Firearm of the Week, the Smith and Wesson Model 10 .38 Special

By CTD Allen published on in Ammunition, Firearms

Less flash and more substance please. Things in the firearms community have gotten way out of control. Double-barreled 1911’s, Tactical lever-action 30-30 rifles, pistols with bayonets, and internet gun snobs who hide behind usernames, where does it end? There was a time when a gun just fired bullets and the measure of success was determined by the one pulling the trigger. No lasers or Christmas tree ornaments hanging from the barrel. A simple but effective firearm in the hands of a well trained, well practiced artist decided the fate of those engaged. Back to the basics is my rally cry and let us start with learning to shoot again. Let us start with a great gun that just simply shoots bullets – the Smith & Wesson Model 10.

Smith & Wesson Military & Police Model 1899

The corner stone for this gun was laid in 1899 with the introduction of the Smith and Wesson .38 Hand Ejector. This was an upgrade from the S&W .32 Hand Ejector (1896). These guns- along with an offering from Colt – revolutionized the revolver in that a latch on the left side of the gun released the cylinder. The cylinder then swung out to the left and empty casing were easily ejected.

Smith and Wesson Victory Model .38 Special

The .38 Hand Ejector was chambered in the under-powered .38 Long Colt cartridge. Smith and Wesson responded by upgrading several internal parts and to the .38 Special cartridge and the gun became the .38 Military & Police (M&P). The work on this gun would not end for many years it just got better. By 1915 it was on its 4th revision and by 1919 its 5th. From 1942 through 1944 they would be manufactured as the Victory Model. Most of these weapons were marked with a “V” prefix in the serial number. Over 500,000 were produced for various countries during World War II. Generally, not always, they are recognizable by the loop for the lanyard under the grip.

For our aviators and crews of the U.S. Marines and Navy the Victory Model became the only ticket home and their best defense, next to their brain, against capture. chambered in the .38 Special cartridges all Victory guns were hard-hitting. Many of the European guns, especially British, were chambered in the Euro cartridge .38-200. If you are lucky enough to find one of these, do not try to shove a .38 Special in it. You would regret that decision very quickly.

S&W Model 10 – Untouchable

Following the war, this gun would become the Glock of the law enforcement world long before Gaston Glock created his first shower curtain ring. It was the gun carried by the majority of street officers for almost four decades. Like the Glock it is not pretty, it is a simple, clean and effective tool. The Model 10 rode on the hip and saved countless lives of our law enforcement professionals for many years.

I had the privilege of being one of the last of an era to train in my first police academy with this gun in 1985. After over 1500 rounds I learned how to shoot, well. No bells, whistles or lasers, just a simple firearm that required someone to learn to shoot to operate it. Yes, I carried better guns over the years. However, after learning to shoot well in its most basic form a better gun can only build on those skill and improve on what you already do. With thousands of Model 10’s and the variants out there used for around $200 or the new ones built by Smith under the Classic label this gun has a few more years before the glue factory calls.

You want to teach someone to shoot? Turn off the Internet dribble. Get away from the Gun Snobs who know it all. Go get a new or used Smith and Wesson Model 10. Get a few boxes of inexpensive .38 Special: go to the range, and let them learn to shoot properly and practice. Don’t muddy the waters with bells and whistles: teach them trigger control, front sight placement, muscle memory, and have fun the way it has been done for decades. When they learn to do it well with this gun then they can learn to shoot anything well. I know because what I learned with that gun saved my life, twice, and it wasn’t on a video game.

The S&W Model 10. Simple Clean Effective Tool

Glock 22. Simple Clean Effective

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Comments (13)

  • James A. "Jim" Farmer


    According to John Henwood’s 1997 book: “The Smith and Wesson
    Military and Police Revolver: America’s Right Arm” the .38 Special
    was originally designed by Daniel B. Wesson in 1899 in Springfield,
    Massachusetts, along with the then new K-Frame Hand Ejector or
    Military and Police Revolver. Thus the .38 Special was introduced in
    1902 in the newest updated version of revolver. Just as the .38 Special
    was a revamped .38 Long Colt, the .357 Magnum (1935) is a revamped .38 Special. The .357 Magnum case length is 1/10″ longer
    than the .38 Special and was designed by Daniel Wesson’s grandson
    Major Doug Wesson.

    The classic .38 caliber revolver: Despite the decades of hype on
    tactical high capacity small arms the venerable, versatile, and historical .38 Special and .357 Magnum remain highly practical and
    useful. The average citizen owning but one handgun probably can’t
    do better than this. Too, .357 Magnum revolvers will likewise chamber
    and fire .38 Special ammo, but not the reverse. With a revolver it’s still
    “six shots for sure!” A competent, safe, sane and sensible citizen
    armed with a .38 or .357 is as well protected as most anyone. You
    don’t need an arsenal. In fact, aside from “self defense/house protection/concealed carry” a .38 caliber revolver is a comforting
    companion to carry while hiking in the woods, outdoors, or while
    camping, fishing, hunting small game: rabbit and squirrel, dispatching vermin: raccoon, skunk, possum, or for dispatching a
    rattlenake. For the former a .38 Special 148 grain lead target
    wadcutter, next to a .22 or .32, is ideal. For rattler’s CCI’s classic
    .38 Special shot or “snake” load of No. 9 shot is lethal up close.
    And a .38 Special can likewise be utilized for butchering livestock.
    Long live the .38!


  • Rick B


    Allen you are a gun poet ,that was well written . I recently the revolver has become one of my favorite guns to bring to the range . The more I shoot it the better the action gets . The times are changing


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