David’s Early Gun Series #1 — Dad’s Smith and Wesson Model 10

My Dad’s .38 was the gun I carried on many adventures as a youth. I still treasure it today.

Posted 7/28/2021

Dad Was a Game Warden as a Secondary Function of His Job

Throughout most of his career my father was the Director of Fisheries for the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, now known as Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. It was the policy of then that all director level employees were also qualified as game wardens. Although my father never acted as a game warden to my knowledge, he had the badge and a gun. The gun was a .38 Special Smith and Wesson Model 10. Dad kept his gun in his sock drawer.

Dad’s job kept him away from home during the week but his gun stayed behind. I don’t recall ever asking him if it was okay if I carried his .38 with me on some of my exploring adventures, but I did dig it out of that sock drawer on many occasions.

One occasion I remember is kind of embarrassing but I tell it for its humor. As a kid I hated spiders. This hatred had its seed in something that happened to me on a camping trip near a small lake just a few miles outside of town. The dam and the low area just below the dam were populated by pine trees approximately ten feet tall. I was making my way through those pine trees and ran into a spider web with a large black and yellow garden spider in it right at face level. I kind of panicked and turned to run and ran right into another one which resulted in a one of those large black and yellow spiders being on my face. In full panic mode I swatted that spider and its web down and ran over the dam and into the lake, clothes and all. These spiders were 4 to 5 inches in size and very yucky. That’s why I hated spiders. Still do, for that matter, but I don’t panic when I see them.

My cousin Paul Moss and I were navigating Toby Tubby Creek in my dad’s fiberglass john boat. Paul was in the front; I was in the back. We were working our way under a tree that had fallen across the creek and as Paul passed under the tree a large spider fell off the tree and onto the bottom of the boat. Without thinking, I shot the spider with Dad’s .38. You should have seen the hole in the boat with little spider legs all around, floating away because water was coming in the hole. How stupid, to shoot a hole in the bottom of your boat just because of a spider. Fortunately, the creek wasn’t very deep, and we weren’t that far from our transportation. Whenever I think of the gun safety rule, “know your target and what is beyond,” I think of that spider and the hole I shot in the boat as being what was beyond my target.

David’s Photoshop Rendition of What He Remembers About Shooting a Hole in the Boat to Kill a Spider

When Dad was leaving his home and going to a nursing home during the last months of his life here on earth I told him I was taking his .38 home with me. He said, “Son, I don’t believe I ever shot that gun.” I responded, “That’s okay, Dad, I shot it a lot.” I was quite naïve about guns in my early days. I had a shotgun that I hunted with and a .22 rifle for plinking. Dad’s .38 was my only handgun for a while, until I bought a High Standard Double Nine revolver. After I got the High Standard, I left Dad’s gun in his sock drawer.

I flew helicopters in Vietnam, and we were issued Smith and Wesson revolvers as part of our flight gear. I remember thinking it was very similar to Dad’s gun, but some years later I read that the guns we were issued in Vietnam were Model 36s. If so, it was only a 5-shot where the Model 10 is a 6-shot revolver. I honestly don’t remember what I had in Vietnam. I carried an M2 Carbine in the helicopter with me and always considered it my primary weapon.

Dad’s Model 10 is a Model 10-5. You find that model number underneath the yoke when you open the cylinder. The -5 indicates Dad’s gun was made in 1962 and on that particular model the front sight width was changed from 1/10″ to 1/8″. I verified the sight width on our gun with my digital caliper and sure enough it is 1/8″. That front sight is ramped with ridges on the top side. Somewhere along the way I have added white paint on those ridges to help my eyes pick up the front sight when aiming the gun.

The history of the S&W revolvers leading up to the Model 10 is legendary. It started as the Smith & Wesson .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899 and was later called the Military and Police. It is a K-frame revolver in production since 1899. The Model 10 is a six-shot, .38 Special, double-action revolver with fixed sights. Over its long production run it has been available with barrel lengths of 2″, 2.5″, 3″, 4″, 5″ and 6″. I’ve seen figures that indicate more than 6,000,000 of the type have been produced over the years, and it is still in production today. The one in the current catalog has a 4″ barrel and an MSRP of $762. That 6,000,000 production number makes the Model 10 one of the most, if not the most, popular gun in history. No telling how many police officers, game wardens and state troopers have carried the Model 10 and its variants in the line of duty. I know when I carried it on my hunting and camping trips as a boy, I never thought of myself as not having enough gun. If I weren’t spoiled to the round capacity of today’s double stack 9mms I might still consider myself adequately armed with my Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver. Notice how I subtly changed the label from Dad’s Model 10 to my Model 10. Dad is long gone now, and I no longer have to sneak the gun out of his sock drawer to use it.

Suppose it was my daily carry gun. How up to the task is it? To start with, I’d have to change holsters or change belts. Dad always kept the gun in the holster that he got with it, which is an FBI model made by Bucheimer Clark and perfect for carrying the gun discreetly under a vest or shirt tail, but it’s made for a smaller diameter belt than the ones I wear, which are made for carrying a gun. I wish that wasn’t the case because it’s a really nice holster. I did find a nice OWB holster from ComfortTAC that fits it fine and allows me to carry it in the three o’clock position, which is comfortable for me.

The FBI Holster Dad Got When He Got His Gun

Suppose trouble comes and I need to use the gun to defend myself. Six rounds of a good .38 Special hollow point should be enough, right? That would depend upon my ability handle the gun and hit what I’m aiming at. The grip seems a bit large compared to the rest of the gun, but it’s a standard K Frame squared grip and it’s perfect for controlling the gun. A .38 Special round is not without significant recoil and the Model 10’s grip is designed to handle that recoil. It also facilitates quick sight alignment when bringing the gun up to a good shooting position. The trigger is very interesting. Double-action trigger pull is over the 12 lbs. limit on my Lyman® trigger pull gauge but the single-action pull averages 4 lbs. 2 oz. Even though the double action pull exceeds 12 lbs. it’s a smooth and an easy pull in my book. If you have time to cock the gun, you’re going to be much more accurate than with a double-action trigger break.

The Model 10 Is Plenty Accurate as this 10-Yard Target Demonstrates

People say short barrel guns aren’t accurate, but my Model 10 dispels that theory and I’ve seen others shoot tight groups out to 15 yards with their snubby revolvers such as the Model 10 and Model 12 from Smith and Wesson. I can put six rounds into a 4″ circle at 10 yards with my Model 10 with almost any of the ammo I’ve tried. When using the gun in a defensive posture I usually load it up with Underwood .38 Special +P 140 Grain Lehigh Xtreme Penetrator or Hornady Critical Defense .38 Special +P 110 Grain FTX. The gun shoots tight groups with either of those. Since they are +P they’ve got a bit of recoil to them, so I don’t do much pleasure shooting with those loads. For target practice I like shooting lead or FMJ 130 to 158 grain rounds of what ever happens to be available. The Model 10 doesn’t seem to care.

Some of Dad’s Old Rounds — Still Good and the Model 10 Likes Them

We don’t shoot the Model 10 often, but my grandkids always enjoy having it included in any of our outings. Because I have double-stack 9mm, .40 and .45 semi-automatics, carrying the Model 10 for personal protection rarely occurs to me. Writing this article has caused me to think about it again, so I plan to give it some outings over the next few weeks. Hopefully, I won’t have to use it, but if I do, I’m sure you’ll hear about it and I’m sure it will have done its part.