Sunday, October 04, 2009

Smith and Wesson J-Frame Model 36-1

Back in 1985 I'd just gotten divorced and paid the expenses of that (or bought food, depends on how you look at it) with the proceeds of sold firearms including my first revolver, the Ruger Security-Six. The only handgun I had left was my Lyman branded Pietta made 1858 Remington New Army reproduction. I needed a cartridge revolver and the primary purpose now was self-defense. The first gun I found which meant the requirements at the time I had the money for the expense was a new Smith and Wesson Model 36-1 with 3" barrel.

The Smith and Wesson Model 36 is a .38 Special chambered revolver made on the "J" frame. The "J" frame was developed from the slightly smaller "I" frame used for .32 S&W chambered revolvers by slightly lengthening the cylinder window to hold a longer cylinder needed to chamber the .38 Special cartridge. These have been around a long time now. The gun was introduced at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in October 1950, as the Chief's Special. When Smith & Wesson went to a number system in 1957, the Chief's Special was designated the Model 36. They have a good reputation for reliability but aren't considered extremely accurate.

The .38 Special chambering was good for me as I had a quantity of ammunition I'd loaded for the Security-Six. At the time, much of it was 148 gr. wadcutters over 2.7 gr. Bullseye. These worked great for practice and as a small game load. Yes, I hunted with the gun. My other load was the Speer swaged 158 gr. HP over 5 gr. of Unique. This is a good solid load and the one which was kept in the gun when fulfilling the self-defense role. A couple of squirrels fell to this gun and load. The range was very short but it still gave me a good bit of confidence.

Over the years I did try Pachmayr Compac rubber grips but returned to the factory wood and then got a Tyler-T grip adapter. Good move on my part as this improved the grip while maintaining a compact grip profile that was slick and didn't catch on clothing.

I really liked this gun. It is a good one and was later augmented with the Smith and Wesson Model 13. In the back of my mind was the idea that I'd be willing to get another. I don't know why, I just liked the model. It is small but capable.
The Smith and Wesson M36 3" barrel is one of my favorite guns.  I think it has perfect balance for the frame, has adequate ballistic performance for the .38 Special cartridge, gives a better sight picture, is as easy to conceal (unless you're putting it in a pocket) and has the feel of a full size revolver. 

What you see here is a pair of 36-1s.  The earlier one is the bottom of the two (without the Tyler-T grip adapter).  It has a pinned barrel and was made about 1977.  The upper, later 36-1 was made in 1982 and shows the un-pinned barrel.  There is little else to distinguish the two.

M36 history begins with the very popular .38/32 (.38 S&W) Terrier I-frame revolver. The I-frame was a 5-shot hand ejector double action revolver. Its great popularity was the result of small size and light weight, but it wasn't strong enough and cylinder was not long enough for the more powerful .38 Special round. Popularity of the Detective Special demonstrated a probable demand for a gun the size of the Terrier but able to handle the .38 Special. Smith and Wesson lengthened the cylinder and frame of the I-frame, and beefed it up a bit. They dubbed it the J-frame. Within the past few years the cylinder has again been lengthened to handle the .357 Magnum cartridge.

The Model 36 was produced to compete with the Colt Detective Special.  It does have a slight size advantage but gives up 1-round capacity as it has a 5-chamber cylinder compared to the Detective Special's 6-chamber cylinder.  Both have positive hammer blocks which make them safe to carry with a loaded chamber under the hammer.

The 36 has had "derivatives" which have become very popular. The Bodyguard (Model 38, the Airweight version and 49), the Centennial (Models 40, 442 and 642) and in .22 LR (Models 34, 43 and 63), some of which I've written about earlier.


Zane D. Clark said...

These are great guns. I carried one for years.

Pawpaw said...

I love my Model 60-2, which is the stainless version of the Mod 36. I'm always on the lookout in the used gun racks for a good Centennial, which to my way of thinking is the ultimate pocket revolver.