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Discussion Starter #1
New to the forum....

Just picked up a new little 38. After doing a little researching I believe it is a 1950 pre-36 "Baby Chief". The bluing is approximately 10 percent, but has that good patina. The serial number is in the mid 1600s. The serial numbers match the frame, barrel, cylinder and wood grips. It has the half moon front sights. The grips are not cracked and are very nice for the handling this little thing has had. The gold medallions are however very worn.

I guess my question is, is it a 1950, possibly a modified I frame and is it called a Baby Chief? And the ultimate question, how much are these little jewels worth these days? I'll try to post some pics in the future.

No matter the worth, it is an awesome shooter and plans on staying in the stable for a while....

This forum is awesome and has some very beneficial info, glad to have joined!

Thanks.....
 

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Welcome to the forum!
Pictures. We need pictures. Lots of pictures.
They will help someone here give you a reasonable answer to your questions.
 

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welcome01 to the forums from the Wiregrass! Provided you have ID'd it correctly, it is likely a first year production which would be 1950. They made 7368 of early J frame revolvers between 1950 and 1952. It should be a 5 screw frame. Yes, it would be a baby Chief. The grips are shorter than a regular J frame by 1/8" and won't interchange.
 

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welcome to the forum. i love the early chiefs. they were introduced in 1950, but none actually shipped out 'til about november, and production was VERY SLOW starting out. there are only a handful that actually shipped out in 1950. i'd say that a 1600 range one was safely up in 1951, probably june or july, maybe even later. the earliest few had the small "service" grips, and the regular (pre-flat) latch. here is #90. to the best of my knowledge, it is the last one with these early features, and shipped in late 1950.


early in 1951 they went to the magna grips, and the first edition of the flat latch (collectors call the early flat latch "oval"). they still had the half-moon front sight, but it was phased out and changed over to the new ramp front sight pretty quickly.
here is an early baby chief with the magnas, oval flat latch, and ramp sight.


i am guessing that yours has the half-moon sight. the closest number i have info for is #2018 (half-moon sight shipped in 3/52), then #3729 (half-moon sight shipped in 2/52). then 116XX is the highest (by far!) half moon sight i have ever heard of, and it shipped in 4/52.

the lowest ramp sight baby chief i have listed is #2975 (don't know the ship date), then #6362 which shipped in 5/52. this short period of time shows how quickly s&w was increasing their production of the chief, the wide overlap of features across the serial number range, and the fact that they didn't necessarily ship in exact numerical order.

the introduction of the chief special was the introduction of the "J" frame. all 38 specials were "J" frames. the terrier was in 38 S&W, and was an I-frame. s&w lengthened the cylinder/cylinder window to accommodate the longer 38 special cartridge and designated it the "J" frame.
the baby chiefs used the same short grips as the terriers, and created a little confusion, but all 38 specials are "J"s!

here is an I-frame terrier.


an improved I-frame terrier ("improved" had a coil main spring as opposed to the earlier leaf spring)


then the chief. you can see the noticeably longer cylinder, although the small grips are still used.


as for value, usually "condition is everything"! BUT the round sight chiefs are extremely hard to find, and are pretty much in demand at the moment. a collector needing to fill a slot might pay more than normal, even for a well-worn example. a perfect round sight baby in its original box would be very expensive. a really nice round sight baby will easily bring 1100-1600. a decent shooter grade one might bring 600. a decent worn example with no big flaws or alterations would probably still bring 500, maybe a tad more.

we need pics! and if you get it lettered, i would appreciate your ship-date info for my records!

ed
 

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alright, you posted pics during my post! that is definitely an early baby chief! it would fall chronologically and transitionally, right between my first pic and my second pic. round sight, oval flat latch, and short magnas. i would still estimate later '51/maybe early '52 on the ship date, just because they were moving out so slowly during the earliest period.

it looks to have been happily carried and used over the last 60 years! if it works correctly, and the numbers all match, i would think it would easily bring 500. in any condition, there were very few of them produced with this exact combination of transitional features, and even less of them have survived.

nice gun, and again, welcome to the forum!

ed
 

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Welcome aboard from Florida the "GunShine" state. weiweinp

State of over "1 MILLION 120 THOUSAND" Concealed Carry Licenses & counting!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks ed, very informative. I know it is not a museum piece, but it shoots like a dream and has that "I've been around" feel to it. Determining the history of a piece like this is almost as fun as shooting it. Like I said, I shoot it all the time and have not had the first glitch. The trigger is amazing, compared to the newer 642s and my current Model 60 (which is realy good). Definitely enjoying it.

Here's the dreaded "R" word. Would having it Reblued and Refinished totally ruin the value, or ruin the nostalgia?????? My current plan is to keep her oiled and keep the lead going down the pipe!

Thanks again........
 

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welcome01to the forums from SE Indiana. I would never reblue an older gun that has the honest patina that comes with age and use but not abuse. The patina gives it the class that it deserves...it was earned. Again welcome and enjoy that old Smith...they don't make em like that anymore. Best regards Dick
 

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it is a sweet old gun. i would keep it just as is, and enjoy shooting it. any refinishing wouldn't increase the value at all, and would possibly even lower it. personally, i would value it at 500 as it is, and i wouldn't even be interested in it at any price if it had been redone.

you have a nice, perfectly functional representative of a fairly rare niche baby chief. if i were you, i'd hang onto it, and preserve it for the future, while being perfectly content to run a box of shells through it every now and then!

thanks for the pics.

ed
 
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