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Meet the Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 Special: The Best Revolver?

When the S&W M10 made its debut, it was officially dubbed the Smith & Wesson .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899.

Smith and Wesson Model 10. Image: Creative Commons.
Smith and Wesson Model 10

Where it began/I can’t begin to knowin…’  – Thus begins Neil Diamond’s timeless smash hit song “Sweet Caroline.” Well, when it comes to determining when Smith & Wesson became the dominant player in the double-action revolver market, we can indeed “begin to knowin.’” It started in 1899, the year Smith & Wesson debuted their venerable Model 10 Military & Police .38 Special revolver

S&W M10 History & Specifications

When the S&W M10 made its debut, it was officially dubbed the Smith & Wesson .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899 and the Smith & Wesson Military & Police. The Smith & Wesson Victory Model was an additional moniker that was applied during WWII. The Model 10 designation didn’t become official until 1957. 

The revolver soon became popular with not only American police, but indeed with police forces around the globe, including the (South) Korean National Police Agency and the Turkish National Police. Arguably the biggest and most famous users of the gun were the NYPD and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The gun would spawn .357 Magnum variants such as the S&W Model 13 and Model 65 (the former having a blued carbon steel finish, the latter in stainless steel). These were the longtime mainstays of the FBI until the agency made its transition to semiautomatic pistols official in 1990 with the adoption of yet another Smith & Wesson handgun, the 10mm Model 1076

One hundred-fourteen years after its first appearance, the S&W M10 is still going strong, with over 6,000,000 having been produced. At present, S&W classifies the M10 as part of its K-frame, medium-sized revolver series. Other guns in this series include the highly popular Model 19 .357 Magnum. By comparison, Smith’s ultra-compact snubnoses like the Model 36 Chief’s Special .38 Special are classified as J-frames, the Model 586 .357 Magnum Distinguished Combat Magnum falls under the medium-large L-frame category, the Model 29 .44 Magnum I(the Dirty Harry gun) and Model 57 .41 Magnum are large N-frames, and the behemoth Model 500 in .500 S&W caliber is in the extra-large X-frame category. 

Specifications for the standard 4-inch barreled edition are an overall length of 8.87 inches, a width of 1.45 inches, a height of 5.85 inches, and a weight of 34.6 ounces, with the typical wheelgun’s ammo capacity of 6 rounds. 

Impressions of Fellow L.E. Veterans/Gun Writers

Highly regarded law enforcement veteran and self-defense guru Massad F. Ayoob, in his book In the Gravest Extreme: The Role of the Firearm in Personal Protection – published way back in 1980 but still considered one of the best books ever written on the subject of armed self-protection – had this to say about the Smith Model 10 M&P:

“The most popular service revolver, it’s far and away the best in its class. The smooth double-action trigger pull is the standard by which other guns are judged…The 4-inch heavy barrel is the choice of professionals. There is a two-inch barrel available, but on this service revolver frame it is substantially bulkier than the other .38 snubbies. The model 10 is perhaps the oly fixed-sight revolver that will shoot to point of aim as it comes from the factory. (The smaller Smith & Wessons tend to shoot low.)”

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.  

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Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).