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Old January 22, 2013, 09:51 PM   #1
hfl73
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Revolver Terminology and Numbers

I have been on a quest to learn more about revolvers and have come across some terms and numbers that I would like to know more about. Forgive me if these questions are somewhat elementary, my focus with handguns has been primarily on semi-autos and much of this is new to me. First of all I see that many S&W's have model numbers followed by a dash and a single digit number such as 19-2, 19-4, etc. Initially, I thought it had something to do with barrel length. What exactly does that last digit refer to? I know many Smith autos use digits to tell the gun's caliber, action, size, etc. I am assuming there is a code associated with these revolver number sequences. Next what is a pinned/recessed barrel and how does it affect performance and accuracy? Is this something good or bad to look for in a revolver? Finally, I have read about internal locks and there have been more than a few negative comments about them. Is it a safety feature? Should this be avoided if possible? I appreciate your time and if there is anything else you think I should know along these lines feel free to share your knowledge with me. Thanks.
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Old January 22, 2013, 10:23 PM   #2
Mike Irwin
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The number after the dash is the engineering change. It signifies some change in the basic design of the gun from the previous version.

It generally has a different meaning for each model.

A pinned barrel has a small pin in the frame near where the barrel enters the frame. This pin served to secure the barrel and prevent it from turning out. The pin was dropped around 1982ish (different for each model) when Smith & Wesson began using a "crush fit" to secure their barrels.

The recessed means that the rear of the cylinder is cut so that the rims of the cartridges lie flush with the rear of the cylinder instead of resting on it. If you were to look at a recessed gun from the side, you couldn't see the cases in the cylinder, while you can in a non recessed gun.

Recessing the chambers was done only on the magnums and the .22s, and was, like the barrel pin, dropped 1982ish.
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Old January 22, 2013, 11:02 PM   #3
carguychris
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The S&W model numbering system began in 1957. When the system started, the numbers 10-19 were assigned to K frame models (medium size), 20-29 to N frames (large), 30-38 to I or J frames (small; all I frames were later replaced by equivalent J frames), and the number 39 was assigned to the 9mm DA/SA semi-automatic pistol.

Subsequent model numbers were assigned in a semi-consecutive fashion, but it's seemingly haphazard because not all model numbers were used, some guns had extremely limited production (e.g. the Model 44), and semi-autos are mixed with revolvers. 40-59 are a total mess; the Model 60 and Models 63 thru 67 are stainless steel versions of earlier models.

In the 1980s, S&W introduced a 3-digit system for new models, in which the first number indicated the gun's finish and the 2nd and 3rd numbers usually matched an earlier and similar model. 5xx indicates blued carbon steel frame, 6xx indicates stainless steel, and 2xx or 3xx indicates Scandium/Aluminum frame. However, there are enough exceptions within the system to thoroughly confuse things, and S&W introduced ANOTHER numbering system for the so-called 3rd-generation metal-frame centerfire automatics. (It's so complex won't even TRY to describe it here.)

This became so confusing that product planners at S&W apparently threw up their hands in the mid 1990s, giving some newer pistols their own model numbering systems (e.g. the SW99 and Sigma series), and introducing newer models that only have names (the M&P, the Bodyguard .38, and the Bodyguard .380)!

How does one remember it all? Basically, one doesn't. Figure out which features you like and concentrate on remembering THOSE numbers. Just remember that the 3-digit system generally describes similar guns; e.g. the M40 is similar to the M340 and M640.
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Old January 22, 2013, 11:41 PM   #4
44 AMP
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Mention internal locks, especially S&W, and you open a big can of worms. Some are ok with the idea, others dislike the specific manner S&W chose to incorporate them, and others of us are against the idea completely, either on principle, or because of the enforced nature of the locks.

First, lets look at the basic idea behind the lock. The plus is, that being built into the gun, it is always available. On the other hand, I think that is the only plus. Personally, I am against the idea of putting a lock on a loaded gun. And ESPECIALLY a trigger lock. Yet some people think its ok. THey feel it gives them the a safe way to store a loaded gun.

I have never understood the utility to locking the gun. If it is unloaded, it is hardly a risk. SO, why lock it? And locking a loaded gun, thinking that they are somehow saving some time, all they have to do is unlock the gun, right?

Being who and what I am, and knowing that under extreme stress I do have issues with "fine motor skills", I find it much easier, and faster to load a gun that is unlocked than fumble with a tiny little key to unlock a loaded one.

Also, there is the idea that any unnecessary mechanical addition to the gun increases its complexity, and gives us one more thing that can fail. And, Murphy being alive and well, it is virtually guaranteed to fail at the worst possible time.

There are documented cases of internal locks "failing" meaning auto-engaging, and stopping the gun from firing. Not a lot, but there are some. Some of us don't find even this small risk justified. Especially when it comes from what we consider a non-essential (or non useful) part.

because of the risk of fumbling and failing to get your defense gun unlocked in time, and the risk of having the lock "fail" to unlock, or having it lock on its own, I'm part of the culture that says "you don't lock your gun. You lock your gun up!". Meaning, if you need it secured, you secure it IN something (lockbox, safe, etc...)

The S&W lock, in particular is still a heated issue for many. The British holding company that owned S&W during the 90s voluntarily bought into an agreement with the Clinton administration, which consisted of many parts, most rediculous backdoor gun control, and some possibly illegal...

As a sign of their "good faith" that Brit company made S&W put the locks in, and the fact that they put them in, and where they put the "Hillary hole" upset a lot of us. S&W got boycotted. Their stock tanked. The Brits wound up selling S&W for a large loss.

I won't buy a new S&W with the lock. I know a lot of people with similar feelsing, too. There are still plenty of the older guns, (in some cases made better, too) to satisfy our needs. Yes, that does mean that I am delberately limiting my options, but that's my choice.
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Old January 23, 2013, 06:55 PM   #5
hfl73
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Thank you very much. Your answers were clear and concise. Which is more than I could say for S&W's numbering sequence for their revolvers. Now I have a better sense of what people are talking about when I hear these terms.
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Old January 24, 2013, 01:49 PM   #6
BigJimP
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And don't be afraid or ashamed - to make up some note cards, or carry a little notebook with you ...on models, frame sizes, calibers, etc..../ engineering dash numbers within the models where the MIM parts start showing up ....etc....( none of us, or at least I can't, remember all this stuff - except the 5 or 6 models of S&W revolvers that I collect...)...the rest of it is just a blur, without some reference material...

how to check the timing.../ remember to check the forcing cone.../ carry a bore light with you ...all the little things...

its a big help - as you get into this side of the gun hobby --- especially when you're at gunshows....and guys say all kinds of stuff...that is only marginally true - or flat out just nonsense....( not that it isn't important on the semi-auto side of this hobby too )...

It'll help you pick up on a gun that's been " Bubba'd " by someone - and it just isn't quite right.../ or help you identify a really good deal !
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Old January 24, 2013, 02:15 PM   #7
tipoc
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hf173,

Below you can see a pinned and a non pinned barrel. The pin is located at the top of the frame just behind where the barrel enters the frame. The 29-2 on top has the pin while the more recent 629 below it, does not. Note too that the M29 is a carbon steel gun which has been nickel plated while the 629 is stainless steel. S&W used the "6" prefix to identify a stainless steel revolver.



Here you can see the recessed cylinder of the early 29-2.



Below is a non recessed cylinder of an early S&W in 44 Spl.



S&W recessed the cylinders of all guns in .22 l.r. and the magnum loadings, .357 Magnum and 44 Magnum for example. But did not recessed the cylinders of non-magnum guns. Others have explained when the practice ended. Better heat treatment made it unnecessary and it saved them money to delete it.

Get ahold of a copy of the "Standard Catalog of Smith and Wesson" which is a useful reference to have. The 3rd edition is the latest and can be found used for a lower price.

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Old January 24, 2013, 03:09 PM   #8
carguychris
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Two clarifications regarding recessed cylinders...

The recessed or counterbored cylinders were dropped from centerfire Magnum K & N frame revolvers ca. 1982 but NOT from the rimfire models. All standard-production post-1935 .22-caliber rimfire S&Ws have recessed chambers, including today's production. (S&W did, however, drop the pinned barrel from the rimfires along with the centerfire models.)

The L frame .357 Magnum models- the 581, 586, 681, and 686- entered production in late 1980, but were non-pinned and non-recessed from the start. There is no such thing as a "Pinned and Recessed" or P&R standard-production L frame.

[EDIT TO ADD] The recessed chambers on the .22 rimfire models are intended to contain a case-head failure and prevent the case head from separating from the case body and making manual extraction impossible. This is far more common with soft rimfire cases than with modern centerfire cases. The reasons for using recessed chambers on the centerfire Magnums- and, in turn, the reasons for deleting them in 1982- have been hotly debated by S&W enthusiasts for years, but I tend to agree with the opinion that the feature was primarily cosmetic, and was removed to reduce production costs.
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Last edited by carguychris; January 24, 2013 at 03:18 PM. Reason: added note
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