The Smith and Wesson Model 36


The Smith and Wesson Model 36

If ever there was a classic handgun model pocket pistol, the Smith and Wesson Model 36 Chiefs Special was it, and still is, if you can find one. The Chief’s Special is a true snub nose design, which simply implies that the gun has a short barrel, easy to carry in the pocket or a small hip holster. The barrel length on the 36 is a mere 1.875 inch, with an overall length of only 7 inches. Its weight is only 19.5 ounces. The 36 is based on the Smith “J” frame series.

The 36 was popular among law enforcement detectives, private eye types, and others seeking a lightweight handgun with ample power for self-defense. The Model 36 was also quite popular as a backup gun kept in an ankle holster for those “just in case” situations. Many were carried in vehicle consoles or glove compartments for retrieval as needed.

This glove compartment carry was the purpose my father had his Model 36. He kept his snub nose in a small leather holster in the glove box or often beside him on the seat. An Air Force pilot out of Scott AFB in East St. Louis, he once was in the city during the summer with his windows rolled down. At an intersection stop, a thug approached his car, and started to grab him through the open window. The sudden appearance of the Model 36 ended that confrontation immediately. This role was exactly the intention for the Model 36.

The Smith 36 is a five shot .38 Special. The original models came in a deep Smith and Wesson blue, a finish the company was famous for. The open sights are fixed, the front ramp integral with the barrel, and the rear a simple sighting groove down the top of the frame. A snub nosed gun is basically a point and shoot affair. The handgun’s action is single action with hammer cocking, or double action with the pull of the trigger.

The Chief’s Special began production in 1950 and became the Model 36 in 1957 when Smith went to model number designations. It is still being manufactured today, but as the Model 36 Classic, a rather limited edition model. It is now rated for +P ammo in .38 Special and is still all steel with wood grips. Current MSRP is $749. All current Smith and Wesson firearms can be reviewed at

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Award winning outdoor writer/photographer since 1978. Over 3000 articles and columns published nationally. Field & Stream Hero of Conservation in 2007. Fields of writing includes hunting most game in American, Canada, and Europe, fishing fresh and saltwater, destination travel, product reviews, industry consulting, and conservation issues. Currently VP at largest community college in Mississippi in economic development and workforce training with 40 years of experience in Higher Education. BS-MS in wildlife sciences from MO. University, and then a PhD in Industrial Psychology. Married with two children and Molly the Schnoodle.

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