Smith & Wesson Model 10
Described as the “Glock of the (Postwar) Law Enforcement World,” the Model 10 was the most popular .38 Special revolver of its time. The revolver was originally known as the Smith & Wesson Model 38 Hand Ejector, but was renamed the Model 10 in 1957. It was one of the first revolvers with a cylinder that swung out when a latch on the frame was depressed. This made reloading much faster than using a traditional loading gate. The Model 10 was very popular with law enforcement agencies, and 500,000 were produced during World War II for Allied armies.
Smith & Wesson Model 442
Smith & Wesson assigns its revolver frames a letter designation depending on the physical size of the frame, the size of the user and the caliber used. The Model 442 is one of the company’s “J” frame guns, intended for concealed carry. The 442 has an overall length of just 6.3 inches and weighs 14.7 ounces unloaded—in large part to its aluminum alloy frame. Smith & Wesson still uses steel where it counts: the barrel is made of stainless steel and the cylinder of carbon steel. The 442 is “hammerless,” meaning the hammer is actually enclosed within the frame—so it can’t get caught on clothing in the midst of being drawn.
Smith & Wesson 686
The heavier, more powerful .357 Magnum cartridge is actually a descendant of the .38 Special round. As a result, .38 Special ammunition is readily usable in .357 Magnums, though .357 is not usable-—and does not physically fit—in .38 Special revolvers. One modern example of a .38 Special–capable revolver is the Model 686. The 686 is based off Smith & Wesson’s L (medium) revolver frame. The “L” frame accommodates a wide variety of hand sizes while still capable of handling the heavier recoil .357. The 686 is made of stainless steel, has a four inch-barrel and adjustable sights. Like the rest of the revolvers on this list it is also a double-action/single-action handgun.
Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami. This article first appeared two years ago.