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Pre-? S&W.357 question

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by trapshooter, Jan 19, 2003.

  1. trapshooter

    trapshooter Well-Known Member

    I have a question about a pre-WWII Smith & Wesson .357. Ser # is 596xx or B 596xx. It only says "Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum" on the right side of the barrel, "Smith & Wesson" on the left. Stamped in the yoke is "Reg. # 50xx". It's nickel, with a four-inch barrel. has 'King' adustable sights, front is also 'King', two piece ramp sight. Original grips are gone, has red and black plastic 'finger-groove' grips. One of the original 'carry' conversions, I guess.

    Anyone got any idea what this thing is? It's a family thing, carried by a relative on the job for the FBI a long time ago.
  2. FPrice

    FPrice Well-Known Member


    The numbers you posted indicate an N-frame .357 Magnum, probably made about the very late 1930's. There should NOT be a "B" prefix since this appears to have been used only for the Model 61, a .22 semi-auto. The "Reg. # 50xx" is the registration number. I think this may have corresponded to the number on the registration certificate which accompanied many of these revolvers. If you can get the certificate this would be a BIG ($500) plus!

    You may want to send a letter to S&W to get some more info on this gun. It "might" have some value despite the modifications. At the very least you can find out more about it.
  3. Johnny Guest

    Johnny Guest Moderator Emeritus

    Very interesting piece - - -

    Have you measured the barrel yourself, or are you estimating? The standard short barrels back then were 3-1/2 inch. If it is really a four, it would be a replacement, or a longer one, cut to four.

    Any possibility you can post some images, overall and close ups of sights and markings?

    Is there a vintage holster with the revolver, by any chance?

  4. FPrice

    FPrice Well-Known Member

    Johnny Guest...

    "The standard short barrels back then were 3-1/2 inch. If it is really a four, it would be a replacement, or a longer one, cut to four."

    Not really. Supica and Nahas report "Barrel lengths were available from 3-1/2 inch to 8-3/4 inch in 1/4 inch increments (23 possible lengths)."

    I do second your suggestion for pics. This sounds like one very interesting handgun.
  5. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Well-Known Member


    That number on the crane, the "REG 50xx," means that this gun once came with a registration certificate.

    That was when S&W thought that the .357 Mag. was going to be a small production gun wanted only by a few people.

    How wrong they were.

    Additional notes. There were about 5,500 of these made. Production of the registered guns was dropped for general production in 1938, so I'd say, given production figures per year for the gun, that yours was made late in 1936 through middle 1937.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2003
  6. trapshooter

    trapshooter Well-Known Member

    Thanks, guys..

    I don't have the gun. It's in the family still, went to the second LEO in the family, not the third. I can try and get pictures. I don't think we've got the reg certificate, but I can check.

    I don't think the barrel was cut on this gun. The original owner did have another 1955 six inch taken from a BG cut to 2" for a carry gun, later. Don't know what happened to that one, though. The .357 worked counter-espionage in WWII. It has an interesting history.
  7. Lone Star

    Lone Star Well-Known Member

    The pre-war .357 was certainly made with a four-inch barrel. Col. Chas. Askins had one, which sometimes appeared in his articles. He often used it with a Berns-Martin holster. At that time, the .357 was a semi-custom item, and you could pretty much specify the bbl. length, within reason.

    You need to get over to www.smith-wessonforum.com and post a photo. Does this gun also have the "humpback" hammer?

    The collectors there can also answer your serial number questions. Good gosh, even Roy Jinks sometimes posts there!

    Lone Star
  8. FPrice

    FPrice Well-Known Member


    Here is the url to get the History Request from Smith & Wesson:


    You really should do several things pretty quickly.

    First, get some good digital pics of this gun to include a close-up of the serial number.

    Two, send the pics and the History Request form to S&W to get the history of this pistol. If you can document the WWII activities of this revolver, then you will be increasing the value (not necessarily monetary, but historical) of this firearm.

    Third, you need to convince the current owner to consider retiring it from active duty. Using it is not so much the problem as the potential for loss by being in service. This is just my suggestion, but you should consider it. Using a historically significant firearm for duty purposes certainly has it's attractive points but is it worth the potential loss? Of course, only you folks can make that decision.

    I hope that you keep us all informed of what happens and what you find out.
  9. Archie

    Archie Well-Known Member

    Another thing you or someone should do...

    is to document the law enforcement career of this particular revolver. Get signed documents of who had it; something showing it was carried on duty (some agencies would issue a letter of authorization to carry a personally owned weapon.)

    This will enhance the history of the revolver and the collector's value. And it is a collectable.
  10. BADSBSNF81

    BADSBSNF81 Well-Known Member

    It's a shame that the Registration Certificate isn't around. Definitely worth the $30 for a letter.
  11. trapshooter

    trapshooter Well-Known Member

    Thanks again for the replies. Yep, sending the 30$.

    This gun was retired years ago. It's still operable, but doesn't get anything but an occasional cleaning.
  12. Johnny Guest

    Johnny Guest Moderator Emeritus

    Back to top - - -

    Hey, trapshooter - - -

    We haven't heard anything from you about this fine old revolver lately - - -

    Do you have any news for us? Anything from S&W Historical services? C'mon, pal, share with us. We can't all have a piece of firearms history in hand, but let us live vicariously, huh? :D

  13. trapshooter

    trapshooter Well-Known Member

    Hey Johnny,

    Sorry about my manners. We haven't heard from S&W yet. I did get a good look at the gun, though. It's nickel-plated (factory), showing it's age some, but it's still operationally perfect. The red/black grips are King grips, (I think). Custom fitted to the owner. Laminated plastic, of some kind. Not my style, but was probably hot back when this thing was in service.

    The DA trigger pull is an absolute wonder. Had four other N-frames available, different calibers, mods, etc. Some P/R, some later. None of these guns came close to being as smooth. Unfortunately, the mechanism is different (old style), so I couldn't tell if it had been 'smithed, or just shot smooth. A more detailed exam is in order. It's still tight, in lockup or not.

    I know who owned this gun (a relative, as I mentioned). He was very circumspect about 'work'. We learn more about him every day. This gun says a lot. Picture this. The best .357 revo of it's time, with custom sights and grips, set up for carry. He practiced, frequently, as it turns out. There is other evidence, which I won't go into here, that has me thinking he'd be on this board, if he were still with us, because he was a shooter. Unfortunately, as I said, he didn't talk about work very much around us. I have to pin some things down, and it takes more than one or two family members, as we all have just a bit of the picture, but not the whole.

    A unique individual. One of the last of his era and kind that I knew, and not someone I would wish to have hunting me. A real straight arrow.

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