Read the whole thing at Gun Digest.
In 1935, Smith & Wessonand Winchesterannounced a new revolver and a new cartridge simultaneously. Both would bear the same name. The cartridge would go on to become one of the most popular in the history of handgunning. The revolver would also be a milestone. More than 20 years later, it would get a mundane new name: “Model 27.” But until then, it would be known simply as the “Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum.”
Gorgeous finish, “neutral balance,” and built-in accuracy made the Model 27 a long-lasting classic.
To many purists, this model would forever be the Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum.
From its beginning, the revolver we now call the Model 27 (if only to distinguish it from its long list of descendants and stable-mates in the same caliber) was welcomed and then almost universally endorsed by gun experts. The ones of its time, and the ones that followed.
Finely checkered topstrap and barrel rib were trademark features of the Model 27.
The great Elmer Keith, of course, cheered its creation: he was a part of that, as we shall see in a bit. Charles Askins, Jr., carried one with a 4-inch barrel for a good part of his career on the United States Border Patrol. “This is the most sturdy revolver in the world,” Askins wrote. “As a service weapon it is tops! A very great deal of care goes into the production of each weapon; they are in fact custom made.”
The most enthusiastic ambassador of the new gun and cartridge was a member of
S&W’s ruling family, Douglas Wesson, who had worked on the .357 Magnum project. Wrote Keith, “Major Wesson hunted big game and killed elk, antelope, moose and one grizzly with his 8-3/8 inch .357 Magnum.”
Later experts shared the appreciation. One was Henry M. Stebbins, who in 1961 noted that shooters were only then becoming adjusted to its power level. “When it came out in 1935 it was terrific enough to frighten some of us a bit by its noise and recoil,” he admitted. “Since then it has done much to educate us as to the amount of such ruction that we can stand and still do effective shooting...what used to seem a ferocious gun is accepted in handgun society today, with almost everyone agreeing that it has its points.”
But more experts than those who wrote for gun magazines learned to appreciate the big Smith .357. George S. Patton bought one before he went overseas in WWII, embellishing it with his trademark ivory stocks bearing his inlaid initials. When he gave away one of his matched
With today’s iterations of the 27, you can put eight rounds downrange before reloading.
ColtSingle Action Army revolvers to a Hollywood star, he augmented the remaining .45 with the Magnum, which he called his “killing gun.” Patton’s weapon had a 3-1/2-inch barrel. So, legend has it, did the very first .357 Magnum to leave the factory, which was presented to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, though some who study the history of S&Winsist it had an 8-3/4-inch barrel.
Many agents bought identical revolvers for themselves, with the 3-1/2-inch barrel, or the 4-inch that Askins preferred. Among those with the 4-inch .357s was Walter Walsh, the legendary FBI agent, fast draw ace, and pistol champion. One day in Maine in 1937, Walsh shot it out with the notorious Brady gang. Armed with a Colt .45 automatic in one hand and his Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum in the other – and with a .45 slug through his own chest, collapsing a lung – Walsh used the .357 to kill gang leader Al Brady. Ed McGivern, the famed six-gun wizard of the period, often used one in his demonstrations, and repeatedly shot man-size targets with it at distances out to 600 yards.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
My favorite gun writer excerpts from his new book, Massad Ayoob's Greatest Handguns of the World in Gun Digest with his entry for the fabled S&W Model 27 .357 Magnum.