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S&W Revolvers: 1961 to 1980 3-Screw PINNED Barrel SWING-OUT Cylinder Hand Ejectors


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Old 10-31-2020, 12:55 PM
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Default In retrospect: the .22 Jet Model 53

This is an advance look at a yet-to-be-published article. As always, comments welcome.

John

------------------------------------------------------------------



This unusual revolver from Smith & Wesson was an innovative solution to being able to fire both rimfire and centerfire cartridges from the same gun. The story of how it came to be and why it’s no longer made is an interesting one.

The concept of a revolver that could fire a centerfire .22 caliber cartridge began in the mid-1950s when avid handloader and experimenter Jim Harvey modified .22 Hornet rifle cases by shortening and chamber-forming them to a configuration suitable for use in revolvers. He chambered some S&W Model 17 .22 LR target revolvers for this wildcat cartridge, which he called the .224 Harvey Kay Chuck. In the process, he made an offset centerfire firing pin and re-drilled the recoil shield for a new nose bushing. Don Cassavant, an industrial arts metal shop teacher and custom gunsmith, assisted him in this. Harvey’s conversions were crafted at Lakeville Arms (in Lakeville Connecticut) and became popular enough that he soon had a thriving business doing it. Harvey later engaged Bennett Gun Works to do this work. They roll-stamped the barrels on their guns “Harvey .224 Kay-Chuck.” The round was widely known as the “.22 Harvey K-Chuck” and became a very popular wildcat cartridge. Standardized reloading dies were widely available.

Smith & Wesson took notice of Harvey’s pioneer work but never officially sanctioned these conversions for their revolvers. They did experiment with some prototype guns chambered for the then-new .256 Winchester cartridge, a .25 caliber bottlenecked .357 Magnum creation. However, the folks at S&W found out that this combination was unworkable because of case setback in the chambers locking up the cylinder tight to the recoil shield when the round was fired. The .256 cartridge did go on to find a home in the Ruger Hawkeye single shot pistols and the Marlin M62 Levermatic rifles.

Remington offered S&W another option, which was called the .22 Remington Jet. This was the .357 Magnum case gradually tapered down to .22 caliber rather than being sharply bottlenecked. This number proved to be more satisfactory in experimentation with revolvers that were rechambered and modified from .22 magnum rimfire guns. The ballistics results were very gratifying, showing a 40-grain bullet claimed to be moving out of an 8 3/8” barrel at an impressive 2,460 feet per second. Actual velocities might be somewhat less speedy, but still pretty darn fast. S&W subsequently decided to chamber this round in a new revolver. The Model 53 .22 Centerfire Magnum was introduced on March 20, 1961. Production started with the first gun bearing the serial number K429,000. It used the .357 Magnum Model 19 K-frame that utilized a shrouded ejector rod. The cylinders were fluted and counterbored (recessed) for the cartridge rims.

The new revolver was sold with six nickel-wash-coated steel adapter inserts chambered for the .22 long rifle cartridge. Later inserts had fingernail cuts in their rims to allow easier removal of .22 rimfire rounds or cases from them. It must be understood that these inserts should not be re-chambered for .22 rimfire magnums, as bulging and splitting could result. The adapters could be inserted into the chambers instead of the centerfire rounds, making the gun suitable for firing either .22 Jets or .22 LR rimfires. The gun featured a hammer that had a “switch,” adjustable to strike either of the two firing pins in the frame. The upper firing pin was designed for rimfire .22s, while the lower one was for the centerfire rounds. As an option, the gun could be shipped with an auxiliary cylinder chambered for .22 LR only. This somewhat longer cylinder is not interchangeable with those designed for the Models 17, 18 or 48. With some guns, the serial numbers were marked on both cylinders. The cardboard factory box had cutouts in the base section for the gun, the inserts, and the extra cylinder if it was ordered that way. Although a few of these revolvers were shipped with nickel finishes, almost all were provided with a standard blue finish, with straight, non-tapered barrel lengths of 4”, 6” or 8 3/8”. Five-inch barreled guns are sometimes found, but they usually turn out to be factory-cut six-inchers for special orders. All barrels were secured from twisting in the frame with a transverse pin running though the frame and the upper part of the barrel. The barrels were ribbed, and the front and back grip frames were serrated. Red ramp front sights and white outline rear sights were available, as were wider target triggers and hammers. Adjustable trigger overtravel stops were standard. All barrels were marked “22 MAGNUM”, which could be confusing on first examination – it doesn’t mean .22 rimfire magnum, a whole ‘nother deal. The 6” barreled guns weighed 40 ounces. The larger target stocks were made of walnut or rosewood, either checkered or smooth. A tapered cotton cleaning swab for the Jet cylinder’s unusual chambers was supplied with earlier guns.





As a minor point, at the time of its initial shipping, the Model 53 already had the newer left-hand threaded extractor rod, while most other K-frame guns were transitioning to that type. When the first production change was made in December, 1961 using a new cylinder stop and eliminating the screw in front of the trigger guard, it was called the Model 53-2 rather than the 53-1, keeping it in step with other S&W revolvers. There never was a Model 53-1.

However, all was not roses for this new gun. It turned out that unless the chambers were kept scrupulously free of oil and dry, the cases could and would set back in the chambers on firing, locking up the cylinder against the recoil shield. Accordingly, the factory had to publish an instruction sheet which explained that the cylinder chambers had to be cleaned thoroughly with a suitable type of solvent to eliminate any trace of oil in them preparatory to firing. As can be readily understood, this is something up with which the owners really didn’t wish to put! The problem continued through 1974, and after 14,956 Model 53s had been made, production was halted and they were dropped from the catalog. The last known Model 53 was shipped on February 14, 1979. Its serial number was thought to be 4K83571, and it sported an 8 3/8” barrel. Subsequently, in the 1989-1990 time period, Remington discontinued the manufacture of .22 Jet ammunition, making it a prime reloading proposition today. Correct bullet diameter for the Jet is .222”. Commercial bullets are relatively hard to find in this diameter, but .223” will work and 224” bullets can be swaged. Some Privi Partisan (PPU) factory ammo has been imported from Serbia in this caliber recently. It sells out quickly where found, and prices vary widely. I am also aware of some newly made cases being spottily available. To meet demand, some good reproduction .22 LR inserts have been made by Numrich Gun Parts Corporation and gunsmith Hamilton Bowen. By the way, this gun is determined by the government to be curio and relic eligible for shipment to authorized individuals.

Firing the Model 53 with Jet cartridges is an experience. Be sure to use good ear protection equipment, because this baby is really loud. You should also expect a huge fireball that will effectively light up any indoor range. Be double darn sure that you do not get any part of your hands near the barrel-cylinder gap. The gas, powder particles and flame spitting from that junction will be vicious. The Jet ammo can be relatively hard on barrels, and the life expectancy for them may be somewhat shorter than for many more traditional rounds. Particularly troublesome can be flame cutting of the forcing cone on the barrel when many high velocity rounds have been fired. Loading to less velocity will certainly help. Like any good S&W revolver of that era, it’s accurate enough for its intended purpose, which in this case is for small game at up to 100 yards or so. Recoil is quite manageable, on a par with similar guns using .38 special +P ammo. If you want to fire it regularly, stock up on cases and recognize that you will have to handload it in order to make shooting it anywhere near affordable. It’s a handsome gun, with all the quality exhibited by hand fitting and careful polishing and bluing that is generally so absent today.

Perversely in spite of all the problems mentioned, Model 53s and .22 Jet ammo are very actively sought after and prices for both the guns and the cartridges have escalated noticeably! Today, collectors view the Model 53 from two viewpoints. The first camp sees the gun as a fairly rare collectible, and seeks to find one in original condition with the box and all the accessories including the extra cylinder, six original inserts and papers. The second camp, and I count myself as in it, views the gun as unusually expensive and because matching ammo is so scarce, not really all that economical to shoot. One in good shape with all the goodies might just be a great investment, though. It sure qualifies as a classic!

(c) 2020 JLM
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Old 10-31-2020, 01:20 PM
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Very interesting article that should be well received by your audience. I found it informative and easy to read. The fourth sentence in the third to last paragraph needs to be reworked a little, but other than that, I have no suggestions to offer. Are you going to submit it for publication in the S&WCA Journal?

Bill
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Old 10-31-2020, 01:27 PM
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Very interesting article that should be well received by your audience. I found it informative and easy to read. The fourth sentence in the third to last paragraph needs to be reworked a little, but other than that, I have no suggestions to offer. Are you going to submit it for publication in the S&WCA Journal?

Bill
Bill, this one's slated for Dillon's Blue Press.

That sentence is grammatically correct - my inspiration for it is Winston Churchill's remark on the grammatical rule of never ending a sentence with a preposition. "That is something up with which I would not put."

It was tongue in cheek, but purposeful.

John
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Old 10-31-2020, 01:29 PM
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Accordingly, the factory had to publish an instruction sheet which explained that the cylinder chambers had to be cleaned thoroughly with a suitable type of solvent to eliminate any trace of oil in them preparatory to firing. As can be readily understood, this is something up with which the owners really didn’t wish to put!
Noticed that also.
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Old 10-31-2020, 01:32 PM
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Very, very interesting read! Thank you for sharing this.
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Old 10-31-2020, 01:35 PM
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I stand corrected.
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Old 10-31-2020, 01:55 PM
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Great reading sir! As Bill stated, it needs to be published in the SWCA Journal, with more pictures!
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Old 10-31-2020, 02:16 PM
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John
Here are some plastic inserts.
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Old 10-31-2020, 02:18 PM
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Great read. Makes me happy to be a Model 53 owner. Thanks for sharing that with us.
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Old 10-31-2020, 02:21 PM
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John
Here are some plastic inserts.
I was not aware of these. I wonder if there would be erosion or cleaning issues?

John
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Old 10-31-2020, 02:30 PM
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FWIW - I was roaming the SGAmmo web page a few minutes go and they had 6 boxes of the PPU in stock!
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Old 10-31-2020, 03:12 PM
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Really great article. I hope you don't mind I book marked it.

I have a M53 sn K443040 which I believe to be a 1961 1st year gun.
Have yet to fire it but have accumulated dies, brass, and finally some .222 cal bullets. Those are hard to find. They are .45gr vs the suggested .40gr. Going to load some soon with small rifle primers. I have the inserts but no other goodies. Thanks again for the great article.

-don
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Old 10-31-2020, 03:34 PM
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I'm indebted to Joe Cebull (jcelect) for additional information on Jim Harvey's efforts to convert Model 17s. I have included this info in the second paragraph. It's members like Joe that make sure I have all the stuff necessary to make my articles accurate!

John
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Old 10-31-2020, 03:47 PM
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Great article, thanks. I have serial # 442720. Had it since the mid 70's. No box or tools. Been reloading that long for it also as by then jet ammo was hard to find. Learned early to clean the chambers and loaded rounds before using. I have lots of .223 Hornet 45 grainers and have been shooting them for decades. Played with some .224 Barnes and found a great bullet from Them. Have the inserts and My gun really likes the Yellow Jackets . Probably the most accurate in My gun. Have some inserts that were rechambered for 22 mag, but have yet to try them. Of all My Smiths this will be second to last to go, which means never. Fun at the range as old timers walk up and ask " what the hXXX are You shooting?" When I say 22 jet the question is " what the hXXX is that?" So when I explain, most say they have never heard of it, but think it's really kool. When I show them the inserts and hammer the kool factor multiplies. I carry this gun when muzzle loader deer hunting so I can shoot Grouse if I find some. Can't carry any legal deer cartridge handgun and the jet piques the interest of the Game Officers. I usually carry three jets and three inserts with yellow jackets so I can take squirrels and other varmints. Just an all around fun gun. Thanks again for Your article.
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Old 10-31-2020, 04:47 PM
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Really great article. I hope you don't mind I book marked it.

I have a M53 sn K443040 which I believe to be a 1961 1st year gun.
Have yet to fire it but have accumulated dies, brass, and finally some .222 cal bullets. Those are hard to find. They are .45gr vs the suggested .40gr. Going to load some soon with small rifle primers. I have the inserts but no other goodies. Thanks again for the great article.

-don
If your revolver has the screw above the front of the trigger guard, and is not marked as model 53-2, in all probability it's a 1961 example.

John
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Old 10-31-2020, 05:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deputydon View Post
Really great article. I hope you don't mind I book marked it.

I have a M53 sn K443040 which I believe to be a 1961 1st year gun.
Have yet to fire it but have accumulated dies, brass, and finally some .222 cal bullets. Those are hard to find. They are .45gr vs the suggested .40gr. Going to load some soon with small rifle primers. I have the inserts but no other goodies. Thanks again for the great article.

-don
Sir, your mod 53 was probably shipped in the second quart of 1961. I maintain a data base and it shows there were a lot of guns shipped in 1961.
jcelect
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Old 10-31-2020, 07:36 PM
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That’s a fantastic article. Thank you for sharing. I recall in Six Guns Elmer Keith suggested the sharp shoulder of the Winchester .256 vs the gradual taper of the .22 Jet would be superior for revolver use. I think he also mention the .25 would be more effective against small game and advocated the potential for commercial success if S&W released such a revolver that was convertible between .256 and .25 Stevens. He might wrote that prior to Smith experimenting with .256 and realizing the short comings.
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Old 10-31-2020, 08:17 PM
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Another bit of trivia. I believe that there are only TWO known nickeled guns that were manufactured.
All the other nickeled guns were factory blued. They were then removed from inventory and nickeled per individual orders.

bdGreen



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Old 10-31-2020, 10:19 PM
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Here is my Nickel Model 53.
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Old 10-31-2020, 11:41 PM
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Don,
Is yours an original nickel or is it a refinish after the original bluing?

Here is mine.

bdGreen




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Old 11-01-2020, 03:26 AM
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One question... would you still consider .22 Jet ammo being scare when it's now being manufactured by Prvi Partisan (PPU)?

A quick check of online ammo sellers shows the PPU ammo in stock at numerous places.

Prior to that, the only options for obtaining factory loaded .22 Jet was paying $60-70 for a 50 rd box from either a "boutique" ammo maker, or vintage Remington Green box from an online auction site.

Unlike when I bought my M53 in 2007, it is much easier to find ammo for it now.

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Old 11-01-2020, 06:52 AM
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I'm lucky, I found here in Italy two boxes of vintage Remingtons. I shoot the first one, but I cannot empty the 2nd too. No way to find another. PPu are not imported, even if Serbia is very close.
Important: almost all cases cracked on the neck when fired. Old brass? too "hard"? Did the powder went too fast getting older?
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Old 11-01-2020, 07:50 AM
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VERY nicely done and concise article.....

As to Jet ammo and availability...check with Reed's Ammo...they have both ammo and correct size bullets...

22 JET - Reed's Ammunition & Research, LLC

Have been a Jet owner since about 1974. A friend found one for me after a several year search at Ivanho's Gun Shop in Watertown, Mass. First year of production, had the extra .22 Rimfire cylinder and was in perfect condition....it was my only .22 revolver for about 17 years....needless to say it got shot a lot....and after well over 1000 Jet rounds the forcing cone looked like a funnel and there was a loose spot in the barrel just ahead of the frame...

Lucked into a period correct barrel and had a local factory trained Smith smith install it...no more Jets after that. Then the "unthinkable" was done...the old barrel was rebored to .311" and the Rimfire cylinder rechambered to .327 Federal. The gun can be restored to Jet, but the original numbered to the gun Rimfire cylinder is no more. The gun gets a lot more use now than it has in decades. The last .22 Rimfire cylinder I saw sell on ebay went for $800.00.

Unfortunately most people miss the point of the 53 and why it was brought out in the first place... Like the K-Chuck it emulated, it was for the new sport of HANDGUN HUNTING, not a range toy. Develop a load, sight it in and hunt with it. Shoot it like a .38 or .357 and you'll ruin the gun shortly... And that said ALL 53s should have come with the Rimfire cylinder standard.

A wonderful concept that was misunderstood....

Bob
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Old 11-01-2020, 08:44 AM
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Unfortunately most people miss the point of the 53 and why it was brought out in the first place... Like the K-Chuck it emulated, it was for the new sport of HANDGUN HUNTING, not a range toy. Develop a load, sight it in and hunt with it. Shoot it like a .38 or .357 and you'll ruin the gun shortly...

A wonderful concept that was misunderstood....

Bob
Excellent article, loved reading it, very comprehensive and excellent pictures. Reading it I also missed the point and was wondering all the while why would someone develop such a complicated contraption that created 10 problems w/o solving one.

Bob's mention explained it perfectly.

Looks to me also that the 22 magnum was developed at the same time and being the much better solution in all practicality.

I had a BFR revolver in 30-30 for about a week and it would bind up after each single round fired. I did not feel to temper enough to make that work and sold it right away. Nice door stopper or paperweight, not nice as a shooter.
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Old 11-01-2020, 09:30 AM
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John, I always enjoy your articles in the Blue Press - and this one was no exception.

As for the gun itself - I always looked at it as a weird concept that never really caught on and as sort of an "oddity".

Over the years, I've passed a few of them up (NIB in LGS) as I could never see the practicality of them - but as an investment or collectible I may have screwed up. - LOL!
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Old 11-01-2020, 10:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bdGreen View Post
Don,
Is yours an original nickel or is it a refinish after the original bluing?

Here is mine.

bdGreen




Mine went into the vault blue. It was pulled from inventory and nickeled for an employee, sadly it letters as blue, but it never left as blue. This was one of my duty guns back in my LEO days.
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Old 11-01-2020, 06:01 PM
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Nice article about a great gun. I was out shooting mine a couple weeks ago and it was great fun. I think there are probably a lot of them like mine. People bought them fired them a bit, didn't reload and ammo cost kept them from using them a lot, then for a while till Privi ammo was not to be had. So, a lot of them have low round counts.
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Old 11-01-2020, 07:27 PM
Walter Rego Walter Rego is offline
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Excellent article Paladin. I have an early Model 53 that shipped to Evaluators in June of 1961. As others have mentioned, they are a lot of fun to shoot. I am curious if anyone has chronographed the PPU ammo ? I bought about a dozen boxes and it shoots quite well but I suspect it may not be loaded as hot as the old Peters ammo. I have had no issues with cases backing out of the chambers but I mop them pretty thoroughly with Gunscrubber to remove any residual oil from storage before shooting it.
I like the oddball cartridges, I also own and reload for a Ruger Hawkeye in .256 Magnum. Here are both cartridges with their parent .357 Magnum round
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Old 11-02-2020, 02:01 PM
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Super article on the M-53. Thanks for posting it, I learned a lot. I bought mine, SN: K475805, in the Fall of 1965. It was a special order for a 4" barrel, it came with a 6" barrel so whoever ordered it refused to take it. It has the Smooth grips, target hammer and trigger, and six inserts. I later picked up six more of the inserts. Being a college kid with no money I shot a lot of .22RF at first. Later the Base Exchange on the AF base where I was assigned carried Remington ammo for it and also the blue box Peters ammo, I think they cost $5.50 for a box of 50. I acquired a pretty good stash and still have some of the factory ammo. I reload for it and several years ago I bought several thousand Remington 40 gr Jet bullets in factory boxes. Since I really don't shoot it much anymore I think my supply will out live me. Great article on a great gun, once you learn to keep the chambers clean.
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Old 11-02-2020, 02:41 PM
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A little more eye candy for this thread.

enjoy,

bdGreen

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Old 11-02-2020, 02:46 PM
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Eye candy, to me....
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Old 11-02-2020, 03:03 PM
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Model 53 presented to General Curtis LeMay as member of the Persona Non Grata Club and in honor of him being appointed Chief of Staff of the Air Force, June 30, 1961. This revolver was shipped with a special presentation case, auxiliary cylinder in .22 LR numbered to the revolver, and six aluminum inserts. Click on the photo for a better look.

Bill

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Old 11-02-2020, 07:38 PM
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Default Eye candy!

Some more eye candy! The nickel is a factory refinish before shipment (IMHO) shipped Feb 62, date stamp under the grips Mar62!

jcelect
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Old 11-03-2020, 12:50 AM
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Great write up on the Jet. Funny thing I picked up a Jet from an older guy that did not care much about maintenance or how it looked. I sent it off to Hamilton Bowen and he turned it into 256 for me it shoots GREAT and is by far the loudest firearm I own {plugs and muffs}.
Jeff
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Old 11-03-2020, 07:48 AM
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Great article Paladin. I would suggest there are three camps though. The third being guys who like to reload, enjoy shooting and hunting with this “flamethrower”, and may not be too concerned about a box or extra .22 rimfire cylinder.

Here’s my vintage 1961 in a Lawrence holster.
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Old 11-03-2020, 05:27 PM
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Great article, I didn’t know about this one, very informative

My only fear now is that if I ever come across one here I’d be very tempted to buy it
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Old 11-04-2020, 11:08 AM
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Great article and very informative.I own an unfired 8&3/8" and a shooter 6" jet.I have never fired them though.I bought some PPu ammo and was wondering if I need to worry about forcing cone erosion with this ammo or only about the hotter Remington ammo?
Anyone?
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Old 11-04-2020, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PALADIN85020 View Post
Bill, this one's slated for Dillon's Blue Press.

That sentence is grammatically correct - my inspiration for it is Winston Churchill's remark on the grammatical rule of never ending a sentence with a preposition. "That is something up with which I would not put."

It was tongue in cheek, but purposeful.

John
I recognized Churchill immediately. Excellent article.

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Old 11-04-2020, 11:49 AM
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Thank you for this. I have am 8 3/8" model, but have yet to shoot it. I did read a lot about the cylinders locking up when rounds push back if there is any oil in the cylinders. '

Bob
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Old 11-04-2020, 02:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob richardson View Post
Great article and very informative.I own an unfired 8&3/8" and a shooter 6" jet.I have never fired them though.I bought some PPu ammo and was wondering if I need to worry about forcing cone erosion with this ammo or only about the hotter Remington ammo?
Anyone?
Forcing cone erosion is a matter of bullet velocity x number of shots fired x number of shots fired in quick succession. Reducing any or all of these factors will reduce the chances of this phenomenon becoming significant.

John
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Old 11-07-2020, 09:45 PM
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I only shoot 22LR anymore but I am awaiting this jewel next week here in
CA. From 1961. No box was originally blued as most were renickeled. Pete




What EROSION?

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Old 11-08-2020, 12:32 AM
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Default Model 53 with "Super Jet" cylinder

I acquired this gun in the mid 1970's, and as acquired, had a 6" bbl, an extra .22lr cylinder and a .22 Super jet cylinder. I returned it to the S&W factory where a 8 3/8" and 4" bbls were fitted and numbered to the gun, and Tommy Freyburger performed a wonderful beyond Class A engraving job on all pieces. It stayed in my collection until 2010, when it was sold. Pictures of the .22Jet and .22 Super Jet cartridges are shown for comparison. RCBS made customs dies for reloading. Super Jet cartridges were fire formed by shooting .22 Jet cartridges in the Super Jet cylinder. There was a 50% success rate. The Super jet did not have a release problem.
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Old 11-08-2020, 09:51 PM
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...all I can say is WOW!
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Old 11-15-2020, 01:52 AM
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Quote:
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I acquired this gun in the mid 1970's, and as acquired, had a 6" bbl, an extra .22lr cylinder and a .22 Super jet cylinder. I returned it to the S&W factory where a 8 3/8" and 4" bbls were fitted and numbered to the gun, and Tommy Freyburger performed a wonderful beyond Class A engraving job on all pieces...

In retrospect: the .22 Jet Model 53-imgp0554-jpg
Beautiful!!!
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Old 11-19-2020, 05:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PALADIN85020 View Post
Bill, this one's slated for Dillon's Blue Press.

That sentence is grammatically correct - my inspiration for it is Winston Churchill's remark on the grammatical rule of never ending a sentence with a preposition. "That is something up with which I would not put."

It was tongue in cheek, but purposeful.

John
I recognized the Churchill phrasing instantly, and thought, huh?, I wonder if he intentionally borrowed that, or knew of it. Delightful!
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