LG Chris’s Guide to Smith .38/.357 Wheelguns

SW-model-10

Smith and Wesson is famous for two things: Well-made service revolvers, and mind-boggling model numbers. LuckGunner’s Chris Baker has set out to clarify a small portion of the later. From his article on Smith .38/.357 post-1957 revolver offerings:

We got some good feedback on our reference guide to 1st-3rd Gen S&W Semi-Autos, so for our Wheel Gun Wednesday series I thought I’d put together a similar chart for all of the S&W revolvers. And that’s exactly what I would have done except Smith & Wesson’s revolver model numbers have all been assigned by a mad genius. Sometimes there appears to be a logical numbering system at work, but it’s applied inconsistently, and varies from one product line to the next.

So instead of one big comprehensive chart for every Smith & Wesson revolver ever made, I’m offering this smaller bite-sized chunk: every post-1957 .38 Special and .357 Magnum revolver from S&W that officially entered full-scale production.

Why 1957? That’s the year when S&W switched over to assigning model numbers to each revolver rather than identifying them only by unique names (e.g., “Registered Magnum” or “Combat Masterpiece”). The nicknames still remained in many cases, but they could refer to a family or series of revolvers with similar characteristics.

In the charts below, I’ve grouped the models by frame size and then by series. Where possible, I’ve listed the defining features of each series. For each model, there’s information about its caliber, frame material, sights, finish, and ammo capacity.

 

As an example of Chris’s hard work, we have here his chart of .38/.357 K-frame revolvers:

k-frame-chart-1

Image source: luckygunner.com

Because of Smith and Wesson’s lovecraftian designation system, Chris has only undertaken to cover their .38/.357 offerings after the nomenclature restructuring in 1957. Even then, the designations are often dizzying, and Chris’s “map” to understanding them goes a long way.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Bill

    I hate to pick nits, but it’s what I do: “Black” and “Blue” are different colors. Particularly the older blued guns could be gorgeous, not Colt Royal Blue gorgeous, but nice none the less. Now add barrel lengths and things like barrel pins and recessed chambers….;)

    He may want to add .22 caliber where appropriate, and the first 9mm was a Model 10 variant with a different number IIRC, as was the alloy framed Aircrewman (Model 12?)

    • greasyjohn

      The 9mm model was the 547. There were some oddballs too, as my searching indicated a model 11 was identical to a 10.

      • The Model 11 was chambered for the older .38 S&W, not the .38 Special.

    • You are correct, Bill. The black and blue finishes are not the same. But S&W tends to use the same model numbers for guns with either a blue finish or some type of matte black finish (and nickel plated, too). Same with stainless… not all are technically stainless steel, such as silver colored aluminum alloy guns, but Smith uses the same model designation for both. To keep the chart as uncluttered as possible, I just used the terms “black” and “stainless” to correspond with the two broader categories of finishes that S&W has used.

      • Bill

        It’s a great chart, I didn’t even mention nickel……

        It kills me today that if I want a Model 10 to replace my first duty gun it’s a “Classic” with a price tag maybe 3X what it was back then…..

  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    I love my Model 66 Combat Magnum.

  • greasyjohn

    It’s a good start. Now if I had one to understand Peterbilts I’d be free of a lot of confusion.

    But I don’t see a chart, only a shopping list.

  • Uncle Dan

    Is “replacable” like interchangeable or replaceable on Nightguards?;)

    • The Night Guards are drilled and tapped like any of their adjustable sight models, but for this line S&W used an aftermarket fixed rear sight from Cylinder and Slide. This sight can easily be removed and replaced with any standard S&W rear sight assembly.

  • Swarf

    I’ve only recently discovered the LuckyGunner Lounge, where Chris Baker’s articles are prolific.

    He’s a very good writer; informative without being overwhelming or getting bogged down in the minutiae of gun nerdism, and entertaining without being overtly “jokey” or trying too hard.

    I’ve been going through the archives almost article by article, and there’s a lot of good stuff. No, I’m not getting any money from him.

    Oh, and don’t worry, TFB, I can read both. And TTAG also, although over the past few years they’ve pretty much taken the two outer words of your motto and reversed them.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Swarf! That check is in the mail 😉

  • lifetimearearesident

    I have the 67. A perfectly balanced revolver IMO.

  • claymore

    The model 66 stainless was produced blued by S&W for our use on the state police. I still have mine as we were offered the purchase of them when we went with Berettas.

  • Zebra Dun

    I love revolvers.