"Pinned" and "recessed" ?


January 27, 2011, 12:24 PM
I'm considering a used Smith 66, and asked Radagast in the "DOB" thread about it, and he told me it was a "1982, but not pinned or recessed,though ", and I got the impression these were less than ideal.
Can anyone enlighten me on the advantages and differences in "pinned" and "recessed" , versus those without? Thanks........

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January 27, 2011, 12:36 PM
Older Smiths had a pin through the barrel and frame and recessed cylinders. The recessed part refers to the bores in the cylinder being counter sunk so that the cartridge rim fits flush with the cylinder, rather than later models in which the rim of the cartridge rides outside of the cylinder. IIRC, only the magnum cartridges had recessed cylinders, while all revolvers prior to a certain date had pinned barrels.

These features, pinned and recessed, were discontinued in 82 or 83 as a cost saving decision by Smith and Wesson. Less time and workmanship required, and therefore, collectors prefer a pinned and recessed version. Its generally considered better quality.

I don't have any pictures, but a good video example can be found on Hickok45's youtube channel where he talks about his Model 29.


The 4:55 mark demonstrates it pretty well.

January 27, 2011, 12:41 PM
I should add that many or most shooters who aren't concerned about the collectible aspect of the gun won't notice a difference between shooting a P&R gun made in 1979 and a non-P&R gun made in 83. For shooting purposes, they'll both be good.

However, P&R guns are more desirable and command a premium over their non-P&R counterparts.

Colt Smith
January 27, 2011, 12:54 PM
Someone will be along shortly with a better answer. "Pinned and recessed" revolvers aren't necessarily better guns. But they are vestiges of an earlier time when more care was taken and more hand-fitting was done. It is a mark of quality and craftsmanship that has since waned. The recessed chambers allow tighter seating of the case which lets less spent gasses escape. It also looks nicer and is one of those details that show time, consideration and effort went into designing and building that gun. The pinned barrel means that after the barrel is threaded into the frame, a cross pin is inserted to lock the barrel in place. The twisting force of the bullet traveling down the barrel creates an opposite twist force on the barrel (think of taking a running start off a bath mat on a hardwood floor. As you put the power down to the mat it wants to squirt off in the opposite direction you want to go). In theory and in some very few cases the barrel could un-twist a bit and throw off the front sights. This was NOT a common problem. But it was another example that spoke to the attention to detail in the fit and finish of that gun. Most modern production revolvers do not have these details. Are they better or worse than the older guns? There will be some debate over that. But certainly something has been lost.

Whether or not the M66 you are considering is P&R or not, if it is a pre-lock version it is a superb revolver. Just do a proper inspection as per the sticky at the top of the revolver section of this site.

January 27, 2011, 01:11 PM
IIRC, only the magnum cartridges had recessed cylinders, while all revolvers prior to a certain date had pinned barrels.

In addition to the magnum cartridges, cylinders for rimfire cartridges were also recessed (and I believe they still are).

January 27, 2011, 01:23 PM
I'm considering a used Smith 66, and asked Radagast in the "DOB" thread about it, and he told me it was a "1982, but not pinned or recessed,though "

If it's in good condition and a good price I wouldn't hesitate to buy it just because it's not pinned or recessed.

January 27, 2011, 01:41 PM
Here's a thread with some good pics:

January 27, 2011, 01:46 PM
Someone will be along shortly with a better answer

Well, excuse me for trying.

Colt Smith
January 27, 2011, 02:43 PM
"Well, excuse me for trying. "

Sorry forindooruseonly. There were no other replies when I started my lengthy response. By the time I posted it there were already other answers. Intending to be the first to respond I thought surely there would be better answers to follow. :)

January 27, 2011, 02:51 PM
No need for feeling ignored. Colt Smith was probably typing while you were submitting. Happens all the time. :rolleyes:

January 27, 2011, 02:52 PM
OOPS! Just happened to me! :D

January 27, 2011, 03:35 PM
As shooters go, I actually prefer the non-recessed versions. Since a recessed chamber isn't necessary, it's a matter of KISS - just one fewer thing on the gun that might give me a headache when I least need it.

So, what can go wrong? Without due diligence, gunk can accumulate in the recessed areas. If it gets bad enough, it can slow your reloads and/or affect the trigger pull when the rounds don't fully seat. Also, any burr on a case rim may hang up on the recess, contributing to a bobbled reload.

I love the look and feel of a vintage P&R Smith as much as anybody. But my serious shooters are all newer than that.

January 27, 2011, 04:13 PM
Nothing new to add regarding the chambers. Recessed chambers are not functionally better, Colt never used them and the Pythons shoot just fine.

Not so sure on the barrel pin. Having this feature makes barrel swapping easier. Also, when S&W went to the crush fit they started having all sorts of QC problems with cracked barrels, cracked frames. crooked sights, etc. I have seen numerous examples.

January 27, 2011, 05:47 PM

here's some pitchurs!!

January 27, 2011, 06:02 PM
Many thanks to all for the volume and quality of replies. That being said, I already understood WHAT pinned and recessed meant, I just wasn't sure how important they are, but my fault for not being sufficiently clear.
Anway, thanks again to all, this was ( as usual) highly useful info. :)

CSA 357
January 27, 2011, 07:40 PM
i like the pr smiths, but the non pr guns are great too, in fact the p&r guns need to be kept clean so that powder doesnt get under the ejecter star and bind the gun up.

January 27, 2011, 09:16 PM
I have some P&R S&W revos and while I don't think there is any real advantage to them I can tell you that cleaning the crud out of the recessed chambers where the cartridge rim fits with a pick is a royal pain in the butt. But the overall quality of workmanship on those older guns is usually higher.

January 28, 2011, 12:36 AM
Th pin equates to a lock. l dont know how the new barrrels are held on other than a friction fit. l do know frames can be easily warped and sprung on the newer models when removing the barrel improperly

January 28, 2011, 07:36 AM
I should have pointed out that P&R is a big factor for collectors and collectibility. For shooting not so much.
S&W dumped P&R in 1982/83. In my opinion their quality control during the mid to late 80s was better than in 70s as they got out from under the 'management' of the Bangor Puntaconglomerate, which was not a gun company. In the seventies there were cases of guns leaving the factory without forcing cones & without rifling in the barrel. Not often, but it did happen. I've also shot a few seventies guns with laser beam accuracy from five chambers and consistent flyers from the sixth, suggesting a mis-aligned chamber.
In other words in the seventies S&W did turn out some dogs.

That being said, both my Model 18 & Model 66 are from the seventies and I am happy with both, I just tend to look twice & if possible request a test fire before I would buy one as a shooter. Well, except for the Model 18, its the only one I've seen in 20 years (I'm in Australia) & I had to convince the dealer to sell it to me. :)

TL,DR: If buying it as a shooter P&R is not an issue.

evan price
January 28, 2011, 09:15 AM
Cutting the recesses in the cylinders was an extra step that cost more. It was thought necessary to better contain the case heads of the Magnum cartridges and perhaps in the old balloon head brass it was a good idea. Modern brass doesn't need it.

A nice 66 around here will go in the $350-$400 range assuming no problems and decent grips.

For some reason the Blue Book seems to think that a P&R 66 is cheaper than an equivalent 64.

January 28, 2011, 09:26 AM
It should be noted, that S&W dropped the recessed cylinders and retained the pinned barrels for a period of time. My S&W 25-5 has a pinned barrel, but not a recessed cylinder.


Dave T
January 28, 2011, 09:51 AM
Balloon head brass is from the black powder era and had nothing to do with S&W's recessed chambers. It was an extra measure of quality, introduced with the 357 Magnum in 1935 with their Registered Magnum, the predecessor of the Model 27, and continued with the other Magnum calibers and models.

As stated above and earlier the recessed chambers was a feature only for the Magnum chamberings (rim-fires are a separate issue as they are still recessed). The Model 25-5 was never offered with recessed chambers. However, the pinned barrel and recessed chambers were not discontinued at the same time. As long as frames drilled for pins were on hand they continued to make them that way until those frames were all used. Likewise, if they had recessed cylinders on hand after the decision to discontinue that practice was made, they continued to use the recessed cylinders until the supply was gone.


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