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Old July 28, 2019, 09:27 AM   #1
Master Blaster
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Pre numbered models from 1947 to 1957 the Best?

Yesterday I took my 1956 Smith & Wesson .357 magnum to the range. Here is a picture. It seems to me that the years 1947 to 1958, may have been the best for quality and features for S&W revolvers. Do other folks agree? Is this the optimum time frame for old Smith's in terms of features like sights, ribbed barrels, and short throw actions, as well as fit, finish, and accuracy?

Last edited by Master Blaster; July 28, 2019 at 04:10 PM.
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Old July 28, 2019, 12:32 PM   #2
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The craftsmanship was top-notch in the post-war era, but S&W was churning out so many that for several years the standard finish was the matte blue which required a lot less polishing than the deep blue finish which became standard in the 1960s and 1970s.
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Old July 28, 2019, 01:27 PM   #3
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Others may disagree but I think this was the golden era for S&W.

The quality of steel was top-notch and as good or better than what they use today. The workmanship was also top-notch.The 5-screw N-frames I have owned were all put together with pride and skill.

Most of the 5-screw K-frames I've examined appear to be just as well done.

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Old July 28, 2019, 01:45 PM   #4
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I consider the "golden age" to generally extend through the 70s. After Bangor Puta (?) took over ownership (late 70s if I remember right), things began going down hill at a serious pace, and haven't quit yet, despite others having had ownership of S&W since then.

I've got no interest in a S&W that doesn't have a pinned barrel, and don't even get us started on "the lock"...
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
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Old July 28, 2019, 03:17 PM   #5
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I think a lot of people in the know would agree with you about the quality and finish of guns, but I don’t know about features. A lot of the guns being made today offer many more features than anything from that time frame. I’ve got a 929 which is an 8 shot 9mm with a titanium cylinder, a 325 PD which is an airweight 45 ACP revolver, and a 460 XVR. Nothing like those was available 60 years ago.

A lot of the revisions done to the models since that time have been to decrease costs but they have also come up with some innovative products since then.

As far as variety of barrel lengths, sight options, grips, and personalization available I think the Registered Magnum takes the cake.
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Old July 28, 2019, 03:44 PM   #6
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I have a few pre war smiths, 4 from the 1950s and several post 1960.
The best finishes tend to be on the pre war, although the early post war ones were still excellent.
Bangor Punta bought S&W around 1963 and owned them till 1984 IIRC. Some guns were excellent, others not quite up to par. Quality was from serviceable/ average to poor from the 1970s to the mid 1980s with a few exceptions.

My money tends to go toward the early post war ones, they tend to be the best finish, best steel, best workmanship for the price.
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Old July 28, 2019, 11:32 PM   #7
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I suspect that in 1899 when the first 38 Military and Police came out there may have been those who bemoaned the lowering of quality from what had come previously. That is human nature.

Your criterion of including short throw actions probably makes your statement true. I don't remember exactly when short throw actions first showed up, I think it was shortly after WWII.

But I have lots of 'modern' Smiths from before 1947 and I think they do not take a back seat to anything later, with the possible exception of short throw actions.

I just took a look in the SCSW and it appears modern Micro Click rear sights and short actions first appeared with the K-22 Masterpiece (Pre War), only made from 1940 to 1941. Although this short action hammer did not resemble the modern one with the deep gullet between the hammer spur and the hammer body and the deep checkering on the hammer spur that we have come to associate with the modern short throw hammer. Like the one on your 1956 357 Magnum.

Also, a lot of folks deride the Bangor Punta guns, but the first Smith I ever bought was my Model 17-3 which I bought new in 1975. The quality of that revolver, both inside and out, is second to none.

The CNC machining inside the frame is second to none.

This Model 14-3 from 1974 is no slouch either.

So all in all, your premise is pretty subjective. But if part of your criteria is modern Micro Click rear sights and modern short throw hammers, I would at least extend the time period to some of the Bangor Punta guns.
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Old July 29, 2019, 07:03 AM   #8
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I've got no interest in a S&W that doesn't have a pinned barrel...

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Old July 29, 2019, 07:57 AM   #9
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38-44 Outdoorsman: I'd have to go with the pre-war guns. My 1934 vintage 33-44 show attention of detail and fit and finish the are tops. Ditto, registered 357 Magnums. Postwar guns are excellent but the prewar N frames were in a class by themselves. This is personal opinion. You know what the Army says about opinions.
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Old July 29, 2019, 12:01 PM   #10
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Not a scientific sample I know but when I compare my 1975 27-2 to the pre 27 for polishing, the pre 27 wins. The 27-2 is very shiney, but I can see faint machining swirls. The pre 27 is more mirror like.
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Old July 29, 2019, 12:53 PM   #11
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Back 81 a friend of mine got a brand new S&W 629 8 3/8" barrel. Very nice gun, very accurate gun. One of the "early" unpinned barrel guns, though neither one of us noted that at the time.

After a few months, and about 600rnds, about 2/3 midrange or .44 Special, he noticed that the barrel was now tilted to the side. It had not been like that when he got it. I had shot the gun and saw it with the barrel "starting to unscrew". You could clearly see the barrel rib was tilted where it met the frame.

Sent the gun back, and got it back from S&W with a note saying essentially, "nothing wrong". The barrel was now straight, again. He sold the gun the next week. A lack of confidence thing.

had S&W said they fixed it, I'm sure he would have kept the gun, but them saying "nothing wrong" when obviously someone HAD screwed the barrel back straight, soured him on the gun, so he sold it. Told the buyer its history, they didn't care.

SO, while I'm sure they've got the bugs worked out by now...when they first stopped pinning the barrels, SOME guns did have issues.

Am fine with Ruger and all the others that never pinned their barrels, and I know that some of their guns have had issues, too. It happens. Nature of the beast with anything manmade. Make enough, some won't be completely perfect. Fix them, find the source of the problem, fix it, move on.

For me, its a visual style thing, as much as anything. I prefer S&W revolvers made looking a certain way. Pinned barrels, recessed chambers for magnums and rimfires, the cylinder latch being the "round corner square" shape, NOT the slope back shape used now, the firing pin on the hammer, etc. This is what I want. These are what I buy.

Don't care that S&W "had" to change things to cut costs in order to stay competitive. Don't care if the changes are actually, somehow, "superior".

They aren't the S&Ws that I WANT, and since there are more than enough of the older guns to satisfy my wants and needs for the remaining years I have left, I don't bother with the new stuff.
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Old July 29, 2019, 08:31 PM   #12
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I only have one .357 S&W that doesn't have a pinned barrel, a 1984 vintage 586 and even though it pains me to say it, I shoot that thing better than any of my pinned and recessed .357's. However, I can say, that the actions on my five and four screw guns are smoother and the factory triggers are a bit crisper. Smoothest of all is my 1960 vintage four screw Model 29 no dash.
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Old July 29, 2019, 08:41 PM   #13
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I have S&W revolvers from almost every decade since the 20’s. The earlier the gun for me, the better the craftsmanship and quality..
Say when.....
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Old August 1, 2019, 06:16 AM   #14
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No, the pre war stuff has more hand fitting, attention to detail, and refinement than anything S&W made after WWII and I've got a lot of post war 5-screw S&W revolvers from the 50’s.

In my opinion, the Registered Magnum was their high water mark. Incredible quality, detail, and extremely smooth. My 1950 Pre 27 doesn't hold a candle to them.

Here's one of my RM's from 1938...

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Old August 1, 2019, 09:49 AM   #15
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The earlier guns were much prettier and they all shot real well. I think the real sign of falling into the pit of no return was when they quit pinning them. This being said I have a 586 dash nothing that is a real shooter, it does have some strange marks in the chambers that may some day blow out but so far so good. I haven't bought a new S&W in 30+ years that was actually right, most I have made shootable tho. I had to get rid of a Model 24 purchased in the 80s, even S&W wouldn't make it right. It was another 20 years before I bought another new S&W. The new guns I have 4 with locks, 1 without, all fired when the trigger was pulled. All except 1 had defects of one kind or another. I have the same experience with other mfgs too including Kimber, Browning, Ruger and others.
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