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:
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.