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Smith & Wesson Model 10 (38 Special)

Six-Shot, Double-Action Service Revolver [ 1899 ]

The .38 Special was - and continues to be - a no-frills and popular revolver entry despite its 1899 origins.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 11/24/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The famous ".38 Special" revolver was the Smith & Wesson Model 10 which first appeared in 1899 and went on to see some 6 million produced and used across two World Wars and countless conflicts in between. The weapon was a no-frills design with a solid frame, six-shot capacity cylinder and double-action trigger system. The "double-action" quality signified the cocking and release of the hammer with a single trigger pull as opposed to the manual setting of the hammer prior to each firing seen in a "single-action" design. Beyond its use by US forces, the weapon served other national powers including Australia, Canada, China, France, Norway, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and others for decades since its inception.

Origins of the Model 10 could be traced back to a US military requirement specifying a centerfire revolver sidearm. Smith & Wesson, the famous gun concern founded in 1852 by Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson, responded with their new offering which was accepted by way of a contract in 1899 - bringing about the Model 1899 "Hand Ejector" legacy, recognized formally to the US military as the ".38 Military and Police" ("M&P"). The revolver was offered with varying barrel lengths measuring 4", 5", 6" and 6.5" long. The M&P was chambered for the .38 Long Colt cartridge until actions during the Philippine-American War (1899-1902) proved the .38 Long Colt generally inadequate for military service. This then gave rise to the .38 S&W Special cartridge to which M&P guns were rechambered for. The cartridge also birthed the popular common name of ".38 Special" which has stood the test of time. The new .38 M&P (Second Model) was introduced in 1902. In 1905, the related S&W Model 1905 was released and production of these alone reached over 637,500 units.

Due to availability and issuance, the revolver was pressed into combat service during World War 1 (1914-1918) and proved itself a reliable and effective weapon despite the rise of semi-automatic types such as the Colt/Browning M1911. Revolvers were still highly valued during the period and more trusted than their semi-automatic brethren. Semi-automatic handguns were relatively new and incorporated more internal parts and movement which led many to consider them not as reliable when compared to the trusty old revolver design. This thinking allowed many revolvers to flourish as standard sidearms of many armies in World War 1 including those of the United States, Britain, France and Russia.

By the time of World War 2 (1939-1945), the semi-automatic sidearm had grown in popularity but large stocks of revolvers led to their continued use. Smith & Wesson continued production of their Hand Ejector line - the Model 10 - throughout the conflict. In 1942, they introduced the S&W Victory Model for military service, these denoted by their "V" prefix serial numbers. Some 570,000 units were manufactured and issued to American forces and allied armies. During the war, the revolver served frontline forces, security elements and partisan units equally as an effective man-stopper at close ranges.

Use of the Model 10 continued in the post-war years dominated by the Cold War decades. This led to their being used in the upcoming Korean War (1950-1953) and the Vietnam War (1955-1975). Despite their late-1800s origins, they were also used in the 1991 Gulf War - a conflict dominated by use of digital equipment and automatic weapon types. The Israeli military even copied the design in a 9x21mm form.

Over its lifetime, the Model 10 was seen with additional barrel lengths as short as 2". These snub-nosed versions were used by Criminal Investigation Division and counterintelligence personnel within the United States and elsewhere. On the whole, the Model 10 proved exceedingly popular in American law enforcement until the wider acceptance of semi-automatic types prevailed.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Service Year

United States national flag graphic
United States


Six-Shot, Double-Action Service Revolver

National flag of Australia National flag of Austria National flag of Canada National flag of China National flag of Eritrea National flag of France National flag of Ireland National flag of Israel National flag of Malaysia National flag of Morocco National flag of Myanmar National flag of New Zealand National flag of Norway National flag of Pakistan National flag of Peru National flag of the Philippines National flag of Portugal National flag of Qatar National flag of South Africa National flag of Thailand National flag of Turkey National flag of the United Kingdom National flag of the United States National flag of Vietnam Australia; Austria; Cambodia; Canada; China; Costa Rica; Djibouti; Eritrea; France; Hong Kong; Ireland; Israel; Macau; Malaysia; Morocco; Myanmar; New Zealand; Norway; Pakistan; Peru; Philippines; Portugal; Qatar; South Africa; Thailand; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States; Vietnam;
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Pistol / Sidearm
Compact design for close-quarters work or general self-defense.

Overall Length
228 mm
8.98 in
Barrel Length
100 mm
3.94 in
Empty Wgt
2.00 lb
0.91 kg

Notched Rear; Front Blade


Single-Action, Double-Action Revolving Cylinder

(Material presented above is for historical and entertainment value and should not be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation - always consult official manufacturer sources for such information)


.38 Long Colt; .38 Special; .38/200

Rounds / Feed

6-Round Cylinder
Cartridge relative size chart
*May not represent an exhuastive list; calibers are model-specific dependent, always consult official manufacturer sources.
**Graphics not to actual size; not all cartridges may be represented visually; graphics intended for general reference only.
Muzzle Velocity
1,000 ft/sec
(305 m/sec)

S&W Model 10 - Base Series Designation
S&W .38 Hand Ejector - Base Name; chambered for .38 Long Colt cartridge.
S&W .38 Military & Police (M&P) - Original military designation.
S&W Military & Police (M&P) Model 1902 - Rechambered for .38 Special cartridge.
S&W Model 1905 - Related offshoot of the Hand Ejector line.
S&W Victory Model - Alternative Name; WW2-related production.

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Images Gallery

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Image of the Smith & Wesson Model 10 (38 Special)
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Image of the Smith & Wesson Model 10 (38 Special)
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