Military Wiki
Smith & Wesson Model 36

Smith & Wesson Model 36 Revolver
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. with 1.875" barrel,
21.4 oz. with 3" barrel[1]
Length 6.9375" with 1.875" barrel,
7.5" with 3" barrel[1]
Barrel length 1.875", 3"

Caliber .38 Special
Action Double Action
Effective range 25 yards (23 m)
Maximum 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 weapon 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 "Chief's Special" won. 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.[2] It was produced as the "Chief's Special" until 1957, when it then became the Model 36. The "Chief's 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.

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 2 inch or 3 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.[4] 5,519 revolvers shipped to the National Police Agency in 2005.[5]
  •  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 and Wesson descendants as a "back up" weapon to their primary duty pistol or as their "off-duty" weapon.

In the news

"Subway vigilante" Bernhard Goetz used an Airweight Model 37 .38 special in self defense against four would-be muggers on the Seventh Avenue No. 2 express subway train in Manhattan on December 22, 1984. Goetz was able to deliver 4 out of 5 stopping shots from the weapon.[6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Smith & Wesson Product Guide 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Armed for Personal Defense" By Jerry Ahern
  3. "Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson" By Jim Supica, Richard Nahas
  4. "Department of State Letter on May 18, 2003". US Department of State. Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  5. "US Department of State Letter on September 6, 2005". US Department of State. Retrieved 2012-02-09. 

External links

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