S&W Model 10 Review: 123-Year-Old Rockstar in Revolver History
Smith & Wesson has long made duty revolvers trusted to fill the holsters of law enforcement and the military. One of the most iconic and long-lasting is the classic Model 10. Originally coined the wonderfully specific .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899, the Model 10 proved to have exceptional legs and remains in production even today, long after even more modern options have died off.
This K-frame six-shooter grew to be more than just a star in Smith & Wesson’s military and police handgun lineup. It also boasts a movie career that dates back to at least 1918 with enough starring roles to shame basically any actor to ever grace the silver screen. Beyond that, the gun saw action through both world wars as an issued firearm and as a privately acquired battle buddy.
Sadly, my personal revolver collection is a bit slim. So, when I got a chance to pull one of these classics – a veteran police service revolver no less – out of the Guns.com Vault for some testing, I was naturally excited.
A Bit of History
Sometimes basic really is best, especially if you’re trying to leave behind the kind of legacy owned by the Model 10. As far as single-action/double-action revolvers go, the Model 10 is among the most basic, no-frills designs.
All told, someplace north of 6 million Model 10s in various forms have rolled out of Smith & Wesson’s production facilities, making them one of the more common vintage and modern-production revolvers to turn up in private hands. Like other S&W revolvers, the Model 10 grew and evolved over the years.
One of the charms of the Model 10 is the practical simplicity of the design. Other models boasting some more modern features had their roots in the Model 10 – notably, the stainless-steel Model 64s, some of which also saw the introduction of S&W’s two-part barrels – but they did not prove as long-lasting as the original.
Model 10s can normally be found chambered for .38 special, with some later models adding .38 Special +P to their diet. But there were a number of .357 Magnum offshoots produced from the 1970s until just before the 1999 Y2K craze turned out to be a bust.
No chambering, however, could really adjust for the rapidly shifting handgun market in the latter half of the 20th century. The Model 10’s popularity with law enforcement and the military waned with the rise of modern semi-autos. Still, with a production range beyond 6 million, the Model 10 has earned a place as one of the most prolific handguns of all time.
Our Model 10-10: Specs & Features
The gun I pulled from the vault was a used police-issued Model 10-10, which was introduced in 1988 with some moderate updates from the previous model. However, as a post-60s production Model 10, it does boast a burlier bull barrel with updated sights that did away with the very basic half-moon design on older models.
The gun has a blued steel finish, though nickel finishes were also available. While the bluing is a feature I love aesthetically and gives even this newer Model 10 an older vibe, it also requires a bit more TLC in the maintenance department. Unlike the Model 10’s stainless-steel cousins, the finish is just more classic in both looks and function. True to that fact, you can see some minor wear to the finish.
However, for a service revolver, the wear is minimal, and the squared grip is in fantastic shape. There was a rounded grip option for the Model 10, but I came to appreciate this grip in particular on the range. Overall, the wear pattern seems to hint at the fact the gun was only lightly used, and the barrel even looks pristine on the inside.
I dropped some more specific specs for my test Model 10 below:
Like other S&W revolvers that I’ve tested over the years, the Model 10 points very naturally for me. The sights are a bit basic, even on the Model 10-10 that boasts the improved sloped and milled ramp front sight that replaced the half-moon sight in the 1960s.
The gun is slightly front-heavy with a desire to lean forward, no doubt partly due to the beefier bull-barrel design that did away with the tapered shape on more classic Model 10s. Any tilt from that weight is all but removed while pulling the heavy but smooth double-action trigger. There is some smooth but noticeable stacking before the break.
I was actually surprised how easy it was to detect the wall, both through trigger feel and audibly, and then deliver a more crisp trigger break. The single-action trigger is very enjoyable with almost no detectable movement before a light break. I’m no expert revolver shooter by any means, but this classic workhorse revolver after 200 rounds of .38 special was shooting on par – but not on pace – with my Glock 19 at 15 yards. Better yet, I enjoyed shooting it.
The squared butt on the wooden grip was also pleasantly surprising for someone more accustomed to rubberized and rounded revolver grips. The checkering helped moderately, but the squared butt locked my hand in nicely. A small squeeze of the hand was also more than enough to raise the gun into just the right alignment with my hand and eye for shooting.
Recoil on the .38 Special was predictably controllable. That’s to be expected at 2.13 pounds – approaching a pound over the chunky Glock 17 – and the gun is bound to be a pleasant-enough recoiler for most shooters out there. While not necessarily in vogue anymore, the .38 special chambering certainly offers plenty of defensive loads as well.
Final Thoughts: Where Does This Old Gun Fit In
I can still remember watching old police dramas and the occasional scary movie as a small boy with my trusty toy police revolver cap gun in hand. Sure, popping off caps was not normally allowed inside the house…technically…but I never forgot how much I loved that little revolver. Getting a chance to take a service Model 10 out for a spin was a nice walk down memory lane.
More to the point, you’d be hard pressed to not find value in a Model 10, whether it is as a piece of history, range companion, or even your self-defense firearm. Model 10s have served those roles by the millions. To me, it shines the most as a simple yet brilliantly successful piece of history that’s plain fun to shoot.
At this point, I don’t think I would ever personally make it my everyday carry gun. I think there are plenty of lighter and more concealable choices, even in revolvers like the Model 642. But, then again, the Model 10 has been an everyday carry gun for a heck of a lot of people already, so it has the pedigree if you have the desire.