Friday, May 01, 2009

Range day

Smith & Wesson Victory ModelThese were made as part of the Lend/Lease program in WWII, when the Brits needed arms(as I recall, this was about the time when they made a plea to the US for people to donate any working firearms, with the promise that they would be returned after the war*). Built on the K frame, double-action revolver, 5-screw, marked * 38 SMITH & WESSON CTG * on the right side of the barrel and ‘United States Property’ on the topstrap. It also has British proof marks on the barrel, on the frame and over each chamber of the cylinder. And, the ‘MADE IN USA’ on the right side of the frame apparently not being good enough, a little tiny stamp that says ‘Not English Make’ on the barrel and receiver**.

According to the book, S&W made a British service revolver prior to these "(K-200, S&W Pistol #2) - "Pre-Model 11" to be precise, then began making them with a 'V' prefix in the serial number, leading to 'Victory Model'. It also says the normal barrel was 4", so this being 5" is unusual. The 'United States Property' stamp makes it early Lend-Lease. Continuing the oddity, it says the original hammer block was a shoulder on the rebound slide that fitted against a shoulder on the hammer; after a fatal accident in which they found that could fail if dropped, some were modified by milling a slot in the sideplate for a sliding hammer block and a modification on the rebound slide to fit it(same hammer block design they still use). This one has a piece fitted to a slot in the sideplate, but it doesn't slide; the upper end can flex out, but the lower is fixed. Unless I'm not understanding something, this doesn't match the description, so I've got some digging to do.

If you’re not familiar with it, the .38S&W preceded the .38 Special; shorter case of slightly larger diameter, slightly larger diameter bullet. The version the Brits used to replace the .455 Webley was originally called the .380/200: .38 caliber, 200-grain round-nose cast bullet at about 650feet per second. I’ve read that it had a pretty good record as a fight-stopper. Later, when it was decided the cast bullet didn’t meet the Geneva Convention specs, they went to a 172-grain jacketed bullet, which had a much lesser reputation. It’s worth noting that there was a .38S&W 200-grain load here in the US called the ‘Super Police’.

According to the book, there were several different finishes used, from polished and blued to a few parkerized. Issue grips are noted as being smooth walnut; this one has what appear to be commercial grips, so probably changed out at some point after it made its way back to the US.

One thing I’ll point out on the loads: pistols set up for the 200-grain load will shoot low with lighter bullets; the 145-grain, for instance, having a higher velocity, leaves the muzzle faster. Conversely, pistols made for the lighter bullet will throw the 200-grain quite a bit high; it being in the barrel longer, recoil has more time to raise it before the bullet exits.

I did some digging around a couple of years ago and found some load information that was supposed to duplicate the .380/200. Lyman makes a mold that throws a 200-grain round-nose bullet, so

I tried this load out, and it worked for me; doesn't mean it will for you. Try it at your own peril; if you blow something up, it ain't my doing.

I wound up using the recommended 2.4 grains of Unique. The bullet, as-cast and lubed with Lee Liquid Alox, is seated to an overall length of 1.93" with just a slight crimp, which puts the bullet base right at the top of the powder column. My Chrony shows this going right about 650 feet per second ten feet from the muzzle, which does indeed duplicate original ballistics so far as I can tell. I've tried it in a Enfield MkII, a Webley MkIV and now this; all were originally designed for the .380/200, and all shot this load right to point of aim.

Speaking of which, this beast shot like you'd expect a Smith & Wesson to. I tried it at ten yards single-action, and it placed the Lyman bullets in nice tight groups(tight as I could hold, anyway) right where aimed. Up closer, some fast two-shot drills went right where they should. The action's a bit tight; I'd say it was carried a lot but not fired much. The single-action pull was light and clean, just like it should be.

I also tried some 148-grain wadcutters, as-cast with Liquid Alox over Unique, and they produced very nice groups, about 3" below point of aim.

So I've got a physical piece of an interesting period of history to care for and use. And wonder how it came back to this country. Since a pair of the smooth grips would probably cost a disgusting amount(if I could find any), I think I'll get a piece of walnut from the garage and do some work when the weather allows and make a set. Not only will they be closer to original, I can shape them to fit my hand a bit better.

*As one more example of the trustworthiness of socialist governments, after the war the Attlee government had all the privately donated arms rounded up, put on a couple of old freighters, taken out to sea and the ships sunk. Too bad they couldn’t have put him and his ministers on the boats before they went down.

**I’ve seen a couple of Webley MkIV revolvers produced during the war with ‘WAR FINISH’ stamped on the frame; even with the rush, they wanted it known that this less-than-wonderful finish was NOT representative of their normal work.

1 comment:

Arthur said...

Wow, I had never heard much of the post WWII brit government before so I looked up "Attlee government"

Wiki had this - "In 2004, he was voted as the greatest British prime minister of the 20th century in a poll of professors..."

Talk about a ringing endorsement. Eeeesh.