September 24, 2010
If you love a gun with history, you might look at Smith & Wesson's Model 14.
With a lineage that started as the .38 Hand Ejector in 1899, it was only three short years later it was produced in the .38 Special. In 1920, this series was renamed the Military and Police (M&P) with a designation of K-38: K-frame .38 Special.
The Model 14 has a serrated, target-width hammer and grooved topstrap to reduce glare.
From here, it went on to be the K-38 Masterpiece (1947), and because it was a favorite of target shooters, the company offered guns that weighed 38½ ounces for target matches as the models K-22 and K-32. In 1957, to simplify all model numbers, the K-14 was changed to the Model 14. In production for more than three decades, the revolver was discontinued in 1982.
Smith & Wesson recently returned the Model 14 to the fold. It's available in either blue or nickel finish, albeit only with a six-inch barrel. I was fortunate to have both models shipped to me, but since I gravitate to nickel-finished revolvers, I thought I would give this one the workout.
|Smith & Wesson Model 14|
|Type:||centerfire double-action revolver|
|Caliber:||.38 Special + P|
|Barrell Length:||6 in.|
|Overall Length:||11.5 in.|
|Weight, empty||35 ounces|
|Finish:||blue or nickel|
|Sights:||adjustable rear, Patridge front|
|Trigger:||4 lb. single action; 13 lb. double action|
|Manufacturer:||Smith and Wesson, 800-331-0852|
|Price:||$1,027 (blued), $1,106 (nickel)|
The finish was flawless. Between blue and nickel, it seems any imperfections always show up on a nickel gun — and always in those hard-to-reach places such as the cylinder crane, where the barrel meets the frame and around the reverse curves of the trigger guard.
Fully adjustable rear sights are standard and are removable if you wish to add optical sights. The rear sight notch is highly defined with no white outline, and the Patridge front sight settles into it with ample room on either side. The top of the frame has been bead blasted to reduce glare, and the top rib on the barrel is serrated for the same reason.
Similar to past models, the hammer is target width (.510 inch) and checkered. The trigger, on the other hand, is between a target and service width, smooth to the touch and color case-hardened for durability. In double action, it allows the trigger finger to naturally slide off the face of the trigger for a smooth, consistent pull.
Out of the box, single-action pull was four pounds exactly, but the double action was a horrible 13 pounds. I can see some tweaking of the strain screw will be forthcoming. The trigger guard on the K models never change; donning a winter glove, while tight for double action, works fine for single-action shooting.
The revolver sports the typical K-frame trigger guard, roomy but not overly so, and a smooth trigger face. The double-action pull was quite stout.
The barrel is what they call the "1950 style" in that it tapers as it moves away from the frame to a constant diameter out toward the muzzle. The front sight blade is anchored with a drift pin, and the ejector rod does not have a protective shroud — something that was improved on the later magnum Model 14 derivatives.
The current Model 14 features a redesigned cylinder release, which greatly aids in loading the gun. Pushing it forward releases the cylinder to the left. The six charge holes are finely finished, and if you use first-class ammunition, under the right pressures, all spent cases eject smoothly.
The locking bolt recess is centered directly over the cylinder openings. In order to cut production time and keep costs down, the cylinder rims are not recessed. The cylinder diameter mikes at a trim 1.460 inches, which makes it nice and compact.
After working with the gun, the cylinder showed some signs of drag on the crane, and the timing was off on the cylinder (telltale drag marks around the periphery), but other than that the revolver operated just fine.While I was never a big fan of Smith & Wesson's Magna grips, they seem to be perfect in profile and shape for this gun. The checkering was clean and the finish well-applied. Finally, the built-in locking system makes the gun secures the gun from unsupervised use.
The ejector rod lacks a shroud, as was found on some M14 variants. Finish on the nickel version was superb, and it proved nicely balanced and accurate on the range.
The .38 Special is still a popular, easy-shooting cartridge (even in +P loadings) for those of us who like to take a break from magnums. With everyone producing ammunition — and factoring in the handloading possibilities (I always liked Speer's 146-grain hollowpoint ahead of a charge of Unique) — you would have a life's worth of work just with the .38 Special.
Since this gun had its beginnings on the target range, I started testing with Federal 148-grain Match. At 25 yards, it averaged 1½ inches. Remington's 158-grain SWC did just as well, and Winchester's 158-grain lead hollowpoint wasn't quite as good but still decent.
Sometimes we all forget to throttle back in our daily lives, and the Model 14 makes a perfect way to spend a leisurely part of the day. If I were to pigeonhole this gun considering the size, cartridge and grips, I think it would make the ideal trail gun — finely finished, perfect in the hand and accurate.
|Accuracy Results|Smith & Wesson Model 14|
|.38 Special||Bullet Weight (gr.)||Muzzle Velocity (fps)||Standard Deviation||Avg. Group (in.)|
|Federal Match|| 148 || 736 || 16 || 1.5 |
|Remington SWC|| 158 || 873 || 5 || 1.5 |
|Winchester lead HP + P|| 158 || 932 || 21 || 2.0 |
|WARNING: The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for which they were developed. Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors, Inc. assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data. NOTES: Accuracy results are averages of five five-shot groups at 25 yards off a sandbag rest. Velocities are averages of five shots measured on an Oehler Model 35P chronograph set 12 feet from the muzzle. Abbreviations: HP, hollowpoint; SWC, semi-wadcutter|