Smith & Wesson Model 36

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Smith & Wesson Model 36
Model 36 38 calibre Smith & Wesson which was issued to women in the NSW Police.jpg
Smith & Wesson Model 36 Revolver which was issued to women in the New South Wales Police Force
Type Revolver
Place of origin  United States
Service history
In service 1950–present
Used by Users
Production history
Manufacturer Smith & Wesson
Unit cost $751.00 MSRP[1]
Weight 19.5 oz.
Length 6.22"
Barrel length 1.811"

Caliber .38 Special
Action Double Action/Single Action
Effective firing range 25 yards (23 m)
Maximum firing range 50 yards (46 m)
Feed system 5-round cylinder
Sights Fixed rear, front blade

The Smith & Wesson Model 36 is a revolver chambered for .38 Special. It is one of several models of "J-frame" Smith & Wesson revolvers. It was introduced in 1950, and is still in production.


The Model 36 was designed in the era just after World War II, when Smith & Wesson stopped producing war materials and resumed normal production. For the Model 36, they sought to design a revolver that could fire the more powerful .38 Special round in a small, concealable package. Since the older I-frame was not able to handle this load, a new frame was designed, which became the Smith & Wesson J-frame.

The new design was introduced at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) convention in 1950, and was favorably received. A vote was held to name the new revolver, and the name "Chiefs Special" won.[2] A three-inch barreled version of this design went into production immediately, due to high demand. It was available in either a blued or nickel plated finish.[3] It was produced as the "Chiefs Special" until 1957, when it then became the Model 36. The "Chiefs Special" continued to be manufactured as a separate variant.

In 1951, Smith & Wesson introduced the Airweight Model 37, which was basically the Model 36 design with an aluminum frame and cylinder. The aluminum cylinders proved to be problematic and were abandoned in favor of a steel cylinder.[3]

In 1989, Smith & Wesson introduced the LadySmith variant of the Model 36. This was available with a 2-inch or 3 inch barrel and blued finish. This model also featured special grips designed specifically for women, and had "LADYSMITH" engraved on the frame.[4]

Approximately 615 Model 36-6 Target variations were produced. This variant had a 3-inch full lug barrel with adjustable sights and a blued glass finish.

In 2002, Smith & Wesson reintroduced the Model 36 with gold features (hammer, thumbpiece, extractor, and trigger), calling it the "Model 36 Gold". The gold color was actually titanium nitride.

In 2005, Smith & Wesson produced the "Texas Hold 'Em" variant. This was produced with a blued finish, imitation ivory grips, and 24k gold plate engraving.

A large number of Model 37 variants with a lanyard ring attached were made for Japan. Part of this contract was cancelled, resulting in a large number of these being sold to a wholesaler, who then re-sold them for civilian use. These entered the civilian market in 2001. In 2006, the Model 37 was dropped from Smith & Wesson's catalog.

Serial number 337 was shipped to J. Edgar Hoover and is engraved with his name.

In 1958, spanish manufacturer Astra developed a high quality revolver line based on this weapon, under the name of Astra Cadix, Astra 250 and Astra NC6.

Design and features

Model 36-10 with nickel finish and Smith & Wesson ergonomic rosewood grips

Designed to be small and compact, the Model 36 is available with a 1.875 inch barrel.

Like nearly all other "J-frame" Smith & Wesson revolvers, it has a 5-round capacity in a swing-out cylinder, and features an exposed hammer. It features a nickel-plated or blued finish and either wood or rubber grips.


  •  Japan: Shipped 5,344 Model 37s in 2003 to the National Police Agency.[5] 5,519 revolvers shipped to the National Police Agency in 2005.[6]
  •  Malaysia: From 1970 to early 2000, the Model 36 is standard sidearm for plainclothed detective in Royal Malaysian Police Special Branch or Criminal Investigation Division before Glock 17 adoptation. It also used by RELA Corps Medium/Lower Rank Officer (permanent or volunteer) as training or self-defence weapon before the adoption of the Glock 19/26 and HK USP 9mm and is still used until today.
  •  Norway: Although never a standard service gun in Norway, it is kept in the Norwegian Police Service inventory as a pure self-defensive option, for off-duty officers who meet certain criteria.
  •  United States: For many years, the Model 36 was the standard police detective and "plainsclothes man" carry weapon for many police agencies including the NYPD. Many police officers still use it or one of its newer Smith & Wesson descendants as a "back up" weapon to their primary duty pistol or as their "off-duty" weapon. For several years in the mid-1970s, the Model 36 was issued to and carried as a duty weapon by administrative and command staff of the NC State Highway Patrol, but it was later replaced when all troopers were required to carry the then duty issue weapon, the S&W Model 66 .357, which was in turn later replaced with the last Smith revolver, the Model 686, before the agency transitioned to automatics in the early 1990s.


  1. Smith & Wesson Product Guide 2008
  2. "Greatest Handguns of the World" by Massad Ayoob, 2010, Krause Publications, Inc, p.208, and: "History of Smith & Wesson" by Roy G. Jinks, 1977, Beinfeld Publishing, p.225.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Armed for Personal Defense" By Jerry Ahern
  4. "Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson" By Jim Supica, Richard Nahas
  5. "Department of State Letter on May 18, 2003" (PDF). US Department of State. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 16, 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "US Department of State Letter on September 6, 2005" (PDF). US Department of State. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 16, 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links