S&W Model 15

S&W Model 15 by Pat Cascio – Survival Blog

We are continuing to followup on the many requests for more revolver articles from our readers, and we are more than happy to comply. As I pointed out in previous articles, there are some shooters who believe that the “old” revolver isn’t a viable option for self-defense work, and I couldn’t disagree more. Now, we aren’t necessarily talking about a SWAT team clearing a building of an active shooter or a terrorist. We are talking about everyday people who carry concealed or want a home defense handgun, and for whom the revolver might just be the perfect answer.

In 1980 or 1981, I traded a customer in my gun shop out of a S&W Model 15; it’s also called the K-38 Combat Masterpiece. This was my first exposure to this particular model in a full-sized service revolver, and the gun was for my own personal use. Over the years, I’ve owned quite a few revolvers, from S&W, Colt, Ruger, and other gun makers. Most were snubby revolvers, as I carried those guns doing Private Investigative work. The Model 15 that I traded into didn’t have the skimpy small wood grips that came on most models; instead, it had a nice pair of custom-made, hand-filling grips. I don’t know who made those grips, but they fit my hand perfectly.

A quick run down on the Model 15 is in order, before reporting any further. This model holds six rounds of .38 Spl in the cylinder, and it is usually found with a 4-inch barrel; however, there were some 2-inch barreled guns. You’ll usually encounter a Model 15 with a 4-inch barrel. Many police departments, back in the 1960s and into the 1970s, carried this model of gun. The gun comes with a fully adjustable rear sight, for windage and elevation, and early models had a plain black, ramped front sight. The frame is called the “K” frame and is a medium-sized frame. The “J” is a small frame, and the “L” and “N” frames are bigger. The Model 15 is a double-action/single-action revolver, and you can fire the gun by simply pulling the trigger or cocking the hammer for a crisp and lighter trigger pull. Many police departments removed the hammer spur, so the guns could only be fire in the double-action mode. There were liability concerns, ya know.

Weight on the Model 15, with the 4-inch barrel, is right around 34 oz, which is just about perfect, if you ask me. It’s not too heavy and not too light. The standard finish was a nice shinny blue, and the gun was right pretty if you ask me. The trigger is grooved, and I prefer a smooth faced trigger. It is easily corrected by any competent gunsmith. I never cared for the checkered walnut service stocks/grips; they were and are too skimpy for a good grip on the gun for the most accuracy you can wring out of it. The barrel is a medium thickness, and the entire gun just is about perfect in many respects.

I know, I know. I can hear the detractors already saying, “It only holds 6-rds.” That’s true; however, you can reload the gun in a few seconds, using speed loaders from HKS, and if you have expended 6-rds and there is still a threat, you should be behind cover and reload from there. We don’t stand toe-to-toe and keep firing. We should always seek cover whenever possible. So, remember to keep a spare speed loader or two on your person if carrying a revolver, or if this is a house gun, have at least one spare speed loader on hand. Let’s get back to my first full-sized Model 15. Hands down, it was without question the most accurate revolver I ever shot. It didn’t matter what kind of ammo I was using, the gun would easily shoot 2-inch groups at 25 yards, if I did my part. The custom-made, grooved wooden stocks really helped in the accuracy department. They were smooth, not checkered; however, it had finger grooves. To this day, I regret no longer having that gun. I must have sold or traded it, and I honestly don’t remember.

In 1974, I ran across a S&W Model 15 with a 2-inch barrel. It was nickel plated, and I carried it for the longest time in a Safariland upside down shoulder holster. It was a super-accurate revolver, considering it was a snubby model. I’m still trying to find one just like it. My local gun shop has standing orders, if they find one at a gun show to buy it for me. I understand that this model, with the 2-inch barrel and nickel finish, is extremely rare these days.

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