This is my second installment in the “A Trio of Smiths” series. https://thatweirdgunguy.com/2015/08/31/a-trio-of-smiths/
https://thatweirdgunguy.com/2015/09/01/smith-and-wesson-357-magnum/ Stay tuned of for the final installment:)
The story of the S&W Model 10 begins somewhere in the Philippines in the 1899. At the time, the US Army was involved in the rebellion going on. As this is a gun article and not a political science piece, lets skip to the good parts. The pistol in use by the Army was the Colt New Army chambered in .38 Colt. Apparently, they were having issues with stopping some of the more motivated Filipinos and drug crazed Moro natives with the anemic .38 Colt chambering.
As a result, the Ordnance Department released a bunch of Colt 1873 SAAs and 1878 Frontiers chambered in the proven .45 Colt to be used by the Army instead. Smith and Wesson got wind of the issue back home and went about developing a new revolver and chambering. The revolver, called the .38 Hand Ejector of 1899, and chambered in the new .38 Special, was the cat’s meow in terms of cartridges of the day. The Army and the Navy ordered a few thousand of these pistols and in light of the new contract, the name was changed to the Military and Police, or M&P, which still lives on today.
Unfortunately for S&W the US military didn’t get overly interested in their new pistol and instead experimented with a few new automatic pistol designs, eventually settling in 1905 with the cartridge we know now as the .45.ACP, and a few years later in 1911 with the Colt M1911. However, S&W sold millions of these pistols overseas to blossoming new nation-states in need of a reliable and affordable sidearm for their militaries .
On this side of the pond, S&W developed lucrative law enforcement contracts; selling their pistol for issue to entire departments. From its inception, to even today in some small departments, the standard issue pistol found in rigs nation wide was probably the M&P (or Model 10 after 1957) in some variation. While the military retained its fan-boy like status for Colts, the cops at home were packin’ a good ol’ Smith.
Owning the Model 10
My Model 10 is the first revolver I ever bought. I wanted an inexpensive, duty-sized revolver that I could use as my nightstand gun and not have to worry about clearing malfunctions or engaging safeties. I found just that in my Model 10. Right now, it rests with a cylinder-full of Hornady Critical Defense 38 Special +P and a HKS Speedloader with matching armament in my nightstand, ready for action.
It is a police trade-in and is missing quite a bit of the finish on one side from being carried in a holster for most of its life. The action is glass smooth from time and well worn with age, it has a few dings and scratches on the frame, but the rifling is still strong, and the cylinder locks up tightly when the hammer is cocked. This particular revolver is a 10-8 with a square butt and a pinned, heavy barrel. It weighs a meaty 34 ounces, not a light weight by anyone’s standard. The single action trigger pull is like snapping a thin glass rod and measures a mere 2 pounds. The double action is a steady, rolling tug that breaks at about 8 ½ pounds. Pointing this pistol, with one or two hands, is instinctive and completely natural. It is one of my favorite shooting pistols. To be honest, I will probably get another identical one to match it.
On the Range
My Model 10 will eat up any 38 Special load with aplomb, but it absolutely loves the classic 158 grain lead round nose load, mosying along at 750 fps. The fixed sights are perfectly regulated for that loading at 25 yards, and as we will see, absolutely shocked me with how accurate they can be. At 7 yards or less, in double action mode, it is very easy to get one, nice, ragged hole in the x-ring on a B-27. There is very little recoil, so follow up shots are easy to make. There is also very little report. It is by no means a .22 in that sense, but it is a very quiet handgun considering. Shooting the 38 Special in a K-frame is very gratifying; when you pull the trigger, you are rewarded with a mild “POP”, a tensing of the wrist, and then a nice little hole wherever your sights were pointed. This is, in my mind, the perfect handgun to introduce novice shooters to, once they have mastered the .22 rimfire.
I tested three types of ammo in my revolver: Hornady Critical Defense +P 110 gr, Winchester White Box 158gr LRN, and Federal 130gr FMJ. The Hornady had an average velocity of 1112 fps, the Winchester 748 fps, and the Federal 830fps. As I mentioned earlier, the most accurate load was the classic lead Winchester load. This is not a load I would carry for self defense for a myriad of reasons, but it does serve well enough for neutralizing target medium. It was on the bench that this load/revolver combo really surprised me. At 25 yards, I could muster 2” groups with monotonous repeatability. It also shot exactly to point of aim, which was refreshing, considering the frustrations I have had with other fixed sight revolvers.
The Model 10 is one of those ubiquitous firearms that has survived a century of hard use and will probably survive another century without much change to the original design, due in part to the low operating pressure of the cartridge it fires and the sturdiness of the design. The other reason is because it works as a whole package. It is an attractive, collectible, rugged, easy to shoot, working pistol. It is at home in the desk drawer, or on the hip; in the truck glove compartment, or the safe. The Model 10 may not be for you, but that is ok, it is just dandy for me.