Police pistol from the 1930s

My wife is inheriting a pistol from her grandfather (kind of random). We don’t have it yet and I was hoping to look up some info on it. All I know is that is was the gun he had when he was a police constable in the 30s. Anyone know if there was a “standard issue” pistol then or if it could have just been a random one he owned already? If a standard varied place to place I think he was living in Cincinnati, Ohio at that time.

I’d say he already owned it

Hard to say. If it was a department-issued gun it’ll most likely be a Colt or Smith & Wesson DA revolver. .38 Special, .38 S&W, and .38 Police Positive are likely possible calibers.
If it was a private-purchase gun, it could be just about anything.

There was and is no standard issue police revolver. Different jurisdictions use and used a variety of different guns.

If you’re curious about the value, it will depend upon the condition, make and model. But I would conservatively guess that it’s not worth more than about $250. Hopefully your wife wasn’t counting on this as a some sort of big inheritance.

Some departments issued firearms, others left it to the individual to chose one and buy it himself, others required officers to purchase a particular model.

You based this “conservative” guess on what?

I “conservatively guess” it’s worth about $10.

Conservative guessing is easy!

I think the guess is based on the idea it is probably a generically common handgun in a common configuration given it’s age. I’d guess the same price point. I’d bet it will be a .38 S&W revolver, but it really could be anything.

When you do get it, you can go to a library and look up the value in “Flyderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values”: http://www.amazon.com/Flaydermans-Antique-American-Firearms-Values/dp/0873493133#_ if you want details and a description of how to differentiate variants within a model. That assumes it will be an American model, of course. He could have bought something foreign for all I know, though I doubt it.

Alternatively, you can look up the same model on one of the gun auction sites to see what it’s selling for on the open market. The biggest is: gunbroker.com. Like eBay, if you register, you can look up completed auctions. Another one is auctionarms.com. There are also classified ads for guns as well. The biggest one for that is: gunsamerica.com. That may not be as good, however, because some people have lofty and unrealistic goals for what they think their gun is worth. In other words, just because some guy in Minnesota has the same gun and is asking $10,000 for it doesn’t mean he’s not an idiot. Sometimes high prices are also a reflection of the previous owner. A gun previously owned by a President, famous outlaw, or lawman will always command a premium even if the gun itself is a generic pistol.

If your plan is to sell it, I’d go the auction site route unless you find it is something more exotic. In that case, if you can wait to get the money, consign it to one of the big firearms auction houses. The biggest is Rock Island Auctions, followed by James Julia Auctions.

According to this online history of the Cincinnati Police Department, they adopted .38 caliber revolvers in 1928. If it was an official police-issued revolver it was more likely to be a Colt .38 revolver than a S&W. (based simply on the fact that the Colt “Official Police Revolver” was specifically marketed to US police departments of that era, and it was hugely successful).