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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello,

I recently inherited my father-in-law’s S&W Model 15-3 Combat Masterpiece. I’m trying to figure out how old it is. The serial number is 1K59xxx. There’s also the number 35621 stamped in two places. It’s not in very good condition and needs to be looked at, before I would even consider using it.
 

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Welcome to the Forum, FLynes. Stop by the Introductions page and tell us a little about yourself.

Photos would be helpful in our trying to help you out. Please rub the stampings on the metal with chalk so we can see them more easily. Styles and stamping locations change, and can be helpful in identifying when it was manufactured.

I will also offer a bit of advice. When you talk about a serial number on the open Forum, it's prudent to not give the entire serial. Something on the order of 1K59XXX will allow the experts on S&W pistols to make an informed guess as to when it was made, without your putting yourself at risk of having local law enforcement come to call because the pistol might have been used in a crime, or been stolen many years ago, before it came into your father-in-law's possession. Instances of this happening are rare, but not unheard-of. Just a note to remember in the future.
 
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Hello,

I recently inherited my father-in-law’s S&W Model 15-3 Combat Masterpiece. I’m trying to figure out how old it is. The serial number is 1K59881. There’s also the number 35621 stamped in two places. It’s not in very good condition and needs to be looked at, before I would even consider using it.

I have an old model 15, they are superb revolvers. I would love to see pics of your heirloom.
 

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... I recently inherited my father-in-law’s S&W Model 15-3 Combat Masterpiece. I’m trying to figure out how old it is. The serial number is 1K59xxx.
Your S&W Model 15-3 was made in 1971. It has a pin on the barrel which makes it an authentic P&R revolver.

I have a newer S&W Model 19-3 from 1973:

Revolver Air gun Trigger Wood Gun barrel
 

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Hello,

I recently inherited my father-in-law’s S&W Model 15-3 Combat Masterpiece. I’m trying to figure out how old it is. The serial number is 1K59881. There’s also the number 35621 stamped in two places. It’s not in very good condition and needs to be looked at, before I would even consider using it.
Welcome. The model 15 is a sturdy build and will handle any ammunition marked 38 special or 38 special plus P. You say it is in poor condition which sets off an alarm.. If it has rust or missing bluing not an issue. But if there are any bulges in the barrel or if the cylinder is hard to close, there might be some damage. Photos of the gun from several angles would give us a clue as to any danger. Otherwise you need to have a gunsmith take a look.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Okay, got the intro out of the way. When I say not in good condition, keep in mind I was in the military for over 20 years…a weapon is never kept looking like this. There is some rust on the bluing, and it needs a good cleaning. My father-in-law bought it new, he just couldn’t remember what year it was…he’s still alive, just has no need for it anymore. Here are some pics of the pistol. I had to take the grips off, because they were covering up the bottom of the frame and hiding the serial number, so I’m pretty sure they’re aftermarket, although my FIL says he never changed them out, but he’s 80 and forgets stuff.
Revolver Gun barrel Personal protective equipment Gun accessory Trigger

Revolver Bicycle part Wood Gun accessory Art

Wood Automotive tire Automotive exterior Bumper Tints and shades

Bicycle part Rim Auto part Bumper Metal

Wood Trigger Gas Gun accessory Revolver

Office supplies Automotive exterior Bumper Rim Wood

Bicycle part Automotive exterior Wood Bumper Font

Revolver Air gun Trigger Gun barrel Wood

Revolver Air gun Trigger Gun barrel Wood
 

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From what I can see, there is nothing wrong with that pistol that scrubbing it down with Gunzilla with the grips removed would not fix. Looks like what you are dealing with is mostly holster wear. You might have to use a bronze bristle brush on the surface rust by the trademark stamp on the right side of the frame, and use a pick to get the gunk out of the places it hides in the cylinder, but all it really needs is a thorough cleaning, I think.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
From what I can see, there is nothing wrong with that pistol that scrubbing it down with Gunzilla with the grips removed would not fix. Looks like what you are dealing with is mostly holster wear. You might have to use a bronze bristle brush on the surface rust by the trademark stamp on the right side of the frame, and use a pick to get the gunk out of the places it hides in the cylinder, but all it really needs is a thorough cleaning, I think.
You’re probably right. It hasn’t been cleaned in well over 30 years.
 

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You’re probably right. It hasn’t been cleaned in well over 30 years.
Don't worry, FLynes. Gunzilla is the best CLP product in the world.

The longtime members are going to groan over this, I've told it so often, but it's a valid point. A friend of mine was assigned to the Sandbox just after the war there. When he reported aboard, his platoon gunnery sergeant welcomed him, reached down into a box by his desk, and handed him a pint bottle of Gunzilla. When my friend asked him what it was, stripped of the profanity and pejoratives the gunny said, "It's the only thing I have ever found in 24 years in the Corps that gets an M-16 to work the way Colt claims it does -- and in the real world, doesn't." When every other platoon went on patrol, they followed the standard practice of half the platoon stripping and cleaning their Poodle Shooters at every halt for a rest, with the others doing theirs next time. His platoon would clean their M-16s before going on patrol, and again when they came back in. That's all. In a year in the Sandbox, his platoon had zero weapon malfunctions.

If Gunzilla will work that well for the Marines in Iraq, where everything is dusty, sandy, and filthy, it can take care of any little problems your Model 15 might have.

Gunzilla offers this challenge, and it works. Go through your regular cleaning routine using your current cleaning and lubricating products. When you are satisfied your piece is clean, soak a patch in Gunzilla and run it through the bore. Then look at the patch. You will astonished (and appalled) at how much more crap Gunzilla pulled out of your "clean" firearm. Once you try it, you won't want to use anything else to maintain your firearms. One product to clean, lube and protect the metal, made of organic plant oils. What's not to like?

Here is a link to Top Duck, which makes Gunzilla and has more information about it.

 

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Nothing that looks like a safety issue, just neglect. The grips are aftermarket, those Guns all came with the SW logo grips. The picture of the right side of the gun tells a lot. Guns carried in the weather will have the finish outside the holster on the right side with more wear scratches that the left side.. Look at the deep blue on the right side of the barrel, then look at the rear of the gun. The differences in finish suggest it was carried outside. Guns kept in safes do not do that. When looking a police trade ins and the like, you look for that, it is expected.

There are also lots of pings and dings on the gun. Apparently it has been hauled around outside the holster, they cannot get them on both side of the cylinder if it was kept in a holster , my guess is it spent time riding loose in a glove box or tackle box or maybe under the seat without the holster. And of course it has not been kept lubed.

Zooming tells me from the scratches that gun has probably been shot a lot, or at least the cylinder has been worked a lot to eject the empties. Zooming does not give me much to look at as to the cylinder gap. And yes, us retired military guys are offended by such abuse of a perfectly good firearm.

That said, I would pull the side plate to make sure there are not major rust spots inside. Looks like a great project to bring it back to being a great specimen. Here is my suggestion. Send it to me and I will send you a check for $100 and you will never be bothered with it again. Or option 2.

Take the side off and scrub every part, after it has soaked CLP, Hoppes or any cleaning solution. Sonic cleaners work fine too. Soak the entire gun, except grips over night also.

After a compete scrubbing, the rust must come off and the deep dings smoothed over. Caution with the Dremel, if at all. Fine sandpaper wrapped around a pop-sickle stick or similar Emory board is a great option.

Now is the time to fine tune the action, UTube and Larry at Midway have good videos on how to do the trigger job on Smith and Wessons. This is also a good time to look at new Springs. Once it is clean and back together you can look at cylinder gap and end shake, an easy fix. Slow as to removing all the finish. Buy the blue remover and steel wool and take it down to the white. You are retired, military, you can do a cold blue by yourself. Or maybe have the gun Ceracoated. There are mixed reviews on how it works on revolvers, but that is an option. There are even gun painting options that work very well. I painted a well worn model 36, OD Green to take to Desert Shield as a personal second gun (don't ask). It looked great, a year later, I took it off.

Looks like a fun project. Do not show it to the FIL again or ever mention it to him, people have way of wanting things back. It is your enjoy it.
 

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I strongly recommend replacing the springs, especially the rebound spring. Any corrosion pitting will cause springs to weaken considerably, especially coil springs. Midway USA and Brownells both have tools you need to safely remove the rebound slide without putting your eye out, and the springs.
 

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If you were wondering if it was worth the money to have the finish restored, yes it absolutely is. New full size S&W revolvers are expensive as hell and good used ones are too.
 
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Thank you for the great suggestions, this weapon is going to get the love and respect it deserves, along with the needed repairs you all have recommended. And, no, FIL will NEVER see it again.
Just one extra comment.

One of my mentors, actually while I was military in 1973-1975 time, taught me about gun fighting. I would later be a narcotics officer and speed was a big deal to me.

His name was Captain Dan Combs, his day job was an Oklahoma Highway Patrolman. He was the firearms manager for the state patrol but he also taught gun fighting with handguns and did trick shooting exhibitions all over the country. At that time the .pistol shooting and fast draw competition was going strong. Profile: Oklahoma Highway Patrol's Captain Dan Combs | An Official Journal Of The NRA (americanrifleman.org)

Anyway, Combs was a legend. Dan Combs, once said to the fastest man alive, before Mundon and McCuleck . He was not a gamer but the real deal. Many people he taught would later cone back and tell him how he training saved their life in a gun fight. For me it was a boot knife thrust st my throat.

He taught us how to jerk a handgun barely out of a holster and fire one round before the gun was even one inch from the holster, the second round fired as the gun moved about six inches in front of the body and the third round the gun was still only about 12-14 inches forward. The first round hit the gut, the second the sternum and the third the throat or head. The entire process was about one second. But there was a trick. You could do it the fastest with the model 15 with the small factory grips that came on it. We carried model 19s, the bigger gun,especially with the bigger grips was just too slow. Of course the 357 had much more power, just a trade off because the weight and balance, but the 15 was better for that chore.

Anyway thought you might appreciate that tidbit, that the fastest guy in the country, thought the 15 was the best gun made for a gun fights up close.Enjoy that gun.
 
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My Dad carried a S&W Model 15-3 as a LEO in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he swapped it for a Model 67 and he sold the 15-3 to me for $150.


He passed away in 2001 and I inherited all his Smith and Wesson wheel guns. I always put a few rounds thru them on Father's Day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Both very cool stories. I have a question about what correct grips should be on this weapon. I read somewhere that S&W stopped using diamond grips in ‘68.
 
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