It is not often that I am asked to review a firearm older than I am! The Smith and Wesson Victory Model .38-caliber revolver is just such a gun. 

I think sent me this gun to stump me. I had to do some research, as I have never held or fired one before. I am told that it is a collectible firearm. Today I will examine this pistol in detail to determine its accuracy and power. 

Table of Contents

My Impressions
The Cartridge
Range Time
Pros & Cons






Smith & Wesson Victory Model .38 S&W Revolver
The WWII-era Victory Model revolver, a predecessor to S&W's Model 10, came with smooth walnut grips, a ring and lanyard on the butt, and a Parkerized finish ... (Photo: Ben Philippi/

This is a solid, no-nonsense revolver meant for close-quarters self-defense by U.S. Naval and Marine aviators. There were few guns available at the start of World War II, and S&W stepped up with its M&P six-shot .38-caliber revolver. First patented in 1899 as the Hand Ejector model, the gun caught the attention of both Army and Navy and became known as the Military & Police (M&P). 

Smith & Wesson Victory Model .38 S&W revolver
... as well as a "United States Property" stamp on the top strap. (Photo: Ben Philippi/

The WWII version made from 1942-1944 was known as the Victory Model. It is Parkerized, not blued, and includes a lanyard and ring attached to the pistol butt. Marked “United States Property,” it was not only distributed to U.S. armed forces but also sent to Great Britain under Lend-Lease and made in many calibers. After the war, S&W went back to calling it the M&P, and in the 1950s renamed it the Model 10.

Related: S&W Model 10 Review – 123-Year-Old Rockstar in Revolver History



This old gun is in great shape for its age, and the cylinder still functions smoothly. (Photo: Ben Philippi/

When I first saw this old pistol, I thought, “It is in great shape!” It is also solid, compact, and heavy at 2 pounds. Despite its crude appearance, it fits my hand nicely and points naturally. The cylinder release functions smoothly, and the cylinder rotates easily. 

Pull back the hammer and you'll get a much lighter single-action trigger pull. (Photo: Ben Philippi/

The trigger has a noticeably stiff double-action pull but is much lighter in single action. Sights are a crude notch in the rear receiver and round blade front sight. Oiled walnut grips formed round at the top define the Victory Model. 

This old design seems to speak to me. It gives me a sense of confidence in its weight, simplicity, and reliability. I would bet my life on it protecting me!



.38 Special and .38 S&W bullets
The .38 Special cartridge on the left versus the .38 S&W at right. (Photo: Ben Philippi/

What the Sam Hill is a .38 S&W short? I was expecting .38 Special! S&W developed the .38 S&W short in 1877 for its popular handguns of the era. The round predates the .38 Special by many years and is not interchangeable. 

My cartridges are made with 145-grain lead bullets. Originally designed with black powder propellant, these are loaded with modern smokeless powder. If you find one of these fine old revolvers, check the cartridge caliber carefully, and do not be surprised if it is chambered for this older round.



Smith & Wesson Victory Model .38 S&W revolver
With its 5-inch barrel, the Victory Model comes in at 10 inches long. (Photo: Ben Philippi/
  • Overall length: 10 inches       
  • Barrel: 5 inches    
  • Weight: 2 pounds   
  • Width: 1.5 inches
  • Trigger: Double action too heavy for gauge; single action 5 pounds, 14 ounces 
  • Sights: Fixed
  • Caliber: .38 S&W     
  • Capacity: 6 rounds        
  • Action: Manual side eject       



Smith & Wesson Victory Model .38 S&W revolver
This gun, while heavy and rather rustic in appearance, fits nicely in my hand. (Photo: Ben Philippi/

Area 51 here in Arizona is the perfect place to put this gun to the test. To load, push the cylinder latch forward as on modern S&W revolvers, and the cylinder may be swung out. Load six .38 Special cartridges – Oh no … they don’t fit! Checking the barrel, I see that the gun is chambered for .38 S&W shorts, and luckily, I have a box on hand. 

As I aim at my paper target, I am reminded how well it points and what great condition the gun is in. I wish it could talk! It is a simple gun with no safety catch to slow me down. Hitting the paper target is easy and the recoil/kick is barely noticeable to me. This would be a great gun for a new shooter to learn marksmanship. 

Smith & Wesson Victory Model .38 S&W revolver
With its soft kick, this would be a good practice gun for a beginning shooter, but I enjoy it just as well. (Photo: Ben Philippi/

Steel targets are also engaged with a remarkably good grouping. Reloading is simple but slow. I am reminded of the many aviators that relied on this gun to defend themselves. Best to make every shot count – no fast reload here!

Now my favorite, 2-liter soda bottles. At first, I did not imagine that the anemic short cartridge would do much damage. Wrong again, Ronbo! The bottles explode nicely and roll around squirting soda. It may not be a .357 Magnum, but it is formidable. The lead bullets expand enough to burst the bottles effectively. 

Although the 145-grain bullet will not swing my swinger plate to the opposite side, it does move it with authority and a solid smack. Not a bad self-defense gun in a last-resort situation.

Pros & Cons


  • Well-built and solid 
  • Collectible old gun
  • Parkerized corrosion-free finish           
  • Reliable and accurate


  • Heavy double-action trigger pull                
  • Rare caliber (but can be found in .38 Special)
  • Victory Model long out of production


If you are looking for a rare piece of history that still functions, this is your gun! It is a well-built, time-tested design. As a collector, you need not justify having this pistol in your lineup. However old, it is a functional handgun that still has much life left. 

While it’s not my personal choice for competition, it could serve as a self-defense gun or a first-time shooter gun, due to its mild recoil and simple design. What was rushed into production during the war 81 years ago is still shooting strong today. I enjoy shooting it and recommend you check the Certified Used and Collector's Corner pages soon. You never know when the next Victory Model may show up.  

revolver barrel loading graphic