A Model of 1905 4th Change Oddity
According to the mushroom shaped ejector knob, this revolver would date prior to 1930.
According to the "Made In USA" mark on the frame, it would date
There is no indication that the gun was ever tampered with. Odd indeed, until one considers the .32WCF caliber.......Ah ha! This is a Model of 1905 4th Change in .32-20 also known as .32WCF. 78,983 of these revolvers were manufactured between 1915 and 1940, compared with 758,296 of the .38 Special version during the same time period. The .38 Special saw a production run roughly ten times as large as the .32WCF!
Thus, it is highly likely that a surplus of .32WCF barrels and cylinders were manufactured prior to 1930, when the chambering was presumed to be the hot item. The pre-1930 barrels had a notch cut to accommodate the mushroom ejector knob. Thus, the older style knob continued to be used on later .32WCF M&Ps long after it was discontinued on the .38 Special M&P.
The frame of the .32WCF M&P, however, was the same as the .38 Special version, with serial numbers contained within the same range. The "Made In USA" mark dates the frame
Thus, what I originally had determined to be a Pre-Depression era M&P, is indisputably not. A firearm is dated by it's frame, not it's ancillary bits, but this .32WCF Military & Police revolver is still correct. Apparently, stockpiled pre-depression .32WCF barrels and cylinders were used to produce .32WCF revolvers much later, using the later Military & Police frames. Because of it's scarcity compared to the .38 Special M&P, Supica's Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson lists this revolver at about $400 in it's present condition.
I purchased this Model of 1905 4th Change revolver at a gunshow a few years back. I had made the rounds, and saw nothing on the tables that I could not leave without. I was watching for walkers (private sellers) meandering about the crowds. Finally, I spotted a weathered old hayseed farmer in coveralls, complete with a battered straw hat. He was pulling what appeared to be a Smith & Wesson M&P from a canvas tote sack to show to a dealer. Like a leopard, I drew closer and overheard the farmer trying to sell the revolver for $200. The dealer counter offered $100. The sunburned old coot wasn't having any of it.
When the farmer walked away disgustedly, I approached him and asked to examine the gun. I had thought it was a .38 Special, and I was disappointed to find an unfamiliar caliber. I offered what I felt was a fair price, minus a bit due to the oddball caliber......$150. The farmer refused, and stuck the gun back in his tote sack. We went on our separate ways ambling about a rather boring show.
The farmer and I ran into each other again several hours later. I had done pretty well selling off a couple of pairs of stag grips and a Kart barrel for a 1911. I asked the old gentleman if he still had his revolver. He did. I asked to see it again. As I saw the hope emerge in his grizzled and wrinkled face, my haggling skills were dulled. With a twinkle in his eye, he removed the old faded blue revolver from his sack. He gave it to me with a wink and a yellow smile. I spontaneously decided to transfer my good fortune over to him. With a handshake and a smile, I gave him two crisp Franklins for the old Smith & Wesson. I'm glad I did. The karma has come back to me.
Epilogue: It appears I had some spurious information somewhere, so I went to the expert resource, the S&W Forum and Neal & Jinks. There, I found the "Made In USA" stamp actually appeared in May, 1922. Thus.......The oddity was not an oddity at all. There are 8 years of wiggle room. I've corrected the erroneous information I relayed. Thank you to my readers who set me on the straight and narrow.....