Smith and Wesson generations?


August 8, 2003, 09:55 AM
Easy question for some of you I'm sure.

Can anyone tell me the years commonly referred to as the different generations of S&W revolvers?


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Mike Irwin
August 8, 2003, 11:02 AM
Smith & Wesson revolvers really don't have "generations" associated with them, that's a term used to describe the semi-autos.

The revolvers can largely be broken into several categories

Pre-hand ejectors (the bottom and top break models intrduced in the 1850s when S&W started making guns, with some stragglers through to the beginning of WW II).

Hand Ejectors -- Production of these started in 1896.

The Hand Ejectors as a class can be broken into two sub groups -- Pre-model number guns (made prior to about 1957), and guns with model numbers stamped on them.

The Pre-model number guns are farther broken down into individual models, with submodels known as "changes."

A WW II-era .38 Spl. Military & Police (which later became the Model 10) would be known as a .38 M&P Model of 1905, 4th chage.

After 1957 and model numbers, the "changes" were now shown on the gun by a - and a number following the model number.

For instance, in 1957 the Model 19 was introduced. In the early 1960s a mechanical change was made to the gun, and it was now the Model 19-1, and so forth.

The - numbers, loosely known as engineering changes, normally denote an internal mechanial change, but there are several instances where the - number denotes a separate feature specific to that gun alone.

August 8, 2003, 11:06 AM
What Mike said.

Pretty good breakdown of dates of changes in Gun Parts Corporation catalog.


August 8, 2003, 01:30 PM
I'm sorry. I was referring to the different stages of ownership within S&W where some people say "This generation had better quality" or "These years were worse" due to the manfacturing cost cutting or other management decisions that affected quality.

I've read that people say the 70's and early 80's weren't quite as good because of who owned the company and manfucturing, but I wanted to know a little more.

To put it even more bluntly, if I wanted to shop around for a good used .357Magnum (Model 19 or equivalent), which were the better years?

That's just an example, since I have a model 19 and its very nice. But I want others revolvers.....


Standing Wolf
August 8, 2003, 09:27 PM
To put it even more bluntly, if I wanted to shop around for a good used .357Magnum (Model 19 or equivalent), which were the better years?

The problem with shopping by years is that Smith & Wesson made bad individual guns in good years, as well as good individual guns in bad years. If you're buying thousands of revolvers, it's probably good to buy by years, but if you're just buying a few, you're probably better off carefully going over individual guns.

August 8, 2003, 10:17 PM
To put it bluntly: Mod 19, mod19-1. and mod 19-2.:D

August 9, 2003, 12:48 AM
Originally posted by Gordon:
To put it bluntly: Mod 19, mod19-1. and mod 19-2.

I agree.

There were great examples and poor examples of S&W revolvers throughout their history. I've seen a 1953 vintage 38/44 Outdoorsman that had some problems and this gun was LNIB. The forcing cone was far from square and the B/C gap runout was at least .008". One charge hole was almost rubbing againt the forcing cone while the gap on the opposite charge hole could easily fit a credit card. This is certainly the exception during this era, In fact it's the only S&W from that time frame that I've seen that didn't exhibit excellent fit, finish, and function.

In my experience you're more likely to get a lemon during the Bangor Punta 1975-1981 time frame. I've seen many (and owned a few) S&W's from these years that had a myriad of problems from right out of the box. Everything from poor timing, rough gritty triggers, poor polishing prior to bluing, poor crane to frame fit, and sloppy lock up. Don't get me wrong there were also some excellent revolvers built during these years. I owned a 1979 27-2 that was the equal to best guns of the 50's.

My newest S&W is from 1990, a model 17-6. (I like bluing and wood.) I did own a .44 Magnum Mountain Gun from 2000. The QC was excellent. Generally I have a favorable opinion of the QC of the newer S&W's I've handled, however I've read many complaints about the Q/C of the newer guns on the different forums.

I ocassionaly buy S&W's sight unseen on line. I have no problem buying a 30's through early 70's gun sight unseen. I would not buy a mid 70's to early 80's without first being able to perform the revolver check out on it.


August 9, 2003, 11:54 AM
Bangor Punta 1975-1981 time frame

That's what I was referring to. Since I buy my guns mostly online (local stores are waaayyy too expensive), I wanted a general time frame to stay away from if I can't see the gun first. On the other hand, many of the recommended revisions (dash numbers) seem to come from the 70's.



August 9, 2003, 08:52 PM
I have only had about 10 differnet S&Ws but they have ranged from 1920s-1983 and the only one that I wasn't happy with the workmanship was the one from the 1975-1981 time period (1978) so I think that sounds reasonable to me. I wouldn't buy one of these guns sight unseen unless it was a really good deal.

I have a 1983 M-19 and I had a 1983 586 that were both excellent guns and I would buy from that time period again in a second. Post 1981-mid 1990s may be the best deal out there on used S&W revolvers because quality seems good but prices are lower than the P&R guns. If it is for shooting and not just collecting, that is a bargin time period. P&R doesn't help you shot any better.:D

August 10, 2003, 02:06 AM
Some folks won't buy a gun made after:

1) 1940. "They just weren't the same after the war..."
2) They went from model names to model numbers. (1957)
3) Bangor Punta bought the company. (1965)
4) They stopped pinning barrels and (on magnum guns) recessing the cylinders. (1982ish)
5) They went to laser etching instead of roll-stamping the barrels. (1989ish)
6) They went to MIM parts and frame-mounted firing pins. (1998)
7) They added the internal lock. (2001)

You will find plenty of S&W afficionados who swear that "Real Smiths stopped at [pick a point above at random]."

Same as any other hobby; folks'll always have their favorites. (Personally I prefer pre-(6), myself, but I'm not rigid on it; I have a couple of flatnose hammer Smiths, and my 'real' Smiths haven't beat 'em up or anything... ;) )

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