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Can someone explain to me S&Ws numbering scheme?

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Skribs, Jan 11, 2013.

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  1. Skribs

    Skribs Member

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    I just can't figure it out. As best as I can tell, they just assign random numbers to guns. The newer models that they actually name (M&P, Sigma, etc) make sense but the older semi-autos and all of their revolvers are a mystery to me. Is there a method to their madness, or is it just madness?
     
  2. JTQ

    JTQ Member

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  3. pendennis

    pendennis Member

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    Before June 1957, S&W identified their revolvers by name, Military and Police, Chiefs Special, etc.

    In 1957 the M&P revolver became the Model 10. From Models 10-19, this identified a K frame revolver in .38, .357, .32. or .22 Caliber. It also include the alloy K frames.

    N frames generally fell into the 20-29 numbering. This included .357 magnum, .44, .45 calibers. However, all the numbers were used up when the .41 Magnum was brought out, and it got the model number 57.

    There were I and J frames, generally keeping within the 30's and 40's, the exception being the Model 39, 9mm semiauto.

    When the stainless steel models were introduced they were given a first digit of "6" - Model 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 640, 649.

    When the L frame was brought out, they prefixed carbon steel with a "5" (581, 586, etc.).

    When the lighter alloy frames came out, and they became a bit more exotic in composition (titanium, scandium), the numbers got even more complicated "3" and "4" prefixes.

    It's typical, that no company not even S&W, can forecast what materials and models may be out there in the future. So numbering gets confusing over time.

    To get a good read on the subject, you really should get the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson, 3rd Edition. It provides a great reference for sorting out these things.
     
  4. Skribs

    Skribs Member

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    Thanks guys. Those help me understand a bit better.
     
  5. JTQ

    JTQ Member

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    S&W also had a model # wheel. I think forum member rcmodel may have posted a picture of one at some point on the forum.
     
  6. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

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    The original numbering system, two digits, made sense...but you had to have been around. Even the three digits made sense as they told you the frame material. It started becoming more confusing when they added the forth digit to denote special features..plus they inverted the numbers.

    Part of the confusion to younger shooters has to do with the missing model numbers. How many folks even remember the Model 16...it was part of the Target Masterpiece series
     
  7. Jim K

    Jim K Member

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    I tried, really really tried to figure out S&W's numbering scheme. I really tried. Really. Now I just sit in the corner and mumble.

    Jim
     
  8. Rexster

    Rexster Member

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    S&W has re-used model numbers, to make things really interesting. The first Model 520 was a fixed-sight N-frame .357 revolver intended for the duty sixgun market. The second Model 520 is/was an L-frame revolver.

    I have a 1990s Performance Center variant of the Model 642 that is marked M460. Of course, in the 2000s, that model number was used for the extra-large-frame revolvers chambered for the .460 cartridge.
     
  9. Drail

    Drail Member

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    I just wish they could return to the "gun of the week" mode and make stuff like 696s and 3 in 57s again. And I actually do remember the "model wheel". It kept the dealers from losing their sanity.
     
  10. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

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    That was really irritating, but they were both great guns if you understood what you were getting.

    The original 520 was a fixed sight version of the M28. The one I handled was a great shooter; I think it was marked...don't quote me on this...NY State PD

    The later 520 was a 568 with the light weight barrel shroud...and a Ti cylinder. It was a great base for an Open competition revolver
     
  11. Two Old Dogs

    Two Old Dogs Member

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    The original Model 520's sold commercially were either overruns of a pistol designed and made for the NY State Police or part of that NY contract that was cancelled or changed.
     
  12. pendennis

    pendennis Member

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    Jim, the guys in the white coats will be here shortly. A little warm milk, and we'll get you right to bed :D :D :D
     
  13. Brian Williams

    Brian Williams Moderator Emeritus

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    That is why there is the Standard Catalog of S&Ws.
     
  14. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    That is exactly correct.

    If you care enough to worry about it?

    You have to buy the Standard Catalog of S&W, now in it's 3rd. printing.
    It is a must for anyone with the slightest interest in all things S&W that happened before the current management.

    It's the best $30 bucks you ever spent on a gun book.
    http://www.amazon.com/Standard-Catalog-Smith-Wesson/dp/089689293X#_

    BTW: I'm about ready to have to buy another one.
    I've about worn mine out looking up stuff for the free-loaders here on THR! :D

    rc
     
  15. pendennis

    pendennis Member

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    I have a copy on my Nexus 7 tablet. Great indexing. I've brought it to the last four gun shows, and it's been a real money saver.
     
  16. Skribs

    Skribs Member

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    I gotta say, I like what they're doing now. M&P is easier to keep track of.
     
  17. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

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    Maybe the numbers are easier, but the guns all run together to me. I would gladly put up with a confusing numbering scheme if it meant that the 3rd generation autos were still available.
     
  18. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

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    Run together?

    There are two basic frame sizes: Large and Small
    One Caliber in the Large and Three in the Small: .45ACP; 9mm/.357/.40
    Two sizes in the Large and Three sizes in the Small: FS/Compact and Long
     
  19. D Rock

    D Rock Member

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  20. S&Wfan

    S&Wfan Member

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    Yep . . . the good ol' ORIGINAL M&P was and is a great handgun!!! Eventually S&W gave it a number of course . . . the Model 10. Yeah, I know you guys were talking about the new tupperware model but heck, the trigger job of the original is far superior . . . and this can lead to a tackdriving handgun! A case in fact . . .

    Right after getting this new (to me) M&P (made in 1950) to took it to a steel match that had revolver classes. My scores with it were the fastest times of all centerfire classes, by several seconds, AND another revolver shooter shooting a new S&W Model 686 SSR came in second overall. The centerfire PISTOL SHOOTERS, except one, were way off our numbers . . . they simply couldn't miss fast enough to win!!! Yep, spanked some butts . . . with a 60+ year old revolver!

    To be fair, these steel matches were limited to five targets in each stage. However, I didn't even take a speedloader to the line. I didn't need it and frankly, it is a crutch that simply makes stressed folks feel they can go too fast. WRONG! If you have to miss a bunch to "win," you'll always lose!

    [​IMG]
     
  21. BlindJustice

    BlindJustice Member

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    WHen S&W came out with the MOdel 25-5 in 45 Colt in the early '80s being an owner of a Model 25-2 1955 Target my head exploded & just
    sometimes sigh and shake my head from side to side

    I think sometimes the dept of two monkeys are left to throw numbers up on
    a magnetic wall and whatever sticks... til the humans come back from vacation ,
     
  22. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    It's when the monkeys come back from vacation that it begins to make sense.

    Roughly though the numbering sorta follows the period, or order that the guns were introduced originally. Of course originally the guns had names and not numbers. The oldest guns the 10, 12, 14, etc. were some of the oldest.

    The numbering does not tell you anything about the frame size or type of gun necessarily.

    A "6" at the beginning of a guns number denotes that it is of stainless. The first revolver S&W made in stainless was the Chief's Special J frame the stainless version of the Model 36. So just to confuse things, they named it the M60. The stainless version of the K frame M10 they named the M64. Why who knows?

    Over time the list grew and happily continues to grow.

    It would take too long to list them all and it's complex and there are exceptions. They are all listed in the Standard Catalog. In tghe 2nd Edition they all appear on page 122-23.

    tipoc
     
  23. Radagast
    • Contributing Member

    Radagast Contributing Member

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    At least for the blued steel guns the following holds true:

    Going back to the 1850s and the tip up barrel rimfire revolvers:
    Model 1: The original .22 rimfire.
    Model 2: The original six shot .32 rimfire
    Model 1 & a Half: 5 shot .32 rimfire that fell between the 1 & 2 in size.

    Then to the 1870s and the first centerfire revolvers:
    Model 1 & a Half frame size:
    .32 Single Action (Also known as the Model 1 & a half Centerfire)
    .32 Double Action
    .32 Safety Hammerless

    Model 2 frame size:
    .38 Single Action
    .38 Double Action
    .38 Safety Hammerless

    Model 3 (.44) frame size:
    American
    Russian
    Schofield
    New Model No.3 & variants
    .44 Double Action & variants

    With the Hand Ejector swing out cylinder models from 1896 a letter was adopted for the frame size instead of a number & the models were named.

    I frame= (1896) .32 caliber, late 38 & .22 as well.
    K frame = (1899) .38 caliber + some .32-20, ;later .357 magnum & .22lr, 32 S&W long.
    M frame = (1902) .22 caliber only.
    N frame = (1907).44 caliber, later .45, 357 magnum & .44 magnum.
    So they were originally labeled by year of issue, rather than ascending frame size.
    In 1952 the .38 special J frame was slotted in between the I & k because it was correct by ascending size, and in 1980 the L frame between the K&N.
    As you can see, no logic was harmed in the making of this list.

    In 1957 Model numbers were reintroduced, starting at the Model 10.
    Guns in the 10 to 19 range are K frames.
    Model 10= .38 special fixed sights.
    Model 11 = .38 S&W fixed sights.
    Model 12 = .38 Special, aluminum frame.
    Model 13 = .357 Magnum fixed sights.
    Model 14 = .38 special target sights long barrel.
    Model 15 = .38 special adjustable sights short barrel.
    Model 16 = .32 S&W long target sights.
    Model 17 = .22lr target sights, long barrel.
    Model 18 = .22lr adjustable sights short barrel.
    Model 19 = .357 magnum adjustable sights.

    Guns in the .2x range are N frames.
    Model 20 = .38 special fixed sights.
    Model 21 = .44 special fixed sights.
    Model 22 = 45 ACP fixed sights.
    Model 23 = .38 special adjustable sights.
    Model 24 = .44 special adjustable sights.
    Model 25 = .45 ACP ( & later .45 Colt) adjustable sights heavy barrel.
    Model 26 = .45 ACP (& later .45 Colt) adjustable sights tapered barrel.
    Model 27 = .357 magnum, adjustable sights, premium finish.
    Model 28 = .357 Magnum, adjustable sights, service finish.
    Model 29 = .44 magnum, adjustable sights.

    Guns in the 3x range are I frames & later J frames.
    Model 30 = .32 S&W long (round butt)
    Model 31 = .32 S&W long (square butt)
    Model 32 = .38 S&W round butt.
    Model 33 = .38 S&W square butt.
    Model 34 = .22lr round butt, short barrel.
    Model 35 = .22lr square butt, long barrel.
    Model 36 = .38 special
    Model 37 = .38 Special, aluminum frame.
    Model 38 = .38 Special, shrouded hammer, aluminum frame.

    At this point they stopped labeling within a frame size and started labeling sort of sequentially by year of introduction.
    Model 39: (mid 1950s) 9mm auto loader the model 39.
    Model 40: (1952) .38 Special, internal hammer. J frame.
    Model 41: (Mid 1950s).22lr auto loader.
    Model 42: (1952).38 special Centennial aluminum frame.
    Model 43: (1954) .22lr J frame aluminum frame.
    Model 44: (1954) 9mm single action semi auto.
    Model 45: (1948).22lr fixed sight K frame.
    Model 46: (1959) Cheap version of the Model 41.
    Model 47: x
    model 48 (1959) .22 magnum K frame adjustable sights
    Model 49: (1959) .38 Special J frame shrouded hammer
    Model 50: (1955) .38 special J frame target sights.
    Model 51: (1960) .22 magnum J frame target sights.
    Model 52: (1961) .38 special auto loader.
    Model 53: (1961) .22 centerfire magnum K frame adjustable sights.
    Model 54: x
    Model 55: x
    Model 56: (1962) .38 special K frame adjustable sights (military Model 15 variant)
    Model 57: (1964) .41 Magnum N frame adjustable sights.
    Model 58: (1964) .41 Magnum N frame fixed sights.

    At this point the date sequence starts to go out:

    Model 59: (1971) 9mm auto loader double stack.
    Model 60: (1965) .38 Special Stainless steel J frame.
    Model 61: (1970) .22lr auto loader pocket pistol.
    Model 62: experimental .45 ACP.
    Model 63: (1977) .22lr j frame stainless
    Model 64: (1970) .38 Special K frame stainless fixed sights.
    Model 65: (1972) .357 magnum K frame stainless fixed sights.
    Model 66: (1970 .357 Magnum K frame stainless adjustable sights.
    Model 67 (1972) .38 Special K frame stainless adjustable sights.
    Model 68 (1977) .38 special K frame stainless adjustable sights.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  24. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    That's a start Radagast but you're only a third of the way through. :)


    tipoc
     
  25. pendennis

    pendennis Member

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    I for one, appreciate Radagast's efforts. What do you want the guy to do, start a graduate thesis on the subject?

    :D :D :D :D
     
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