A Nurse with a Gun

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Smith & Wesson M-13 Aircrewman

Experts say there are more fakes of this revolver on the market than real ones. The value is so high that fakers are willing to risk felony time just to alter a serial number to get a fake gun lettered as authentic. Click to enlargeThe Smith & Wesson M-13 Aircrewman was produced from 1953 to 1954 with an aluminum six shot cylinder. In 1954, the cylinder was changed to steel. There were approximately 40,000 produced, with nine known variations, and almost all were destroyed by the U.S. government. The cylinder had an objectionable habit of turning into a grenade when the cartridge inside it ignited. Production ceased in 1957.

M-13 Aircrewman revolvers were given serial numbers within the range of other production K frame revolvers such as the Model 12 Airweight. Some of these commercial models, with serial numbers in the correct range, where given fake markings to make them appear similar to an Aircrewman. Unscrupulously reproducing the stampings on the aluminum frame is pretty easy. The barrel markings are more difficult to forge. M-13 Aircrewman barrels were marked on the right side with "AIRCREWMAN" over the ".38 Special CTG". The caliber marking is in smaller type than commercial models. Click to enlargeSerial numbers range from C247,000 to C405,363, but serial numbers of genuine demilled examples are best kept secret lest a felonious faker usurp the numerals for his "representative example" and then seek to have result lettered by Roy Jinks. Suffice to say, Aircrewmen with an AF prefix change hands in the $5000 range.

The M-13 Aircrewman and holster pictured here are genuine, the real deal. Alas, they are not mine. Most of us will never be so lucky as to find this revolver gathering dust on a pawnbroker's shelf. Marilyn Monroe is more likely to knock on our door and lavish us with a lifetime supply of ammunition and free gun cleaning services.

I was, however, fortunate enough to receive a M-13 Aircrewman. Click to enlargeMine, is regrettably the result of John Kennedy's administration trying to protect our fly boys. It was crushed to insure it would never be fired. Then it was sold off as scrap.

The "Property of U.S. Air Force" markings on the backstrap and the "Revolver, Lightweight-M13" markings on the top strap are still intact, as is the inspector's mark. The C prefixed serial number falls within the correct range. Because it is a crushed example, it is almost certainly the real article. It is inconceivable that a faker would fake a crushed frame. I will guard the serial number to prevent it from being used fraudulently. Click to enlargeI was offered this chunk of aluminum by a friend who spotted it at a gun show. I happily accepted it, and placed it into my collection of revolvers, right beside a crushed Victory Model.

If you believe you have an Aircrewman in your possession, one of your best recourses is to post photos of the revolver on the S&W Forum for evaluation. Then consult the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson for more information. Finally, get the revolver lettered. If you are buying even then confirm and consult as much as possible.

As I was photographing my M-13 along with an ejection handle I had brought home from my military service as a souvenir, I noticed the "Smith & Wesson Lifetime Service Policy" emblazoned on the blue counter mat. I wonder.........

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19 Comments:

Anonymous Striker said...

Xavier,

Great Post! :)

Regards,

Striker

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Xavier

I read in Newsweek the latest edition about a man named Dick Heller, a 65 yr. old security guard in D.C. who is challenging D.C.'s handgun ban. Just thought I should let you know if you didn't already, in case you wanted to look into that or something. The case will make the court supposedly next spring. It's supposed to be the first time the court has heard a second amendment argument since 1939.

-Dan

10:18 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Thanks for the use of your photos sir! They made all the difference!

11:09 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Dan,
I'm waiting to blog on Heller. It's still very speculative whgich way it will go, although it is looking hopeful.

12:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

5K for a k-frame?!!!!!! Thats more than a RM!

5:16 AM  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

wow!

8:05 AM  
Blogger Weer'd Beard said...

While S&W does have a great service policy for fixing broken guns, it only entends to "Wear-and-tear" and defective parts. If you have a Double-charge KB the handloader or the ammo factory needs to foot the bill. I'd say mechanically crushed would fit in there someplace.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Sumodad said...

Xavier,
Just saw this offered by a dealer who often has K frames for sale http://www.yankeeartifacts.com/S&W%20Handguns.htm

7:03 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

In the late '70s, I had a friend with a K38 that had been destroyed as the result of a double-charged handload. The top of the frame was split in the middle and the top of the cylinder was flat missing. He shipped it off and received a fully functional replacement about three months later.

If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't believe it. Chances are you won't have the same luck but, "if you don't ask, you won't get."(r)

Bon chance,

Pete

8:21 PM  
Anonymous catavenger said...

I was wondering what is the relationship of this Model 13 is to the Model 13 .357 (so called "FBI Model) S&W?
P.S. for many years I had a one eyed cat.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

catavenger...
There is no relationship. M-13 is a military designator, assigned by Uncle Sam. Model 13 is a S&W designator, assigned by S&W. The two revolvers are entirely different and separate.

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my personal collection is a legitimate M13 USAF Aircrewman in 97%+ original condition, purchased a few years ago from a Colonel stationed at the Pentagon, complete with its mint, original USAF holster, mint, original USAF Training Manual, a custom yellow nylon "parachute pouch," and a copy of the Colonel's original Washington D.C. Police Department handgun registration form. Roy Jinks has provided me with a S&W letter of authenticity, and I have been told by several knowledgeable collectors that it is perhaps the best documented, legitimate example known. I would love to have an accurately assessed value for this revolver! JMCB

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Xavier,

I bought an aircrewman a couple of months ago. It has 80% finish because it was carried for years by a retired pilot who owned it. It was however never fired and it is mechanically perfect.

I sent photos and information to Roy Jinks at S&W and got my response the other day. My gun is apparently one of the early K-frames and was shipped to the USAF in early 1954.

I thought you might like to know.

11:53 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Great news Anon!

5:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi xavier
what do think of the two m-13 air crew pistls that will be sold tomorrow at RIA . i was going to bid on them until i saw your photos. i did call the auction house it looks kike the real deal deal but there are NO air forece marking on the revolver so i assime they are fakes . also i thought that s&w actually put the air force logo on the wood grips
thank you
bo
rramsour2aol.com

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Xavier, I got into an argument with a seller on Gun Broker about what he was calling an "aircrew" he said that was only to state the previous owner was a WW2 pilot and said the gun's serial numbers show it's a WW2 "victory" model. It is stamped property us government above the cylinder with a V prefix serial number. The gun looks like a S&W 38 Special with a two inch barrel. Am I wrong about it not being a Victory model(the pictures that come up on the Victory show a longer barrel.) P.S. He said he'd rather look at a book with serial numbers than believe some "blogger" on the internet. What are your credentials? Thanks

10:37 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

Anon,
My information comes from Jim Supica and Roy Jinks, the recognized Smith and Wesson authorities among any and all S&W collectors. Buy their books you can't go wrong then. Or, listen to a gun dealer and pay the price.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

And another thought, if this supposed Aircrewman were real, the seller would have a Roy Jinks letter stating it was.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

That being said, Aircrew DID carry the Victory Model revolvers. In fact, on the USS Midway during Desert Storm, our sqaudron, VFA151 had Victory Models issued to the aviators by the US Navy. The good aviators opted to order a group deal on Glocks instead. Probably the last time that was allowed that I know of.

So, it's possible that this Victory Model was carried by a pilot. That does not make it an Aircrew. I don't think the seller is trying to misrepresent the gun, he's just ignorant of the recognized S&W nomenclature among collectors.

9:24 AM  

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