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Thread: S&W vs Colt's

  1. #1

    S&W vs Colt's

    Gday. I'm looking for some opinions. I've been looking at Smith K38s and Colt's in 38special with 6" barrels on GunBroker. Never handled either. What's your preference and why please. I like the models from the 1950s for some reason. Not the snake guns or the 14s. Just like the period/age of them. Thanks!!
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  2. #2
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    You know what they say about "opinions", but if you want one you shall have it: We are talking about Colts and Smiths from the 1950s, but you should not turn your back on those from the 60s, 70s, and early 80s either. When I was coming of age, in the late 1950s, there were two big favorites among police officers. Why do I use police officers as an example? Because they used them daily and relied upon them for their well being, shot for qualification with them often. Quite different from someone who kept a revolver in a dresser drawer and perhaps shot it a few rounds once a year.

    Well, the big favorites in the 50s were the Colt Official Police and the S&W Military & Police which later became the Model 10 with minor changes. The Colt was prized for it's durability, and was a .38 on a .41 frame. The S&W was admired for it's smoothness of function and higher level of external finish. Neither really gave up much to the other in the accuracy department. In those days there were many accomplished revolver smiths, far fewer today. The general opinion among those I talked to over the years was that the internal workings of the Colt were more difficult to tune to a really smooth action.

    Both remained neck in neck until the early 70s when the Smith began to edge out the Colt in shooting competitions, and consequently sales. The Police Practical Shooting Course (PPC) was dominated by Smiths. Colt had union/labor problems and eventually cut back their offerings by discontinuing some models that either lagged in sales or became too expensive to produce. They tried to compete by redesigning some of their flagship models, giving them the Mk III and Mk. V designations, but eventually dropped almost all revolver production in favor of the 1911's continued popularity. Smith sailed on, continuing to produce models that had been successful in the market and continuing to add one here and there. Today, we see Colt getting back into the market with the new production Python, which seems to be selling like hotcakes. But, that's straying from the subject a bit, isn't it?

    Jerking myself back to the 50s, you really can't go wrong with either a Colt or Smith of that time period. Same for the 60s and 70s, and early 80s. Both are reliable. The Colt is probably stronger, the Smith a bit better finished and smoother in double action. Nice condition 6 inch barreled revolvers from that time period will be a bit more difficult than the 4 inch version as there were fewer made, but they're around. Why would you not be interested in a 6 inch S&W Model 14? One of the very best revolvers ever made. There are Colt Officer Model Match 6 inch revolvers around, but they're becoming quite expensive. My choice in a 50s or 60s vintage 6 inch would be an S&W Mod. 14. And--that's an opinion.

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    Two S&W 14s, top 60s, bottom late 50s. Two S&W M&Ps, top late 40s, bottom early 50s. Colt Official Police, mid-late 60s.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master Drm50's Avatar
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    I always liked the S&Ws over Colts in DAs. In the service revolvers S&W seemed to have best triggers out of the box. Colts are prone to have more problems. S&W made there rep with DAs, Colt with SAs. Today the earlier model guns of both are expensive. A Colt will cost you more.

  4. #4
    Wow, great responses. This has been far more educational than I thought it would be! Thanks for taking the time! I was originally looking at 14s, then ran into some K38s, then a Colt's 357 model and started looking at the older Colt's. I'm just not sure which way to go. I was under the impression that Colt's were supposed to be a higher quality and smoother piece, never considered the strength portion. But you say the Smith's were actually smoother. So I may just end up looking for the best deal, and not so specific to brand. Thanks so much!!
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  5. #5
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    You have made a wise decision. Handle some, and go with what you like the best.

  6. #6
    Unfortunately, where I live, there are none around anymore. My only real option is to buy off GB, and hope I like it when it arrives.
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  7. #7
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    I collect Colts and have a bunch of them which are shooters, not safe queens. I also have pre-1980 S&Ws. While I prefer the Colt as a shooter, the number of competent gunsmiths who can do good work on them anymore can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The S&Ws are easier to work on and get parts for, and for that reason are a better choice for most people. I do not care for the current production S&Ws.

    I've bought a number of revolvers off GunBroker. If you shop carefully, ask questions, read the user feedback and deal with well-established, reliable sellers you will do fine. GunBroker's policies protect both the buyer and the seller. I have about a half dozen favorite sellers whom I deal with frequently and have been well pleased. There is a learning curve, but suffice to say the established sellers who deal in collector-grade guns and who have thousands of transactions and A+ feedback do not maintain their reputation by screwing their customers.
    The ENEMY is listening.
    HE wants to know what YOU know.
    Keep it to yourself.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    Almost 40 some years ago I bought a worn police positive special in 38 for $100. Was surprised how well it shot and passed it on to a friend. I decided then to seek Colt double actions. I had a couple of colt and Ruger SAAs. Now I believe I have close to 90 colt DA revolvers. I have not regretted it once. I did buy the Jerry Kuhn. colt double action shop manual to learn of the positive lock action, a must these days with what shipping a handgun costs to a gunsmith.

    Original Troopers, Officers model Match, Official Police and occasionally a pre-war New Service and Army special can be sometimes found for around $500. I have yet to fire any of these guns that doesn’t perform.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master


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    My first revolver was a Colt Officers Model. To me, it was smoother than the K38. I used it for Bullseye competition decades ago when I was too poor to afford a quality semi-auto. Shot high Expert with it. Sold it to help finance a use M52 S&W.

    Now, I wish I had kept it.

    I do not believe you will be disappointed in either make. I have a couple of S&W 686+1 revolvers and we enjoy shooting them. The old Colt I had was smoother IMHO. As a reloader, and having a private range, I prefer shooting revolvers as I hate picking up cases.

    Good luck!!!
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    Have shot both and don't think you will go wrong with either one. My personal preference is for the S&W and if I were to get another 38 it would be a Model 14 or 15 simply because I prefer adjustable sights that allow me to adjust point of aim to point of impact.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    While I love my 60's Python it is getting hard to find someone who can tune it. Don't know what I will do when the good gunsmiths disappear. It is a more complex action. When tuned well I love it for it's smooth action, accuracy and looks. But, a lot of quick double action shooting will require a tune up sooner rather than later. And it is not as 'fast' as a S&W. Just look up Miculek's story about 'testing' revolvers when he started out.

    Based on all that I'd go for a S&W.

    PS I also like the Ruger Security Six and SP101's.

  12. #12
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    I own an early 50s K38 Target masterpiece. It is what eventually became the model 14. I also own an early 60s model 14.
    In all truth, I can't tell any difference between them in how they shoot or feel. To look at them side by side, you can't tell the difference except by bluing wear.
    I have put thousands of rounds through them both and they are as reliable as anyone could ask.
    I also own some K frame revolvers from 70s and early 80s, some in 38 special and others in 357 magnum. No issues with them either.

    I have no experience with Colt revolvers that I can offer. Sorry.

  13. #13
    Boolit Grand Master
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    When I was getting into centerfire revolver shooting in the late 1980's, S&W and Ruger were somewhat affordable on an E-4 or E-5 paycheck, Colt even then had gotten pretty expensive. The guy that really helped me told me that a Ruger would last basically forever, a S&W would need an occasional trip to a gunsmith, and a Colt would need several given the amount we were shooting.

    Later I went to Armorer's school so that became a moot point, but I still haven't been able to find an affordable Colt in decant shape when I had the money.

    I still keep looking though.

    Robert

  14. #14
    Boolit Bub
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    I started my LEO career in the mid-70's and carried both Colts and Smiths. In a nutshell, my observations are

    1. Smiths are easier to work on when they go out of time. When Colts go out of time, you need a good gunsmith who really knows older Colts. Those guys are getting hard to find.

    2. Out of the box, Smith actions are smoother. You can stage the trigger in DA fire (if you wish; I don't recommend it). You cannot with a Colt.

    3. For smaller hands, get a Smith.

    4. Twist rates; Colt 1:14" Smith 1:18" for .38/.357. This might be why I always felt the Colt was more accurate. It handles cast bullets from 116 gr WC to 195 gr RN exceptionally well.

    5. The sweetest shooting revolver I ever used was a Smith M14 aka K38, 6". Fit my hand to a "T", and perfect balance. Carried on-duty for many years.

    Smith or Colt? You cannot go wrong with either! This was my second duty gun, a 1954 Colt 357, 4".
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  15. #15
    That's a beauty. Looks way too nice to have been carried. Thanks folks, I was looking at Smiths to begin with and am leaning back that way again.
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master Ozark mike's Avatar
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    my favorite da revolver was a Smith but i have a soft spot for older colts also. jus get both
    Those who would trade freedom for safety deserves neither and will lose both

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    I seldom shoot double-action and probably have a number of .38/.357 revolvers that I've never fired double-action. Used in such a manner, I can't see any difference between Colt and S&W revolvers.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master bedbugbilly's Avatar
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    All I can off is based on what I've owned/currently own.

    As far as S & W - I had a M & P Target (K frame) early 1920s - 38 special - they have a 6" barrel. It was a good shooter and I liked it but sold it as it was more of a "collector's" piece. I currently have a S & W M & P with a 5" barrel - DOB of 1952. 38 special

    As far as a Colt - I have a Colt Army Special - 38 special - 6" barrel. Mine was made in 1910. In 1927, the name was changed to "Official Police" model for marketing purposes. My excuse for buying it was that it came out in 1908 - same year my Dad was born as well as the Model T and the name was changed in 1927 - same year he graduated from high school.

    Both the S & Ws and the Colt were/are good shooters. My hands are jnot large - i.e. the size of hams - and it may just be me, but I prefer the feel of the 5" Smith M & P. It's more accurate than I am. While I like the Colt Army Special, if just doesn't feel as good as my Smith. If I had to choose and could only have one, it would be my Smith M & P K frame. BUT - that's just me.

    If you were to put a Smith K frame M & P and a Colt Army Special/Official Police side by wide - both in 38 special with 6" barrels - both with non adjustable sights - both in the same condition - I think for most folks it might be a hard decision. And I'll add that I shoot both in SA and DA. Some may lean one way or the other based on the name brand.

    I had the chance one time to buy a really nice 4" blued Colt Python so I did - I had always heard about the "Python experience". The revolver was pretty much pristine in all regards. I took it to the range a number of times - several times I had guys watch and want to shoot it and I even got a few offers on it but decided not to sell at that time. To be honest though, I didn't like the Python - can't explain it and it's just me, but I couldn't warm up to it and eventually sold it and double my money on it. I still prefer my old Smith M & P 5" K frame.

  19. #19
    Boolit Bub
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    S&W. That's why I'm on this forum and not a Colt forum.

    I shoot mostly DA. I could never make that work on a Colt, not even with the Python.

    Most people DON'T shoot a lot of double action, so don't let that come between you and a Colt if you like it better.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Colt cylinders rotate in the wrong direction!

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