Now I get it, old vs new S&W revolvers..


July 19, 2003, 10:20 PM
Well, I just got back from the range and finally got to shoot both my older Smiths back to back with my newer one. The older ones (relativly) were a 3" barreled , 36-1, and a model 27-3, .357, with a 6" barrel that was close to new in condition. While niether one of these are considered a true "old" Smith and Wessons, they don't have the new lock and are finished in a beautiful deep blue.

My new model was an Airweight , 38 special that has the new "kiddie" lock and all.

The first thing that I noticed right off is that the fit and finish on the older models was far superior to the new one. The spent cases didn't stick in the chambers when trying to eject them and the trigger pulls were FAR superior to the newer piece. The trigger pull on the 36-1 is the best that I have ever felt on a revolver and that little gun is VERY accurate. I almost couldn't believe how well this little gun shot. The Airweight trigger pull by comparison felt rough and heavy, and the spent cases always stuck in the cylinders after firing. This is with about 400 rounds through the piece at this time.

The model 27 was somewhere in between the two but I believe that it will improve as it breaks in. It was however VERY accurate.

So I guess overall, there will be more older Smiths going into my collection. I would rather pay a little more and get a much better shooting firearm that will only appreciate in value. I can't wait to get my hands on one of the older magnums and give it a whirl.

I'm sure that there are some really good new types of Smiths out there but I think that the older ones also look so much better in blue then the stainless ones.

What do you think when comapring older to newer?--Oneshot

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July 19, 2003, 10:34 PM
i think you summed it up quite well fit and finish, and trigger pull are two big differences in the new and old smiths..... then there's that lock :barf:

i really like the traditional sights on the older smiths as well.... just standard white outline with a square notch, and colored or just plain black ramp up front.... my 66 has that crappy v notch in the back and that anoying green hi-viz out front... can't hit anything with those sights past 25 yrds...

the wolf reduced power springs do wonders for trigger pull, and a little polishing dosen't hurt either....

it's a real shame you live in prk... i guess that just makes an old smith that much more great when you find it...

July 19, 2003, 11:04 PM
Just try a S&W Scandium if you want to feel a really bad trigger! Every Scandium I have tried has been heavy and rough. In a gun that light, the trigger is even more important.

July 19, 2003, 11:59 PM
Lawyer trigger pulls. Gotta love em.

July 20, 2003, 08:17 AM
First most old guns have been shot and this has smoothed out alot of the trigger issues it may have had when it came from the factory.
Second the older models had more hands on time for polishing and fitting than todays CNC machined models. If todays model had the same amount of labor put into them then the resulting price would most certainly drive potential buyers away.

July 20, 2003, 10:39 AM
Old days steel was expensive and skilled labor was cheap, today steel's cheap any kind of labors expensive..

July 20, 2003, 12:38 PM
I have owned/own Smiths from 70's vintage through my recent - a 2000 model. Have also fired older 60's vintage Smiths owned by friends - there was undoubtedly a lot more handwork (fitting) involved back then which was a necessity as well. The level of mass production precision machining today makes some of the former hands on work unnecessary.

As far as accuracy - I would put my 90's vintage 686 or my 2000 vintage 629 against any Smith 357 or 44 regardless of time era - they are not lacking in accuracy by any means - in fact they are the two most accurate centerfire revolvers I have ever owned. Extraction of spent cases is perfect as well. The triggers in the single action mode are crisp and creep free. Although , at 4 lbs for the 357 and 4.25 lbs for the 44 - they are little heavy for my liking.

I like the old Smiths as well. An "old timer" in our local pistol club had a 60's vintage (I believe) Smith 45 ACP revolver - what a joy to shoot! The old 22lr Model 17's are some of the best 22 revolvers ever. My future Smiths will probably all be used models.

Have no experience with any Smiths made past 2000. I don't care for the lock - can't see myself buying one with a lock.

Mike Irwin
July 20, 2003, 01:03 PM
I remember back in the late 1980s when S&W invested in all of the new CNC machinery...

In an interview for Rifleman, one of the spokespeople said something to the effect that the new machinery would allow the company to surpass the old levels of fit & finish ever seen on S&W handguns.

I'm still waiting for that level to be matched. We're not even remotely close to surpassing it.

4v50 Gary
July 20, 2003, 01:13 PM
And modernly, isn't S&W using MIM for internal parts like the hammer & trigger and probably even the hammer block? MIM is touted to be within thousandths and for the most part, can be drop fitted. O-tay!

Standing Wolf
July 20, 2003, 06:57 PM
If Smith & Wesson wanted to sell me revolvers, it would eliminate the internal locks and repudiate its deal with the Snopes Clinton-Liar Gore régime.

July 21, 2003, 12:22 AM
CNC machinery allows one to make a lot of like parts quickly. Shabby ones or good ones.

The quality of those parts is dependant upon the attention, skill and expertise of the programmer and operator.

Really close tolerance parts are still labor intensive, even with CNC.

That said, I find the overall quality of the old ones surpasses that of the recent ones.

But....ugly can still shoot well sometimes and pretty can sometimes shoot patterns instead of groups.


July 21, 2003, 12:26 AM
I hear ya! My older Smiths are just so much nicer than any new one I have picked up in recent years/months. My only hope is to just find the other models I'm looking for in the calibers I prefer. The stock triggers on the vintage Smiths truly were works of art!

Mike Irwin
July 21, 2003, 03:02 AM

All of those wasted NRA-ILA alerts, decrying S&W.

The Agreement's still in place, and NRA and Smith & Wesson are now buddy buddy again.

Just ????ing peachy.

Bill Ruger gave them a million bucks to get back in the good graces.

I wonder what it cost S&W. :mad:

July 21, 2003, 09:53 AM
One more word about The Agreement in this thread, and it's closed.

There's a whole Legal & Political Forum to talk about it 'til your jaws fall off.

July 21, 2003, 10:18 AM
So, those old revolvers really have great lockup, fit and finish, eh?


July 21, 2003, 10:33 AM

The last 581 I looked at had a bore axis that, while parallel to the chamber axis, wasn't remotely coincidental with it. It already had all the forcing cone it could stand, too, so it was a jacketed-bullet-only gun (unless you like lead-colored freckles) and wasn't stellarly accurate, to boot.

CNC and MIM fix some things, but raise other issues by themselves. Quality at Smith has always had peaks and valleys, and probably always will. The old processes required much hand-fitting by experienced craftsmen who took pride in their work, which was fine back when you could hire experienced craftsmen who took pride in their work for a couple of dollars a day. In today's labor environment, a Triple Lock or Registered Magnum made the same way as the old days (and to the same level of quality) would cost like a Korth.

I think their QC has improved dramatically in the last year or two, but it still doesn't match the glory days; my '52 M&P has fit and finish that completely eclipse my PC627.

Mike Irwin
July 21, 2003, 11:32 AM
"one more word..."

Word UP, Yo!

July 21, 2003, 04:53 PM
my '52 M&P has fit and finish that completely eclipse my PC627.

As does my "53".

I will admit though, my 99 vintage 686 Snub was superbly put together. Fit and finish was flawless...Guess I was lucky? ;)

July 21, 2003, 09:08 PM
A few weeks back one of the boys at the range was showing off his new S&W Performance Center acquisition demanding to know if any of us had felt a smoother trigger pull on a double action revolver. I smiled and handed him my 60's vintage stock Model 15-2. After a couple of pulls his face fell and the bragging came to an abrupt halt. :cool:

I didn't have the heart to let him try the five screw 50's era Model 10 because I don't like to see a grown man cry.

July 21, 2003, 10:59 PM
Reminds me: I was at the range and felt something slap me in the face... turned out the new S&W one lane over was 'shaving', shooting lead through the tiny crack between the buffer and the wall!

Still didn't learn my lesson about all-around eye protection, though... this weekend had a .45 ACP brass casing roll between my eyeglasses and my cheek.

Hat was turned backwards, 'so fresh and so cool'... and so burned, dude.

Sorry folks are getting burned by the QC at S&W of late... would love to have a nice, old vintage revolver... maybe I should get Jim March to go around with me at the big Reno gunshow. ;)

July 21, 2003, 11:55 PM
I am sick and tired of the fact that some here see the need to pollute my threads with off topic comments about Smith and Wesson.

I would appreciate it if you would keep your comments in the appropriate forums and OUT OF MY THREADS. PERIOD!!

I LIKE Smiths, I DO NOT LIKE what they have done in the past with the agreement.

I FAIL TO SEE how my purchasing of a 30 year old revolver has any bearing on these issues. I am not supporting the modern day Smith and Wesson company by doing so.

I have only ever purchased ONE modern day Smith and doubt that I will be purchasing any more of them. I would rather pay more for the vintage models that I want.

PLEASE in the future, do not pollute my threads with negative comments about S&W.

You may now close this thread if you deem appropriate. I do not wish to engage in another discussion about this subject. Have a nice day--Oneshot

July 22, 2003, 08:33 AM
My new vs old S&W experience is a bit jaded - and, of course, subject to my latest finds/whims.

I have purchased new S&W's in the recent years - all 2001-2001 production: 4" 625, 625 MG (.45 Colt), 629 MG, 296, & 696. The first one, the 4" 625 .45ACP, has the hammer-lock. I also have a safe-queen LNIB 24 from 1983 purchased this year. The new models had zero defects, save the squished extractor spring and burr on a cylinder nore exit on the 696. The burr came off easily and S&W sent me a new spring quickly. The 696 is now my most frequent range guest - not so much for protection, as I generally shoot up all of it's ammo prior to leaving the range. The 4" 625 & MG's all had spring changes when new - all are back to OEM springs now for reliability. A few FTF .45 ACP's (My reloads - questionable primer seating.), but no other problems.

The 24 is a separate matter. Despite flooding it in RemOil, it still felt un-smooth - even locking the trigger every once in a while (1 in 50 times - increases to 1 in 10 or so when shooting live ammo.). I finally realized that it would not get better - so off with the sideplate. Ugh... rough milling swirls for the rebound slide to ride against - spattered brass (brazing the studs?) around the cylinder lock's stud - causing it to occasionally bind - the lock problem. Nothing like the better finished SS S&W's I have. I soft Arkansas stoned the swirls and softened with some Flitz - and another metal polish paste on a mini steel wire cup brush at a slow speed on a Foredom cleaned the brass-like deposits. A flush with RemOil, drying, relubing, and reassembly - with a new rebound spring (The OEM had taken a short set.) yielded a revolver nearly as nice as my 2001 629MG was new. It will get a bit better - a range trip today, perhaps.

I'll take today's production... those MIM parts can be better than the original case-hardened ones - certainly more repeatable results. My experience has shown better QC, too. Sadly, they still make only one .44 S&W Special chambering - the 396 - despite the looming centennial (1907-2007).


July 22, 2003, 10:18 AM
Like I said, "peaks and valleys"; your 24 is a Bangor Punta-era gun, like the 581 I described above. At least your 24 can be fixed; the only solution for the 581 I mentioned would be to take the barrel and screw it onto a new revolver. :( Actually, two of the nicest Smiths in my limited collection date from the early '90s, right after S&W got ISO9001 certification (625-4 and PC13), but they still aren't quite as good as guns like my M&P or Model 34.

Hand-fitting and finishing is great when it's being done by someone who knows what they're doing and cares about doing it right; conversely, every mud pie in every kid's playground across America was hand-made, too. ;)

July 23, 2003, 06:43 AM

I had a similar problem last month in a new Marlin. I drooled over the beautiful 1897 Cowboy (.22 LR - dressed up 39A) since it's re-intro in 2001, it's only year of production. I finally relented and bought it - at 2.5-3X what a Henry lever .22, which is smooth as glass and, like me, born in Brooklyn, would cost. The rays, figure, etc of the walnut stock - and that octagon barrel - blinded me. I didn't try the action before I bought it - or the trigger. The action was super stiff - and rough - the trigger was an appropriate match to the action - horrible!

The innards were rough - the same milling swirls I mentioned re the S&W 24. That is where I learned of another use for a small square sided Arkansas stone - and Flitz. After a lot of fiddling, the action - still worse than a $269 336W and my Puma .45 Colt M1892 - is acceptable, the trigger broke in to barely acceptable. If you can get past the trigger, it is a decent shooter. I will buy more Marlins (and, of course, S&W's!), but only after 'testing' them.

Both of my experiences were with premium priced items that should have not passed a QC inspection - therein lies the problem.


July 23, 2003, 04:12 PM
My father sometimes talks about one of his shooting buddies from the 60's. This guy complained about the lack of hand fitting in new Smiths back then. I think his cut-off date was around 1955, he figured a k frame "Masterpiece" made in the 60's needed 10 to 12 hours at the work bench before they were ready to use. The guy was an instrument maker by profession, so he knew a thing or two about hand fitting metal parts. I haven't seen him since I was 6, so I don't know what he would say about today's guns. Just as well, like PJR I hate to watch a grown man cry.

Byron Quick
July 24, 2003, 09:39 PM
I bought a S&W Model 57 4" barrel S prefix in October, 2001. S&W Catalog places production in either late 68 or early 69 for the serial number.

The gun appeared to be unfired. But it was shaving lead a little. I sent it back to the factory to be repaired. While it was there I had them replace the insert in the front sight, replace the the target trigger with a combat trigger, and do a trigger job on it.

I must say I was very happy with the work done. They definitely didn't let their lawyers have a say about the work they did on that trigger. The work was done in a timely fashion and was quite reasonably priced.

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