Category Archives: Revolvers

Discussion on the weapons that are Six for Sure

The Magnum

I remember as a boy people used to identify particular guns as “a magnum”. Not .357 not .44, just “a magnum.” You hear that in movies sometimes. It’s a word that drives home a particular point: this gun is a lot more powerful than any other.

My first exposure to the term was a toy cap gun as a kid that was modeled after what I now know to be Colt’s Python .357 Magnum. It was different from other cap guns because it was called “Magnum.” I ran up and showed it to my dad as he was getting out of his car from work one day. “That’s a magnum!” he says. Just looked vicious with it’s vented rib and full underlug along the underside of the barrel. 😉

But anyway, today when people (police and citizen) want “more firepower” they want more rounds crammed into their gun. 30 years ago, however, when somebody wanted “more firepower” they focused on the power behind the rounds they placed. To this end, if the .38 Special wasn’t enough, then the cop or citizen upgraded to “a magnum.” Typically it was a .357 Magnum. Originally designed in 1935 as a more powerful alternative to the .38 Special. Interestingly, the .357 Magnum found heavier following at the time among big game hunters than it did policemen due to the size and weight of the Smith & Wesson N-Frame revolver that was built to handle it, not to mention that it was an extremely expensive handgun for the time. General George S. Patton carried one opposite his Colt Single Action Army .45 during World War II.

After World War II in the 1950s Colt and Smith & Wesson refocused their energies on creating a magnum market among civilians and policemen. For starters, Smith & Wesson developed a budget N-Frame .357 Magnum that was more appealing in price to law enforcement. Hence it’s title The Smith & Wesson Highway Patrolman Model 28. This allowed the “magnum” to make a real breakthrough in law enforcement. Until the time that semi-automatics took over in the 1990s, it was the issue weapon of the Texas Department of Public Safety (Texas State Troopers).

Smith & Wesson Highway Patrolman Model 28 .357 Magnum.  Large N-Frame revolver with a 6 inch barrel.
Smith & Wesson Highway Patrolman Model 28 .357 Magnum. Large N-Frame revolver with a 6 inch barrel.

A large gun, but for the power it generates with each BANG, you find yourself appreciating that weight on your belt every time you pull the trigger. Makes a good field gun when your on the tractor or in the woods.

Smith & Wesson Highway Patrolman .357 Magnum in a Jordan thumb break holster.  Good rugged outdoor gun
Smith & Wesson Highway Patrolman .357 Magnum in a Jordan thumb break holster. Good rugged outdoor gun

Notice how the Smith & Wesson Highway Patrolman  (top center) dwarfs many of the other guns, including the Smith & Wesson K-frame .38 Special Model 15 service revolver (bottom center).  Particularly the larger cylinder on the N-Frame
Notice how the Smith & Wesson Highway Patrolman (top center) dwarfs many of the other guns, including the Smith & Wesson K-frame .38 Special Model 15 service revolver (bottom center). Particularly the larger cylinder on the N-Frame

Smith & Wesson, realizing the large size of the N-frame was not desired by all, developed another .357 Magnum on their .38 Special K-frame design which is what their Models 10 (Military & Police) and 15 (Combat Masterpiece) were based on. Originally called The Combat Magnum and later designated the Model 19, this .357 Magnum K frame was a favored weapon of Law Enforcement and civilians all over including famous U.S. Border Patrolman and crack shot Bill Jordan. A stainless steel version was later developed called the Model 66.

Colt also developed a smaller frame Colt .357 Magnum built on the same frame as their .38 Special Colt Official Police which became the Colt Trooper and Colt Trooper MK III and V (aka “The Poor man’s Python”) which is what the famous Colt Python was developed from. Now THIS is a fine weapon. Many people consider it merely a museum piece today because it’s value has greatly increased since it was discontinued by Colt years ago. I disagree with this. To me, a gun is a gun. It’s a weapon. It’s not meant to be a safe sitter. This doesn’t mean I’m going to run out and buy a $3000 Python with all the bluing on it from it’s original box. However, as odd as this sounds, the worse shape the gun is in, the better price you can get. “Huh?” Meaning, a gun can have holster wear on the finish, have a tad of surface rust points on the outer frame, have worn out wooden grips and still be a fine weapon that you can get an excellent price on. I have a Python that has holster wear on the barrel and had a tad of surface rust on the underlug (barely noticeable). I bought it for $725 eight years ago. It can be done. 🙂

Colt Python with the cylinder full
Colt Python with the cylinder full

Colt Python with cylinder open
Colt Python with cylinder open

Many of these guns can be found in gun shows and independent sporting goods stores today. They are fine weapons and can be found at reasonable prices.

Colt Python .357 Magnum (bottom) built on the same frame as the Colt Official Police .38 Special.   The magnum gun is noticeably bulkier with heavier barrel, full underlug, vented rib, adjustable rear sights and target grips compared to the simpler .38 Special service revolver.   The Colt Trooper .357 Magnum looks more like the Official Police with a heavier barrel, adjustable rear sights and usually with target grips.   All the extra weight and bulk is appreciated when the gun fires powerful magnum loads.
Colt Python .357 Magnum (bottom) built on the same frame as the Colt Official Police .38 Special (top). The magnum gun is noticeably bulkier with heavier barrel, full underlug, vented rib, adjustable rear sights and target grips compared to the simpler .38 Special service revolver. The Colt Trooper .357 Magnum looks more like the Official Police with a heavier barrel, adjustable rear sights and usually with target grips. All the extra weight and bulk is appreciated when the gun fires powerful magnum loads.

I guess no article on “The Magnum” would be complete without a mention of Hollywood’s famous Dirty Harry .44 Magnum. This gun was actually built on the same frame as the .357 Magnum N-Frame in 1955. It overshot the .357 Magnum as the “most powerful handgun in the world” at the time. By the time “Dirty Harry” was released in 1971, in spite of Harry’s commentary to the contrary, the .44 Magnum was overshot by the .454 Casull.

But anyway, I have never had the pleasure of owning or even shooting the famous S&W Model 29. But I have had the pleasure of shooting a .44 Magnum in a single action Ruger New Model Super Blackhawk. And, from that, I can tell you that it is quite an impressive projectile of energy you are blasting downrange.

As a bonus, for those of you who don’t like practicing with wrist wrecking magnum loads, both the .357 Magnum handguns will accept .38 Special and the .44 Magnum will accept .44 Special. For my tastes, however: It’s a MAGNUM, use it the way it was intended. 😉

So rather than buying a tight triggered Taurus or modern Smith & Wesson, go to a gunshow or ask your local independent dealer if they can find you one of these guns with crisp smooth easy triggers. They are just as good, if not better, than any modern made factory gun out there.

These Colts and Smith & Wesson Magnums served policemen and outdoorsmen faithfully for decades and are still good today. So keep a sharp eye out at your local sporting goods stores and gun shows for these fine weapons. Even if they are more expensive than, say, a .38 Special handgun you will get what you pay for and more when the trigger is pulled.

How to take apart a Colt Revolver

 

My First Video for this Blog.  I took apart a Colt Official Police and discuss the gun and various parts as I go along and reassemble it.

It’s not perfect.  Things mispronounced, misidentified some things, stumbling here and there, even a phone ringing at one point.   But, when you’re doing a video and you’re 10 minutes into it…you have to keep going.

I went back and added some brief comments that appear in bubbles occasionally during the video.  Hope they are not distracting and are helpful

 

 

 

 

 

Revolvers are “outdated”

Think revolvers are “outdated” and gone for good? Or will they make a big comeback?
It’s often said by most people, cop and civilian alike, that revolvers are “outdated” and are “a thing of the past”. Most of these people don’t realize that the Double Action Revolver Pistol and the Semi Automatic Pistol are not too far apart in terms of age. Furthermore, many of these same people will respond by saying “well we have high capacity guns now” not realizing also that high capacity guns have been around since 1935 with the Browning Hi Power (and it didn’t even have any kind of market in the US until the 1950s and didn’t gain any kind of real following until the 1980s). They’ll then say “well criminals are better armed now” forgetting that criminals have been armed to the teeth in the past with gangsters like John Dillinger, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow and mobsters with Al Capone and other mafia thugs armed with BARs, Tommy Guns and 1911 pistols. Much more than I can say for the average crackhead of today.

All things considered, nothing has REALLY changed in terms of weapons technological effectiveness. Bullet designs have improved….but, even among the improvements, the “old school” FBI Load, the 158 gr Lead Hollow Point in .38 Special produced by Remington and Winchester ammo companies is still is considered by many to reign supreme compared to “modern” .38 hollowpoint bullets. Buffalo Bore has seemingly succeeded in turning the .38 Special into a low level .357 Magnum. Buffalo Bore .38 Spl+P But these improvements only add to the value of the “old school” guns and ammo.

The only thing, as I see it, that has really changed is the culture. This mindset of “more means better” and that the style needs to look “new” and we take our model off of what we see and experience in movies and television. If an idea is over 20 years old, it’s “outdated”. Doesn’t matter if it’s right, just that it’s “old”.

Well, the debate can go on, but I think one day the world will swing back the other way and realize that speed kills, old people are wiser, history has more to teach than we think and revolvers mean Six for Sure and the polymer semi-automatic fad will die out or at least retract into moderation.

“The .38 Special”

Remember when the term “.38 Special” meant a serious service revolver?
And a snub nose J frame or D frame mean’t a snub nose?

Most young people like me hear the term “.38 Special” today and they think of a small compact pistol that carries 5 shots in the cylinder (maybe 6 if they happen to know what a Detective Special is) and is used by non-gun people who just want “something” to have in the drawer or a cop or civilian might have as a “backup” gun. The round itself that the gun shoots is deemed “just a .38 special”

But in my dad’s generation. (wartime babies and Baby Boomer gen) a .38 Special wasn’t “just” anything and it was considered a front line service gun that the average policeman and civilian alike depended on for an all around fundamental defense weapon that had either a 4, 5 or 6 inch barrel.


FBI training film on use of the .38 Special

Before I even bought my first gun my dad had been saying for years that he always wanted “a .38 Special. The old policeman’s revolver.” Didn’t even say a brand name. Plain Jain gun. No bells and whistles. No overbearing grips.

One day, about 9 years ago, I went out bought my first handgun. I had always thought I would get a 1911 .45. Looked cool. But there was something about that plain jane “.38 Special” that dad always talked about that just jumped out in my mind. Used S&W M-10s were here and there under the gun counter at the local gun store. Looked like what I thought of as “A .38 Special.” but then I saw a single gun next to them that looked the same only a little better somehow. Maybe it was the straight barrel rather than the tapered pencil barrel. Maybe it was the slightly larger cylinder. It was a Colt Official Police 4 inch that I was told was made in 1944.

I bought it for about $275. Wasn’t sure what condition it was. Except the bore looked good. I wasn’t very knowledgeable about guns at the time. Didn’t know how to check for timing and such. My first gun. And I was excited.

Took it home. Dad was out somewhere. I put it on the stool of his chair in the den for him to see when he walked in.
I heard him come back about 20 minutes later. Walked into the room to see him starring down at it. “That’s a .38 Special” he said.

As much as dad admired my first piece, he said he identified more with the S&W version as that’s what he remembers the police in Jackson, MS carrying as a boy. About a month later I went back down to that same gunstore, as it was his birthday, and bought a S&W M-10 4 inch pencil barrel like new with the original box from 1971. Wrapped it, put a bow on it. And on his birthday, he was proud to get that. And to this day, everytime I say “your Model-10” he looks at me funny and has to think about it, “Oh my .38 Special?”

(as a side note, I later got him a Post 1972 Colt Agent, yet to this day he still calls it his “snub nose Detective Special”)

I later got another Colt Official Police postwar from 1961, had it refurbished and is in better condition. I’ve gone through a lot of other guns. But it always comes back to that Colt Official Police, that .38 Special that always winds up in my holster, suitcase or on the firing line with me. Much as I love that 1961 gun, I still wish I could restore that 1944 version to prime condition even though it’s still a good shooter (it’s one flaw is that the bolt can go back up the ramp on one of the notches because the notches are so worn). The .38 Special is not too heavy, not too bulky, no adjustable sights to get knocked out of alignment, no rubber grips to bulge, nor is it too small or too weak and has a sturdy enough frame to handle more than adequate loads. Simple fundamental weapon that becomes a part of my hand.

(Top) 1961 Colt Official Police (Post-War) (Bottom) 1944 Colt Official Police (Pre-War
(Top) 1961 Colt Official Police (Post-War)
(Bottom) 1944 Colt Official Police (Pre-War
Colt Python .357 Magnum (bottom) built on the same frame as the Colt Official Police .38 Special.   The magnum gun is noticeably bulkier with heavier barrel, full underlug, vented rib, adjustable rear sights and target grips compared to the simpler .38 Special service revolver.   The Colt Trooper .357 Magnum looks more like the Official Police with a heavier barrel, adjustable rear sights and usually with target grips.   All the extra weight and bulk is appreciated when the gun fires powerful magnum loads.
Colt Python .357 Magnum (bottom) built on the same frame as the Colt Official Police .38 Special. The magnum gun is noticeably bulkier with heavier barrel, full underlug, vented rib, adjustable rear sights and target grips compared to the simpler .38 Special service revolver. The Colt Trooper .357 Magnum looks more like the Official Police with a heavier barrel, adjustable rear sights and usually with target grips. All the extra weight and bulk is appreciated when the gun fires powerful magnum loads.