Sunday Smith #9: .38 Military & Police, 1953
After introducing their new Hand Ejector design to the market in 1896 chambered for a .32 caliber round, Smith & Wesson was quick to scale up the basic design to accommodate .38 caliber cartridges in order to go after lucrative government contracts. In 1899 Smith began making the new, larger revolver, calling it the "Military & Police". One hundred and seven years later, they haven't stopped.
Although largely replaced by semiautomatics in this day and age, for the better better part of a century the M&P was the police handgun in the United States and many other countries as well. It served the U.S. military and our allies in WWII and many conflicts thereafter. It has served as the basic platform for a host of variants in every caliber and configuration imaginable. It is still seen in the holsters of security guards and the occasional cop even today.
In 1899 the Wright Brothers were still four years away from their flight at Kitty Hawk. General Electric wouldn't patent the tungsten-filament light bulb for another seven years, and it would be nine years before Henry Ford built his first Model T. And the Military & Police revolver from Smith & Wesson has been in constant production, largely unchanged, for the entire time and is just as effective now as it was then. If there is a more enduringly successful piece of industrial design, I'm sure not aware of it.
The pictured revolver was made in 1953, before the evocative "Military & Police" moniker was replaced by the sterile designation "Model 10" when S&W went to model numbers rather than names for their handguns in 1957. About the same time, Smith deleted the upper sideplate screw and the screw in the frame ahead of the trigger guard as being superfluous. As a result, pre-'57 guns (referred to as "Five Screws") command prices that are spiraling steadily upwards. It was purchased in excellent condition, complete with the gold-foil covered box, at a gun show in '03 for $275, and has appreciated rather handily since then. With the box, a revolver like this could bring close to $400 in today's market.
Not bad for a gun that originally sold for under fifty bucks.