Who Carried An S&W .38-44 Heavy Duty Model 20 or Model 28 Highway Patrolman On the Job?

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Ed Harris posted this 17 May 2019

By the late 1920s, US law enforcement agencies sought revolver ammunition producing better “stopping power” which could also defeat metal automobile bodies. S&W introduced its .38/44 Heavy Duty, on the .44 Hand Ejector frame in 1930, with 5-inch barrel and fixed sights.  A 4-inch version followed in 1935.  

The .38-44 High Velocity loads were cataloged as having a 6-inch test barrel velocity of 1125 fps with the 158-grain bullet, intended only for the Colt New Service, Official Police and S&W Heavy Duty (N-frame) revolvers. Both lead round-nose and “metal capped” versions were offered.   Advertising of the 1930s gangster era indicated that the .38-44 cartridge could penetrate eleven 7/8inch thick pine boards or just as easily a metal auto trunk lid, seats, dashboard and firewall into the engine compartment. 

 

The S&W .38/44 Heavy Duty was quickly accepted by cash-strapped police departments whose tight budgets couldn’t afford the more expensive, .357 “Registered Magnums.” When the ammunition factories introduced the .357 Magnum in 1935, its cartridge case was lengthened by 0.135” to preclude its being chambered in .38 Special revolvers, as a safety feature.

In 1954 S&W introduced a plain-finished .357 Magnum on the .44 Hand Ejector frame with 4-inch barrel and adjustable sights, which it named the Highway Patrolman.  This sturdy duty gun of all cop’s dreams continued in production until 1986.  In 1957, the "Heavy Duty" fixed sight .38 Special was designated the S&W Model 20, while the adjustable sighted .38 Special "Outdoorsman" became the Model 23 and the adjustable sight .357 Highway Patrolman became the Model 28.  Production of the Heavy Duty Model 20 continued into the early 1960s. Compared to other S&W models the .38-44 Heavy Duty is scarce and is sought out by collectors and shooters.

 

So the Question of the Day is:  Who has a .38-44 Heavy Duty Model 20 S&W or a Model 28 Highway Patrolman?  What do you shoot in yours?

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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JeffinNZ posted this 18 May 2019

Ed: Are 38/44 HV loads considered to be .38 Special +P?

Cheers from New Zealand

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Ed Harris posted this 18 May 2019

Ed: Are 38/44 HV loads considered to be .38 Special +P?

 

YES!  

 

Ed Harris’s .38-44 loads and the RCBS Little Dandy Rotors Used to Dispense Them

Derived from Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook, 4th Edition, pgs. 256-259.

[Universal Receiver with 4” vented SAAMI test barrel]

#358477, 150 grains, Linotype, minimum OAL 1.51” – substituting Accurate36-150L same OAL

11.0 grs. #2400 (.357 “start” load) 998 fps, 17,900 cup – p. 258 I use RCBS LD rotor #13 for 10.2 grs.

#358156, 155 grains, #2 alloy, minimum OAL 1.46”-  substituting Accurate 36-155D @ 1.53” OAL.

 4.4 grains Bullseye (.38 Spl +P load) 915 fps, 18,100 cup – p. 256 – My RCBS LD rotor #8 meters this.

8.8 grains #2400 (.38 Spl. +P load) 953 fps, 17,300 cup – p. 256 – RCBS LD #11 meters 8.4 grs.

#358311, 160 grains, Linotype, minimum OAL 1.55”  - substituting Accurate 36-159H same OAL

4.1 grains Bullseye (.38 Spl. +P) 936 fps, 18,300 cup – p. 256 – RCBS LD rotor #7 for 4.0 grs.  

11.4 grs. #2400 (.357 “start” load) 1024 fps, 20,200 cup - p. 259 – I use RCBS LD rotor #14 meters 11 grs.

11.8 grains IMR4227 (.357 “start” load) 977 fps, 19,600 cup – p. 259 –RCBS LD rotor #15 meters 11.5 grs.

#358429, 170 grains, Linotype, minimum OAL  1.55” – substituting Accurate 36-178D @ 1.57” OAL

 9.9 grains #2400 (.357 “start” load) 879 fps, 15,900 cup – p.259 – I use RCBS LD #12 meters 9.3 grs.

9.8 grains IMR4227 (.357 “start” load) 835 fps, 14,100 cup – p.259 – My RCBS LD rotor #13 meters this.

 

 

 

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Eutectic posted this 18 May 2019

I had a 4" Model 28, it was a bit rough but a Wolfe spring kit and polishing the action made 100% difference.

It shot 1000's of 38 wadcutters H&G 50 BB. 3-4 gr of any fast powder for 750 - 800 fs, which powder made no difference.

The N frame makes shooting 357's very comfortable. The SAECO #398 ~158 grains 2% tin 6% antimony pushed by 8.0 gr. Power Pistol and a standard primer would consistently do under 3" at 50 yards on the Ransom rest and was the best load I found in the 28. Velocity is ~1250 fps. 

No picture because I gave it to my son, but it looked just like yours.

Steve

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BigMan54 posted this 18 May 2019

I "lost" my heavy duty, but was fortunate enough to replace it with a former Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) Model 27-5" Nickel. Shoot same loads, but I do miss the longer sight radius of that 6 1/2" bbl.

Now I'll have some experimenting to do.

Thank You, Sir. Especially for the lil dandy rotor numbers. 

Long time Caster/Reloader, Getting back into it after almost 10yrs. Life Member NRA 40+yrs, Life S.A.S.S. #375. Does this mean a description of me as a fumble-fingered knuckle-draggin' baboon. I also drool in my sleep. I firmly believe that true happiness is a warm gun. Did I mention how much I HATE auto-correct on this blasted tablet.

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David Reiss CBA Membership Director posted this 18 May 2019

I traded a model 66 4" (which I just had but did not carry) for a model 27 4" nickeled about 1980. I carried that 27 for about 6 months before I went back to a 4" model 13. Two reasons I switched back to a "K frame", first the model 13 was easier for me to shoot in a combat situation and I had already seen the writing on the wall and knew the model 27 would have value in the future. The model 13 was an extension on my right hand. I also had a 3" 13 I carried off-duty.  

Funny story about the swap though. At a neighboring constable's office a new female deputy had been hired about a year earlier. She and I met when we both worked an off-duty job together. As soon as I noticed the big 27 on her hip I asked if she could shoot it well and of course she replied no. She said another deputy had recommended the 27 to her. She admitted she could barely grip it and it took several times for her to qualify in her academy. That next day we met up and we made the swap, neither one of us ever regretting it. 

I eventually learned to shoot "N frames" by practicing with a model 29 4" shooting .44 specials. I have to save that well before the trade I owned other "N frames" but never considered them as a duty weapon. I knew one officer who was quite a bit older than me that carried a 6" model 29 for many years. On the range he could qualify, but just barely. With the long barrel and noticeable flinch he consistently shot low on the B-27 target. His name was Chris, but we always called him the "casternator". 

David Reiss - NRA Life Member & PSC Range Member Retired Police Firearms Instructor/Armorer
-Services: Wars Fought, Uprisings Quelled, Bars Emptied, Revolutions Started, Tigers Tamed, Assassinations Plotted, Women Seduced, Governments Run, Gun Appraisals, Lost Treasure Found.
- Also deal in: Land, Banjos, Nails, Firearms, Manure, Fly Swatters, Used Cars, Whisky, Racing Forms, Rare Antiquities, Lead, Used Keyboard Keys, Good Dogs, Pith Helmets & Zulu Headdresses. .

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Qc Pistolero posted this 18 May 2019

I picked up my 28-2 quite a few years ago.It was a dog.I polished the innards,cut off 1 1/2 coil from the trigger return spring and thinned the main spring .I must tell you that the gun is not used for sd or work;only target shooting.Now with an action sweet and smooth,I really enjoy the little beast.

I load it with Lyman's 358156 which comes out at 166gr gchecked and lubed.Propelled by 15.3gr H 110,it comes out at a little under 1300fps in my 4'' tube and stays in the black at 20 yds when I'm in a good mood.I know I could give the big boy more ooomph but since I have a few .357s,I load for the weakest member of my .357 family.But my 28 sees only .357 loads;the .38+P I keep for my model 13.

While many of my guns come and go according to the mood of the moment,my 28 is a keeper!

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Wineman posted this 19 May 2019

One of my friends was a California Highway Patrol officer. When he retired he received a presentation grade, CHP engraved 28 as gift. He kept in in a shadow coffee table with other mementos. Unfortunately he has dementia now and his family removed it for safety reasons.

Dave

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Keith posted this 20 May 2019

A four inch 38/44 Heavy Duty.  I have not carried this one.  Cow doctors do not really need to carry these days as our problem individuals are dealt with by other means.  I have shot mostly 3.5 of Bullseye for the past few years but have also used 4.2 of 231.  I enjoy shooting several of the older revolvers that we would call the classics.  And using one standard pressure load for all of them is the best way to stay out of trouble.  I have loaded 10 grains of 2400 with a 160 LBT in the past and mostly shot this out of a USFA single action.  I currently cast the 160 LBT, Accurate 36-155D, Accurate 36-158C and Accurate 36-148D (mostly with 3.3 of Bullseye) and have not found there to be a great deal of accuracy difference in any of them.  I will say that having different molds allows for the visual segregation of loads.  I may try Accurate 36-159H this summer for that reason.

Keith DVM

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gnoahhh posted this 21 May 2019

I've never been "on the job" but I have a .38/44 Heavy Duty, 5", nickel plated. I never fired it with +P loads, and actually darned few loads of any kind truth be told. After reading this thread I guess I'll be dusting off the 160 SWC mold.

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RicinYakima posted this 21 May 2019

I have a 1933 five inch HD that was Armoroloyed in the 1970's. It has perfect chambers and bore that I shoot 12.o grains of H2400 in over Lyman 357429's. While I have not shot it in years since I wrote an article on 2400 powders, if I ever had to "hide" a gun in an ammo can with ammo, this would be the one.

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Mike H posted this 22 May 2019

i have not served,just a Pistol Club member,at one stage I had a 5” adjustable sights in 38 special,the only one I have seen here in Australia,it was a very smooth revolver but had seen hard work,a fair bit of end play,I gave up pistol shooting before I had it repaired.Highway Patrolman models were common for those that were  not worried about K38 short actions.

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Ed Harris posted this 02 August 2019

Got lucky on GunBroker and now have a .38-44 Heavy Duty on the way to keep my Model 28 Highway Patrolman company.

Plan is to chronograph and group test some pre-1974 .38 Special Super X and Rem-UMC High Velocity 158 LRN loads to compare with modern  Winchester X38SPD 58-grain +P "FBI Load."

I then want to work up some .38 Special +P loads with AutoComp and the 36-175H Accurate bullet and shoot them in the Model 28 and Ruger Speed Six .357s, and the Colt Official Police, Ruger Service Six and S&W Heavy Duty .38 Specials.  Should be interesting.

 

  

 

 

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Rich/WIS posted this 03 August 2019

Funny story, back in the early 80's my dad called and said the local PD had recovered a 38/44 that they traced back to me and wanted to know if I had sold it on or if it was stolen.  Gun was recovered from a felon the cops arrested.  My dad gave me the serial number and sure enough it matched a S&W 1917 I had purchased from the same shop.  Called the PD and explained the situation.  They called back a few days later and the records for the shop I bought it from showed the sale of the 1917 to me as well as the 38/44.  They suspect the dealer saw a chance to make a prohibited sale and "cleared" his books by listing both as sold to me, as he had a rather dubious reputation.  

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Larry Gibson posted this 03 August 2019

Back in '72 when I joined a state police agency I was issued a M28.  Soon found the N-frame was just too large for my hand and was issued a Colt Trooper (which I liked a lot) as my service revolver.  Went through numerous N-Frames (357, 41s, 44,s and 45s before I gave up on them as, regardless of grip used, they were too large for my hand.  Have a Colt Anaconda that is just perfect and the Redhawks also fit perfectly.  I keep one N-frame, a M1917 with a M25 target barrel on it, and just shoot standard 45 ACP loads through it......single action.

The old 38/44 ammunition had a much higher MAP than 38 SPL +P.  They are not the same.

Early on S&W made the M27 in just 38 SPL and they were marked as such on the barrel.

LMG

Concealment is not cover.........

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Ed Harris posted this 03 August 2019

Thanks Larry, I was wondering about the older pre-1974 .38 Special Super-X and Remington HV.   I expect back then the catalog 1125 fps velocity was probably based a 6-inch solid industrial test barrel.  I don't know what the older pressure limits for that ammo would have been, but if I had to guess the stuff was probably around 20,000 cup (radial copper).

I have a box of the old Super-X and a few loose rounds of Rem-UMC which I'll shoot up for data compared to modern stuff and it may be interesting to see.  If memory serves the old Super-X stuff did about 1000 fps from a 4" barrel with 0.008" cylinder gap using the old style Oehler lumiline screens with 10 ft. spacing which gave an instrumental velocity at 25 ft.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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lotech posted this 04 August 2019

I carried an M28 4" "at work" for a number of years beginning about 1970. Good, heavy revolver for shooting .357 Magnum loads. 

As to the question regarding ballistics of factory loads... I'm away from home and don't have access to old reference material, but maybe someone here does. There is an article in HANDLOADER magazine about 1970 or '71 where Lee Jurras, Neal Knox, and/or  George Nonte measure pressures of a bunch of .38 Special factory loads in the Super Vel lab. Worth looking up if you have access to the material. I think this may be a two-part article, the second part published in a subsequent edition where they attempt to duplicate factory loads with handloads. This is all from memory, so no guarantee as to the details.          

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Larry Gibson posted this 05 August 2019

Here's a picture of the N Frame pre-357 Magnum/M27 I mentioned.  It was owned by a technician who help both Vernon Speer and Joyce Hornady get started.  He designed a lot of the manufacturing equipment both used and some of the products.  His son has the revolver now and is pictured in Speer #9 manual as he also worked there years ago.  If you can enlarge the picture you see "38 S&W Special CTG." is stamped on the barrel.,,,,,and it is a very sweet shooter......

LMG

  

Concealment is not cover.........

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RicinYakima posted this 06 August 2019

That is a very nice post-war "Outdoorsman". The ones I have shoot were very nice, but everyone else seemed to want .357's and the Highway Patrolman was less money.

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alamogunr posted this 08 August 2019

I've never served so can't comment on use of my M28's on duty but I do have two.  The first was a 6" that was well used.  I had been wanting a N frame .44 so I sent it to Jim Stroh for conversion.  I had originally wanted the barrel cut to 4" but he convinced me to only go to 5".  It is one of my favorites, especially since Mr Stroh is now retired.

The second M28 is also 6" and apparently was neither shot nor carried much.  It locks up tight when cocked, has a good double action trigger(although I don't shoot it that way) and also is one of my favorites.  This one I plan to start shooting extensively.  I just bought a MP 8 cavity aluminum mold for the H&G 50 wadcutter that will allow me to retire the iron H&G 4 cavity.  I haven't tried the aluminum mold yet so I'm hoping it casts as well as the original H&G mold.

 

Pictures of 38/44's are not plentiful so I appreciate Ed posting his.

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Ed Harris posted this 21 August 2019

A pic of my just received S&W Heavy Duty .38 Special looking at the wall thickness of those chambers!

No wonder Keith had no issues with his hot loads!  Can't wait to get it to the range!

 

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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