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S&W 66 Border Patrol, thoughts?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by bikemutt, Jan 7, 2017.

  1. bikemutt
    • Contributing Member

    bikemutt Member

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    While on unsupervised domestic travel I happened upon a rather nice square butt 66 that was issued to US Border Patrol agents at some point. I'm never sure about these sort of things, sometimes the affiliation adds values, sometimes it detracts.

    In any event, this one appears more carried than shot. What do the revolver experts here at THR think of this 66 variant?

    [​IMG]
     
  2. red rick

    red rick Member

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    That one is way over priced . I wouldn't pay over $650 for one in excellent condition , even if I really wanted one in my area .

    The 66 is one of my favorite revolvers .
     
  3. Dog Soldier
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    Dog Soldier Member

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    The Wyoming Highway Patrol and others dropped them due to failures to fire. The SS Mdl. 66 would chafe and the guns would lock up. A Trooper was shot in the Red Desert by a bank robber. The Trooper's Mdl. 66 locked up and the bandit shot him.
    I really doubt that the USBP stamp makes that gun worth $1,000 dollars? That is my thoughts and I am weak minded. :(
     
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  4. X-Rap

    X-Rap Member

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    Sorry but I can't imagine paying that for a 66.
    To me the BP connection adds some value but without more provenance it's just some letters stamped on the frame.
     
  5. stu1ritter

    stu1ritter Member

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    That is the Border Patrol 50th Anniversary commemorative. The serial number prefix should be USBPxxxx. There were 3,138 made in 1976 so it is a model 66 no dash. Commemorative's don't seem to bring any premium and I counted 31 different versions in the Standard Catalog (Supica & Nahas, 4th Ed.)

    Stu
     
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  6. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

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    As stu1ritter said that is a commemorative not an issued weapon. AFAIK USBP issued Model 19s in the 60s through the 80s and it was replaced with the Ruger Service Six.

    I helped test the contenders to replace the Model 19s. The Service Six won. The Model 66 Smiths failed the testing regimen.
     
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  7. Lone Star

    Lone Star Member

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    First, yes that gun is a commemorative offered to USBP agents. I agree that it's far overpriced. I don't know if any of them carried M-66's, privately owned or not.

    Second, the lockup problem with early M-66's was solved by relocating te gas ring, which heated up when firing Magnum ammo and could prevent normal cylinder rotation. Massad Ayoob revealed this in, Guns Magazine and S&W was compelled to make changes. I won't say that Ayoob was the sole cause of the reform, as I imagine that many police agencies were also expressing displeasure. The gas ring wasn't a big problem with M-19's, but the stainless steel M-66 heated up faster and retained that heat longer. The stainless sights were also hard to see, and the gas ring issue fix and blued sights solved the M-66 problems. My M-66-3 has been flawless and I've worn it more than any other handgun, for 26 years.

    I think that as long as you buy a M-66-1 or later suffix, you'll be good to go. Certainly, by M-66-2. Most M-66's were probably -2's.

    I definitely prefer stainless handguns.

    As an aside, the Montana game warden who shot a grizzly with his handgun a it mauled him had a M-66, using an unknown (to me) brand of ammo with 158 grain bullets. Does anyone here know what ammo the Montana wardens had then? I think that incident was in the 1980's. The warden seems to have panicked and fired all six rounds, one of which struck a vital spot on the bear and saved the man. One witness was the editor of a major outdoors magazine, but his published account didn't specify the ammo type exactly.
     
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  8. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

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    If someone carried it, it only hurt it's value.

    As stated already that M-66 is the 50th Anniversary commemorative and not an issued gun. It does seem a bit over priced, especially in that shape, but at least they have the box for it; the box is worth about $100
     
  9. Lone Star

    Lone Star Member

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    Specifically, how did the test M-66's fail? And why was the Service-Six adopted instead of the Security-Six? Was there something not liked about Ruger's adj. rear sight? I've not had any problems, except that the retaining pin can back out after firing a number of rounds. I'm told that the fix is to slightly bend the pin and tap it back in place.

    What ammo did USBP issue then?

    Thanks for your post. Bill Jordan once told me that USBP had bought some Rugers, but didn't add that the M-66 had failed trials. I was amused to note that the gun he had that day was a S&W M-59 9mm auto! He said that his M-59 worked well. I should add that he was by then long retired from the Border Patrol.
     
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  10. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

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    This testing was conducted in 1980 or 1981 at FLETC in Georgia. The tests called for the guns to shoot 10,000 rounds of full magnum (RP 125 and 158 jhp IIRC) with no more than 2 of maybe 20 minor malfunctions. This included ejector rod, rear sight mounting screw, and loose front sight. IIRC the specs called for fixed or adjustable sights. S&W submitted the Model 66 and Ruger the Speed Six. The guns were random samples from the production run. S&W was tested first as they were the low bidder.

    The longest a M66 lasted was 1500 rounds when the timing was so bad it wasn't safe to shoot. Others went out with broken bolts, hands, and other parts. The first went out at 400 rds when the cylinder exploded. This was all factory ammo so reloads weren't to blame here.

    The testing on the M66s was done before I got into it. I did see and examine the guns that failed. I helped fire the Rugers.

    The way the test was conducted, we fired as fast as we could reloaded and fired again. We wound up taping padding on our hands and wore a glove on the left as the cylinder was so hot. These guns were really abused. They got cleaned every 500 rds. We had solvent sizzle off the cylinders they were so hot.

    The Ruger's lasted 10,000 rds with zero malfunctions. It was decided to continue shooting them to see how many rounds they would last. One Ruger went out at 13,000 rds with timing issues. The rest of the Rugers went to 20,000 rds with no malfunctions. The bean counters didn't want to pay for anymore ammo so the test ended there. The Rugers obviously won.

    The L frame was already out but I think S&W wanted to dump these M66s on USBP. I'm sure the L frame would have fared better.

    I also prefer stainless guns and have both a M66 and Speed Six. Based on my experience I don't shoot many magnums through the 66.
     
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  11. X-Rap

    X-Rap Member

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    Sorry I wasn't paying attention to the gun bring a commemorative. The Border Patrol designation would mean nothing to me in this case.
    Wasn't aware of the test and failures with the 66.
    When I lived down on the border in the mid 80's it seemed the issue gun was the 686, I believe it was the last of the BP revolvers.
     
  12. Lone Star

    Lone Star Member

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    Wow! That's the sort of info that I seldom see in print. I'm sure the gun magazines, after S&W's ads, won't let their writers reveal things like that. If they did, it'd be in a pro-Ruger story that didn't name the rival brand.

    I really appreciate your candor. I have a GP-100 in which I shoot most .357 rounds I fire. I suspect that Buffalo Bore's hot Plus P .38 loads would be good choies in K-framed .357's as well as in those .38-44 guns still in use. Probably also good choices in the SP-101 with a barrel a fraction over three inches. I'm sure the last will take a number of full .357 rounds, but why strain the gun or your hand when they aren't needed? The .357 Magnum was never intended to be a range gun.

    Thanks again. Just a super post!
     
  13. bannockburn

    bannockburn Member

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    GRIZ22

    Great "insider" info there on the testing procedure and results with the S&W and Ruger revolvers. I knew that the Ruger Six Series were solid, well built revolvers but I never knew they could take that kind of prolonged firing with full house .357 ammo.
     
  14. Ohen Cepel

    Ohen Cepel Member

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    Very overpriced in my mind. I bought a similar chromed one a while back from a different agency. Think I paid $400 for it and sold the box it came with for $125 on ebay. That was in a store and the dealer understood what he had. For me, as a user the $400 was good and it has a little story to it (though not much). I could likely sell the grips off and knock what I have in it further down. However, I like them so won't do that.
     
  15. X-Rap

    X-Rap Member

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    I have a fair number of S&W revolvers that I've accumulated and never dreamed I'd see $1000. Tag on one like that.
    Can't think of even a 629 costing over $500.
     
  16. bikemutt
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    bikemutt Member

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    Thanks team THR. I'm not sure what the consignee told the gun store about this commemorative but they seemed to think was an actual issue sidearm.
     
  17. Dog Soldier
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    Dog Soldier Member

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    I think some of the "Gun" magazine writers need to check our THR messages. That way they would not print those stupid articles.:rofl:
     
  18. Hastings

    Hastings Member

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    That would only happen if we were willing to pay them like the gun companies do. Hard to speak poorly of the people who supply you with the guns and ammunition needed to maintain your career.
     
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  19. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Very cool, but over priced IMHO.
     
  20. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

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    I shoot mostly 357s in my GP100. Prior to bring involved in the testing I related I carried just about any 125 gr 357 in my 4" M66. Qualifications were done with "high velocity" 38 jhps. This was before +P was in common usage. What became known as the FBI load was sold as a "high velocity" swclhp. There was a "MS" on the box and these were commonly referred to as man stopper loads. That's what I carried when I was on the police dept before I got a Federal job.

    I had a 6" M19 I used mainly for PPC in the 70s. I shot only a few hundred magnums in it but loads of wadcutters. I got rid of it after about 6 years and it was slightly out of time and had (what I considered) bad flame cutting on the top strap. This and the experience from the test procedures led me to use less than full magnums in the M66.

    I used the Federal and WW 110 +P+ "Treasury Loads". These gave nearly 1200 fps in a 4" and performed well on soft targets. They didn't offer much in penetration if your adversary was behind something. I was told when they first became available to me they were safe to shoot in a J frame. I didn't buy that but would carry them in a K frame 38. There were a few incidents of J frames exploding using this ammo by the middle 80s.

    When it became available I used the Federal 147 Hydra Shock +P+ in the 66. These gave about 1100 fps in a 4" and gave penetration through barriers the 110 gr load didn't.

    I didn't carry the 66 much after about 1980 when I started carrying my personally owned S&W M59. I turned it in about 1984 when it was replaced with a 659.

    I still carry a 2 1/2" M66. When I do its usually loaded with 38 +Ps. If I carry my Speed Six it's with 125 gr magnums.
     
  21. Lone Star

    Lone Star Member

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    I called Winchester many years ago and asked about the MS bit. The man on the phone had to check, but got back to me and said it meant Maximum Service.

    When the L-frame guns arrived, the S&W PR man invited me to the sheriff's range to try the M-586. Two S&W reps were present. They strongly advised against using 125 grain and lighter bullets in K-frame magnums, but said that the Plus P Plus ammo was doing at least as much damage to the guns and maybe more. I ook that info to heart.

    Subsequently, I called several ammo makers, and to a man, they agreed. No light .357 bullets in K- frames, and even N-frames would wear sooner with those blowtorch loads. Stainless barrels resisted erosion better than blued guns, but even the M-65, 66 sometimes developed cracked barrel throats. Usually, this happens at the thin flat on the bottom of the barrel, where it's thinner to let the cylinder close. Ruger wisely chose to have the barrel full diameter.

    But Bill Ruger designed his guns from the ground up to handle.357 ammo. In the M-19/66, S&W was using a 1900 design meant for .38 ammo and relied on improved metallurgy to make it work.

    I asked about 140-145 grain .357 loads. No one I talked to had seen any such studies, but all guessed that they'd be more like 158 grain bullets. There'd be less hot "ejecta" to hit the barrel throat and abrade the steel there and cut into the topstrap.

    Bill Jordan told me that he envisioned the Combat Magnum as firing maybe10-15% of the time with .357 ammo, and that was before the very hot 125 grainers were developed!

    I asked a local detective to check records of shootings with Winchester's 145 grain .357 Silvertip. He checked our county and surrounding areas and found some. Both Dallas PD and FBI used that ammo and perhaps other nearby agencies. He said the ammo was almost too effective and felt it was a a superb load for good stopping power. I carried it and Federal's 158 grain Hydra-Shok. Federal's PR man also told me that the Hydra-Shok delivered well on deer at such ranges as one had any business firing at a deer with a .357. That load was tweaked a couple of times to make the bullet open quicker in human adversaries.
     
  22. Thaddeus Jones

    Thaddeus Jones Member

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    There is one identical example of that BP 66 up on Gunbroker right now. $2k opening bid.

    Having examined several brand new examples of what passes for a s&w revolver today at the LGS, with canted barrels, ugly designs, ILs and scalper price tags, that 66 is well worth $1k. Maybe more. IMO anyways.
     
  23. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    I agree, cool but...

    Just a note, a brand new M66 has a Retail price if $849. Even though many wif us consider the new revolvers inferior to the older ones it's still not close to being worth $1,000 IMO. I would think anew one would run right around $700 so I would think the one you are looking at would have no more value that that price, if that high.

    Too bad, that is a very cool find...
     
  24. joed

    joed Member

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    Price seems high to me. But, I've seen model 66s going for $700 to $800 around here in some of the shops.

    I'm a big fan of the model 19 and 66 and have carried them for 30 years. They were designed as a gun that wasn't heavy and could be carried all day. Bill Jordan of the Border Patrol consulted on the design with S&W. These guns were meant as a .38 Spl that could occasionally fire .357 mag rounds for carry on duty. That they failed in the above testing doesn't surprise me at all, they weren't designed for that type of use. S&W failed to mention the fact that the model 19 and 66 weren't meant for steady diet of full power .357 loads in the instructions that came with the guns. They should have.

    I have 1 model 66-5 left. No other revolver feels as good in my hands or points as naturally as a model 19 or 66. Range trips are mostly .38 Spl with very little .357 rounds. I carried these guns with .357 rounds, usually 140 gr or heavier. The 125 gr magnum rounds are very hard on the forcing cone because of the force of the bullet hitting the cone.

    S&W has redesigned the 66 and the newer ones do not have the flat spot on the bottom of the forcing cone. I haven't looked at the new guns so can't comment.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2017
  25. Dog Soldier
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    Dog Soldier Member

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    As long as I can remember there has been stories about which gun is stronger? As long as I can remember there has never been massive life threatening side arm failures. And no one ever offers actual facts about these catastrophic failures. It is always the same. My friend Bud knew a???:D
     

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