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This U.S. Navy marked .38 Special M&P Victory revolver was my step grandfather’s. What I know about it is limited. Do we have any Smith & Wesson experts in the house? Feel free to sound off in the comments and teach me something about what I have here.

I know it’s a double-action revolver on Smith & Wesson’s square butt K frame with five screws. I know it’s called a “Victory” from the “V” serial number prefix, which commemorates the Allied powers’ victory in WWII. It has a 4-inch barrel and, I believe, Smith’s “black magic” finish, which is similar to parkerizing.

It has a lanyard ring and is marked “U.S. NAVY” on the top strap, but isn’t marked “PROPERTY OF U.S. NAVY” as some were. Serial is V189334 (matched on the frame, barrel, cylinder, and even grip panels). That puts it relatively early in the V1 to V769000 serial range. I know it was built between 1942 and 1944, but can’t get more specific than that.

I also know it wasn’t sent back for safety retrofitting, as some 40,000 some-odd Smiths were. It still has the pre-1944 hammer block safety system.

But that’s about the extent of what I know about this gun. Can anyone provide further info? Are there specific photos of the internals, proof/inspection markings, etc. that would help?

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  1. I have no tech data for you, but this is the same revolver that we Marine Security Guards at American Embassies were armed with c. 1969. As I recall, aircraft drivers also carried this model. For MSG use, we had five rounds of 158-gr lead bullet .38 Spl ammo (that was it – no reloads in case a firefight broke out in the Embassy around the guard desk at oh-dark-thirty). We got to fam fire them with 50 rounds once a year at the local police range – no qualification was required. I remember the DA trigger pull as being damned heavy! Looking back, I don’t think we’d have been very accurate with revolvers in case the SHTF. So, this and 12-ga pump shotguns were what we had to keep the Red Menace out of the Embassy – the local PD guarded the outside.

    Enough of sea stories – good luck getting the information you seek!

    • Yeah, the DA is relatively heavy but it’s pretty smooth. Overall the gun is smooth and solid, not rough like I might have expected from a war-time duty gun. I shot it on the range on Wednesday and it was very enjoyable.

      BTW — you said you carried 5 rounds in it. The gun does hold 6. Was that a typo or did they force you to download it and carry it with the hammer over an empty cylinder???

    • Smith&Wesson introduced the .38 Special and their revolvers are proudly marked “.38 Smith & Wesson Special” or simply “.38 S&W Special” on snubbies.
      Could we have been overlooking a “Spl.” abbreviation at the end? I don’t recall the Model 10 ever being made in any other chambering…

      • .38 S&W isn’t the same caliber as .38 Smith & Wesson Special (aka .38 Special)…

        They made a lot of Victory revolvers in .38/200, which I believe is .38 S&W specifically with a 200 grain bullet?

        • Weren’t those the “lend lease” ones we sent to our limey pals? My Model 10 history is a bit rusty…
          For some reason, I’m thinking the Canadians liked the .38/200 too… great, now I’ll be wasting my whole evening reading about Model 10s instead of playing my video game… it’ll be winter before I finish that damn quest chain…

        • You’d be right, Jeremy. The base cartridge for the brit .38 was the .38 S&W. They at first loaded it with a 200 grain lead bullet, hence the .38/200 name. Then they decided to put a metal jacket on the bullet and came out with a 178 grain loading. I believe they called this the .380 revolver mark II cartridge.

          Since Dunkirk, the movie, is fresh in peoples minds a soldier of the BEF wrote after the war that he had been issued the revolver and 3, count them, 3 rounds of ammo. He was captured and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp.

          The brits truly were not prepared for war. When they got their supply problems under some control the ammo was issued 12 rounds to the gun.

    • Well this revolver does not suck, it was for fighting, Dad carried one in Korea.
      Preferred it over the 1911, as he said when something goes wrong with a 1911, and your in a trench or a hole you have to field strip it and fix it, you had better carry spare parts, human beings under stress panic,
      AND use misplace a part or goes flying off, now you have a nice paper weight, the revolver , no such problems and it goes bang, not saying there weren’t issues usually he said the ammunition bullets not properly seated jumped the crimp, having said that it was rare, it kept him alive.
      Is it fancy he’ll no, it’s not supposed to be,

  2. If you’re not having any luck here, try the r/guns sub on Reddit. There’s a lot of super knowledgeable folks there who’d love a crack at it.

    • Just be prepared to be banned and ridiculed because you didn’t refer to it as a “wheely-gat”, and didn’t take the pictures of it outside. Disclaimer: this month they may have some other required idiot terminology than “wheely-gat”, last time I was there they kept changing what the required terminology was; also there may be new/different ridiculous rules to follow to keep the tribe of neckbeard idiots off your back. Best of luck in that $hit-hole.

      • Yep. Next they will require drop testing of the gun before they will help you with any info. While wearing armor and eye protection.

  3. The marking was applied at S&W and those guns generally won’t have any other proof or ordnance markings on them. Navy-marked Victory models bring a premium because most of the Victory models were purchased on standard Army contracts and then disbursed to a variety of different branches, agencies, wartime factories, etc.

    • The Navy placed two orders – 20,000 and 45,000 – early in the war. There wasn’t a Navy inspector on hand at S&W, so the quality of these guns is said to be poorer than other contract guns. A post-war report said that up to 30% of each day’s production of Navy-designated guns were rejected for “various defects.”

      • LOL. Well, this one is actually pretty solid. In every way it seems smooth and well-built, and it’s a nice shooter. There are production / inspection markings on it — random little letters stamped on the frame under the grip panels, and the production numbers that tie frame, crane, and side plate together. I don’t see obvious initials of S&W QA inspectors, just a few different letters stamped in different locations.

    • Great advice. The S&W Forum has some of the most incredibly knowledgeable people I’ve ever seen online or anywhere else. If they can’t tell you everything you want to know about your revolver, nobody can – except maybe Jim Supica.

  4. DO NOT USE PLUS-Ps IN IT! it was made long before S&W approved them in their guns. these were issued to flyboys and non front line personel( at lease that is what we were told) Pappy Boyington of the Black Sheep carried one.and some were used on ships. ( because of the M1911/M1917 shortage these were issued to fill the gaps). the Standard Catalog Of Smith And Wesson is a good place to look. that book has a complete history of it as well as other guns made by the company

  5. My gosh. What a beauty!
    Wish I could help out. I would contact S&W directly.

  6. These were wartime production, not commemorative, like victory gardens. Being wartime, they were more expediently made (parkerized instead of blued) and originally intended for export to Britain as a make-good for the failed carbine contract. The Navy then got .38 spcl ones so the 1911s could go to the front lines. Here’s a couple links. The nonTTAG ones are better.

  7. btw it should have a trigger weight screw on the frame between the handle gaurds, or maybe its under the hand gaurds. should be on there somewhere.

    • That’s that strain screw for the mainspring. Nearly every S&W revolver has one of those. It tensions the mainspring so the hammer falls with sufficient force to ignite the primer. While many fiddle around with it to lighten the trigger pull, doing so without the requisite knowledge base will turn the gun into an unreliable paperweight.

  8. @Jeremy S, here’s a brief article about a similar revolver that also was a part of the Navy contract.

    Another Victory revolver is offered at $950 on a prominent gun site. In addition to the “U.S. NAVY” mark you noted on your revolver, it also has “PROPERTY OF U.S. NAVY” on the left side of the frame.

    These are interesting guns with a great history.

  9. For $50, S&W will send you a letter which tells you who the gun was originally sent to and some other information on it. Just need to send them the serial # and money. A lot of these evidently went abroad to our allies or to private companies in the manufacturing sector in the US.

    Do not use .38 spl in .38 S&W! These are not the same caliber.

    • Unless greatly modified by fitting a new cylinder or machining out the cylinder bores, a .38 S&W revolver will not chamber a .38 Special or .38 Long Colt cartridge. The Special case is too long, as it was designed so that .38 S&W guns of older design and metallurgy than the 1905 style wouldn’t accidentally eat one. However, this gun could handle a contemporary standard Special cartridge (but not a +P or .38/44) if one could get the cylinder closed, as the gun itself was just a M&P 1905 4th Change with a different cylinder, strong enough for the bigger cartridge.
      Obviously, a .38 S&W cartridge will work just fine in a Special gun.

      • I don’t think so, John. I believe the .38 S&W is slighter bigger around, case and bullet, than the .38 special.

        • I find now that’s partly true: Early BP shells will chamber, as do old USCCo; However, some later Westerns I have will not. The ones that DO fit are tight, and just might stick badly.
          On the other hand, it would take a very large hammer to get a Special cartridge in a .38 chamber.
          You learn something every day.

  10. Can’t tell you to much about them, other than I have one that is very similar, also a family heirloom.

    The S&W wheel gun was also the first handgun I was issued as a Naval Aviator back in early 90s.

  11. (if it hasn’t already) It’s got a date with a fiery boat wreck at sea. We send our condolences.

  12. I can tell you this I have 4 old S&W revolvers 38spl can’t beat them reliable accurate depend on them more than the modern pistols I own there from 63 71 73 74 .and a never had a problem. Older S&W revolvers. are better than anything new. New guns are plastic crap and . The new light revolvers garbage

  13. Looking at the pictures, the machining and fit-and-finish look to be pretty darned nice.

  14. Carry it with only five as the hammer block in yours works off the hand.

    The better hammer block safety (used until they went with floating firing pins) workes off the trigger rebound spring.

    They are great shooters with smooooooth long action. The pull can be lightened by replacing with new spring or filing the old mainspring down.

    They made a bunch of em …. so load it up and shoot it. Smith and Wesson does not recommend +P.

    • Well, sorta. The early spring-type hammer block was discontinued because it was expensive and difficult to machine, and the narrow cut for the block itself in the side-plate tended to collect schmoo and could make the block stick. Otherwise, if clean, it worked just fine.
      The primary safety components are the rebound-slide stop surface, the hammer-base stop surface, and the rebound slide spring. These components provide complete drop safety with the hammer down; In this mode, the hammer-block arm is redundant, as the rebound slide is fully forward, and the hammer is resting on the stop surface and cannot move forward at all–unless the surface has been ground away, of course. If intact, there is no way for the hammer nose to contact a primer unless the metal is beaten so badly as to crystallize and shatter it, or if the hammer pivot breaks–which can happen, but isn’t likely.
      So, six beans is fine with a clean gun in good repair.

  15. I have it’s younger brother bearing a much later serial number but still pre-1944 hammer block. It is marked “US PROPERTY”, has fewer tooling marks, and is chambered in 38 S&W.

    Yours is clearly made or modified to shoot 38 Special and is so marked, but some 38 S&W revolvers were converted poorly to 38 Special. How about you slug the barrel and/or cylinder mouths and tell us more. Is it ~0.360″ or ~0.358″?

  16. I had my fathers British air force S&W 38 complete with holster, amo bag and hip belt. I lived in the UK at the time and handed it in during an amnesty. I do still have about 50 rounds of original amo and have fired a few at my local range. A bit of a ” plop” compared with today’s shells. Strangely, I just purchased a S&W Victory 22lr for plinking at the range and in my back yard. Wish I still had Dads 38!!!!

  17. Those guns were issued to domestic security forces patrolling dockyards, shipyards etc.

    • Some were. But quite a number of them wound up arming aircrews and ships personnel. I have seen a photo of a marine on Iwo with one in his hand. There was such a need for handguns that the powers that be even recycled 1917 model colts and smiths and put them back in service.

  18. To order a S&W “factory letter” with the manufacturing and original customer shipping history, go to the S&W Histrorical Foundation – the officers include Jim Supica and Roy Jinks. Can’t beat that for accurate information, since Roy has all of the original old records.

  19. I can only add a few things…
    In 1942 the US issued these revolvers in both 38 special and 38 S&W, which as others have said are different. Revolvers chambered in 38 S&W are marked .38 S&W CTG on the right side of the barrel.
    These were considered to be of a lower quality than the pre-war version due to a cheaper finish and less hand finishing work. Of course all things are relative.
    Curiously Herman Goring was carrying one of these when he surrendered to American troops in 1945. All the highly embellished firearms he’s normally associated with stayed at home.

  20. Hi Jeremy,

    I have a Victory model with serial number 199454. A letter from Smith and Wesson says mine shipped on January 8, 1943.

    Do you have any history on what your step-grandfather did in the Navy?

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