S&W Model 27 357 Magnum
November 12, 2007
S&W Model 27 8 3/8th inch barrel made in 1958
The S&W Model 27 is the original .357 Magnum revolver and was first produced in 1935; production ceased in the 1990s. The Model 27 was built on Smith and Wesson’s carbon steel, large N-frame and was available with 3 1/2″, 4″, 5″, 6″ or 8 3/8″ barrel lengths and had adjustable sights. The model 27 came about from the 38/44 Outdoorsman which was an N frame chambered in the 38HV round. This round was a 38 loaded to maximum pressure and was to powerful for the K frame so S&W chambered the N frame for the round. Later the 38 case was lengthened to prevent it from being chambered in a K frame chambered in 38 special. Thus the 357 was born.
When first introduced by Smith and Wesson in 1935 it was known as the .357 Registered Magnum. The model was essentially a custom order revolver. Barrel lengths could be had in quarter inch increments from 3.5″ to 8.75″ in length. In addition to the different length of barrels available there were different grips, front sites, triggers, hammers and finishes available. Each Registered Magnum came with a certificate of authenticity.
Even though it was introduced in the middle of the Great Depression, and was extremely expensive at $60 to $65 a great sum at that time. Smith and Wesson found itself backlogged with orders for the four years that it produced the Registered Magnum. The Kansas City Police Department issued the Registered Magnum to its officers and many other law enforcement officers across the United States carried the Registered Magnum. In 1939 S&W stopped producing the Registered Magnum. It was replaced with the .357 Magnum. The .357 magnum was available with barrels lengths of 3.5″, 5″, 6.5″ and 8 3/8″. It has been reported that these were the most popular barrel lengths for the Registered Magnum. Essentially the .357 magnum (the ancestor of the Model 27) was still the Registered Magnum, but standardized for ease of production and economy.
It was noted for its durability and reliability. The 3 1/2″ barrel length was extremely popular with FBI agents in the 1940s through the 1960s. Skeeter Skelton considered the Model 27 with a 5″ barrel as the best all around handgun. General George Patton carried an ivory handled Model 27 with a 3 1/2 inch barrel (along with his ivory handled Colt Peacemaker); Patton called the Model 27 his “killing gun.”
Workmanship on this gun was of the highest standards of S&W. Much of the gun was handcrafted and had a deep blue hand polished finish which was the pinnacle of gun finishes of the time. The trigger was finely tuned and is so smooth it’s hard to believe even the best craftsman could achieve results like this. Of course all older S&W revolvers had excellent triggers but this gun surpasses even those. This 8 3/8th inch barrel version is accurate in the extreme and is such a joy to shoot especially at longer distances. With the N frame even the hottest 357 rounds are comfortable to shoot. One feature this gun has is unique to this model and that is the cross hatching on the top strap to reduce glare.
Photo Courtesy of Xavier
Overall it’s just one beautiful revolver without peer.
In later years a new model was released in order to be an economical alternative to the model 27 and that’s the model 28 Highway Patrolman. This gun was for the most part a standard N frame without all the extra features, handwork and fine bluing of the 27. This gun was intended as solely a working law enforcement gun. The most common was the 4 inch barrel.
This was a very popular law enforcement weapon for many years. Between the model 28 and the later model 19 S&W had the market all to themselves as far as law enforcement guns are concerned. In later years the model 19 became very popular and supplanted the model 28 with the exception of the devoted N frame shooters.
If you can find an older model 27 grab it since they are pretty hard to find these days. Most shooters that own one won’t part with it so there are few traded. You can find a model 28 much easier and a lot cheaper. Both guns are well worth the cost if you run across one. To me the older model 27’s are works of art but should be shot and enjoyed!
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