While Paul’s story has a US focus, the phasing out of the S&W Model 10 revolver has also happened in Australia over the past decade and is now largely a part of local police firearms history that parallels the US experience.
For most of the 20th century Smith & Wesson’s bread and butter product was the Military & Police revolver (a.k.a. Model 10). Released on the market in 1899 as the “.38 Hand Ejector Military & Police,” it is known, appropriately enough, by collectors as the First Model. It was the second solid frame, swing out cylinder revolver marketed by S&W and the cylinder was locked into the frame by a spring loaded rod (called the “center pin”) passing through and projecting out the rear of the ejector rod. When the cylinder is closed the center pin engages a recess in the recoil plate holding the cylinder in place. To open the cylinder a thumb latch on the left side of the frame is pushed forward which in turn forces the center pin out of the locking recess allowing the cylinder to be swung out to the left.
Pushing in the ejector rod then forces out a star shaped extractor which extracts all the cartridge cases simultaneously. It was available in blue or nickel finish, with 4, 5 or 6.5 inch barrels, checkered hard rubber or walnut, round butt grips and an exposed ejector rod that was long enough to punch spent cases completely out of the cylinder. While the original intention was the chamber the new revolver for the U.S. Army’s .38 Long Colt, this round had earned a poor reputation during the Spanish-American War (1898) and Philippine Insurrection (1899 – 1902) as regards accuracy and stopping power so S&W president D.B. Wesson saw this as a perfect opportunity to introduce a new, and superior, cartridge.