How old might this gun be?

My wife just out of the blue tonight showed me a gun I never even knew she owned. She doesn’t know much about its history—it was given to her mother by her first husband sometime in the early 1950s. He was LAPD, so I’m guessing it was his back-up piece. It’s a beaut—snub-nosed S & W .38 special, external hammer, six-round, double action, impeccably maintained. But here’s the weird thing—it doesn’t have any serial number. How old is it likely to be? When did they first start stamping serial numbers? Does it have any monetary value greater than that of a comparable newly-manufactured gun? I went through S & W’s entire J-frame line and they don’t manufacture anything identical to this gun, but picture a model 442 with an external hammer and a six-round chamber and you’re somewhere in the ballpark.

It might be a Smith & Wesson Model 36 Chief’s Special, though the “no serial number” thing is kind of odd. Not being very familiar with that particular model, you might want to look for the serial number on the frame, inside of the cylinder.

IOW, open the cylinder and check the inner parts of the framing, that you can’t see when the cylinder is normally closed.
Does it look anything at all like this?
ETA: If you do happen to find the S/N, the Smith & Wesson website should be able to help you date it properly.

Model 36 has always been 5 shot. My guess, based on age and description, is that it is a short-barreled Model 10. S&W produced many thousands of Model 10 revolvers in lots of different variations. It was a very widely issued police revolver back when revolvers were the order of the day.

S&W did not stamp all their handguns with serial numbers before 1957, so the gun may be older than that or you may not be looking in the right place. It could be on the butt if an older gun. If post-1957 it will be on the frame behind the crane i.e. open the cylinder and swing it out to see if the serial number is under it.

:smack: Well, I did say I wasn’t particularly familiar with that model, but I are reedin reel guud sumtyms. :o

Picture please OP?

If there is no serial number, then that gun is Trouble.

Ask a Lawyer.

No, I’m not wrong.
A Lawyer is prudent.

You don’t know who that gun belonged to, you don’t know what it was used to do.

Get a Lawyer, and get rid of it.

Helluva way to begin a noir novel.

That’s it exactly. And it’s five rounds, not six. I was extremely fatigued and sleep-deprived when she showed it to me and just wasn’t paying sufficient attention. Still can’t find the SN, but the grips have been changed. Or what I should say is that I’m assuming they’ve been changed, because they’re hard rubber grips, and I don’t think those existed back then. But I could be wrong—I’ve forgotten a lot of what I used to know about firearms. I’m going to remove them and see if it is stamped on the butt.

I haven’t had one of those post-a-pic accounts in years (obviously, since I can’t even remember what they’re really called). I’d have to set one up. What’s currently the best site for that?

Yep—stamped on the butt, plain as day—J675402.

Two words: Bull. And Shit.

You know nothing of which you speak.

For centuries guns were manufactured without serial numbers. For much of the 20th Century guns were manufactured in the US by mainstream manufacturers without serial numbers.

What a gun may have been used for in the past is utterly immaterial to owning it now. And the presence or absence of a serial number does nothing to change that.

Yes, you are wrong. Very much so.

Thanks for that tip. Smith & Wesson charges $50.00 for authentication services and they say the current wait time is three or four months. But I think I’ll eventually do it. In my opinion it’s worth it, despite the fact that it’s very unlikely that we would ever sell it. I really want it, and have been dropping unsubtle hints to her about the jade and ivory lamp that’s been in family for 70 years, which I gave to her on our tenth anniversary. She also doesn’t want to part with it because she considers it a family heirloom, although she herself has virtually no personal interest in firearms.


A little googling seems to indicate that that serial number would date the pistol to 1979-80.

Nice gun. I have an identicle one that I carry a lot. Those rubber grips are somewhat newer than your gun. Grips like that didn’t come along til the late 70s or so. Those look like Pachmayrs to me. That grip is still in production.

The gun has a pinned barrel which would mean 1982 is the latest possible production date.

I’m gonna say family lore on the gun is wrong. It’s a late 70’s gun wearing grips that became available in the late 70’ s. At that time, such a gun would have been the hot setup for a patrolman’s backup gun or a plainclothes officer’s primary.

I found this on a gun message board (yeah I know, great cite…)

Anyway, it agrees with what silenus posted - 1979-1980.

Yes, they’re Pachmayrs. The manufacturer’s embossment was impossible for me to read until I viewed it in direct sunlight, and even then it was very difficult to make out. Above the line that says ‘manufactured by Pachmyer USA’, is a line which appears to read ‘Presentation/Compro.’ My wife is certain that she has the original grips, but she doesn’t know where they are. She’s looking for them right now. If she finds them it might shed some light on the exact age of the piece. It’s very possible that my MIL gave my wife misinformation, or was confusing this gun with another one of similar appearance. Nobody in my wife’s family is a firearms enthusiast, so it would be very easy for them to not be able to differentiate between the two, if indeed another gun exists which we haven’t found yet or is no longer in the family’s possession.