By David Tong,
In this article, David Tong reviews the famed Smith & Wesson Registered Magnum.
USA – -(Ammoland.com)- The Smith & Wesson Registered Magnum Revolver is possibly most revered revolver in Smith and Wesson’s long history, perhaps competing only with the Smith & Wesson Triple Lock .44 also featured here on these pages.
Douglas B. Wesson, on top of being one of the descendants of original founder Daniel Wesson, was also a handgun hunter. He, along with famous gunwriter and cartridge developer Elmer B. Keith, desired a much more powerful “.38 Special” cartridge that would allow much greater penetration and flatter shooting.
The sales experiment that directly preceded the Registered Magnum was the “.38-44” revolver, available in both fixed and adjustable sight trim. These were chambered in .38 Special but used a high-speed version that launched a 160gr. bullet at approximately 1,100fps out of an 8.5” barrel.
In order to achieve the goal of a similar weight bullet leaving at 1,400fps, Winchester designers came up with a lengthened .38 case to preclude its use in Special chambered older revolvers for safety reasons.
Smith & Wesson Registered Magnum Revolver
The resulting Smith & Wesson Registered Magnum Revolver debuted in 1935, and 1,500fps was achieved in the available 8.75” barrel. These revolvers were built to order, and were available in any barrel length between 3.5” and 8.75”, in both blue and nickel finish, with a large option of available front and rear sights. Owners were requested to return the small card shipped with the revolver to obtain a registration certificate that confirmed its quality of manufacture, and those few revolvers which still retain this certificate and box with the arm are worth in the five-figure price range today.
All of the Registered Magnums debuted with a finely machine checkered top strap on the frame, rear sight spring leaf, and barrel rib. All Magnum S&W revolvers kept the recessed case rim chamber design in their cylinders until the “Dash-3” engineering change of 1979. The revolvers were hand fitted and finished, and they are considered the pinnacle of S&W’s production capability. Magnums also required either different steel alloys, heat-treatment, or both, compared to the more utilitarian .38 S&W Special caliber service revolvers built en masse.
Famous men who owned or carried them included FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who received Serial Number One, a 3.5” model, General George Patton who called his own engraved, silver-plated, and ivory-stocked one “his killing gun,” and late Lawman and gunwriter Skeeter Skelton of Shooting Times who declared his 5” model “the best law enforcement revolver ever made.”
My own example was one I acquired over twenty years ago at the Beinfeld Collector’s Arms show in Las Vegas. With its original skinny walnut “Magna” stocks, its “REG” serial number prefix inside the yoke on the frame, and its screw-adjustable rear sight and brass-bead front sight, it was as fine a double-action revolver as could be. Easy to shoot and well-balanced, even with Magnums, a relatively pleasant way to spend an afternoon. It showed a fair amount of holster wear, more on its left barrel near the muzzle indicating a right-handed former owner/lawman, the action was still tight and serviceable some fifty years after its construction.
S&W still builds its progeny, the erstwhile Model 27, and while they are still fairly well-turned-out, they are not quite the same in action smoothness or fitting compared to the old “long-stroke” double action goodness of the Registered Magnum. Nor do the newer ones have the milled from forged parts throughout, careful hand fitting, and impeccable finish in places one might never look at.
- ** Images: Rock Island Auction Company ( www.rockislandauction.com )