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Old July 10, 2009, 11:57 AM   #1
jqpublic
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new smith owner

I am new to this forum, but did receive the date of manufacture for my recently acquired Smith and Wesson model 64-2 - thanks again Radagast. Since that time I have been reading this forum a lot ( it is actually addictive) and have a couple questions.

1) I have read numerous comments regarding the apparent decline in quality at S&W. When did this decline begin? My gun was made approx. late 1986. Should I be concerned with its quality or expect any particular problems with it? So far, I couldn't be happier.

2) Could anyone explain what the "dash numbers" mean? I have concluded that they must represent some period of model runs, or some changes to models. I recently saw a 64-2 on gunbroker that had a pinned barrel. Mine does not have a pinned barrel.

Any comments would be appreciated, and incidentally, this is my first and only S&W and my wife does not appreciate all the attention it is getting.
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Old July 10, 2009, 12:05 PM   #2
18DAI
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Some of my best carry revolvers are S&W's from the mid eighties. Don't worry and enjoy your 64. Fire 200 trouble free rounds through it and put it in the carry rotation. Regards 18DAI
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Old July 10, 2009, 02:36 PM   #3
SIGSHR
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I think S&W's quality has been "declining" since the 1960s, judging by all the articles I see extolling the virtues of the "pre-war" S&Ws and other firearms.Cf the laments over the discontinuance of the "Pre-64" Winchesters.
Remember, the "Good Old Days" always happened either before you were born
or when you were too young to enjoy them.
"Dash numbers" refer to changes in the design made by the factory that they consider significant enough to warrant a modification to the model designation-think of the M1911 and M1911A1 pistols, the M1903 and M1903A3 rifle, the M3 and M3A1 submachine guns. You will see references to "5 screw", "4 screw", "3 screw" S&Ws, pinned and unpinned barrels, and some modifications are subtler-changes in the theading of the ejector rod, e.g The more knowledgeable board members can answer your questions on these and I recommend The Standard Catalog of Smith and Wesson for home reference.
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Old July 10, 2009, 03:27 PM   #4
stevieboy
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This "Smith & Wesson's quality has been declining" issue comes up repeatedly on this and other forums. I've read many of the posts and I'm unimpressed by the assertions that the quality of their products is on the wane. First, no one ever really explains what he or she means when he or she claims a decline in quality. But, you really can't attack the issue until you define your terms. Second, all of the "evidence" I've seen about a decline in quality is in the form of anecdotes. "My gun was a lemon" or "my friend's gun is a lemon" doesn't really address the big picture because it says nothing about the 10s and 100s of thousands of other guns that Smith manufactures each year. Put simply, it's possible for Smith (or any other manufacturer) to produce a bad example of a particular product occasionally and yet, maintain an overall excellent quality of production.

There's also a hidden agenda in some of the "quality's gone to hell" arguments. There are some out there who hate the changes that Smith has introduced in its weapons -- the elimination of pinned barrels and recessed cylinders, the use of MIM internal parts rather than forged parts, and above all, the introduction of the internal lock -- and confuse these design changes with a decline in quality.

Speaking purely anecdotally, I own Smith guns that were made in the 70's, 80's, 90's, and 00's, and all of them are outstanding. One or two of them have had function problems but Smith's warranty repair service -- which is outstanding -- has promptly taken care of those problems.

Your other question was what does the dash and the number following the dash signify. Smith issues its revolver models with numbers designating the specific model. Thus, your model 64 denotes a stainless steel K-frame .38 special revolver with fixed sights. Each engineering change gets shown as a number after a dash. The original model 64, therefore would be stamped on the inside of the crane just as the number "64." Subsequent engineering changes, major or minor, would show up as numbers after dashes. Your model 64-2 is, therefore, the third version of the model 64 built by Smith.
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Old July 10, 2009, 04:53 PM   #5
KyJim
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"Quality" can mean a lot of different things. I'm fortunate enough to own a pre-M&P Target model from about 1928. It is my favorite revolver to shoot for the sheer pleasure of shooting. Awesome trigger. Some say the Smiths of this vintage were the best ever made because they could afford more hand labor. However, the steel is not as hard as guns made today due to metallurgical advances. So, is a gun with a better trigger of higher quality than a gun with a stronger frame? That's debatable. Here's the pre-M&P Target Model:



When talking about quality declining, some people talk about where SW stopped pinning their barrels and others point to the use of MIM parts. Some people just don't like the ILS and chalk it up as a decline in quality. I should also mention that it is my understanding that some of the chemicals used in the old gun blueing process can't be used today because of environmental concerns. Thus, there is a perception of a decline in quality. At any rate, I think SW is still making high quality revolvers. I don't like the darned lock because they're ugly but I do have a couple with locks.

Anyway, I don't think there's any question in my mind that SW was making very high quality revolvers in 1986. My Model 27 from about that same time period is proof:



BTW, reference the model change numbers. Here's a link to some of the changes. It's a bit out of date but is still interesting. http://www.handloads.com/misc/Smith.Model.Changes.asp
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Old July 10, 2009, 05:08 PM   #6
carguychris
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Quote:
I have concluded that they must represent some period of model runs, or some changes to models. I recently saw a 64-2 on gunbroker that had a pinned barrel. Mine does not have a pinned barrel.
The dash numbers represent model changes, but they're notoriously inconsistent.

S&W has sometimes changed the dash number for minor modifications, but other times, they have made substantial modifications without changing the number. Some dash numbers denoted production options that were made at the same time (the Model 10-3, 10-4, 10-5, and 10-6 were produced concurrently). Some guns got a new dash number when the barrel pin was eliminated, but others didn't. As a notable example, the Model 36 made it from 1957 until the late 1980s in "no-dash" form, but several changes were made during that time, including the deletion of the barrel pin.

There's no rhyme or reason to it.
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Old July 10, 2009, 06:27 PM   #7
jqpublic
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Thanks for comments

Thanks to all of you for your input and the information you have provided me. It is greatly appreciated. And to KyJim, a really good looking pair of Smiths you have there! I am beginning to think that if you read this forum enough you will probably find the answer to almost any revolver question you might come up with.
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Old July 10, 2009, 07:33 PM   #8
stevieboy
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KyJim I have a 27-3 just like yours (mine's an early 1988). I love that gun.
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Old July 10, 2009, 10:47 PM   #9
tommy1969
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Declining quality

Back 30 years ago, I believe Colt ramped up production like S&W but for a different reason.

Whenever there is a labor dispute/strike, admin people have to take over production. Often, these pencil-pushers know nothing about metal polishing or filing and fitting. They even increase production at times because they are not interested in quality - only quantity.

From 1978-81, I worked at a gun store just about the time Colt had one of their many labor disputes. All I remember for sure was that guns were coming into the shop looking like bad re-finish jobs; rounded edges, low gloss and tool marks - even Pythons! Distributors had specials like 2 Colt SAAs for $269 each: 70 Series Govmt Models for $199!

I checked out most of the name-guns before putting them out. One that I'll never forget was a "nice" .44 Special Colt SAA that I cocked 7 times and the mainspring broke.

Then in the early Eighties, S&W went to hell in a handcart. I had ordered a new 29 because the department store stooge told me I could get it for much less than market price. When I saw it, it was finished worse than my 28 - which is intentionally not polished well.

It's hard to otherwise pin-point valleys in quality, but generally, 1956-1979 were the best years for both Smith and Colt, IMHO. Yet, I did inspect a first-year produced Python a couple of years ago, and it had a very scratchy action - so who knows?
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