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