The Smith & Wesson revolver shown here was made in 1953. It’s a Military & Police .38 Special with fixed sights, tapered 4″ barrel and satin blue finish. Weight is just over 30 ounces. It was a police department trade-in, and shows the wear of decades of carry in a duty holster. In those boom years after WWII there was tremendous demand for all sorts of goods, firearms included. S&W quickly transitioned from wartime military production back to the civilian market, both for private citizens and for police departments busy equipping their officers with the most up-to-date gear.
Handling the gun, I can’t help thinking of the first officer to whom the revolver was issued, back when the finish was perfect, the checkering on the grips crisp and sharp. I wonder who you were and what your life was like, all those years ago. Most likely this revolver was purchased and issued in 1953 or 1954. The odds are you were a military veteran who served in WWII or in Korea — maybe both.
Smith & Wesson .38 Special Military & Police revolver. This particular one was made in 1953.
It has fixed sights, tapered 4″ barrel, checkered stocks and a Mershon grip adapter.
Is the cop who carried it decades ago still around?
While just another plain old workhorse police trade-in, it happens to have been made with
extraordinary quality. Six shots for sure; and it can hit a pop can at 25 yards with every shot.
Was This YOUR Gun?
You would have memories of growing up during the “Dirty Thirties,” the Great Depression. You must have been happy to return to civilian life and to a job in a respected profession, with the assurance of a regular paycheck.
You may not have had much experience with handguns, but your instructors wouldn’t have to teach you firearm safety. Your dad taught you about firearms before you were a teenager, and some hard-nosed drill instructors would have reinforced the lessons.
It must have been a thrill to put on the uniform, belt on the new leather gear — and yes, it was actual leather — and holster the shiny new revolver. No triple-level retention holsters back then, just a safety strap, which some officers didn’t bother to use. Back then it was unheard of (and likely suicidal) for even a hardened criminal to try and grab a cop’s gun.
The new, shiny look must have been a bit embarrassing in those early days. Back then they didn’t have FTOs (“Field Training Officers”), no fancy titles or acronyms. More likely a sergeant called over one of his buddies and told him to let the kid ride with him a few weeks, show him the ropes and don’t get him killed. And don’t let him turn out like you.
It probably didn’t take long to knock the new off the gun, or off the officer wearing it. Judging from the wear on both sides of the grips you must have worked in a cold climate where you often had to wear a jacket. You knew enough about guns, or at least someone did, to add a Mershon grip adapter. And yes, there’s blue wear on the revolver, even a few little spots of rust, but considering it was worn in an open holster, in rain, snow and summer heat, you took pretty good care of it. The bore and chambers are perfect. Even today, 60 years after it was made, it shoots into 2″ to 3″ at 25 yards, an inch or so right of dead center, which might be my own fault when I shoot it.
You probably didn’t notice the years passing by, the marks of wear on the gun, the leather gear, and yourself, until some 21-year-old rookie in an immaculate new uniform showed up at the station, and the sergeant told you to take the kid out, show him how it’s done, and try to be nice enough he doesn’t decide to resign.
Are You There?
If you’re still alive, and I hope you are, you must be in your 80s by now. I hope you enjoyed your police career. I hope for every loudmouth jerk with a cousin on city council there was at least one citizen who said thanks for getting there so quickly to help. I hope you had a partner who you knew, beyond a doubt, would always be there for you — as you would for him.
I hope you had a great family, and time for Christmases and birthdays together. I hope they understood the times you couldn’t be there, because someone has to mind the streets even while others are celebrating. I hope your kids and grandkids are proud of how you served, and maybe one or two of them even followed in your footsteps.
I’m glad to be custodian of your old duty gun for a few years. You’ll be glad to know I take good care of it. I even carry it on occasion. It must have been comforting to feel its reassuring weight on your belt as you walked the streets. It still is.
By Dave Anderson