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I was passed down an old Smith and Wesson .38 revolver that was supposedly my great uncles providence police revolver. I can not find any info on when it was made when using the serial number. The serial number is 689963 and the number on the yoke is 25 892. Any help in dating this would be of great assistance. I attached some pictures below. Also If you also notice any unique things about this revolver please let me know. I’m very curious about this piece. Thanks again - GunYankee
 

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SArack.jpg The original S&W of WWII, the South African order of May/June 1940. Likely one of those diverted to England during the Battle of Britain. Entered commerce through the Birmingham Proof House 1955 or later. I can tell you this since they were the only British Service Revolvers with 4 inch barrels and of course the serial number range.

If it made it to Capetown it will have the SA property mark and rack number. You may want to check and see if uncle had it converted to .38 Special. How else may I help you?

Welcome to the forums, an interesting entry post.
 

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Thank you for the warm welcome. Are you sure about that information. My uncle was a providence Rhode Island cop from around the 1920’s-1950’s. I was told by everyone in my family that was his on duty carry weapon. I have the original American made police holster that goes with the gun. I find it hard to believe this made its way to Britain and the UK.
 

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What you chose to believe is beyond my control. The gun was made in America. The serial number falls in the correct range. The caliber .38 S&W is not .38 S&W Special. All Model 1905 M&P Change 4 revolvers in that caliber date to WWII and almost exclusively for the Commonwealth countries. BNP corresponds to Birmingham Nitro Proof, 1955 on. .38 is the caliber, .767 is the case length; 3.5 tons is the proof pressure level.

Stories are stories. Facts are facts. If it is any consolation we here have addressed this issue countless times especially regarding repatriated WWII revolvers. You will note I did not say that at some point in 1955 or later it was not carried as a duty weapon, in fact I hinted that it may have been converted to .38 Special. It is still a nice piece of history and I believe only 2,000 were made in this configuration. Treasure it regardless.
 

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38-200-1.jpg If it will chamber a .38 Special it has been converted. A .38 Special measures 1.15 as opposed to .767. The .38 S&W is a few thousandths fatter. You can see a step in the chambers if you look very closely in good light, we're talking a fixed .357 for the Specials and .36/.361 for the .38 S&W (.380 Rimmed in Brit-speak).
 

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Thank you again. Would it be worth getting this revolver researched professionally by smith and Wesson to just be sure. Also off the top of your head what do you think the value of this piece is. I’m just curious I would never sell something like this.
 

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A letter from S&W will cost $100 & tell you where it was originally shipped, ship date, configuration & caliber. It won't tell you what happened after it left, where it went or who owned it. Waidmann already gave you more information than the letter will contain. Value varies w/ location but around here that gun would sell for a couple hundred dollars, I'd keep it for a priceless keepsake. PS: welcome to the forum, lots of good, friendly, helpful folks hang out here.
 

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Thank you for the warm welcome. Are you sure about that information. My uncle was a providence Rhode Island cop from around the 1920’s-1950’s. I was told by everyone in my family that was his on duty carry weapon. I have the original American made police holster that goes with the gun. I find it hard to believe this made its way to Britain and the UK.
You ought to watch Antiques Roadshow more often, where revered "family traditions," passed down through the generations, are routinely proven to be the bunk--i.e., historically impossible. In fact, so-called "oral history" of all kinds is usually so mixed up with distortions, omissions, & misapprehensions as to be worthless for establishing factual history.
 

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I believe I gave $325 for mine with the SA property mark. My first one bears no post factory marks, I researched it, and got a factory letter which showed it shipped to Capetown. I later learned from a South African a number were diverted to England. He had the documentation to back up his claim. I never advise anyone to letter a WWII military property revolver. First let me address 1940. The Battle of France, Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain. The Brits were purchasing anything they could lay their hands on and they entered service in multiple ways. I own two Colts that were converted from .38 Special to .38 S&W one a target model. Some American revolvers were stamped 38/380, some went through the standard Enfield inspection/acceptance/military proof process; others like yours and some of mine bear no military marks. That yours bears the civil proofs is evidence it left government control in England which prompts my opinion it was diverted to the Brits (along with the absence of SA marks).

S&W owed the British military $1,000,000 for an aborted light rifle project; they paid it off in trade. From mid-1940 through April 1942 (roughly) S&W supplied commercial grade product. After that came dull finish, smooth grips and U.S. property marks (Lend-Lease). Some Commonwealth countries put property marks on these guns. Others including England did not have a definitive property mark.

Your $100 will buy a narrative tale of the history of the two South African orders, will specify which one it falls into with a destination of Capetown or it went to the British Purchasing Commission at the Port of New York. Once it left S&W the trail goes dark until it arrives at Birmingham for testing to enter civilian life. Many of these wartime S&W's made their way back home. Of the countries involved only Britain performed civil proof.

For the above reasons and more I say keep your $100.
 

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Your $100 will buy a narrative tale of the history of the two South African orders, will specify which one it falls into with a destination of Capetown or it went to the British Purchasing Commission at the Port of New York.
Actually, that would be considerably more historical info than the ones I've bought. More often than not, these letters consist of a long "general history" of that model, followed by one or two lines relevant to your particular revolver. Of course, if the ""general history" were omitted, such letters would look pretty emaciated, so I guess the point is to make it look like the buyer is getting his money's worth.
 

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As Waidmann indicated, a batch of the South African contract was diverted en route and did not make it to South Africa, but landed in Britain. But I think these actually also letter to Cape Town, as the diversion occurred after they left the factory. The South Africans stamped all guns they got, so without the U this gun did not arrive there.

But the SA-contract guns were the only 4” revolvers produced in .38 S&W; none were sold pre-war in the US, and the Birmingham proofs make this gun’s service in Britain a slam-dunk.

Sparsely-paid US policemen after WWII, if they were required to provide their own sidearms, have been known to buy these inexpensive re-imported revolvers if they couldn’t afford a new one.

Thank you again. Would it be worth getting this revolver researched professionally by smith and Wesson to just be sure. Also off the top of your head what do you think the value of this piece is. I’m just curious I would never sell something like this.
As for the letter, you will indeed most likely just learn the exact ship date as new information. The rest we’ve already told you.

And for value, the gun looks to be in good shape, so if it is all original, meaning the chambers have not been bored out for .38 Special and the right grip panel has a matching serial, the value would be in the $400 range. Deduct up to $100 for a modified cylinder and/or mismatched stocks.
 

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Depending on when your uncle was a policeman in Providence RI, the fact that this one is a lend-lease revolver sent to Britain (or even South Africa) during WWII, may not mean that it WASN'T still his police service revolver. If he was on the force in the 1950's or even 1960's it is at least possible that he had to provide his own sidearm. A lot of smaller departments required their officers to buy their own firearm back in the day. So it is possible that he obtained and carried a repatriated lend-lease revolver a decade or two after the end of WWII.

EDIT: I see that Absalom beat me to the punch by a couple of minutes. Great minds think alike they say :D
 

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Could it still be possible that this revolver was issued for the Providence Ri police force or did all revolvers with those serial numbers go overseas to Britain and South Africa.
 

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To provide some additional information, here is a letter for a SA contract gun which is owned by someone I know, is unstamped, and thus did not make it to SA, and some comments from a South African collector I know:

"At the end of May 1940 South Africa agreed to let Britain have the first 4600 4" guns that were ready to be shipped to SA. This was after the guns had left the S&W factory, which is why a factory letter says that they were sent to SA.

Britain agreed to replace these guns in July and August. This must be the reason the BPC order that Pate mentions was placed on the 17th of June. However, they seem to have ordered an extra 279 guns for some reason.

The first S&W M&Ps actually delivered to South Africa were not received until August 1940. All M&Ps received by the Union Defence Force (UDF) were given a rack number and Arrow in U on the back strap. Well actually I have a Lend lease one without the Arrow in U; probably a tea break mistake by the armourer.

Source: South African UDF archives."

The OP's #689963 and the #685987 in the letter fall well within 4600 of each other, so the likelihood of this being the connection is high.
 

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