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Smith & Wesson M36 Chief Special - Tanaka

You don't need to be very observant to know I'm a great admirer of the Tanaka PEGASUS revolvers.
I'd go as far as to say that the midnight blue S&W M29 6.5" is the most beautiful airsoft gun I've ever owned and, probably, ever seen.

Normal PEGASUS design, with fixed shells - 5 in this case.

Having sold on my 8" Classic M629, I fancied another Tanaka revolver, but couldn't find a PC 629 and decided I couldn't afford a Colt Python. So, when a S&W M36 Chief Special come up for sale for spares (having a non-indexing cylinder), I quickly put in an offer and it was mine.

In the Box

A new gun would have all the usual accessories of the gas can extension nozzle, bb loader and a few BBs, in addition to the manual.

My gun, however, was far from new and there was no box, so let's move on!

First Impressions

This gun had clearly lived a hard life, but the Tanaka quality still shone out.

The gun is compact, but has a purposeful look to it, with a snubby 2" barrel and neat, and very good looking, fake wood grips.

Cylinder, cradle and extractor are metal

As usual, the cylinder contains fake shells - just 5 in the case of the M36.

The frame is flat black and looks convincingly like metal and, despite its low weight, the Chief Special feels quite chunky and well made, due to its compact dimensions.

As usual with Tanaka, there are a lot of metal parts, with frame side plate, trigger, hammer, safety, cylinder, cradle and extractor all being metal.

Closer Look

There aren't a lot of markings on the .38 Chief Special, but they are all well replicated and rendered.

Markings on frame and barrel are good. Ugly screw is not original!

On the left side of the barrel is the legend, "SMITH & WESSON", whilst the S&W Logo is prominent on the frame behind the safety, with Tanaka Arms underneath it.

The right side of the barrel is marked ".38 S&W SPL.", whilst above and ahead of the trigger is "Made in Japan" "Marcias Registradas" "Smith & Wesson" "Tanaka A S G K" in 4 rows.

Neat style and very compact, but this one's had a hard life!

The grips are plastic, as the originals were on my M29, but somehow look more realistic, probably due to their smaller size. The S&W medallions are nicely reproduced and the gun feels comfortable in the hand. I'm not sure, but I suspect (as with the M29s) that real steel grips are a straight swap and I shall be keeping my eyes open for some on eBay.

Front blade sight can be aligned to groove running along top of frame.

The sights consist of a prominent front blade and a simple V shaped groove running along the top of the frame.

M60 showing hammer shape.

The hammer spur was broken off on this particular gun, which lends it a low profile look and doesn't affect operation. Parts, however, for Tanakas seem impossible to obtain, so I don't hold out much hope of restoring it. It should look like the hammer in the photo above.

On this example, the cylinder, also, did not move when the trigger was pulled, meaning that the gun needs you to turn the cylinder to the next round - This appears to be down to a worn part internally and I hope to get a replacement made to solve this problem - I knew about the faults when I bought the gun and it still seemed a good price for a Tanaka, being around the same cost as a new TM springer!

Shooting Impressions

Click on image for bigger version in separate window.

Carrying out my standard 5m/6 round, off hand test, it was quickly evident that accuracy is not this gun's strong point.

It may be a little unfair to measure a healthy, new M36 Chief Special by the results of this gun, but it felt to be firing strongly, but I could not better a 7" grouping.

The sights are not much use, you are better off just pointing the blade pretty much where you want to hit and hoping.

In my first test (circles), I tried aligning the blade with the notch in the frame which passes as the rear sight. This gave me a 7.25 inch (18.5 CM) diameter.

On the second test (squares), I simply pointed the blade at the centre of the target and fired. This gave a 17 inch (17.5 CM) diameter, but two shots were in the centre zone and 4 of the rounds fell within a 4 inch (10 CM) diameter around the aim point, which wasn't terrible.

I suspect I COULD improve this with practice (the grips are not easy to hold) and all 12 rounds did hit something about half the size of a man, so perhaps that's all you should expect of an airsoft pistol with a sub 2" barrel.

I was able to carry out a trigger pull weight test on this gun and it produce a figure of 840g (29.6 ounces), a medium weight pull.


Overall, the Chief Special S&W M36 makes a nice counterpoint to the big M29 .44 Magnums I've had before.

Even though this gun is hard used and worn, it's (other than the non-indexing cylinder) still in good serviceable order and this is a reflection of the quality of Tanaka's revolvers.

The Chief Special is a compact gun - ideal for a backup to a backup!

Not particularly accurate, the gun is still pretty powerful and would make a great concealed backup handgun for anyone looking for something a little different.

Weight : 360g

Realism : ****
Quality : ****
Power : ***
Accuracy : **

Real Steel link at World Guns

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