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Old 10-25-2012, 01:51 PM
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Default History of the Model 61 "Escort"



In the early 1960s, Smith & Wesson perceived the need for a small-caliber semiautomatic pocket pistol that could be used for personal protection. In January of 1963, they began working on a diminutive pistol chambered for the .25 automatic cartridge. Further development proved that the pistol could be chambered in .22 long rifle with about equal results ballistically, and that would provide for more economical ammunition. What finally resulted was the only small caliber pocket pistol S&W ever produced, and it’s become a classic and sought-after collector’s item today.

By the summer of 1965, an interesting design had been firmed up, ready for testing. S&W engineers had evidently studied the 1908 Pieper Bayard pocket pistol for inspiration. The Bayard was based on a design by Bernard Clarus of Belgium. He had patented his work in England in 1907. The similarities of the S&W pistol to the old Bayard are quite striking. The recoil spring was situated on top of the fixed barrel. Pushing back on the recoil spring guide and lifting the front sight out of the slide allowed removal of the recoil spring and guide. Then the slide and breech assembly could be slipped off, giving access to the chamber end of the barrel for cleaning. There was a manual safety lever on the left side of the pistol behind the trigger. This could be placed in the safe position whether the pistol was cocked or uncocked and while chambering a round. No hold-open device was provided. An internal hammer was utilized, and a cocked hammer indicator protruded through a small hole in the left stock. The single-action pistol was to be carried with an empty chamber for safety, although it could be employed with a loaded chamber and the safety lever in the “safe” position. The magazine held five rounds, making it a six-shot pistol with one in the chamber. The frame was aluminum, while the barrel, magazine, trigger/sear components and the slide/breech assembly were steel. The stocks were high impact plastic. The barrel measured 2 1/8 inches, and the pistol weighed all of 14 ounces including the unloaded magazine. It was easily a gun that could be hidden in the palm of one’s hand, but this concealability came at a price – with the short grip, it was a bit awkward to hold and fire.

Following extensive testing, the pistol was announced in late 1968, but production was delayed until 1969. It was sold as the .22 Escort Model No. 61 starting in March, 1970. The name “Escort” was rumored to be chosen because the pistol was ostensibly intended for discrete carry by females. However, the little gun found some favor as a hideout pistol by both sexes, often by police officers. The Model 61 could be purchased either blued or nickeled. A navy blue leatherette pistol rug marked “Smith & Wesson” was provided with the pistol. A special serial number range was assigned, and these numbers began with B1001. Almost as soon as the first pistols hit the dealers’ shelves, a change was decided upon to provide the Escort with a magazine safety, preventing discharge when the magazine was removed. This version was called the Model 61-1, and that engineering change was implemented in May of 1970, starting at serial number B7801. A special group of presentation pistols was produced in 1970, carrying serial numbers from B1 to B500. These are rarely found today. They are not from the first production run in spite of their lower serial numbers.

Another engineering change came about in September 1970 at serial number B9851. A removable barrel bushing nut was used at the muzzle, and this resulted in the Model 61-2. The pistol illustrated is one of these, and left the factory in January of 1971. I have fired this little number on several occasions, and contrary to the genre’s reputation (and my trepidations) it never failed to go “bang” when the trigger was pulled. Proper ammunition is apparently critical. To quote from S&W’s instruction sheet: “Due to inconsistent velocities and lubricants of .22 caliber ammunition it is a good policy to test fire various brands to determine which brands work best in your pistol and use this type for best performance.” The final engineering change came about in July 1971, when a forged aluminum frame was used, replacing the previous die-cast aluminum part. Minor changes to the disconnector and the breech face were also implemented. These modifications occurred at serial number B40001, and the revised pistol, the last version of the line, was known as the Model 61-3.

The Model 61 was produced until March 1973 when it was no longer cataloged by Smith & Wesson. Still, small quantities were made until February 1974 when the final supply of parts ran out. The last serial number was B65438. Although the serial numbers would indicate a total production number of 64,938, some of today’s collectors estimate a far lower number. Why was the little pistol discontinued? Controversy surrounds this decision. The gun’s unreliability with incompatible ammo has been postulated. The unusual appearance and awkward feel of the gun were probable factors contributing to unpopularity. Perhaps Smith & Wesson no longer wanted to be associated with such a concealable firearm. The official reason given was that S&W didn’t feel it was in keeping with its image as the producer of what many consider to be the highest quality handguns made.

Regardless, the engineering effort that went into the Model 61 was not wasted at Smith & Wesson. In 1987, the principles embodied in the Model 61 were implemented in a new single-action field and target pistol, the Model 422. The pistol’s lineage was quite evident, as it sported a recoil spring over the barrel and a takedown procedure identical to that used on the Escort. Even the shape of the trigger made it a dead ringer for the one used on the tiny Model 61. This pistol was manufactured until 1996. The stainless Models 622 and 622VR (ventilated rib) were produced on the same design from 1989 to 1996. The Model 2206, with all-stainless steel construction, was introduced in 1990 and was made until 1996. The Model 2213 Sportsman Stainless with a short 3” barrel came on line in 1991 and was made until 1999. Its blued counterpart, the Model 2214 Sportsman, was manufactured from 1990 to 1999. Both of these latter pistols sported the obvious features of the original Escort. So Smith & Wesson got a lot of mileage from the little gun, even long after it was discontinued.

Smith & Wesson has had but a couple of dead-end semiautomatic pistols over its long history, including the .35 Automatic of 1913, and the Model 61 Escort of 1970. Neither one achieved lasting success, with both failing to carve out a niche in S&W’s lineup of firearms. Nonetheless, each pistol has become a prized collector item today and they are eagerly sought after at gun shows and auctions if only for their unique features and limited production numbers.

The Model 61, in spite of its small grip, can be fired with some accuracy within the usual “combat” distance of seven yards. With proper ammunition, the one I shot proved to be quite reliable. It could still serve today as a hideout or backup weapon and a real deterrent to aggression when displayed. I am sure not even the most determined thug would want to be shot in the face with one. I think the little Escort pistol was an interesting exercise in engineering for Smith & Wesson, and they unknowingly created a collector item in the brief span of three years. Today, these pistols are hard to find, and their prices have escalated to reflect the demand. Was it a successful pistol? Absolutely not. Is it a classic today? Absolutely.

John

(c) 2012 JLM
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Last edited by PALADIN85020; 10-25-2012 at 02:23 PM.
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Old 10-25-2012, 08:33 PM
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Thanks for the info.
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Old 10-26-2012, 09:25 PM
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Paladin85020,
Thanks a bunch for the write-up on the 61 and its descendants! That was very well written and I learned a bunch. I shot a 2214 a number of years ago and liked it but they were scarce and I never saw one for a price I was willing to pay. Your posting revived my interest in the Smith .22's and I will likely add an "Escort" to the collection one day!
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Old 10-27-2012, 01:47 PM
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In the '60s and early '70s Glen Slade's was pretty much to go gun store in Houston. When the Escort was discontinued, they simply piled them up behind one of the counters with a price in the $40 range. The pile remained unreduced for several months. Eventually they disappeared. I asked if they had sold and was told that those that remained had been purchased by another dealer who just knew they would become valuable collector's items. I've often wondered how long it took for him to make his money back.

They did work with the proper ammunition. At the time, the usual hideout gun for police in the Houston area was a Baby Browning in a second handcuff carrier. By '74, the GCA of 68 had made the little Browning expensive and difficult to find. I know several men who found the Escort to be an acceptable substitute.
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Old 10-28-2012, 08:58 PM
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Thanks John for that interesting article. It was very informative and well written.
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Old 10-28-2012, 09:30 PM
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My experience with the Escort was interesting. I bought one of the first ones. On the second magzine, the firing pin broke and jammed out. It went full auto. Exciting! When I contacted Smith, they told me to return it at my expense, and they would consider repairing it. A blistering, nasty, letter brought a new firing pin in the mail.
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Old 10-28-2012, 09:44 PM
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Great article. I now have more appreciation for my 61-3 Serial number B48098 which I purchased new. I have the rug and two extra magazines.
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Old 11-03-2012, 09:11 PM
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Default 61 Escort I took your advice and bought one

John,
I took your advice and added this little gem to my collection today. It was sitting amongst the junk at a Gun show today. LNIB with paper work, box tools and of course the plastic grips. It appears to be unfired or used very very little. Condition is definitely 98%+. $250.. Now how many S&W pistols/ revolvers can you get with a box in unfired condition for $250? I submit only 1...the Model 61 Escort. It is a -3. Last engineering change.






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Old 11-03-2012, 11:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbliss57 View Post
John,
I took your advice and added this little gem to my collection today. It was sitting amongst the junk at a Gun show today. LNIB with paper work, box tools and of course the plastic grips. It appears to be unfired or used very very little. Condition is definitely 98%+. $250.. Now how many S&W pistols/ revolvers can you get with a box in unfired condition for $250? I submit only 1...the Model 61 Escort. It is a -3. Last engineering change.
Looks like a good one - congrats on your find. Definitely a collector's item!

John
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Old 11-04-2012, 12:30 AM
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My experience with the Escort was a little intense. Back when I was a kid our church used to have a father/son canoe trip every spring in northern Michigan. It was common for us to bring guns along, and we enjoyed some plinking and target shooting in the late afternoons after we got off the river. One year the pastor, who happened to be a reserve Detroit Police Officer, brought up his new Escort and turned us boys loose with it. I don't know how much it got shot before my turn came, but sometime during the first magazine the gun blew up. I didn't get hurt, but I was sure it was somehow my fault. The pastor took it in stride, and explained that the gun was probably made of "pot metal" and wasn't made to last. I never did find out if he tried to get it repaired. That was the first and last time I shot the Escort.
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Old 11-04-2012, 01:38 AM
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John, as always, a great and informative article! I have never been a fan of the little things, preferring the Browning design baby pistols. Your article gives good reasons to get one, though, and I have seen a few around for reasonable prices. Most I have seen are in very good shape.
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Old 11-04-2012, 05:50 AM
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Back in the day, the little piece DID NOT WORK! My LGS refused to carry them, allegedly S&W threatened to cut off their supply of real guns, he told them the letter would be in a full page ad in Shotgun News. They backed down allegedly when the distributors refused all deliveries which included the M61. "Handgun Tests" magazine came into existence because the M61 was praised in the regular Gun Rags of the day, but never worked in the real world.
It is a collectors item, like the little Colt Deringers which were never designed to shoot.
Geoff
Who notes even the Walther TPH had problems, I don't know about the .22LR baby Berettas and Taruii steel and plastic which are still offered.
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Old 11-04-2012, 01:47 PM
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Thanks for posting . I have a -2 nickel with box, papers and pouch and a -3 blue , just the gun. I didn't know anything about them, just thought they were cool.
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Old 11-04-2012, 02:05 PM
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John,

Thanks for the best review of the Escort that I have ever read. This is the kind of information that makes this Forum so valuable to us "old guys" and especially to the newer members. It takes a lot of time for members who are knowledgeable like you, to write such a treatise.I never owned one but my partner in our medical practice did. He swore by it and it wore many holes in his pants pockets. You have revived my interest. I will look for one, just to add another model to my collection and in memory of "Old Walter", my partner.

Thanks again,

medxam
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Old 06-02-2013, 02:51 PM
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Default Magazines for Model 61

When I was a kid, I remember my grandfather had one of these, which he used to shoot in the basement. When he passed away we never found his model 61, but in a box of his stuff that I was given were these 3 magazines. Packed away and forgotten until recently, I'm now wondering what these are worth?

I've never been a fan of small pistols, preferring large frame autos and revolvers. So, I'm not likely to ever acquire one of these for my collection.
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Old 06-02-2013, 03:23 PM
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Excellent article. Thanks for posting.

I remember seeing the Escorts in the catalogs. I never followed their demise.
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Old 06-02-2013, 05:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richski View Post
When I was a kid, I remember my grandfather had one of these, which he used to shoot in the basement. When he passed away we never found his model 61, but in a box of his stuff that I was given were these 3 magazines. Packed away and forgotten until recently, I'm now wondering what these are worth?

I've never been a fan of small pistols, preferring large frame autos and revolvers. So, I'm not likely to ever acquire one of these for my collection.
There may be a different opinion out there but I think most escorts are sitting in safes collecting dust as a piece of S&W history they would rather forget ever happened. It was not their finest hour. So I don't think there is a big market for used mags..But you never know. AS they say there is a horse for every saddle and I was wrong once before Good luck.
In the basement?
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Old 06-02-2013, 06:30 PM
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I always enjoy your gun histories. Very informative. Keep writing
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Old 06-02-2013, 09:36 PM
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I purchased a model 63-3 from my LGH and it is both nickel and blue.The serial number is only 4 digits.[ B37.. ] The gun is like brand new. I would appreciate any info. anyone has. Thanks!
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Old 06-02-2013, 09:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chicog4 View Post
I purchased a model 63-3 from my LGH and it is both nickel and blue.The serial number is only 4 digits.[ B37.. ] The gun is like brand new. I would appreciate any info. anyone has. Thanks!
Did you mean 61-3? Is it B37X or B37XX? The range of the 61 no dash is B1001 - B7800 made in 1970. 61–1 was B1 - B500 and B7801 - B9850. The serial number batches were not used in order. Most of these are found in like new condition since they didn't always function well and were subsequently not shot very much.

Last edited by civil1977; 06-02-2013 at 10:04 PM.
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Old 06-02-2013, 10:05 PM
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Great write up. Nice little pistol. I've got a 2213 that is a sweet little piece!
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Old 06-02-2013, 10:41 PM
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I've been fielding a 2214 for several years now...





It replaced my favorite 34-1 as my "Kit Gun"....





Leather by Lefty Lewis of Bell Charter Oak.

Last edited by Sebago Son; 06-02-2013 at 10:44 PM.
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Old 12-01-2013, 01:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richski View Post
When I was a kid, I remember my grandfather had one of these, which he used to shoot in the basement. When he passed away we never found his model 61, but in a box of his stuff that I was given were these 3 magazines. Packed away and forgotten until recently, I'm now wondering what these are worth?

I've never been a fan of small pistols, preferring large frame autos and revolvers. So, I'm not likely to ever acquire one of these for my collection.
Let me know if you want to sell these (if you still have them) I'll take them off your hands for $40.
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Smith & Wesson Semi-Auto Pistols Thread, History of the Model 61 "Escort" in Smith & Wesson Semi-Automatic Pistols; In the early 1960s, Smith & Wesson perceived the need for a small-caliber semiautomatic pocket pistol that could be used ...
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The Arms Room This thread Refback 06-13-2014 03:10 PM
The Arms Room This thread Refback 02-12-2014 09:29 PM
The Arms Room: Sunday Smith #52: Model 61-2 Escort, 1970 This thread Refback 02-09-2014 07:55 AM
S&W 61 For Sale or Trade | VA Gun Trader This thread Refback 01-22-2014 12:41 PM
S&W 61 | VA Gun Trader This thread Refback 01-20-2014 09:11 AM
FS S&W 61 | VA Gun Trader This thread Refback 01-18-2014 02:41 PM
The Arms Room This thread Refback 12-19-2013 12:52 PM
The Arms Room: Sunday Smith #52: Model 61-2 Escort, 1970 This thread Refback 11-14-2013 05:27 PM
The Arms Room: Sunday Smith #52: Model 61-2 Escort, 1970 This thread Refback 11-10-2013 05:28 PM
S&W 2213 2214 422 622 2206 Club - Page 2 - THR This thread Refback 06-06-2013 10:52 PM
Gone -- Delete me. - Calguns.net This thread Refback 12-25-2012 09:36 PM
S&W Escort .22 - Calguns.net This thread Refback 12-01-2012 01:39 AM

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