Missing Link: The Smith & Wesson Model 68

Smith & Wesson Model 68

When Smith & Wesson introduced their Model 69 Combat Magnum revolver in .44 Magnum back in 2016, there were a few RevolverGuys out there who wondered if S&W skipped a model number. The shooting world already knew about the popular Model 67 Combat Masterpiece Stainless, and now we had the new Model 69 Combat Magnum in .44, but shouldn’t there have been something in the middle? A Smith & Wesson Model 68, perhaps?

Well, yes! Although most RevolverGuys have never heard of the Smith & Wesson Model 68, there actually is such a revolver. Smith & Wesson built a little over 6,000 of them for two special customers during an 11-year span, and they’re really neat guns.

But, first things first. Before we discuss the Model 68 in detail, we need to understand where it came from. To do that, we have to go back to a vicious gun battle in a small town called Newhall, California.

Tragic Roots

In the opening moments of 6 April, 1970, four California Highway Patrolmen were killed in a gunfight that had far-reaching implications for law enforcement.  In the wake of the Newhall Shooting, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) took a close look at their tactics, training, policies and equipment, and found all of them wanting. As a result, immediate efforts were made to fix the deficiencies, with the aim of preventing “another Newhall.”

Ammo In The Crosshairs

The first change involved the ammunition policy. For decades, the CHP had issued .38 Special, 158 grain, round nose lead (RNL) cartridges to its officers for duty, and had supplied a mix of 158 RNL and .38 Special, 148 grain, wadcutter (WC) cartridges for training and qualification. However, department policies allowed officers to carry other ammunition on duty if they purchased it, and many officers did.  In fact, three of the slain Newhall officers carried revolvers loaded with .357 Magnum ammunition, and the fourth carried a .38 Special revolver loaded with hot SuperVel loads.

Department policies did not require officers to actually train and qualify with the privately purchased ammunition however, so many officers shot low-powered wadcutters in training, and carried Magnum loads on duty that they had little experience with. In the wake of the Newhall shooting, the CHP blamed this situation (incorrectly, I argue) for the officers’ inability to score a hit on the Newhall felons, and changed the policy to require officers to train with their duty ammunition. If an officer wanted to carry a better load than the issued 158 RNL on duty, he now had to purchase enough to cover his training and qualification shoots as well.

Predictably, the additional cost soured some officers on the idea, and they went back to carrying the ineffective, issued load. Other officers simply ignored the new policy and continued carrying the Magnums, while shooting the department’s ammo during training. Neither of these options was particularly acceptable, and a better solution was needed.

Magnums Need Not Apply

The CHP knew that .38 Special 158 RNL was a pretty dismal performer, and they realized that they had to give the troops something better to carry, but stepping up to the .357 Magnum wasn’t in the cards. To begin with, not everybody was up to handling the harder-kicking Magnum, and with the imminent arrival of the first female cadets in 1974, that concern was magnified.

There were logistical issues as well. The CHP required officers to supply their own six inch Colt or Smith & Wesson revolvers, and only a portion of the officers on the department had purchased guns chambered in .357—many, perhaps most, were armed with .38 Specials. Lacking the funds to retrofit the growing department with .357s, sticking with the .38 was the most cost-effective choice in the short run.

Lastly, there was a bit of a public relations concern with the Magnum. By the mid-70s, it had become a lightning rod for several activist groups that were waging campaigns against perceived “police brutality,” and the CHP brass was probably eager to avoid that political complication.

A special .38

So, the Patrol went looking for a more effective .38 Special round. Fortunately for them, there were many agencies doing the same thing at the time, and a great deal of effort and money was being spent to find a better solution than RNL.

In 1973 the federal government launched an intensive study of police ammunition funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and their Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA). When the results were published in 1975, they favored rapidly expanding bullets that created a large stretch cavity in 20% ballistic gelatin.

One of these loads in .38 Special was the +P+ pressure, 110 grain, jacketed hollowpoint from Winchester that had recently been adopted by the U.S. Treasury Department. The “Treasury Load” was a hot number that got the .38 Special closer to .357 Magnum territory than any other load in the caliber, and the CHP took the historic step of making it the first mandatory-use duty and training load in the history of the agency. Once it was adopted, the CHP would no longer allow any other ammunition, including privately purchased ammunition, to be used on duty or in training.

Treasury Load
The Model 68 was born of a requirement to handle high pressure .38 Special ammunition, a later version of which is seen here in the Second Six speedloader which CHP adopted alongside the new revolver, circa 1976-1977.

Breaking with tradition

Continuing with the standardization effort, the CHP next turned its attention to revolvers.

The CHP had traditionally required officers to provide their own sidearms, which were required to meet certain criteria and receive periodic inspections by agency armorers. This left officers carrying a mix of Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers with six inch barrels, and while the policy had worked for a long time, it was about to change.

Moving forward, current officers would be “grandfathered” to continue carrying their privately purchased firearms on duty, but new cadets would receive standard issue firearms in the academy. As funds and inventory allowed, officers who wanted to retire their personal guns could do so, and draw a department-issued gun for duty.

But what would that gun be?

To determine the answer, the CHP requested samples from manufacturers and began a test and evaluation project that eventually led them to work closely with Smith & Wesson on the final design. By late 1976 to early 1977 the details were finalized, and in 1977 the CHP began to issue its first-ever standard revolver to the troops.

Enter the Smith & Wesson Model 68

It was no surprise that the new gun, the Model 68, was a .38 Special with a 6 inch barrel. The longer barrel was the traditional standard not only for CHP, but for Highway Patrolmen throughout the nation (where the extra velocity helped bullets to get inside automobiles), and the .38 Special chambering would eliminate the use of unauthorized .357 Magnum ammunition.

Smith & Wesson Model 68
The 6 inch barrel of the Model 68 helped to maximize the energy of the hot .38 Special ammunition selected by the CHP. A red ramp front sight graced the tip of this elegant looking revolver.

What was a surprise, however, was that this .38 Special was built on a .357 Magnum frame. Knowing that the gun would be fed a steady diet of the overpressure, +P+ Treasury Load, the CHP sensibly built the gun around the stainless steel frame of the Model 66 Combat Magnum Stainless, which was heat treated for .357 Magnum ammunition. This medium-sized, K-frame was likely to fit more hands than the larger N-frame, and it boasted the corrosion resistance of stainless steel (there was no stainless N-frame available yet).  The stainless Model 66 had only been released a few years prior, in 1971, but stainless guns had already become the hot ticket for police use (despite some initial teething problems—a story for later) and the CHP had insisted on it for their new gun.

Model 66 frames were overstamped to turn the second “6” into an “8,” and the Model 68 frame was born. The frame wasn’t a new creation, but since there were no 6 inch versions of the Model 66 in the catalog yet, Smith & Wesson would have to make a new barrel for the CHP’s flagship gun. In 1978, after initial Smith & Wesson Model 68 production demands were met, the Model 66 was offered with this same 6 inch barrel (with proper .357 Magnum markings).

The Model 68’s barrel had a heavy profile (like the Combat Magnum it was derived from), was marked for the .38 Special cartridge, and had an ejector rod shroud to protect it. Up front it had a Baughman-style ramped front sight with a highly visible red insert, which mated with an all black (no white outline), target-style, adjustable rear sight. The sight combination was regulated for the high speed, lightweight, 110 grain semi-jacketed hollowpoint of the Treasury load, and you’ll probably run out of elevation adjustment pretty quick if you’re shooting other loads that might be heavier and slower—a change to the rear blade may be required.

The unique feature of the Model 68 barrel is that the extension was longer, where it poked through the rear of the frame, so that it could be mated with a .38 Special-only cylinder (stamped with a “V” on the face, to denote the .38 Special chambering).  The cylinder window of the repurposed Model 66 frame was built to accommodate a longer (1.67”) .357 Magnum cylinder, so when the shorter (1.56”) .38 Special cylinder was fitted, the forcing cone had to be moved rearward to maintain an appropriate cylinder gap.  The longer barrel extension and shorter cylinder are the major items that make a Model 68 visually distinctive.

On early Model 68s, the barrel was pinned to the frame and the cylinder had recessed chambers, but those features were eliminated by the time of the 68-2 version pictured in this article. One feature that did survive were the grooves along the top strap, to reduce glare on the long-barreled gun.

Smith & Wesson Model 68
The frames of CHP-issued Model 68s were distinctively marked. Note the .38 Special-length cylinder, which required a longer barrel extension, since the frame window was designed for a longer, .357 Magnum-length cylinder.

The Model 68 was built with a grooved service trigger that measured 0.265” across, which was a good width for a combat gun that was intended to be fired double action (although the grooves are of debatable merit).  It had a 0.375” semi-target hammer, which was also a good choice, as the old days of training officers to shoot single action were over, and a fat target hammer would have been both unnecessary and a hindrance.

The Smith & Wesson Model 68 came from the factory with checkered walnut target stocks, but a large percentage of officers replaced these immediately with aftermarket grips that fit the square butt K-frame, like the extremely popular Pachmayr “Gripper” model grips shown on this sample.

In service

The Model 68 was a sturdy gun for the Patrol, and fared much better than the 4 inch Model 67 Combat Masterpiece, which was also adopted by the CHP for officers who needed or desired a shorter gun. The early Model 67s had particular problems with the hot Treasury Load, and CHP armorers were left dealing with a lot of broken guns before improvements in the gun helped them to handle the non-SAAMI, +P+ pressures.  Even then, the Model 67 required more frequent armorer-level maintenance to keep them within specs after shooting the overpressure load. The larger and heavier Model 68 endured more abuse before it required similar maintenance.

When fed a steady diet of .357s, the Model 66 and its blued brother, the Model 19, developed a reputation for forcing cone cracks at the 6 O’Clock position, where the barrel extension was shaved to make room for the cylinder and gas ring. However, the +P+ .38 Special didn’t seem to bother the longer barrel extension on the Model 68.

In the beginning, almost all Highway Patrolmen rode motorcycles. But by the 1960s, most CHP officers were driving cars, and a 6 inch gun could be difficult to wear in a seated position on a bench seat, or in the close confines of a vehicle like the tiny Ford Mustang pursuit vehicle that came on line in the mid-80s. Swivel holsters had always been a popular choice amongst Highway Patrolmen, and many Model 68s were carried in them by officers who didn’t want to carry a shorter gun, like the 4 inch Model 67, instead.

Smith & Wesson Model 68
“A swivel holster, like this Hoyt Breakfront, could make carrying the six inch barreled Model 68 more comfortable while seated, but could also beat your leg to death if you had to run while wearing it!”

When the Model 68 and 67 were first issued, they came with a pair of Second Six speedloaders to assist in reloading them more effectively, another derivative of the tragic Newhall experience.

End of an era

The Smith & Wesson Model 68 came aboard in 1977 and lasted until 1990, when the CHP left the revolver behind and went to a semiauto pistol.  It was replaced with another Smith & Wesson product, the .40 S&W Model 4006, making the CHP the first large agency to adopt both the gun and the caliber.

Smith & Wesson made a reported 6,055 Model 68s between 1977 and 1988, most of which went to the CHP. However, the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club (LAPRAC) did sell a limited number of LAPD-marked Model 68s to its members. Around 1982-1983, the department authorized officers to carry these privately-purchased revolvers on duty, as long as they were modified to fire double action only, per LAPD policy. An LAPD-marked Model 68 with single action capability would not have been carried as a duty weapon on that agency.

Smith & Wesson Model 68
The Model 68 carried the CHP into the autopistol era. It was replaced by another stainless Smith & Wesson that (like the 68) the CHP was the first agency to adopt–the .40 S&W caliber Model 4006.

However, the CHP, by far, was the principal buyer of these guns.  Model 68s (and Model 67s) issued by the CHP were stamped on the left side of the frame with “CHP” just below the cylinder, and these markings were not altered when the guns were sold to CHP personnel after their use was discontinued. Jim Supica states that the distinctive “CHP” marking was overstamped to “OHB” on some guns, and this was probably done to the remaining inventory of guns that were not purchased by officers, before the CHP sold them to distributors for commercial resale.

Because of their relative rarity, most Revolver Guys will never see a Smith & Wesson Model 68 in person. That’s a shame, because they’re excellent firearms and a unique piece of law enforcement history. If you find one, make sure you don’t pass it up!

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Author: Mike

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood is a bonafide revolver nut, a certified law enforcement instructor in handgun, shotgun, patrol rifle, less-lethal, and diversionary device disciplines, and the author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, the definitive study of the infamous, 1970 California Highway Patrol shootout in Newhall, California. Mike wrote the "Tactical Analysis" column at Police1.com for 8 years, and enjoys teaching both armed citizens and law enforcement officers.

60 thoughts on “Missing Link: The Smith & Wesson Model 68”

  1. Cool article. Was there ever an explanation of the “OHB” overstamp? Was it just to remove/hide the CHP stamp, or did it have a meaning (perhaps “One Handsome Blaster”)?

    I spend enough time in a car or seated in an office chair that a 6 inch gun really wouldn’t work for me (even open carried), but I sure want one each time I see pictures of the old police revolvers (the same thing goes for 6 shot N frames).

    1. I entered the CHP Academy on January 12, 1981. My class, CTC 1- 81,had 64 cadets at the start. We graduated 49. The class was 5 months long. The Smith & Wesson model 68 was preferred and was given the name “the hog leg” by the real men. Of the 49 graduates, 40 carried the 68. None of the 7 females carried the hog leg. I loved my 68 so much that I bought mine when the department changed us over to the Smith & Wesson model 4006, a .40 caliber ss handgun. I liked the 11 + 1 capacity of the 4006, but I missed the excellent accuracy of that 6 inch barrel.

      1. The WTOP class or Women’s Traffic Officer Program (Sept 1974) was my academy class. I was highly proficient with my six inch Colt Python before I came on the Patrol and carried it until the the 4006 was issued. We were required to carry the model 68 for the last six months before we could buy it. Sadly, I sold my python which I sorely regret for $515. I bought it in 1970 for $170 .

  2. Thanks for the kind comments, Gents! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    “One Handsome Blaster!” I love it!!!

    I’ve never seen an “OHB” marked gun, but Supica reports they are out there.

    Around the time that these guns were retired, the CHP surplussed some older Remington 870s to a distributor, and wouldn’t you know it–one of these CHP-marked shotguns was later recovered at a crime scene. That made a lot of folks at HQ unhappy, and I suspect the Model 68s had their department markings obliterated to avoid another incident like that. I don’t think the “OHB” had any special meaning–it was probably just the easiest way to deface the markings without damaging the frame.

    Again, if a 68 was sold to an officer (they were allowed to purchase their issued 67 or 68 in lieu of turning it in for disposal), the “CHP” markings wouldn’t have been touched. It was only the guns that were left over and surplussed to distributors that would have been defaced.

    1. I am a retired CHP officer (27 years service)
      I carried a Model 68 for 10 years.
      (1980 – 1990 until the Model 4006 autos were issued)
      I fired thousands of rounds through this revolver while I carried it without any issues.
      I turned it back in to the department when the autos were issued.
      I wish I would have bought it as was an option offered by the CHP.
      Nice revolver.

    2. Very thankful for all the info! MY Model 68 is stamped “68-1” but the barrel, which certainly looks original, is marked “.357 Magnum.” I wonder if this is an early model, before they settled on .hot 38 Specials as the standard.

      1. Hmmm…you’re sure it has a .38 Special forcing cone and barrel? It’s not a 66-1 with a sloppy or hard to read stamp? I’m unaware of any 68s that were -1s, and the .357 barrel doesn’t fit with what I know either.

  3. Thanks for the history lesson!

    My dad was an Alabama Trooper in the 60’s and I started on the job in ’81. I was raised on Smith and Wesson wheelguns.

    Still have a few and don’t feel overmatched if I’ve got one on my hip with a couple of Safariland Comp II’s nearby…..

    I really enjoy your site and appreciate the work that goes into it. There are a few of us old school guys still around. I’m in year 33 toting a gun and shield and think I have a few more good ones left.

    1. Thank you Sir! We’re having a lot of fun and we’re glad to know others are enjoying it, too.

      Thank you for over three decades of service! That’s really something to be proud of. I hope the younger guys are paying attention to what you’re teaching them.

  4. There are also 68’s with the CHP motor symbol on the right side. They came in a presentation case and were from the Association of California Highway Patrolman. I am told a belt buckle also came in the box but have never seen the buckle. The presentation case for the one I owned did not have a spot for the buckle so just passing on what I have been told.

    1. Thanks Walt, I remember the presentation guns, but at the time I wrote this article, I couldn’t recall if they were 68s or 66s. I’m glad you are able to confirm them as 68s. Earlier versions of the presentation guns were 19s with the seven-pointed star on the right sideplate.

      The later guns you’re describing did indeed have the “winged wheel” symbol of the Highway Patrol on the right sideplate which dated back to the early motor squad days in California. The symbol was used as the cap piece on the uniform cap (and is still used today on the campaign hat) and the CAHP adopted it as well, with the addition of a banner bearing the association’s name.

      I remember the guns being sold both with and without the buckle. I think the buckle was an extra that you could upgrade the package with. Similar buckles were sold at the academy PX, and I think there’s one in my Dad’s collection still . . . will have to look for it.

  5. Great article about the Mod 68. My 68 is marked on the left side of the barrel .38 S&W Special Ctg.
    The right side frame has the Calif. Association of Highway Patrolmen winged wheel logo and the words “limited addition”. Right side barrel in script “California Highway Patrol”. The belt buckle also has the winged wheel in gold with grey background.
    These guns were purchased through the CHP Association and I believe the Bill Davis Company did the engraving.

    1. Thanks for the great details Reid! Sounds like a beautiful gun. I think you’re correct about Bill Davis, since he had such a close association with the CHP (as a retiree and one of the most valued members of their Blue & Gold shooting team).

  6. Hey, so I stumbled across this when trying to identify an old revolver I inherited from my Uncle. It was a heck of a process, because I could tell by the size and weight of the thing, this gun was meant for magnum rounds, but the cylinder was obviously sized for .38 special. I started to think this was like, a baby ‘Dirty Harry’ for people who wanted that big sized revolver to show off but couldn’t handle a Magnum round.

    But after a few google searches, here I am. The gun I have is absolutely the same handgun, it’s identical to the one in your pictures, it even has the same rubber grips.

    There is a few oddities though. Mine says OHP on the side, and it looks like it might be an overstamp, but if it is, it’s a very neat and well done one. The O looks a bit thicker and darker then the HP. The ‘Model 68’ overstamp when you open the cylinder is much messier. Secondly, mine can fire single action. I thought all the ones surplus’d out were double action only? And finally, the inside of mine has ‘AZ’ stamped on it when you open the cylinder. My Uncle’s home state was Arizona. Did any of these end up in the hands of Arizona troopers as well perhaps? Would explain why it still has single action capability.

    Regardless, it’s nice knowing I have a notable gun here. This is actually the first gun I fired, back in the early 90s when I was very young (and by fired, I mean my uncle held it mostly and helped me aim and feel the recoil. I didn’t solo fire a gun until I was much older).

    1. Hi Jayson, I’m glad you found us here and I hope you’ll stick around!

      Your gun sounds like a CHP issue Model 68 that was surplused by the state. The “8” on the Model 68 designation looks a little messy on all the Model 68s that I have seen, since the frames were originally stamped “66” and the last “6” had to be corrected into an “8” with the overstamp. Similarly, the “O” on the frame was originally a “C,” which is why it is darker than the “HP” which follows. The state disfigured the “CHP” marking with an overstamp before they were sold as surplus.

      It’s interesting that only the “C” was disfigured on your gun. Supica reports that the “P” was usually overstamped to a “B,” but yours apparently was not. Honestly, I’ve never seen any of the overstamped guns before, and don’t know if Supica’s information is correct, or if your gun somehow escaped the full treatment. If you have pictures, please send them to Justin at [email protected]

      I don’t know the origin of the “AZ,” but I’m certain the gun wasn’t issued by Arizona DPS. They were already carrying Sig P220s and P226s by the time the Model 68 was surplused from CHP. If I remember correctly, the state of Kalifornia required the guns to be surplused through a distributor that was outside of the state, to help minimize the chance that they would show up in Kalifornia again, so maybe the “AZ” represents that the gun was surplused to an Arizona-based distributor? You didn’t mention where the AZ was stamped–can you specify?

      It’s not unusual that your gun has single action capability. All the CHP guns were true double actions, with both a single and double action notch on the hammer. The only guns that had no single action notch were those issued by LAPD. The LA Police Revolver and Athletic Club guns retained the single action notch.

      Again, I’m glad you found us and hope you’ll stick around to learn more about all these great guns and gear!

      1. So, I took a moment and re-examined the gun with a magnifying glass and better lighting and I fear I was mistaken. The P is indeed over stamped with B and the ‘AZ’ when you open the cylinder is actually ‘A2’. That’s embarrassing. Teaches me to rush as post like that.

        Looks like it’s just a regular, stock Model 68. Sorry for the error, but thanks for the article helping me identify this thing. I don’t think I’d have ever figured what this gun was without it. And I’ll absolutely be sticking around. I learned to shoot on .38 special revolvers. I have a deep nostalgia for them and am glad I own a somewhat notable revolver.

  7. My S&W 68 double action is NIB. Stamped “Los Angeles Police Departmet”. How many did S&W stamp LAPD? Curious as to its value.

    1. Honestly, I don’t know how many were stamped that way, but total production numbers for this gun were very low. Only 6,055 total were made, and I’d guess that CHP probably accounted for about 5,000 of them. I’d say you have a valuable piece there, particularly with the NIB condition and LAPD markings. Market values are funny, so I wouldn’t hazard a guess. A lot of it depends on your zip code and the buyer.

  8. I graduated from the CHP Academy in 1982 and elected to carry the 6″ model 68 in a high rise holster. When my CHP area switched to the 4006 in 1991, I purchased my Model 68 from the Dept. The cost…….$135.00. I think I will probably hold on to it and hand it down to my son. Thanks for the informative article. On a side note, as I recall, the first Ford Mustang was put into service in 1982.

    1. Thanks Todd! Great to hear from you here in the comments. Which Area Offices did you call home? You definitely want to hold onto that 68 and pass it down!

  9. I was fortunate to pick up a Smith and Wesson Model 67-1 “CHP” stamped revolver a couple of years ago from a retired CHP Captain. He bought several when officers in his station didn’t want theirs. Very good condition with a little wear on the grips. Oh, BTW, he sold it to me for his original cost, $175!!

  10. Great article! I graduated from the CHP academy in the spring of 78 and retired in 2007. This article was definitely a trip down memory lane. I’m currently going through all my handguns and long guns and planning to give most to my son who has 18 years with the department. I was looking up the value of this gun when I found your article. I will now print this out and include it with the gun. Thanks again for the history lesson!

    1. Vince, I’m glad you found us! Thank you for 29 years of service and please thank your son as well! Tell him to be safe out there.

    2. Vince was my classmate at the CHP Academy, and like him, I carried the Model 68 from the Academy issuance up until the time the CHP authorized the carrying of a personal weapon of choice approved by the Department. I parked my Model 68 and strapped on a 6″ Colt 357 Python. When I was a Director on the CAHP I was fortunate to obtain one of the Commemorative Limited-Edition revolvers, which was engraved, Calif. Association of Highway Patrolmen winged wheel logo and the words “Limited Edition”, and the right side of the barrel in script “California Highway Patrol”. The revolver actually had my ID number as the last numbers of the Serial Number. When the CHP went to the S&W 4006 pistol, I missed the feel of having the attention getting 6″ on my side, but quickly adapted to the use and effectiveness of the pistol riding high on my hip. When I retired in 2006, I walked with those three works of art, and still have them to this day. I will forever be thankful that CHP was forward thinking in the advancement of weapons selection, usage, and training, but the credit goes directly to four men who changed the history of Law Enforcement in a Standard Gas Station driveway in front of “J’s” Restaurant on The Old Road and Henry Mayo Drive, April 6, 1970:
      Roger Gore
      Walter Frago
      Jame Pence
      George Alleyn

      1. Thanks Dwight, great to have you here, and thank you for your service on the department and in the association. We all owe a debt to the Newhall officers, and if you haven’t read it yet, I’d encourage you to find a copy of my book, where I explain the lessons in detail. The last time I was up there, the academy PX was selling them, but you can find it online, too.

  11. I have received a smith model 68 with a 4″ barrel but it is chambered in the 41 mag. is this the same gun as in your article.

    1. No Sir, it definitely is not. The K-Frame has never been chambered in .41 Magnum.

      Are you sure you have the model number and caliber correct? S&W made the blue steel Model 57 in .41 Magnum, and the matte finish Model 58 in .41 Magnum–were you thinking of the Model 58 perhaps? The Model 58 is a really neat revolver, but quite different from the Model 68 reviewed here.

      S&W also currently makes a stainless .44 Magnum in the Model 69.

      If yours is a S&W revolver in .41 Magnum marked Model 68, then I honestly don’t know what you have–I’ve not heard of this before. Thanks for writing.

  12. What a great article. I would love to have one of the Model 68’s. However
    I did inherit both my dad’s Idaho State Police Model 65 (he purchased it in 91 when ISP switched to autos) and his S&W Model 4586 (gifted to him by ISP when he retired in 1994) so I’m okay.

    1. Jeff, I’m glad you have those and know that you treasure them for the connection they provide to your dad. The anti-gunners would never understand how much a firearm could mean to its owner. Beyond the intrinsic value, or utility, a gun has a special emotional value for many of us. It can link us to times, places and people that don’t exist any longer, except in our hearts and memories. I know of nothing—even a photograph—that can make me feel so connected to the distant past as a special firearm. When you grip it, it’s like you’re shaking hands with the people who fired it before you, and you can almost hear them talk . . .

  13. We had Model 68 revolvers marked MOD. 68, most are 12k prefix. and marked C.H.P. The ones that are Mod. 67 over stamps are marked CHP.

      1. Frank, it’s great to see you here! We’ve met previously, up at the Academy. I appreciate you sharing the extra information here in the comments.

  14. Very nice, very comprehensive, article that I stumbled across it doing research for an article on my own blog. Now I guess I merely need a add a link and call it good.

    A Model 68 has been one of my grails for a while and I finally landed on a 68-2 in a local shop with original oversized target grips and CHP stamp intact. The serial number is prefixed ABP, indicating 1983 manufacture. It’s pretty apparent this one was fired about how I would expect a CHP issue gun to have been fired… a lot. But it still looks up tight and the action is smooth. I suspect from appearance it had some armorer love at some point.

    It’s a great shooter and a nice conversation starter given the genesis and the rarity. I have a number of boxes of the Winchester “Treasury Round” that I’ve acquired over the years and for my own article I hope to do a compare and contrast video of the difference between standard pressure, +P and +P+ so we’ll see how that goes.

  15. I have a CHP marked Mod 68 with a pinned barrel and what appear to be original walnut grips. The owner at my local gun shop got two in several years ago. He kept one for himself and I bought the other.

    Mine has some weird markings and I wonder what is up with that? Under the cylinder hinge on the frame and then on the cylinder hinge are what appear to be two “serial numbers?”. The one on the hinge is obviously factory done and is a neatly stamped 409XX. The other number on the frame is crude and appears to be 12K10(then some illegible character) followed by a zero.

    I have shot a few hundred rounds through it and it functions flawlessly and is accurate. Everything is tight, well fitted and in good condition though there are some expected scratches on the metal and dents in the grips. The varnish is all there.

  16. Reading these posts takes me down memory lane as well. In 1982, was issued a model 68 serial number 12K 2083, don’t know why I’ve always remembered that. Was stationed in Bridgeport. Ca. before the 4006 supplanted the 68 and for a couple years, carried a Beretta 92 as part of a 9mm test project when the department was thinking of issuing autos around 1988. 3 or 4 other areas also tested the 9mm’s. Sig Sauer, H&K, S&W 9mm and Glock were also tested. We had to turn in our model 68’s to be re-issued to cadets so I never had the chance to buy mine back. I begrudgingly did so as I really liked shooting that baby. I could consistently hit steel silhouette targets at 100 yards with that 68. As a side note, in 1983 Sturm-Ruger manufactured around 500 of the Security Six in .38 special that was CHP marked in the hopes of obtaining a CHP contract.

    1. Great to hear from you Sir, and I appreciate the frontline report about the 68 and the circa-80s weapons test! I’m sorry you didn’t get the chance to purchase your Model 68. I’m curious—what did you think about the Beretta 92 you carried, in comparison to the 4006 that was later approved?

      I’ve got a little info on the CHP-marked Rugers, and maybe we’ll do an article on those someday, if we can get some decent photos to illustrate.

      Thank you for your service!

      1. Sorry for the late reply, just noticed your comments. I liked the reliability of the Beretta 92 and its weight and balance. The 4006 was a bit heavy and bulky. Although mine ran fine, I saw others clog up, I think mainly due to the magazines. I was impressed with the .40 S&W cartridge and as soon as Beretta came out with the model 96, well now I own three 96’s and one Smiths in .40 S&W but it is a S&W Performance Center 4006 with 5 inch barrel, spherical barrel bushing, excellent trigger etc… whole different weapon than the original 4006.

  17. This is an outstanding article, Mike.

    I carried a pinned-barrel Model 68 for a tick over a third of my 30 years on the Department (1980 – 2010) and you are dead nuts on the money in your assessment of this fine revolver.

    I will never forget that my first impressions included the seemingly natural, yet engineered, balance and instinctive handling characteristics of the weapon. She drew and pointed with ease and the target seemed to rush forward and meet her halfway. Of course, my short, fat eyes were better in those days. The old hog leg inspired confidence, looked great, was easy to maintain, and was fun to shoot.

    I was sorry to see her go when we switched over to the 4006. So sorry, in fact, that in a rare outburst of good sense, I purchased it from the Department and shoot it regularly to this very day. As luck would have it, that ‘good sense’ was nowhere to be found when the blued, walnut-stocked Remington 870s were offered for a song during the switch to the Parkerized version. Batting .500 is great, but it would be a helluva lot better if I had one of those shotguns.

    Thanks for the interesting facts, the great photos, the rekindling of old memories of good times, and the respectful reminders of the tragedy of The Newhall Incident; an event that affects us all today every bit as much as it did when we first heard the story.

    Well done, Mike.

    1. Chris, thank you so much for your gracious praise, and for sharing your memories of the 68 with us! Thanks also for your 30 years of service!

      I didn’t find out about the 870 sales until they were a done deal, and was a little miffed that my dad hadn’t bought one, or thought to let me know about it! It would have been nice to get one of those guns for the collection. Oh well . . .

  18. Good info Mike. However, the model 68 was never a dept issued weapon by the LAPD. By the time the LAPD 68s came out 82/83 the Dept had gone to 4″ issue guns years before. All model 68s were privately purchased through the Revolver Club. The model 68 was/is a dept approved weapon and once it was modified by the armory for D/A only, could be place on your gun record and carried. When I retired a few years back it was still the only Dept approved handgun that actually had Los Angeles Police Dept/LAPD markings on it.

  19. Hey Mike, On a whim I contacted the armory ( where I worked for 20 years) about LAPD marked guns.
    When Swat went from using property and private owned 1911s and approved the Kimber Custom lls those guns ( dept purchase out of Swat’s budget) came with a custom serial number K-for Kimber, LA for LAPD and 114 for Swat’s Division number and then 4 digits/ KLA114-1234. Besides that the Swat guns are rollmarked “LAPD SWAT Custom ll” on the slide the Metro units guns ( privately purchased) have a similar serial number set-up, I believe, and are roll marked “LAPD METRO Custom ll”. These may be a bit different model also like a TL or something. As Metro division does not supply sidearms to its officers, other than their original Dept issue, these guns are private purchase weapons. When/if you get to SWAT then you are issued a Dept purchased 1911. So there is now a Dept issued handgun marked LAPD .

    1. Thank you Bob! That’s very helpful! It’s always great to get the straight info from a trustworthy source, and I appreciate you sharing it. It was too bad that the Kimber private purchase deal sparked so much drama for the guys. Seems like the Staccatos are all the rage now, in LA.

  20. Hi Mike, very interested reading your great article on the 68’s, as I recently purchased a S&W 66-2, 38 special, 6” ( 38 special ) barrel and cylinder, AEC prefix serial number, marked MOD. 66-2, has all the described attributes of 68-2, but no overstamps or extra stampings of any kind, in original box with small ( non retail looking ) sticker including serial number, pristine condition, of the 6,000 plus apparently manufactured, I’m anxious to learn how many like mine were never over stamped 68-2 etc and apparently never put into service, thank you, Mike S.

  21. Just for information in October 1968 the CHP began issuing Revolvers to Officers entering the Academy as well as Leather and other equipment. After 2 years they became the personal property of the Officer. I was the 2nd class in this program 7of 1968. Still used RNL and wadcutters but could upgrade to a magnum if you wished. Mod. 19 popular. I still have my K38 and a stamped over 66 as well as a 68, put target front sight on 66/68. The Department hired about 1000 Officers in 1968. The last 240 were issued K38’s for awhile they tried Dan Wesson’s but found that a mistake and went back to S&W. Because the Department issued weapons and ammunition they provided and issued 357 ammunition to Personnel carrying that caliber until the change to 4006 semi automatic. There were some other policies regarding secondary weapons and ammunition as well. I was a range officer most of my 32 years.

    1. Thanks John, I appreciate the info. I detailed much of this in my book on the Newhall shooting, in an Appendix.

      My dad was in I-68 and the cadets were still purchasing their own revolvers at that point (usually from vendors like F. Morton Pitt or George F. Cake, who were aligned with the academy and had representatives present). They could purchase Magnum revolvers (and supply their own ammo for them), but the department only issued .38 Special ammo for training and duty.

      Your report that VI-68 was the first to receive state-issued guns is a great data point. Many thanks for planting that milepost for us.

      As you know, ammo policies changed after the April 1970 Newhall shooting, and by 1976-77 the department required all officers to carry and train with the newly issued .38 Spl Winchester 110 grain +P+ load—the Treasury Load” that we detailed in these pages, before (it seems like wadcutters were still used for training in some area offices while the new ammo was getting fielded, but that practice eventually stopped when supplies caught up).

      My understanding is the department didn’t issue .357 Magnum ammo until the late 1980s, just before the 1990 transition to the 4006. The standard issue was still the .38 Spl Winchester Treasury Load, but officers with personally owned, department approved, Magnum revolvers could draw .357 Mag Remington 125 JHP (later, Winchester 125 JHP) during that very short period (roughly 1989-1990). I’ve still got several boxes of the Remington load.

      I’m glad you still have your 68 going strong. They’re great revolvers, and a neat piece of history. Thanks for your 32 years of service!

  22. When I was a Lieutenant with the CHP I carried a 686 S&W and when I heard we were going to eventually change to 40 caliber semi automatics I requested a model 68 .38. I received a new revolver and ended up buying the 68 for just over $100 when we went to the .40 semi. I actually never carried the 68. I still have it (34 years).

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