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.


theirritablearchitect said...


Don said...

Somewhere, some emo is bound to come across this piece and write his own essay all about how sad and disgusting it is that the Bushies and Halliburton have created a world where the most enduring engineering is done in deadly weapons.

There will be tears on the keyboard.

Tam said...

If I can make an emo cry,
I've done a service for mankind.

Anonymous said...

How many emo kids does it take to change a lightbulb?

None, let 'em cry in the dark...

Anonymous said...

"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."

Actually, it has not gone up in value but down. Prior to the Great Gold Theft of 1933* $50 was about 2.5 oz of gold. Today that would be about $1700. Most guns, including new production, are less expensive now when valued against something other than u.S. currency.
All that aside, nice gun.

*In combination with several executive orders (Roosevelt): 6073 6102 6111 6260

Tam said...

I was sure that would be brought up sooner or later, since some folks don't grok "poetic license".

If it makes you feel better, ponder this:

In the late 19th Century, you could buy a shiny new Colt Peacemaker for a $20 gold piece. In the early 21st Century, you still can.

Less said...

Yow! That ol' girl is loaded!

I mean the revolver...


I have an old M&P and my only gripe
is that K-Frame HKS speed loaders
don't fit it right - something
about the cylinder and latch being
too close together. Now she just
sits in the safe...

(I bought it from Viva and Sons
when Xavier ran the banner of the
guy who bought all the old guns
from NY popo or something...)

Unknown said...

Could somebody enlighten me as to where exactly those 5 screws were, I count three in the sideplate and one in the trigger guard. So where is number 5?

Tam said...

In the sideplate, hidden by the right-hand stock.