Updating the Old Smith

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What happens when a wonderful revolver falls into your life but it has a few issues? You rehab it, love it, and let it evolve into a better version of itself.

The Problem

A few months ago, I came across an old Smith and Wesson Combat Masterpiece K38 revolver. This model 15-3 Smith was born a little over thirty years ago in Massachusetts but spent its life in the heavy saltwater air of the Gulf Coast. Those of you dedicated readers out there may remember this crusty old sea dog from a past article. For those who don't, to make a long story short, this long serving veteran found itself at the bottom of Davy Jones locker in Hurricane Katrina. After a lot of tender loving care, disassembly, cleaning, a liberal amount of Ballistol, and the odd replacement spring or two, it came back to life and shot fine, but looked oh so bad.

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While well suited for a 'Jeep gun' or a tag along on the trail during deer season loaded with rat shot, it still presented the ever-present crisis of surface rust control every week. Therefore, even though I am a sucker for leaving a gun au natural, I had to break down and do something, for the gun's sake.

Let's blacken things up

I made a trip to see Dan, my coatings guy, and explored my options. We talked about rebluing but the revolver had some light pitting on the surface that would tend to give the gun a surface of the moon look with a light rebluing. A heavy blue job strong enough to fill in the pits would cover up the S&W crest and give the gun an overall thickness. Cerakote came up and the idea was approached to look at samples of cerakoted guns he had around. Then I passed up the Cerakote for Duracoat, for the latter's anti-rusting properties (remember salt air, etc.). When the color palate was inspected, I chose Duracoat Combat Black, for a simple no-gloss matte finish. Hugging the K38, I left in in Dan's crafty hands.

The Intermission

While my newly adopted child was away at Uncle Dan's day camp, I found myself shopping for new accessories to round out the update. The gun's OE factory combat grips, while functional, were old and chipped. They also interfered slightly with the use of a speedloader. With this in mind, I went looking for rubber combat grips. I have several firearms with Hogue wraparounds but felt that Pachmayr Gripper Decelerators have a certain swagger that the Hogue's just can't match, especially on an old square-butt K frame. To round out the new package, a set of 5 Star aluminum billet speedloaders were delivered with the build in mind.

The Money shot

A week later, I returned to Dan and picked up my redone noir hogleg. The action was just as smooth as when I left but the gun had been reborn with some crap on its mind. Here is a shot of it on the way home, with the old grips.

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And here is the final payoff. Total investment was less than $400 even with the cost of the used gun, the refinishing, the grips, and the speedloaders. It's a durably coated, flat shooting dream of a 38 that can be fun on the range, around camp, on the trail, or waiting quietly on the nightstand when things go bump in the night.

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Bottom line is that the finish was in poor enough condition. The gun is not a one of a kind collectible or in a non-standard configuration. It is not an heirloom, and it is in shootable condition, which all made for an easy checklist of why I didn't feel bad about having it recoated. The grips and speedloaders were just icing on the cake. In the end, my 'new' Smith shoots well, and is matte black and beautiful.

It's a keeper.

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November 9, 2012  •  07:17 PM
WOW, now that looks great!
November 29, 2012  •  08:49 AM
You did good I use to have a old Colt snubby that came from the factory wyth that type finish on it and it held up great
July 28, 2013  •  06:13 PM
Looks good.
Always good to keep them in service.
September 10, 2013  •  04:11 AM
The model 15 was always a good shooting revolver with a smooth action and a deep blue finish. The new finish looks great and it will be a more durable finish.