Wheelgun Wednesday: Throwback Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 Special

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The Smith & Wesson Model 10 has a storied history because of its run for over 53 years as a cataloged model, but also because there was a model that preempted it as well. For this week’s Wheelgun Wednesday, I once again dove into my collection of double-action revolvers to pull out another favorite of mine. Today we will take a look at a fairly clean example of a Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 Special, but also see what came before and after it.

If you are a true die-hard of Smith & Wesson revolvers you know that essentially 3 models are synonymous with the Model 10. Depending on what era and year we are talking about it could go by multiple names. Not to be silly, but the example you will see repeated photos of in this article are a “Model 10.” All of the potential models can be read below:

  • .38 Military & Police (POSTWAR) “Pre-Model 10” | Mfg. circa 1946 – 1957
  • Model 10 (.38 M&P POST-WWII) | Mfg. circa 1957 – 2010
  • Model 10 Classic | Mfg. circa 2010 – current

If you want a Model 10 Classic those are easy enough to obtain because you can simply order one up from your nearest Smith & Wesson dealer. To come across a Pre-Model 10 that does not look like it was drug behind a truck for a country mile is pretty difficult to come across on the used market. So, some of the best examples you can get to collect and shoot recreationally for nostalgic enjoyment are the Model 10 like this one.

The Model 10 throughout its illustrious 53-year run came in a multitude of barrel lengths. It also was available in the gorgeous blue finish like the one above or in nickel as well. The rest of the specifications can be read below and could make the collector value of these vary quite a bit based on a specific revolvers configuration.

  • Caliber: .38 Special + P
  • Barrel Length: 2″, 3″, 4″, 5″, or 6″
  • Cylinder: 6-Shot Capacity
  • Frame: K-Frame (Round or Square Butt)
  • Sights: Fixed Front & Rear
  • Weight: 36 Ounces
  • To date, there have been 14 engineering changes in this model

model 10

That last comment in the specifications confuses a lot of people: “engineering changes.” What does that mean? Well, if you squint hard at the photo above where the cylinder and yoke hinge out from the frame, I own a Model 10-7. What this means is I obviously own a Model 10, but this particular one is in its 7th engineering change or 7th Generation, if you will. For manufacturers to have in-line engineering changes in their manufacturing process is not something new now or back in the day. Simply, Smith & Wesson is one of the most transparent companies when it comes to it with their revolvers.

It can be something as little as changing the cut checkering pattern on the wood grips, using a different screw in the frame, or something minuscule like that. Most of us may never notice it, but Smith & Wesson deemed a change necessary for the betterment of the model and they are openly documenting it. Knowing the hyphenation or engineering change of your Smith & Wesson revolver can help you ballpark the date of it if you do not want to pay for a Smith & Wesson Letter of Authenticity which provides 100% accuracy.

model 10

For those wondering the value of a revolver like the one we are discussing here today, it can be difficult at times to ascertain that value. The “Blue Book of Gun Values” is typically a great launching point for identifying values on anything, but it is notoriously harsh on the value of Smith & Wesson revolvers over the last 10 years (author must be a Taurus lover – we are kidding).

Keeping in line with the 21st century, clicking around websites like Gunbroker and Armslist can be the best way to figure out their going rate, but most seasoned used firearm movers will tell you “it is only worth what someone will give you for it.” Alright, without dancing around my own question any further, I paid $450 for this revolver which is not a bargain or a bad deal. Basically, a clean Model 10 is worth $400 – $450. The metal and bluing on this one are immaculate, but my grips are bumped and scratched repeatedly which is a bummer from the previous owner.

model 10

If you are confused on whether you might personally own a Model 10 or a Pre-Model 10 there is a pretty easy way to distinguish between the two: by the name. A Smith & Wesson Pre-Model 10 will not say that inside the yoke and it will not have any phrasing close to Model 10. The easiest explanation can be taken from the “41st Edition Blue Book of Gun Values:”

Smith & Wesson handguns manufactured after 1957 are stamped with a model number on the frame under the cylinder yoke. The number is visible when the cylinder is open. All revolvers manufactured by Smith & Wesson from 1946 – 1956 were produced without model numbers.

model 10

So, while this little K-frame is not the most thunderous wheelgun Smith & Wesson ever made nor is it the most popular snubby they ever produced, it has a long history and certain mystique behind it that is all its own. Many police officers were issued this revolver in the 20th century, and my personal experiences shooting this one in the 21st century have only shown me that it is an accurate little blaster. In a world full of people addicted to polymer guns (I enjoy those, too) this is a fun little throwback.

The Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 Special does not seem to get a lot of press, but what do you think? Do you personally own one and have some anecdotal evidence you would like to share? Would you contemplate purchasing one? Let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.

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