S&W Model 10-5 Military & Police & Colt Police Positive Special, both chambered in .38 Special.
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As a collector, I usually walk by heavily used and abused guns, the ones that have been ridden hard and put away wet. But that isn’t the case all the time. A normal run-of-the-mill guns like a common GLOCK 17 Gen3 would have to be in expectational condition and at a great price to catch my attention. But others catch my attention for a whole host of reasons.

Take these two tried and true classic .38 caliber six-shooters for example . . .

You can see where the finish has been worn by contact with a leather a holster or from the sweat…or both.

These are my S&W Model 10-5 made in 1971 and my Colt Police Positive Special made in 1958. Both are police surplus guns that have spent some quality time in holsters getting rained or snowed on during a lot of shifts. Though they may seem visually unappealing, they’re mechanically perfect and still great shooters.

I’m usually a stickler for buying guns in perfect or near-perfect condition. But I do have a few “barging bin” six-shooters in the collection like these two.

As a collector, I try and find the best specimen possible. But good prices and stories also seem to call me. Yes, I know…buy the gun, not the story, unless you have documented proof. Even then, I sometimes wonder what some guns would say if they could talk.

The Smith & Wesson Model 10 came to me after some wheeling and dealing over a decade ago. If I recall, I have less than $150 in the gun and it came from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office through Lou’s Police Supply in Hialeah, Florida. When the Sheriff’s Office would surplus guns, Lou’s Police Supply would always win the bid for the lot and then place them in the used gun counter.

The discoloration is from the spots where the blueing was worn clean off. The Colt has some pitting.

The Colt came to me via an estate sale in Maine. A good friend of mine who works in the frozen north was handling the sale of a collection of a former partner of his. The original owner passed away and his widow was sitting on some guns. He wanted to make sure she wasn’t taken advantage of.

I paid $300 for the Colt and waited like a kid as Christmas neared until it showed up here in warm, sunny Florida. The gun had police history up in Maine and is marked “M.C.D. No. 6”.

As I always do, I babied them just as I do my pristine guns. I gave them a good wipe down and cleaning.

You can see the wear spots on the metal.
The muzzle end of the Colt has literally been worn down to bare metal.

The nice thing is, I can also take them out and not worry much about them getting dinged, scratched, or exposing them to the Florida humidity when I use them as carry guns.

They’ve been carried and handled so much, the blueing on both of them has been worn away on the backstrap.

If these guns could talk, what stories would they tell?

Though pitted, discolored, and abused. The sights are still crisp and the barrels are still straight and true.

The Smith & Wesson, being an ex-PBSO gun, probably spent time on duty during a few hurricanes and maybe even the 1980 McDuffie Riots in Miami since PBSO sent deputies to assist. The Colt no doubt endured many frigid winters in Maine, maybe patrolling the sparsely populated Maine north woods. It could have seen some lobster bakes over in Portland and might have gone through a nor’easter or two.

Who knows…so far, they’ve both pleaded the fifth, other than when they let out a loud bark at the range.

Colt’s round butt versus the S&W’s square butt.

Besides spurring my imagination and making me daydream, they also happen to be good guns for training new shooters, too.

The grips shows some dings, but they also show character too.

The K-Frame Smith and D-Frame Colt, with powder puff .38 Special wadcutter loads, are perfect for introducing new shooters. Low recoil, easy triggers, and a couple of steel plates at 10 yards for instant feedback sure gets folks hooked.

While these guns have seen better years, they’re still very good shooters with crisp, clean bores and good quality triggers. They’re every bit as capable today as they were the day they were produced. I wouldn’t feel under-armed carrying either one with a speed loader and modern JHP ammo.

The .38 Special cartridge is nothing to sneeze at. Hundreds of thousands of cops carried one gun or another chambered in .38 for three-quarters of the 20th century. Heck, some old codgers hung onto them when the 21st century rolled over on their odometers.

Don’t let old beauties like these pass you by. These guns are still viable for home defense, self-protection, or just some fun at the range. Sometimes diamonds like these have lost a little luster, but they’ll still shine bright when you give it a little bit of polish and time.

Big Blue and the Prancing Pony sure made some tough guns.


Luis Valdes is the Florida Director for Gun Owners of America.


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  1. Beautiful. I have a weak spot for surplus firearms, whether military or police. I’d take a shooter grade surplus gun over a pristine one that had never been anywhere or done anything.

    • +1

      A proven classic with some tire wear over an unproven modern whiz-bang design (*cough* Kel-Tec *cough*).

      • Listen to and ponder the words of the peerless ‘IHAQ’. And know that when it goes down, he’s behind you (waaaaaay behind you, cowering in his home/‘natural kill box’). What ‘greatness’!

        As it was, is, and ever shall be.

        All Hail.

  2. When I see these patrol guns, I always hope that they never had to see any real action. Practicing is fine, but being carried as a defensive weapon is what they were designed for. Knowing that an officer may, at any time have to put his/her life in danger(and is willing to do so) makes it worth the money to clothe, feed and get them the tools they need. I always hope they never have to use said tools.

    • No they don’t technically have transfer bars since the firing pins are hammer mounted but they are “drop” safe. S&W model 10’s made since the 40’s have a hammer block that prevents firing pin contact with the primer unless the trigger is pulled. S&W called it a “hammer block”. The Colt police positive has a similar drop safety. Colt calls it a “positive lock”

  3. I also have an ex cop Model 10-5. Here in CA the weather is, for the most part, milder than Florida or the North East. My gun has plenty of holster wear but no rust or pitting. It locks up perfectly and is a tack driver for a duty sighted gun. I trust it and its little brother, my j frame airweight.

    I have owned Colts. One of my ‘I should be kicked in the balls’ for letting it go was an un shrouded Dicks special.

    For fun times at the range I prefer revolvers. During this plandemic I’ve given all but one of my semi autos to folks that needed a gun. The one I kept was a Glock 19. It may well be this era’s K frame.

    • bike cop gave me a no- lug detective .38. gave it to my ex. still get to see it once in a while.

      • My pre-model 10 M&P was made sometime @ mid-late 1930’s. Does it have any kind of hammer-block drop safety?
        It’s still blue- turning brown- with 5″ barrel. While I have “better” carry guns- more modern, semi-auto, and prettier, this is one of my favorites. It’s right up there with my Colt police positive special as a favorite carry piece….
        Seems to me that Colt really slipped in design after John Moses passed on…

        • It does–two of them, if the gun has not been modified or parts removed.

          The first one is the rebound slide; Its strong spring forces the rebound slide back under the hammer faster than the hammer can fall if the trigger stroke is interrupted, thus stopping it from striking a primer, and at rest it positively prevents the hammer from moving forward as its heel rests on the rebound slide.
          The second one is a hammer-block device fitted into a slot in the side-plate, which on your gun is a spring device staked in the slot that is cammed outward out of engagement when the trigger is pulled, but otherwise protrudes inward with a tab fitting between the hammer and the frame that positively prevents the hammer from going fully forward–UNLESS, that is, the spring is stuck in the depressed position by gummed oil or grease. When this flaw resulted in the death of a sailor early in WWII, S&W came up with a better, fully-mechanical design that remains in use to this day.
          For that reason, as with all S&Ws prior to 1944, it isn’t 100% drop safe.

    • Now, if you had an original 1917 Webley-Vickers Automatic in .50-80, a huge handgun so accurate than an accomplished marksman using one could kill someone at 300 feet with their WEAK hand, you’d actually HAVE something.

    • Ah yes, the infamous Glock 1 built for the Austro-Hungarian pistol trials of 1910. Horizontal toggle delayed blowback in .30 Luger, porcelain frame (don’t drop it!), and a striker made from sperm whale bone (the original titanium, natch). Pretty rare but I see ’em on the fancy collector auction sites from time to time.

  4. Great guns.

    I don’t currently have a Police Positive but it is trimmer and lighter than the vaunted model 10.

    They are great woods-loafing guns with wadcutters or semi-wadcutters at leisurely speeds.

    I prefer the older model Colts with the unprotected ejector rod and rounded grips.

    Both model 10 and PP need a Tyler T grip to finish the out. I would be comfortable with either if I needed to carry one.

  5. A nice article. Both are great handguns. I’ll buy every one you can throw my way. Every one. Great handguns. I know I never want to be shot. Especially with .38 Spl by someone who knows what he’s doing.

  6. Most people tend to look down on the .38 special and praise the .357 Mag while often buying a 9mm in an auto pistol. In fact the .38 special and the 9mm are so close in ballistics that the only real difference is one of firepower.

    Just remember than the new Smiths and Colts being made today are total junk. Internal parts are now junk brittle MIM cast parts. Smith stopped pinning barrels and recessing cylinders and installing extractor alignment pins years ago. Smith now burns in the rifling with an EDM machine and when the barrels are cranked into the frame (the ones that have cheap ass shrouds) (2 piece barrels) they are installed with a splined tool that fits into the muzzle of the gun and engages the rifling. It does great things for accuracy (sarcasm)

    If you get lucky you can sometimes find .38 Smiths and Colts made in the 30’s when workmanship was at its zenith. They do not bring the big bucks that the “N” Frame Smiths do or the Pythons do that were made in the 60’s but the .38 special was and still is a very good defense caliber. I have a friend who owns a farm and has taken quite a few deer with his 6 inch Smith Model 10. When I asked him why he did not use a .357 Mag he said “Why should I this .38 special does just fine”.

    In the 1980’s Pistolero magazine went to Mexico and shot barn yard pigs in the barn yard. They found no difference in killing power between the .38 special and 9mm and .45 acp and the .357 Mag, none. They found that the .357 Mag and also the .45acp did not knock the pigs down, did not spin them around like a top and did not make the pigs disappear in a red puff of mist.

    The old axiom “Beware of the man who only owns one gun” holds true today just as it did decades ago.

    The Forces of Chiang Kai-shek found that out when they got their asses shot off by Mao Zedong troops at the “bridge battle” on the way to Russia when they used the .30 cal Mauser 1896 Broom Handle pistols with a velocity of 1,600 fps. But that is another story for another day. You would not be under gunned today with a Mauser 1896 Broom Handle pistol.

    Shades of Fu Manchu. “He who plays with dynamite will soon fly with angels”

    • Good write up there Dacian.
      When I handloaded I turned wad cutters heel forward, pretty good hollow point at low velocity.

    • Barn yard technology via the old Pistolero magazine. Those guys were a bit crude. Yeah, I remember that article, too.

    • None of Chaing Kai-Shek’s forces were at the Battle of Luding Bridge, in spite of communist propaganda to the contrary. The local warlords, poorly armed with short-range firearms, many single shot rifles opposed the communist crossing of the bridge. The communists were armed with weapons and ammunition captured previously from Nationalist forces. Deng Tso-Peng admitted later to Zbigniew Brzezinski that it wasnt much of a battle but was inflated for propaganda purposes.

      • to Old Smith Guy

        Your response is the typical far right radical “lets denigrate the forces of Mao Zedong”. Sorry your response is totally Non Sequitur.

        The real truth about the battle was that the bridge was already destroyed but the Nationalists made the mistake of leaving up the guide wires because both sides wanted to rebuild the bridge once the other side was defeated. The Communists had to send men over the guide wires hand over hand totally exposed and all they had on them were Mauser Broom handle pistols and grenades. Let us face facts any weapons including single shots can easily pick of exposed men having no cover to hide behind. What Mao’s men did was heroic beyond all measure despite the name calling by fanatics from the far right.

        The Mauser Broom handle pistol is a .30 caliber weapon which the ignorant far right like to denigrate because of its size. In reality as far back as the first invention of smokeless powder it was discovered that caliber was irrelevant in regards to lethality, rather it was bullet penetration and placement that resulted in a kill otherwise such men as W.D.M. Bell could never have killed over a thousand elephants with the 6.5mm and lived to tell about it.

        • Dude you have some real ISSUES goin on in your mind… I didnt “denigrate the forces of Mao” Tse Tung . I simply related the truth of the battle and the arms of the warlords opposing the communists at the bridge- as related by the words of Deng Tso Peng- who was certainly an Maoist and no Nationalist.
          Nothing wrong with sub-.30 cal rifles either- which werent even part of the discussion. The Swede 6.5 (one of which I bought for my daughter) has been known to take polar bear and moose in Norway and Sweden for a century or more. I don’t understand your ranting and not getting to the point- the recorded words of someone who was there at the time, and it’s puffing for propaganda purposes.

        • Oh, I forgot to mention that I did own and shoot a Broomhandle for a time. It was bulky and heavy but certainly powerful, but not something to pack around as a side arm. I sold it and got something somewhat more modern and handy, a Tokarev in the SAME caliber. It is much handier and lighter, but more powerful than the actual .30 cal Broomhandle. I keep it a a handy house defense pistol.
          Not sure why you got all het up in the first place.

    • This is the revolver I would own and purchase new in the 21st century. The lock work and metallurgy of Ruger’s SP-101 revolver is legendary and is built like a tank and is hell for stout! There is still a place for the revolver today, despite the popularity of Glock semi-automatic pistols, Colt AR-15 type rifles, and more modern “tactical” firearms. Not that there is anything wrong with a private citizen or civilian owning the former. But a 4″ .38 caliber revolver: .38 Special or .357 Magnum is by no means antiquated, out dated, and obsolete.
      Read my posted letter below: James A. “Jim” Farmer Klamath County, Oregon

      Lake County Examiner: Lakeview, Oregon: Wednesday, March 24,
      2021/Letters To The Editor

      Best general-purpose handgun

      For a general-purpose handgun consider Ruger’s SP-101 .357 Magnum revolver: “stainless steel”, 5 shot swing out cylinder (double-action), with 4.2” barrel and target sights for the citizen owning only one handgun. Versatile for “self-defense/house protection/concealed carry”, as a kit and trail gun for the outdoorsman/ sportsman, and for urban metro vs. wilderness rural use. At 30 oz. unloaded lightweight (for the hiker, backpacker, trapper), yet heavy enough to handle the .357 Magnum. Loaded with .38 Special 148 grain lead target wad-cutter ammo (next to a .22 or .32) practical for hunting small game: rabbit, squirrel, and grouse (for the campfire skillet), for dispatching vermin such as raccoon, skunk, possum, etc. Even for butchering livestock such as cattle with a head shot. Loaded
      with CCI’s classic .38 Special shot or snake load of No. 9 shot highly effective in killing rattlesnakes. Readily and instantly accessible in reach via a nightstand, dresser or bureau drawer, or next to a sleeping bag inside a tent is very comforting armed security to have, especially at night!

      This handgun would also be great for a long-haul trucker, or hay hauler, to carry. Even for the motorist traveling on a road trip. Yes, bear in mind being broken down, stranded, and having to spend the night alone in your vehicle. This .38/.357 revolver combination along with an Atomic Beam Flashlight, survival knife, fresh drinking water, food, toilet paper, shovel, matches, wool blanket, etc. could certainly take back the night.

      Even for a woman it’s smaller frame and size would still fit her smaller hands. And firing.38 Special ammo in this .*357 Magnum could still be handled by a female. Double action revolvers can be improved with aftermarket combat rubber grips.

      I recommend reading, “Meet Ruger’s SP-101 Revolver: The Ideal Gun For Self Defense”, by Kyle Mizokan via the April 2019 issue of The National Interest.

      -James A. Farmer
      Merrill, Oregon (Klamath County)
      Long Live The State of Jefferson!

      *.357 Magnum revolvers will chamber and fire .38 Special ammo, but not the reverse. Also….”SP-101 Like Physics, Only Practical” by Law Officer for January 3, 2009 is well worth reading.

  7. Grand dad left me his Colt police positive 38 spec. That Colt is a sweet shooting revolver and extremely accurate. have dispatched many snakes, raccoons, feral cats, all head shots.

  8. OT.
    This just happened to me.,, I rotate my magazines to preserve tension. I pulled magazine and decided to reload the change with a different style boolit. Normally I do not fuck with the one in the chamber , not wracking the slide avoids mishaps, however I knew there was a 200gr hp in the spout and really didn’t like their performance in my mud test. So I decided to put in the 185, which I like and dont like, penetration lacks, xpansions great.
    Upon pulling the slide back firmly, nothing ejected, there was no round chambered.
    Evidently in my last cleaning I had forgotten to chamber a round.
    That small mistake could have cost me my life. As I write this I’m pondering what could have happened, quite scary, one simple mistake, pre post traumatic stress disorder. No I’m perfectly fine, if I had that I’d get red flagged and then when they went to take my gunm away all I’d get is a click because I forgot to chamber a gawd dam round.

    • It’s called being ‘human’, possum. We make mistakes. And judging by the numbers of road kill so do possums.

      So we’re more equal than you would like to think.

  9. Carried one of these in a shoulder holster in Nam while flying medevac choppers. When I turned it in, the armorer asked me if I had ever cleaned it. I answered, “No, but I never shot it either”. It looked like it may have had a cobweb or two inside.

  10. Nice! Unfortunately, the only time gems like these show up locally, it’s at a pawn shop, where they ask top market value for them (even when they’ve bought them for 20 – 25% of asking price. So, they’re usually outside my budget.

  11. Thanks, all…. Good article and responses. Enjoyable reading. I like to carry the old Model 10’s and the Police Positives, even knowing they arent the greatest compared to more modern pistols or higher caliber numbers. Just like the “feel” and handling characteristics…

  12. I have a 68 Detective special that was almost never fired. The original owner was a municipal judge who carved his initials into the metal! Other than that it’s pristine. One question about the guns pictured. Why are they loaded?

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