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Why? I spent a part of my military career in the Air Force, where I carried one daily and qualified twice per year. We fired the ball ammo which was known as the PGU-12/B Velocity is given as 1125 fps. Pressure is 20000 psi. That is the Plus P max limit. Back in my time, when I actually used the model 15, 72 million rounds were made at Lake City for the USAF in 1979-80, the only time Lake City made .38 Special ammunition.

I was also issued a SW model 36 square butt with the 3 inch barrel. We fired the same stuff in the little gun. It had some recoil but they held up well. One I have is the Model 14 the forerunner to the Model 15, I shoot it that hot and hotter and never ever had a problem. The pin barrel model 15 is a sturdy gun, in my opinion you can never hurt it with any 38 or 38 Plus P ammo, they are just that good. IMHO

Anybody have any data otherwise?
I was in the Marines as a Military Policeman in the 1970s. We had Model 36 (2 inch) for CID (Investigators) and Model 15 (4 inch) for the Game Wardens.
1969; Caliber .38 Special, Ball PGU12/B High Velocity Cartridge 20,000psi approx 1125fps 6" test bbl, 950 to 980fps 4" revolver


The Model 14 is a six inch and the Model 15 is a four inch, both had adjustable sights. They were both made during the same time span.

S&W Model Listing
Model year year Frame Caliber Name
intro Discon Size
14 1947 1982 KT 38 Spl K-38 Masterpiece
15 1949 KT 38 Spl K-38 Combat Masterpiece
 

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You can PM me the serial number and I can give you the appx date. However, The gun pictured is definitely NOT a 15-8. There are features visible in the picture that would preclude that from being so,

The barrel is pinned - that was dropped with the 1982 15-5 engineering change (that's what the dash numbers are). The 15-8 would have had a MIM hammer with a floating firing pin. Yours quite obviously has the FP riveted to the hammer-nose. Part of the 15-7 change was a MIM cylinder release - yours does not have that. That was also when synthetic grips were introduced - while you have a set of Hogues, if they had been original to the gun, they would have been branded S&W - can't tell if yours is so branded on the off-side. If that was represented to you as the original box that is another tell-tale as 15-8's were shipped in blue plastic cases. The the box shown was used from 1966 to 1985 - which if it is original to the gun, would make it anything from a 15-2 to a 15-4. A 15-8 would have a three-alpha, four numeric format serial number. Betting yours starts with either just a "K" or a single to a triple digit in front of a "K" followed by numbers. The wooden grips (stocks in S&W parlance) are not original to the gun either. Probably Altamont, but definitely not OE S&W. The model, with a dash number, should be stamped on the frame in the yoke cut. The official location for the serial number is on the bottom of the grip frame (covered by those grips), but may also be found in the yoke cut adjacent to the model number.

None of the above is meant to denigrate the gun or you purchase of same. Actually, most would find that gun to be preferable to a 15-8. It is an excellent piece that looks to be in terrific shape. I'm a bit OCD when it come to Smiths. Enjoy your new-to-you gun.

Adios,

Pizza Bob
SWCA Member 3434
 

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Every police department with which I had any acquaintance (mainly in Texas) in the mid-70s/early 80s told me that officers issued k-frame .357s did their qualifications with .38 +P, their practice with standard .38, and that .357 Magnum ammunition was classified as "carry only".

I guess where you use the term "reasonable" to describe .38 special ammunition satisfactory for use, I used the word "moderate". I should have picked my adjectives better, I guess. I'm REALLY sorry that I "stirred up" all of this. It was NEVER my goal.
Same thing with CA Police Departments.
"... three of the slain Newhall officers carried revolvers loaded with .357 Magnum ammunition, and the fourth carried a .38 Special revolver loaded with hot SuperVel loads.

Department policies did not require officers to actually train and qualify with the privately purchased ammunition however, so many officers shot low-powered wadcutters in training, and carried Magnum loads on duty that they had little experience with." S&W Model 68

Smith and Wesson made the Model 68 which was identical to the Model 66 (357 Magnum) but was in 38 Special and can handle the +P+ loads of that era.
 

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15-8 started after 1977.
15-8 started in 1997 and was the last regular production gun engineering change before the Model 15 was dropped. The 15-9 was from the Performance Center and was part of S&W's Heritage Series.

PB
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
So, after posting this, cleaning the pistol up, and a couple of Members having done me the courtesy of looking up the SN for the date of manufacture, it was apparently built in 72, but Che's numbers range didn't jibe with the SN.:unsure::unsure::unsure:

And without openly posting the whole SN, it starts with 3K.

So, I got the pistol back out and put it under the lighted magnifying glass, and lo and behold, it's a 15-3, not an 8.

That jibes with it being a -3 and a K Frame.

There's a reason my drivers license is restricted to corrective lenses.

But at least I was blurring the 3 to an 8. If I'd made it a 7 or something, then I'd REALLY be worried. ;)

I think I like it even better as a -3. (y)
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
You can PM me the serial number and I can give you the appx date. However, The gun pictured is definitely NOT a 15-8. There are features visible in the picture that would preclude that from being so,

The barrel is pinned - that was dropped with the 1982 15-5 engineering change (that's what the dash numbers are). The 15-8 would have had a MIM hammer with a floating firing pin. Yours quite obviously has the FP riveted to the hammer-nose. Part of the 15-7 change was a MIM cylinder release - yours does not have that. That was also when synthetic grips were introduced - while you have a set of Hogues, if they had been original to the gun, they would have been branded S&W - can't tell if yours is so branded on the off-side. If that was represented to you as the original box that is another tell-tale as 15-8's were shipped in blue plastic cases. The the box shown was used from 1966 to 1985 - which if it is original to the gun, would make it anything from a 15-2 to a 15-4. A 15-8 would have a three-alpha, four numeric format serial number. Betting yours starts with either just a "K" or a single to a triple digit in front of a "K" followed by numbers. The wooden grips (stocks in S&W parlance) are not original to the gun either. Probably Altamont, but definitely not OE S&W. The model, with a dash number, should be stamped on the frame in the yoke cut. The official location for the serial number is on the bottom of the grip frame (covered by those grips), but may also be found in the yoke cut adjacent to the model number.

None of the above is meant to denigrate the gun or you purchase of same. Actually, most would find that gun to be preferable to a 15-8. It is an excellent piece that looks to be in terrific shape. I'm a bit OCD when it come to Smiths. Enjoy your new-to-you gun.

Adios,

Pizza Bob
SWCA Member 3434
Your post is also why I got it out and used the lit magnifying glass.

BTW, the wood grips didn't appear to me to be original S&W grips, but they're nice wood, fit well, and do have the S&W Medallion in them, so look good and fit good to the hand.
The Hogue Grips were on it, but I don't like the feel of them as well as the wood grips.

As always on that, "To each his own."

I have some pistols I have Hogue and Pachmyer grips on that make them easier and more comfortable to shoot.

And, after looking at it under the magnifying glass, your observations are "Spot On", and were and are appreciated.
 

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15-8 started after 1977.
15-8 started in 1997 and was the last regular production gun engineering change before the Model 15 was dropped. The 15-9 was from the Performance Center and was part of S&W's Heritage Series.

PB
Good eye; I cut and paste for the Model 10 my error.
Model 10
-1 1959 Heavy Barrel
-2 1961 Changed extractor rod thread to LH on standard barrel
-3 1961 Same as above, for heavy barrel
-4 1962 Screw in front of trigger eliminated
-5 1962 1/10" to 1/8" front sight, on standard barrel
-5 1962 Screw in front of trigger guard eliminated on
heavy barrel model
-7 1977 Change to put gas ring from yoke to cylinder
-8 1977 Change to put gas ring from yoke to cylinder
on heavy barrel model
 

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Smith and Wesson made the Model 68 which was identical to the Model 66 (357 Magnum) but was in 38 Special and can handle the +P+ loads of that era.
Those were made mostly for export, and some very limited US LE sales, not for digesting heavier loads. The steel and heat treatment is the same between the M15 & M19.
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 · (Edited)
Just for grins and giggles, I decided to do an inventory of my S&W's.

If I can find three more nice ones, I'll have a "Bakers Dozen".

Except for the newest acquisition, they all spend range time and/or carry time, depending upon circumstance.
 

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Here is my 15-3...


and my 15-9 nickel McGivern


If you don't know who Ed McGivern was, Google him. He set records that Jerry Miculek has yet to break. If you don't know who Jerry Miculek is, what the heck are you doing on a gun forum? LOL

Enjoy yours.

Adios,

Pizza Bob
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Here is my 15-3...


and my 15-9 nickel McGivern


If you don't know who Ed McGivern was, Google him. He set records that Jerry Miculek has yet to break. If you don't know who Jerry Miculek is, what the heck are you doing on a gun forum? LOL

Enjoy yours.

Adios,

Pizza Bob
I like your pistols. I REALLY like those Staghorn (assumption) grips.

If you ever decide to get rid of those, feel free to put me in your will to inherit them. (That's probably the only way you're going to get rid of them, so.... ;))
 

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A K frame S&W is not going to blow up shooting +P. The K frame m19 is not going to blow up with 357s either. The point is it’s not a good idea to feed them a steady diet of heavy loads. In fact I don’t care which S&W you are talking about, up to 44 mg/ m29 continued firing of heavy +p or magnum loads will cause problems. Shooting reasonable loads they will give years of service. Why beat up a good gun without reason? I have 5gallons of S&Ws, mostly N frames. Most of them have never had a jacketed bullet in them and would be running at approx 1000fps . They are like new after hundreds of rds.
 

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I was in the Marines as a Military Policeman in the 1970s. We had Model 36 (2 inch) for CID (Investigators) and Model 15 (4 inch) for the Game Wardens.
1969; Caliber .38 Special, Ball PGU12/B High Velocity Cartridge 20,000psi approx 1125fps 6" test bbl, 950 to 980fps 4" revolver


The Model 14 is a six inch and the Model 15 is a four inch, both had adjustable sights. They were both made during the same time span.

S&W Model Listing
Model year year Frame Caliber Name
intro Discon Size
14 1947 1982 KT 38 Spl K-38 Masterpiece
15 1949 KT 38 Spl K-38 Combat Masterpiece
I was an Army MP 1969-1976. We only carried the 1911.

Then went Air Force 1978-96 mostly in the reserve, I had nearly 10 years active so ended up with a retired reserve retirement. I carried the model 36, 15, 1911 custom issue 45 (commander) the M9.

I was pretty lucky in a way because I got the little ribbon for expert with the 1911, the model 36, the model 15 and the M9. Also got it with the M16, M14 and even the Garand. The Garand was a funny story. I was in a reserve unit and had to move to another state so I was in a state guard for a while, they still had Garands in the 70s, so that is how I got my little expert oak lead cluster for it. So, I got the expert badge 7 times. My grand kids think I am somebody special, but as you know, any real shooter can get the military expert badge.

I buy those mil-spec 38s when I can find them, I think they are the M41 today. They are pretty good ammo in my book.
 

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So, after posting this, cleaning the pistol up, and a couple of Members having done me the courtesy of looking up the SN for the date of manufacture, it was apparently built in 72, but Che's numbers range didn't jibe with the SN.:unsure::unsure::unsure:

And without openly posting the whole SN, it starts with 3K.

So, I got the pistol back out and put it under the lighted magnifying glass, and lo and behold, it's a 15-3, not an 8.

That jibes with it being a -3 and a K Frame.

There's a reason my drivers license is restricted to corrective lenses.

But at least I was blurring the 3 to an 8. If I'd made it a 7 or something, then I'd REALLY be worried. ;)

I think I like it even better as a -3. (y)
yeah -3 and -8 are sometimes hard to tell apart the way some are stamped. Ive seen more than a few -8's that were only discernible as -8 by their lack of certain features. The great thing about this site is the members will always straighten you out. Lol

And your -3 is a fine revolver. Is the box end label still in tact? What does it list for grips?
 

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A K frame S&W is not going to blow up shooting +P. The K frame m19 is not going to blow up with 357s either. The point is it’s not a good idea to feed them a steady diet of heavy loads. In fact I don’t care which S&W you are talking about, up to 44 mg/ m29 continued firing of heavy +p or magnum loads will cause problems. Shooting reasonable loads they will give years of service. Why beat up a good gun without reason? I have 5gallons of S&Ws, mostly N frames. Most of them have never had a jacketed bullet in them and would be running at approx 1000fps . They are like new after hundreds of rds.
I totally agree sir.

I started loading pistol calibers, all for SWs in 1972. For years the magnums only got magnum loads, at the top of the book. Finally I learned that regardless of caliber if you used a heavier bullet and kept it below the speed of sound that the heaver bullet got better penetration and keeping loads in the 1000-1100 fps range was nicer on both gun and shooter.

In my M29 90% of my shooting is a cast 240 grain with 10 grains Unigue, in 45 Colt, 255 grain and 9 grains Unique, in 357 a 158 with 7 grain Unique and 38 a 158 with 5 grain Unique. I use other powders, just giving an example. All of those loads are more than needed for defense. And fun to shoot. Most of mine are like yours, except duty guns show some wear but mechanically they are fine.
 

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I have two 15's (a 15-3 and a 15-2) Both are great revolvers. They are, IMO the peak of defensive revolver development. If you think that you need a plastic gun with over a dozen cartridges in the grip to win a gun fight; You have never fired the S&W Combat Masterpiece!
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
yeah -3 and -8 are sometimes hard to tell apart the way some are stamped. Ive seen more than a few -8's that were only discernible as -8 by their lack of certain features. The great thing about this site is the members will always straighten you out. Lol

And your -3 is a fine revolver. Is the box end label still in tact? What does it list for grips?

Top pic is the box end for the 15-3 showing an "R" Stock.
Interesting how faded the ink is compared to the Model 49 box.
Difference in storage would be my guess.

Middle pic is the box end for my Model 49, which was handy. Note the "S" Stock.
Also note the original price from Mr. Bottles in Wichita, marked down to $149.95.
I'm the third owner. My Dad gave it to me. He was a Reserve PD Officer and SO Deputy.
He bought it from a Deputy that went on to be our Sheriff for about 30 Honorable years total service.

Bottom pic is the Model 49.
Yes it's not pristine, but it's been carried a bunch over the decades and is a pretty honest and sweet little pistol.
The Pachmeyer Grips came with it when Dad bought it. The original grips are in the box. I just can't hold that pistol correctly with the little wooden grips that came with it.
When my Dad carried it, it was kept loaded with HydroShok Wadcutters.

Only after I took the pic did I realize how much dust/lint it has on it.
So now it's going to get a good cleaning and lube.

Ruler Finger Thumb Font Measuring instrument
Font Nail Finger Material property Thumb
Automotive lighting Revolver Wood Automotive design Metal
 

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Getting that for $700 is close to a steal actually, in this day and age. That Revolver is in excellent shape.
the Model 15 was known for having great finishing, one of the best Triggers out of the box, and for being extremely accurate.
it will handle factory +p just fine, and you can absolutely use it for defense. But you will find that when you go to the range, it will make the trip with you every time and you will be amazed how accurate you are with it.
You did well.
 

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The Model 14 and Model 15 are built off the same size K-Frame receiver. The only real difference between the two is the barrel, front sights, hammer, and trigger. The Model 14 was built to be a target gun first and foremost while the Model 15 was built as an adjustable sight duty gun.

Here is an excellent article showing the differences: Smith & Wesson's K-Frame .38 Special Masterpieces - The Truth About Guns

I have a K-38 Target Masterpiece made in 1952. It is a pre Model 14.
Revolver Air gun Trigger Gun barrel Shotgun


Here is a recent target using Wadcutters at 15 yds. The 1st shot is off because I forgot to run a patch through the gun to remove the RIG that I store in all of my guns. The load is 2.7gr Bullseye and a 148gr wadcutter, my go to round for target shooting .38's
Font Terrestrial plant Circle Art Poster
 

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The Model 14 and Model 15 are built off the same size K-Frame receiver. The only real difference between the two is the barrel, front sights, hammer, and trigger. The Model 14 was built to be a target gun first and foremost while the Model 15 was built as an adjustable sight duty gun.

Here is an excellent article showing the differences: Smith & Wesson's K-Frame .38 Special Masterpieces - The Truth About Guns

I have a K-38 Target Masterpiece made in 1952. It is a pre Model 14.
View attachment 619537

Here is a recent target using wad-cutters at 15 yds. The 1st shot is off because I forgot to run a patch through the gun to remove the RIG that I store in all of my guns. The load is 2.7gr Bullseye and a 148gr wad cutter, my go to round for target shooting .38's
View attachment 619538
Good shooting, that works. While the K38 and model 14 are "target" guns, they make an excellent tool for the truck or trail. I have a bucket full of SW wheel guns and love them. That said, the model 14 with the 6 inch barrel is really easy to shoot quickly. That long sight radius really helps when a rattler or skunk or badger is in handgun range. I carried one as an extra gun in the Jeep for years. It was always at the ready and anyone could pick it up and do well with it. Think I will dig it out again and carry in the Jeep for a while.

I run the 158 grain semi wad-cutters with 5.0 grain Unique and find it a wonderful little round for target or critter. It was a first choice for law enforcement for decades, so it works for people as well.

The model 15 the OP picked up is always a fine edition to the pile and he got a clean one. Lucky him.
 
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