I know it’s Valentine’s Day, but by dating I don’t mean taking the Model 36 out for dinner and drinks, I mean telling the age of the older models. My father has long had a 3″ pinned barrel Model 36 which he carried while mowing using the tractor. He was deadly accurate with it and used it to shoot rats and mice. I borrowed it while practicing for my NRA Pistol Instructor course and decided I needed one of them. I found one in acceptable shape on GunBroker and the serial number provided by the seller did not match any particular date. After receiving the gun and scouring the web I finally located information which will help date many of these old J Frame revolvers.

Early J frame serial numbers
For models 36, 37, 38, 49, 50 and pre model number versions.

1950 = start at 1
1952 = 7369 – 21342
1953 = 28916
1955 = 55050 – 75000
1957 = 117770 – 125000
1962 = starts at 295000
1969 = ends at 786544

J serial Prefix serial numbers.
For models 36, 37, 38, 49, 50.

1969-1970 = J1 – J99999
1971-1972 = 1J1 – 999J99
1973-1974 = J100000 – J250000
1975-1976 = J250001 – J370000
1976-1977 = J370001 – J610000
1977-1978 = J610001 – J670000
1979-1980 = J670001 – J760000
1981 = J760001 – J915400
1982 = J915401 – 1J18600
1983 = 1J18601 – 1JXXXX

1955 – 4 screw side plate ends
1957 – stamping of model number at 125000
1966 – flat latch ends
1968 – diamond grips end
1975 – heavy barrel standard
1982 – end pinned barrel

As it turns out my 36 is from 1956. She arrived filthy dirty, but not from gunpowder residue, rather from dust as if the firearm had been stored on top of a dresser for years. I used Break-Free CLP to clean and realized I needed to wipe out underneath the side panel. The right side panel on this S&W revolver is held on by three screws. The one closest to the barrel retains the crane and cylinder and has a rounded head. The one behind the trigger also has a rounded head while the one underneath the grip panel has a flat head. Carefully remove all three screws and take note of the head size. Use a screwdriver which is made for that size screw to not scratch or otherwise affect the value of the gun. After all screws are removed take the butt end of the screwdriver (the plastic end on most) and sharply tap the grip frame. The plate will magically pop out and can be removed. To reinstall position and gently pop back into place using pressure with your thumbs. It really is that simple!

This is a good, but LONG video of a Model 10 which may be helpful if you need to see it done by someone else:


And Part 2