A Nurse with a Gun

Friday, May 30, 2008

The British Victory Model

In 1941, the British Isles witnessed the evil sweeping through Europe. With the Brits facing the Nazi blitzkrieg alone, Smith & Wesson stepped forward to supply the Limeys with the sidearms necessary to fight back. Between October 1941 and May 1945 over 570,000 of these military Aussie Victoryissue revolvers were shipped all over the globe on a "lend-lease" program to the British Empire.

Commonly called "British Victories" by some, the revolvers shipped to our future allies are more properly referred to as Smith & Wesson Model K-200 or .38/200 British Service Revolvers. Like the Victory Models later issued to American troops, the K-200 was a Model of 1905 with a rougher, sandblast blue finish, although early models received a polished or brushed blue finish. Most sported plain walnut grips, but some early K-200s had checkered grips. Unlike the US version, the K-200 had a five inch barrel, and was chambered in .38 S&W, a shorter cartridge, slightly larger in diameter than the ubiquitous .38 special. On the butt was a pivoting lanyard ring. In addition to being stamped "US Property" on the top strap, the British Service Revolvers have British proof marks as well as the occasional proof marks of other countries. Some even had "Not Made In England" stamped into their frames, in spite of a corresponding "Made In USA" rollmark from Smith & Wesson.

After the war, Great Britain disarmed, and many of the revolvers were returned to the United States as surplus over the years. 1963 Guns and Ammo AdvertisementSadly, quite a few of them were converted to .38 special by reaming out the chambers. Alas, the chambers were too large in diameter for the .38 special, and ruptured shell casings were commonplace on firing them after this conversion.

In addition to the rechambering, some were butchered even further, receiving new ramped front sights on chopped barrels, and a chrome finish to make them more attractive to the US market. The returning K-200s were sold for between $25 and $35. Today, unmolested examples in Very Good to Excellent condition often command prices between $375 and $500. Original accessories can drive the price up a bit more.

I still hope to find a K-200 in unmolested form, as well as a pimped up, chopped and chromed version for a fair price. Somehow, I think I had better buy while the buying is good.


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Blogger Arthur said...

"the K-200 had a five inch barrel, and was chambered in .38 S&W, a shorter cartridge, slightly larger in diameter than the ubiquitous .38 special."

Why that round and not the more popular .38 special?

I would think that easier ammo availability would be better for a wartime gun.

Or was it some odd provision of the whole lend lease deal?

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Xavier, Here's a US Victory model http://www.yankeeartifacts.com/S&W%20Handguns.htm selling in MA, marked US Navy. I sent you a link to one of this dealer's offerings before and you posted a critique of his description...he modified his listing after...good work keeping them honest(or educating them) Mike

11:38 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

It's what the Brits had been using for some time in other military revolvers. They had plenty of .38S&W, they were familiar with the round, so they ordered the revolvers chambered in it.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

In general the brits ordered stuff chambered in their standard calibers. They even ordered some 1911s in .455 Webley, instead of the far better .45 ACP

6:35 PM  
Anonymous will g said...

Hi Xavier.

The gun on the cover of From Russia With Love , the original version of the novel, done by Richard Chopping was a much modified British Victory.

Just a little bit of info.

keep up the good work.


12:37 PM  

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