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GUNS Magazine January 2012 Digital Edition - Page 82

whAT were TheY ThinKing? Apparently, nothing at all. R egular readers know of my affection for the old Smith & Wesson Classic N-Frames, the .44 Special Hand Ejectors, the .38/44 Heavy Duty and Outdoorsman, the .44 Magnum and, most assuredly, the .357 Magnum. The latter arrived out of experiments in the early 1930s by Phil Sharpe and Col. Doug Wesson with exceptionally heavy .38 Special loads in the .38/44 Outdoorsman and Heavy Duty. These guns were built on the large-frame .44 Special Model 1926 so they were very strong sixguns. In 1935 when the new sixgun arrived from S&W, it was simply called the .357 Magnum. The earliest guns were virtually hand-built custom revolvers and were known as Registered Magnums with a special serial number stamped inside the ejector rod housing. A special registration certificate also came with these early .357 Magnums. Even in the midst of a depression the demand was so high S&W dropped the special registration and just offered a standard model. It was however a superb standard model to be sure. P And r The Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum was finished in the old Bright Blue with nickel being offered as an option, the action was the smooth doubleaction S&W has always been known for, the topstrap and the full-length barrel rib were both finely checkered, and shooters had a choice of barrel lengths and sights. All of these sixguns were also what has come to be known as “P and R,” standing for Pinned and Recessed. These terms came from the fact the barrel was screwed in place and then fitted with a pin through the frame side-to-side and into a channel in the top of the barrel. The cartridge heads were enclosed, or recessed in the cylinder. Production was, of course, stopped during WWII and resumed very slowly in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1957, the .357 Magnum became the Model 27, and then in succession Model 27-1, 27-2, etc. Along the way the pinned barrel and recessed cylinder were dropped to cut production costs. I have an 8-3/8" Model 27-3 and a pair of 5" Model 27-5s, and while both are excellent shooting sixguns, they are neither pinned, nor recessed. Now before me on the gun show table was a beautiful example of a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum. I can rarely resist one of these classic sixguns especially when the price is right. This one was a nickel-plated Model 27-2 with a 5" barrel. I am especially drawn to nickel-plated examples of these old N-Frames. I looked it over (well, at least I thought I did): rifling was sharp and clean, the cylinder locked up tight, the action was definitely S&W, so needless to say I bought it. When I got home I found a pair of BluMagnum Skeeter Skelton stocks crafted of curly maple and they not only fit perfectly, they really mated up well aesthetically with the nickel plating. It didn’t take many shots for me to realize something was wrong. After two cylinders full the barrel had loosened and could be wiggled back and forth. The shocking news Taking it to my gunsmiths at Buckhorn Gun I soon had the sad news. The pin was driven out, the barrel removed, and very easily so simply continued on page 81 W W W. G U N S M A G A Z I N E . C O M • J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 2 Even with sixguns beauty can be only skin deep. This rare 1950 Military .44 Special is an example of, “What Were They Thinking!” 82

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