The S&W Victory Model Revolver
“I got a problem,” my patrol partner, Jerry, confided, “and I’m betting you can help me out.” I’m a complete sucker for an interesting story, and his fit the bill. It was in the mid-1980s, and it seems that Jerry had been summoned to a family meeting. His great-aunt, a lady said to be well into her 90′s, was causing some concern to her rural neighbors.
At several points of each day she would throw open various windows in her farmhouse, and would blaze away at squirrels with a handgun. The shell-shocked neighbors had complained to nearby family members, and some of those more sensitive to public opinion had decided to convene a gathering of the clan to “do something about it”.
Jerry was singularly unimpressed. “It’s her house, her acreage, her gun, and her business,” was his comment. “You want to run her life, go do something productive for her.” As nothing had been damaged, and nobody hurt, that stance made a great deal of sense to me, but the family decided to meet with their matriarch and discuss the problem with her.
The Lady agreed to the family delegates’ visit, and after her obligatory serving of soft drinks and homemade cookies, perched in a tall rocking chair at the head of her dining room table. She listened patiently to one family member’s nervous recitation of events and his suggestion that she surrender her handgun, the only indication that her infamous temper was rising was the accelerated tempo of her rocking. The rocking suddenly ceased, and she leaned forward, that her voice might better carry.
Her terse suggestion, while perhaps a physical impossibility, left little room for debate. She added that if they chose to search her house and take any of her property she swear arrest warrants out on the offenders, and added with considerable relish that they’d never find her gun, anyway.
The clan cringed, with the notable exception of Jerry, who blithely continued to devour cookies. His great-aunt was a gifted cook, and he intended to make the most of his visit.
She aimed a withering glare at Jerry, who sat nearest to her. “Are you part of this?” she demanded.
“I’m part of the family,” her conceded around a mouthful of sweets, “but I knew this was a bad idea. Great cookies, though,” he added as he reached for another fistful.
He stopped in mid-reach, as though a thought had just occurred to him.
“I know you hate squirrels. But are you hitting many of them with Uncle’s old .38?”
“Of course not,” The Lady snorted derisively. “Those little monsters are small and quick, and I never was much of a shot with a short gun. But it’s what I have, and I’ll make do,” she said flatly, and glowered at the rest of the family. Nobody moved, and several seconds ticked by during which nobody dared even breathe.
“You want to trade for it?” Jerry asked hopefully.
The Lady beamed proudly at her grand-nephew.
“I always knew you were a smart lad,” she allowed, and prodded the plate of cookies closer to him.
She took a deep breath, and named her price. “I know exactly what I want. I want a Fox four-ten single barreled shotgun. It needs to have an outside hammer. I don’t want anything but that, because as far as I’m concerned there’s no better gun in the world for those miserable little tree-rats.”
Jerry allowed that he could broker such a deal, and asked whether he could take the old handgun with him. The Lady excused herself, and returned with an ancient cardboard Roi-Tan cigar box. Within it was her revolver and a few dozen copper-clad round nosed cartridges, green with age.
“If I have to give boot, I’ll pay. But only for the gun I said. I’m trusting you– don’t screw me on this, Jerry.”
With the festivities ended, the family trudged to their vehicles, and Jerry headed to work for a night’s patrol.
I raised an eyebrow upon hearing his story, and without a word he produced the Roi-Tan box. The handgun was a 4-inch barreled Smith & Wesson 6-shot .38 Special (not the .38 S&W chambering, known to the Brits as the .38-200). Its “V” prefix marked it as a WWII Victory model, and it had a butt-mounted lanyard ring. The gun had seen better days, as its blue finish was worn off and its grips gouged and chipped. Jerry said that his great-uncle had been a Deputy Sheriff in Indiana for decades. His uncle’s home had been burglarized long after his retirement and this gun, being the one he kept near at hand, was the only one that his uncle had owned until his death years later. The old man had used it for everything he needed a gun to do, and it had performed yeoman’s service.
As I mentioned, I’m a sucker for an interesting story. I made a call to my gun dealer and a new Fox .410 with exposed hammer was ordered. I owned a 5-screw Victory, and was so delighted that I sent a box of number 6 shot shot shells along with the package Jerry delivered to his great-aunt.
The handgun has a serial number is in the 120,000 range. Research indicates that over 811,000 of the Victory model revolvers were made between early 1942 and August 1945. A “VS” prefix would have meant it had an improved hammer-block safety, which was added after a sailor was killed by a Victory model that discharged when dropped on a deck. I leave the chamber beneath the hammer empty, as if anybody is going to drop his handgun it would be me. My revolver lacks any “U.S. Property” markings, which means it was probably manufactured for the U.S. Defense Supply Corporation. Police agencies and defense contractors guarding war-sensitive materials were provided the Victory models in .38 Special by DSC.
I’m no gun collector. I like to have a few guns around our old farmhouse, but the ones I have I have adapted to serve me the way I like. This gun, though its history was interesting, was not about to be permitted to rest on its laurels. I had every intention of putting the old revolver to work.
After putting some rounds through the gun I took it to my gunsmith, who pronounced it serviceable. He suggested I not fire a steady stream of plus-P loads through the old handgun. “It’s like making your Grandma run,” he explained, “you can do it, but it just isn’t right.” I agreed.
The next step was a trip to Robar, after calling Robby Barkman and explaining what I had. He suggested his NP3 finish, which is outwardly quite similar to the military parkerizing that graced most WWII-issued Smiths, but is more durable. Again, I agreed. Why argue with experts whose opinions you seek?
I went to Shotgun News, and found a source of original Victory grips, uncheckered and lacking the civilian S&W medallion, with a dull oil finish. Further search found a source of a military pilot’s shoulder holster for the Victory, with a single strap that is draped across my chest festooned with a dozen or so loops for individual .38 Special cartridges. When the handgun came home from Robar I found it to be flawless, and even better-looking than had been predicted. The grips and shoulder rig could not have fit any better. I was in business.
I have found the old handgun to be as good a general-use gun as could be found anywhere. I hang it in my stairway on an old coat hook, with my Grand-Dad’s leather-sheathed twin-bladed Queen folder snugged up behind the holster pouch and an L-shaped military flashlight clipped to the holster’s chest strap. The old Queen knife has a lot of miles on it, too, and though its blades were made without locks like most current heavy folders it cuts very well. Its sheath flap has tooth marks from my Grand-Dad’s evil beagle Holly gnawing on it to punish him for leaving her home alone, but that’s a whole other story. Suffice it to say that I smile every time I see it (the demonically-possessed Holly had been a gift from my wife and me) and the knife works just fine. When my wife wakes me in the middle of the night to investigate suspicious noises, the Victory rig is what I toss over my head if I’m heading outside. It’s not a fancy rig, but it serves its purpose to a tee.
The fixed sights will stay as they are, as I’m not concerned with bulls-eye accuracy. The revolver seems to like slow and heavy bullets the best, which makes sense to me. Most of what bullets I put through it are 148 grains and above, and it’s very reliable with all factory-made ammunition I use in it.
My first revolver was a 4-inch bull-barreled S&W model 10 the State issued me, and the older Victory model handgun was made a generation or two earlier. The family resemblance is remarkable, with just enough differences to keep things interesting. If you have the opportunity to acquire one of these old Victory model revolvers don’t be afraid to scoop it up. But I can tell you right now, mine’s not for sale.
Mike Stamm is a retired Michigan State Trooper. He currently is the owner and chief instructor at DTOM Inc a Michigan based firearm training company. If you would like to contact Mike for training or if you have questions you may do so by email: Dtominc@aol.com