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Ode to the 5" revolver.

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by SaxonPig, Jul 13, 2008.

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  1. SaxonPig

    SaxonPig Member

    Apr 11, 2006
    For some reason the 5” barrel length on a DA revolver has always appealed to me. I think the 4” and 6” lengths are more common, and maybe more useful in some ways, but there’s something about a 5” revolver that I like.

    Before World War II Colt and Smith & Wesson made several models with 5” barrels. I have seen Colt Official Police models and Police Positive Specials in this length although I have never owned one. After WW II the 5” length became less popular, it appears. S&W made a few limited edition 5” models starting in the 1980s but I confess to preferring the older models. I tend to be very conservative when it comes to revolvers.

    One drawback to the odd length is finding a proper holster. I lucked into a nice 5” K frame Bianchi that was offered on that four-letter auction site and got it for the starting bid of $5. This was a steal for a 5” holster!

    As I said, I don’t own any 5” Colt revolvers (oh, the horror) but I have several models of S&Ws with 5” barrels. Here are a couple.

    Knowing my fondness for 5” Model 27s, a forum member alerted me to this one offered in a pawn shop near his home a few years ago. I called and bought it sight unseen for $299. Was made in 1959 and originally shipped to Seattle, WA. It had only migrated a couple hundred miles by the time I bought it. I love the shiny ones!


    This Victory Model started out with a 4” barrel. I bought it from a pawn shop for $60 because the barrel was bulged. I picked up a 5” barrel on the auction site for $5. Woo woo! It was even a period correct part dating from around 1940 (the gun was shipped in 1942). Despite the dire warns I received about twisting the frame if I tried to do the swap myself, I did exchange the barrels in my garage and it took about 45 minutes and turned out just fine.

    The gun is posed with all that ammo because a couple years ago I debated with someone about whether an older Military & Police model could handle +P ammo (which I don’t find powerful at all). So I ran a case of Remington +P through the gun, along with 600 rounds of my own loads using a 125 JHP at a clocked 1,150 FPS (+P+ I guess). As I expected, the gun showed absolutely no effect from this trial.


    Technically I own a 5” Model 10-7 that I bought new in 1977. But that gun has been in my mother’s nightstand since it was purchased. Someday I’ll get it back but of course I am in no hurry. She used the gun once to chase a prowler from the backyard one night. She says the only reason she didn’t shoot at him as he ran for the fence was because her dog was hanging from the seat of his pants and she was afraid she would miss him and hit the dog.

    I think that I was inspired by the writings of the late Skeeter Skelton to aspire to own a 5” 1950 Target Model 44 Special (sometimes called the Fourth Model Hand Ejector 44 Special). This was one of his favorite duty guns and I looked in vain for 30 years to find one I could afford. The standard barrel length on this model was 6.5” and 5” and 4” examples are seen (they were available on special order) but are horribly expensive when encountered.

    So maybe three years ago I get a flyer from a S&W dealer and he has not one, but two 5” 1950 Target 44s for sale. The guns were purchased from an estate. The price on each was substantial (by my standards), but I wanted one and I figured I wasn’t getting any younger. So I called and made the purchase. When my wife came home I told about buying one of the guns and she asked “Why didn’t you buy them both?” I must confess that I didn’t really have a good answer to that question. So I called him back and bagged the other one, too.

    Both were shipped in 1955 (the year I was born, BTW) with one going to St. Louis and the other to New Orleans. The serial numbers make something a bit odd. They are exactly 3001 apart so when you first glance at them they appear to be consecutive until you look closer and see the difference in the middle number. They both started out as regular 6.5” guns but were returned to S&W in 1970 and one had a replacement 5” barrel installed and the other was cut to that length. Since the second was cut, that first one may have gotten the very last 5” replacement barrel they had in inventory. Both were also fitted with the wide, smooth trigger (sometimes called the “combat trigger”). As it happens I like this trigger and have put it on several other S&Ws I own.

    The guns are not quite identical. In the 1950s the standard finish on most S&W models was a brushed blue that looks a little flat. The more highly polished “bright blue” was available as a $20 option. One of these guns is the standard brushed blue while the other has the more deluxe polished finish.

    I think Skeeter would approve.


    How about an oldie but a goodie to finish off? I don’t know where I developed the itch to have one, but for a long time I searched for a 5” nickel (I love the shiny ones, remember?) Model 1926 44 Special (sometimes called the Third Model Hand Ejector 44). Well, maybe two years ago this guy I know from another forum approaches me with just such a gun for sale. I had been hoping to snag one for about $500 but I never found one that cheap. Even the beaters were bringing more. He wanted $650 for this one and I hesitated. But at the end of the day I decided that I wanted it so I bought it (feeling just a bit guilty). It was refinished but mechanically sound. I finally had my 3rd Model 44.

    Then, at the very next show two months later, I found an identical gun on a table priced at $425! I countered with a $400 offer and it was mine. So I figure I paid an average of $525 for each of the two revolvers and I feel just a bit better about myself.

    Turns out the first gun was shipped in 1928 to Wolf & Klar in Houston. W&K was a big S&W distributor and the 5” 3rd model was sort of their specialty. The second one shipped in 1939, also to Houston, but this time to Oshman’s Sporting. I wonder if they are the parent to the current Oshman’s chain?

    Here’s one of the 3rd Models. I’m not even sure which one it is.

  2. bsaride

    bsaride Member

    May 31, 2008

    Excellent article, excellent pics.

    I also like 44 Specials and vintage guns. Only revolver now is 1946 Iver Johnson, but I have a 2004 S&W M21 on order. Newest rifle is 1942 vintage.
  3. dispatch

    dispatch Member

    Feb 11, 2006
    DFW area
    How about this- I'll give you $475.00 for one of those 44's and then you have an even better deal than you started with!!!
    Beautiful revolvers you have there. You have done well.
  4. gizamo

    gizamo Member

    Dec 26, 2007
    SaxonPig....my old Amigo....


    There is something about the odd barrel lengths in S&W revolvers....

    3" and 5" are somehow both proportional and well balanced in the hand....They are correct in terms of DA revolvers. I am not convinced that the value added to those guns are due to the particular barrel lengths ~ in terms of rarity, ~

    Or that a few realize what perfection is, and are willing to pay the price.....

  5. Bendutro

    Bendutro Member

    Nov 30, 2007
    I'm a convert!

    I heeded the advice of people with more experience and I love my 5" S&W. The 7.5" .44 is nice, but the 5" is a definate sweet spot.
  6. pps

    pps Member

    May 27, 2008
    There is something that just feels right about a 5" barrel.

  7. bestseller92

    bestseller92 Member

    Nov 7, 2005
    5" was Skeeter Skelton's favorite barrel length, especially on his favored Model 27 .357 revolvers.

    SAWBONES Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    The third dimension
    I like 5" barrels best on SA revolvers. They just look and feel right.

    With DA revolvers, since I use 'em for CCW, mine are all 3" or less, except for one 6" Ruger GP100.
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