In this week’s Wheelgun Wednesday, we take a look at a vintage example of a Smith & Wesson Model 27 .357 Magnum with a longer barrel of 8 3/8″ that could be easily mistaken for a “Dirty Harry” – Model 29. For people who are lovers of .357 Magnum, this is your classic .357 Magnum revolver with roots that go all the way back to World War II and General Patton. Its name may have changed several times over the years, but the original concept remains.
Like many revolvers of old from Smith & Wesson, the example we will walk down memory lane with today has a gorgeous blued finish, nice wood grips, and the robust frame size to make you feel like you are wielding something truly substantial. Some of the specifications for this revolver can be read below:
- Caliber: .357 Magnum
- Frame Type: N-Frame
- Finish: Blue or Nickel
- Capacity: 6-Round Cylinder
- Sights: Black Blade Front Sight with Adjustable Black Rear Sight
- Trigger: Wide, Target Trigger with Adjustable Over-Travel Stop Screw
- Barrel Lengths: 3 ½” (disc 1977), 4” (disc 1991), 5” (disc 1977), 6”, 6 ½”, or 8 3/8” (disc 1991)
- Manufacture Dates: 1935 – 1994
- Engineering Changes: 7
Right now if someone wants to purchase a Model 27 from Smith & Wesson they can buy a brand new version dubbed the “Model 27 Classic” which is a new reproduction that will look nearly identical to the example we are examining today. The Model 27 Classic has been in production since 2008 to the present which leaves roughly a 14-year gap where no Model 27 revolvers were produced by Smith & Wesson.
With its earliest years of production dating back to 1935, this model is one of the oldest yet still produced wheelguns on the market today. It is interesting to note that it was not always called the Model 27 though. Back in 1935, it was known as the “Registered Magnum” and essentially was a custom-order revolver through Smith & Wesson. You might be thinking… “Who is custom ordering revolvers during the Great Depression and between two world wars?” Well, more people than you might think because Smith & Wesson at the time was swamped with orders for the Registered Magnum.
There was a pretty significant backlog of orders for the Registered Magnum from private citizens and numerous police departments for roughly 4 years. Smith & Wesson was allowing people to choose their barrel lengths in increments of ¼”, from 3 ½” to 8 ¾” in length. There were other custom selections that could be made such as different grips, triggers, hammers, sights, and finishes. To prove each Registered Magnum was a factory produced product, they all came with a Letter of Authenticity to verify their intended configuration.
After 4 short-lived, but frantically busy years, the Registered Magnum name got changed to the Model “357 Magnum” in 1939. Smith & Wesson realized they had a great thing going with the Registered Magnum, but the leeway they left shooters with in customizing their revolvers likely bogged down the velocity of their production quite a bit so they began to standardize more of the features.
Now instead of 20+ different barrel length options, they boiled it down to the 4 most requested and popular choices in a 3 ½”, 5″, 6 ½”, and 8 ¾”. While historically the “357 Magnum” model received its own unique name, it is still a “Registered Magnum” at heart, but with less custom options to improve the rate of production they could be made for the public.
Eventually the “Registered Magnum” and “357 Magnum” lead the way into the early production of the Model 27, but a specific year is a bit murky. The best way to date any Smith & Wesson revolver is to request a Letter of Authenticity from the factory where they can dig through their archives to give you the correct answer. The Model 27 in the photographs throughout this article are specifically of a 27-2 so this is an earlier piece of iron.
Some historical lore behind the Model 27 is that General George Patton used to own an ivory-handled, 3 ½” barrel “Registered Magnum” that was part of his everyday carry (EDC) rotation that he switched out with between that and an also ivory-handled Colt Peacemaker revolver. That is some pretty good street cred if you are carrying the same wheelgun as George Patton.
For a revolver that is smitten with the daunting appearance of a “Dirty Harry” (Model 29), the Smith & Wesson Model 27 sure has a heck of a back story unto itself. From humble beginnings as a custom-order revolver that shooters, the FBI, and police departments all clamored for to being one of the most staple .357 Magnum revolvers Smith & Wesson now has carried in their portfolio on-and-off for close to 85 years. There have even been more derivatives spawned from the Model 27 because it was authentically so popular (the Smith & Wesson Model 28 is a somewhat economy version with a less refined finish for duty).
While this revolver of mine does not get shot the most out of all the wheelguns in my stable, it ranks pretty high on my list because of the colorful history behind it. In closing, what do you guys and gals think? Do you own or have you previously owned a Model 27 or some variation of one? Let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.