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Old 07-09-2009, 09:15 AM
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Default best years for smith and wesson

Looking at the time period from 1950 through 2009, would you say overall average quality of revolvers was better at any time? Was there a time when quality was at its peak or is it/was it about the same thr
ughout these years? Just looking for opinions.
From what I've seen and read it seems the 50's and early 60's were better than average years for S&W revolvers. But I really dont know. Are present day revolvers much better, about the same or worse ??
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Old 07-09-2009, 10:26 AM
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From a collector's point of view, most will say older is better. The pre-WWII ".357" Magnum is considered by many to be the pinnacle of S&W's quality, but it was a custom-ordered revolver and very "pricey" for its time. S&W's quality of the 50s through the mid-70s was good, although the polish given their bright blue revolvers deteriorated over time (comparitively speaking). In the late 70s and early 80s, their quality seemed to suffer as I think the company was seeking to reduce costs (as many companies were doing) and increase output. Production of the 2000s is good from my limited experience. I have purchased several Model 29-10s and all are perfectly functional. The nickel 29-10 I have looks as good as the nickel finished guns of the 60s. The blued guns are less polished, but S&W can do a super job if they want to as one of my special order guns is very highly polished and looks as good as the 44 Magnums from the 50s.

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Old 07-09-2009, 10:32 AM
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Anything prior to the era of them damned ol' locks is good with me.

I personally refuse to buy a Smith & Wesson revolver that's not of legal age limit...meaning they gotta be at least 21 years old before I'll show any interest.
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Old 07-09-2009, 10:47 AM
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Default Best S&W Years

S&W metallurgy peaked around 1958 when the alloys/heat treatment for critical parts was improved to the state of the art. From that time up through the 1970's and early 1980's, were S&W's best years. The late 1980's saw a burst of new models, etc. but, unfortunately, a serious dip in quality control. New manufacturing processess eventually compensated for the loss of the former careful attention to detail in assembling revolvers.
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Old 07-09-2009, 11:02 AM
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First, welcome to the forum. I think you could argue this one several ways, based on one's personal preferences for fit, finish and features. From 1950 hrough 1957 they were in a brand new plant with new equipment and still had the soft fit department so there's a real good argument for that era. During the Bangor Punta years, 1965 to 1984, many think the company lost its focus, got into too much other stuff, and firearm quality suffered. We do know that Tomkins made reducing the dismal return for repair rate a high priority when they bought S&W in 1987. There also was a bunch of retooling in the early 80's so I'm sure that helped quality as those machines got up to speed.

Today, S&W is using state of the art metallurgy and CNC machines on top of traditional old school forging. I feel they're putting out great products but others will not accept MIM parts or a certain feature that is unacceptable to some. I've got a nickel 24-3 made in 2007 that I can put next to a nickel Triple Lock made 90 years before it and the 2007 gun more than holds its own.

Some like vanilla and some like chocolate.

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Old 07-09-2009, 11:09 AM
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Default Quality

Of course, if you get something from their custom shop it's always very good stuff.
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Old 07-09-2009, 11:12 AM
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A quick look at the 2009 S&W catalog has me longing for the "dismal Bangor Punta years".
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Old 07-09-2009, 11:25 AM
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Pick any year of manufacture from the end of WWII to yesterday, and you will have a chance to get an absolute dog of a gun, or an absolute champion. While I prefer the looks, finish and overall feel of '40s and '50s revolvers, I have to acknowledge that my 460XVR has the sweetest trigger pull I have ever felt on any Smith, and my new-production 649 (yes, with lock) has the tightest lockup of any revolver in my collection. Nobody will ever convince me that these are substandard units because "modern production isn't as good as midcentury production."

Maybe it would help to think about the company's annual production by fitting data points on a two-dimensional field with fit and finish running in one direction and functional quality (smoothness of action, accuracy, and so on) in the other. If you graph every gun made by the company in a particular year, you will get a cloud of points with a very dark center and a fuzzy outlying fringe. Do that for every year (assuming consistency of evaluation criteria), and then overlay the datapoint clouds. Mostly you won't be able to tell one from another. MAYBE if you could identify the company's best year and its worst year, you would find that -- making up numbers as an example -- about 55 percent of the best year's guns are better than just 50 percent of the worst year's guns. But remember that means the top 50 percent of the worst year's guns will still be better than 45 percent of the best year's guns. Not much of a difference, in my eyes.

This is a discussion that will never come to a resolution. People have preferences and biases, and they will praise the guns that are most consistent with their preconceptions.

I like them all but prefer the classics because, as Thomas Pynchon noted in an early novel, many of us suffer from a vast chronological homesickness for the decade of our birth and early childhood. If I should happen to end up with a revolver of any age that doesn't feel right to me, I'll sell it. If it stays in my collection, that's because I like it regardless of its age and the company's process control and design standards in the year of its manufacture.

David Wilson
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Old 07-09-2009, 12:48 PM
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Thanks ALL for your responses Excuse my ignorance (I am just learning about S&W history) what/who is bangor-punta?
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:05 PM
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The problem with threads like this one is that they quickly -- and inevitably -- degenerate into yarns and anecdotes. I don't see how one can measure quality of manufacture until you: (1) define your terms; and (2) come up with meaningful statistics to support whatever conclusion you advocate.

But, when it comes to yarns and anecdotes here's mine. I presently own six Smiths. They were manufactured, respectively, in 1971, 1983, 1988, 2006, 2008, and 2009. I find each of them to be of outstanding quality, well made, nicely finished, extremely accurate, and with a great trigger to boot. I can't honestly tell a difference in quality in these guns, which were manufactured over a period spanning nearly 40 years.
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:06 PM
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Bangor-Punta was an English plumbing outfit who bought S&W. In my view at the time they pushed production and quality controll suffered for a time. I used to be a S&W of the week buyer at the time and had to send a lot of them back to S&W for repair right out of the box. (lost most all of em in the divorce!) Back to your original question, the older S&W's are more satisfieing as to fit and finish but I really feel that MIM and locks aside, that in general the new Smith's are the best one's mechanicly, ever built.
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Old 07-09-2009, 05:23 PM
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Thanks ALL for your responses Excuse my ignorance (I am just learning about S&W history) what/who is bangor-punta?
Thread drift ahead but since you're the OP I guess it's OK. If you're going to get into S&W there are two books you really should have, at least to start. First, "History of Smith & Wesson" by Roy G. Jinks. Also "Standard Calalog of Smith & Wesson" by Supica & Nahas. Try Amazon or abebooks.com to get them.

Bob
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Old 07-09-2009, 07:27 PM
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Thread drift ahead but since you're the OP I guess it's OK. If you're going to get into S&W there are two books you really should have, at least to start. First, "History of Smith & Wesson" by Roy G. Jinks. Also "Standard Calalog of Smith & Wesson" by Supica & Nahas. Try Amazon or abebooks.com to get them.

Bob
Thanks I will pick them up
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Old 07-09-2009, 07:30 PM
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I have the SW99 and a K38 model 15-2 and I find both of them GREAT guns, S&W has always been great gun makers now if they would just get rid of that darn lock
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Old 07-09-2009, 08:26 PM
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I guess I have been around long enough and seen enough Smith revolvers to expose my observations and bias in this discussion. From my observations, I agree mostly with Doc, except that I think the quality started down in around 1970. I am talking revolvers here as that is what I handle most. Almost all the guns I have or have handled built after WWll through the '50's have a good, solid, fast carry up, consistent throats and good finish. Guns built in the '70's sometimes had problems with carry up or other issues, such as a gritty action, right from the factory. Finish was still good and they looked good. Grips deteriorated after the diamond disappeared. The L frames were introduced around 1980, and these were well made as well, better than the N frames, it seems to me. Most of the guns in the early '90's were solid as well. While I do not like the lock, my brother in law just got a new 686 that has just a perfect action and feels very solid. Just my thoughts.
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Old 07-09-2009, 08:33 PM
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I would say S&W's best years were from 1960-1988
But as far as company owned...Bangor Punta is my favorite peroid.
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Old 07-09-2009, 10:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 18DAI View Post
A quick look at the 2009 S&W catalog has me longing for the "dismal Bangor Punta years".

Dismal or not, I have several from that time period, and they are some of the nicest Smith's I've owned, both from a finish, and function standpoint.
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Old 07-10-2009, 11:05 PM
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I've had over 40 Smith revolvers and one M39-2 9m/m auto, and all were outstandinag guns, and all were made between the mid 1960's to the late 1980's. Some had a bit more polish and some smoother actions but all were accurate, reliable, and just DANDY!
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Old 07-13-2009, 12:20 AM
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My favorite S&W's are 1980 and back (pinned barrel guns and early models). The finish on the early guns is obvious. The blue finish on my 1958 2" Model 10 is like a mirror. My friend's 1978 2" Model 10 is nowhere near as bright. Still looks good though.
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Old 07-13-2009, 02:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bk43 View Post
From 1950 hrough 1957 they were in a brand new plant with new equipment and still had the soft fit department so there's a real good argument for that era. During the Bangor Punta years, 1965 to 1984, many think the company lost its focus, got into too much other stuff, and firearm quality suffered. We do know that Tomkins made reducing the dismal return for repair rate a high priority when they bought S&W in 1987.
I would agree--revolvers from the 50's had something that was definitely missing in many later guns. I don't know if it was because of the "soft fit" mentioned above, but most of the Smith revolvers I've owned or handled from that era felt as if they were hand-fitted by a master machinist. And while there was a dip in quality from the late 60's to early 80's (the Bangor Punta years), there seemed to be much improvement by the end of the 80's.

For working guns, my preference is for those built around 1990-1994. By that time the quality control problems of the 70's and early 80's had mostly been resolved, some real improvements (smooth triggers, wider front sights on J-frames, etc.) had been fully implemented, while other dubious "improvements" like MIM parts and internal locks had not yet been introduced. I have several revolvers from that time period, and while I wouldn't try to compare their finishes to guns from 50+ years ago, I find them to have the best combination of modern features plus excellent fit and reliability.

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Old 07-13-2009, 05:21 AM
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I like them all, some are for collecting and others are for shooting. They cover a mass area of use, from a glove box model to a never see day light safe Queen. The S&W out rates all of the revolvers made, they have been copied, and shot down alot of snakes.
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Old 07-13-2009, 09:30 AM
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I would agree--revolvers from the 50's had something that was definitely missing in many later guns. I don't know if it was because of the "soft fit" mentioned above, but most of the Smith revolvers I've owned or handled from that era felt as if they were hand-fitted by a master machinist. And while there was a dip in quality from the late 60's to early 80's (the Bangor Punta years), there seemed to be much improvement by the end of the 80's.
For many years the S&W factory was divided into distict departments and up to 1957 soft fit was one of them. There all the parts were fit to the frame while it is still in the white. Then the gun was broken down and the internals went to hard fitting(final assembly) in a bin. The parts needing blue or nickel were sent on to polishing, then to blue or nickel, and then on to hard fitting where it was all put together again. That step was eliminated in 1957 and perhaps some attention to detail went with it. It seems to me it probably did but who knows?(shrug)

You are correct about the Bangor Punta years statistically being poor quality. What posters here forget, when they post annecdotally about guns they own, is that they are looking at a tiny, tiny portion of total production that is not statistically significant. Also, the guns being 30 plus years old, they are rarely the original owner and there is no way to see problems corrected before they owned the guns.

Bob
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Old 07-15-2009, 01:05 PM
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Default best years

I have owned and shot many smiths thru the years. Most were N frames with a few 19s thrown in. All these came from different years. As for fit and bluing, for the ones I had, it was outstanding from the "S" frame period. Mechanics is a different thing. Seems like there was a variance in them.

There were a few 4" 624 that came out at the last run that left a lot to be desired in the index department. One 1950 44 Target was never timed like I like them, even after sending it to the factory.

I do think that Smiths are the best revolvers though, that is my personal opinion. Bob
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Old 07-15-2009, 08:38 PM
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Thanks ALL for your responses Excuse my ignorance (I am just learning about S&W history) what/who is bangor-punta?
They once owned S&W.
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Old 07-16-2009, 06:09 AM
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I think they were all great revolvers until they driiled that big hole into the left side plate above the latch. WON"T ever own one of them!!! I just personally witnessed a lockable 686 lock up during a range session with the DUMB persons safety.
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Old 07-16-2009, 06:35 AM
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1956
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Old 07-16-2009, 08:58 AM
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1956
I agree with Chuck! 1956 was a banner year in the entire Firearms industry as well...a sampling of introductions...
* .44 Remington Magnum - the World's most powerful handgun cartridge
* re-introduction of the Colt SAA, absent for many years
* Ruger .44 Flattop - their Premier handgun of that era
* introduction of Bausch & Lomb's "Balvar" line & new concepts in variable telescope technology
* S&W's .44 Magnum revolver (Pre-29) made available to the public
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Old 07-16-2009, 10:39 AM
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Default 1956 a Banner Year but 1958 Important, Too!

In 1958, the new heat treatment for K frame .38 cylinders was introduced bringing the strength/toughness level up to the .357 Combat Magnum standards. This was an important milestone for the use of the higher pressure 38/44 .38 special rounds and later improved ammunition in duty guns.
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Old 07-16-2009, 12:05 PM
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If you google "Bangor Punta and Smith and Wesson" you get a good deal of information.

Bangor Punta was one of those conglomerates that specialized in buying up company's going through financial difficulties and in essence "flipping" them for a profit. The cost cutting measures that they employed at S&W and at Criss-Craft (the boat maker) irritated a good many fans of both. In terms of S&W BP got rid of a good deal of the hand fitting, pinned barrels, recessed cylinders, beveled cylinders, etc. This brought on a boycott and many today still cuss BP.

tipoc
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Old 07-16-2009, 12:55 PM
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My feelings are quite somewhat like the Colt guy dfarriswheel. Guns do not have a "vintage" like wine that depending on the sun, wind, rain and heat as to how it will turn out great or so so in any given year. Vintage implies good or bad years or period of years.
Guns are made by PEOPLE and depending on who handles that particular gun on any given day will depend on how that exact gun will turn out. If it was mostly fitted or finished by hungover "sloppy Joe" it will most likely turn at best as a questionable gun. On the other hand if it was handled by oldtimer "conscientious Carl" you are probably going to get a well fit, finished and polished gun. Even during some of the so called questionable years like the Bangor-Punta era you will have most of the guns turn out just fine and few potential "lemons" will and do sneak through. I personally have some finely made guns from the BP years. There are no such things as guaranteed good years and guaranteed bad years. Each gun has to be examined on it's own merits, at least that is what I do. JMHO
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Old 07-16-2009, 01:05 PM
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I agree with Diamondback. With a caveat. Different generations of guns have different characteristics. The pre-war and some post war guns are generally well shaped and the finishing work done on them is quite good. The front of the cylinders were beveled to make reholstering easier. The rear of the barrel where it meets the cylinder was chamfered and deburred. There was little on these guns that could cut the hand other than the rear adjustable sights.

Today you buy a standard S&W and the first task is to deburr it.

In general the modern guns are made of stronger metal.

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Old 07-17-2009, 12:48 PM
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I would say that from 1957 and back the quality fit and finish was better. The metal was not. Now the metals are far better but the assembly is modern production and more about making a lot revolvers but not looking at detail and finish. However I still believe Smith and Wesson makes as good a revolver as any in current production.
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