“The S & W Phenomenon Volume III” This is the third volume in the series on Smith & Wesson revolvers, all written by self-defense expert Timothy J. Mullin. Profusely illustrated, with hundreds of color photographs, it is a study of the large N- and even larger X-frame models. It carries on the chapter sequence beginning with Chapter 44, titled "The Little Known S&W .45 Special", wherein we discuss the small series of pre-production prototypes chambered for the rimmed case version of the experimental Frankford Arsenal "Model 1906" .45 caliber cartridge, known at the factory as the ".45 S&W Special". Two of these early revolvers were submitted for trials at Springfield Armory in 1907.
These were followed by another pre-production series of twelve .44 Special “Club Guns”, which were given out to Wesson family members and to some of the more prominent competitive shooters of the day. Once their input had been collected, commercial production began with the introduction of the First Model .44 Hand Ejector (the “New Century” or “Triple Lock”) in 1908, long considered by many to be ”the finest double-action revolver in existence”. Production continued with the Second Model Hand Ejector, which did away with the expense of the third locking feature and enclosed ejector rod of the Triple Lock. Most of these were procured for military use during WWI, in the “.455 Government Model” configuration, or as the .45 ACP U.S. Model 1917.
The Third Model (the “Model 1926”), which resurrected the distinctive ejector rod housing, followed, and formed the basis for most of the N-frames still in production today. Later N-frames, purpose-built for the beefed-up .38 Special High Velocity (.38/44) cartridge and the .357 Magnum, were introduced in the 1930s.
The story continues through the curtailment of commercial production during WWII to the introduction of the new short action N-frames (circa 1950) and the .44 Magnum, introduced in the mid-1950s.
The Watershed change from model names to numbers was announced in 1957.
The first ten numbered N-frames, Models 20 – 29, all introduced at the same time, were simply new ways of referring to the earlier, traditionally-named models which had from time to time been added to the line over the previous half-century.
By the end of the first decade of model numbers, many of the original ten models had been discontinued, and the firm continued to diversify with an ever-increasing array of new models and serial numbering systems. These new offerings were all basically variations of the original Second and Third Model .44 Hand Ejectors, presented in new guises, many of which were constructed from new materials such as stainless steel and lightweight, space-age alloys. Most recently, the N-frame lineup has been augmented by the bone-crushing S&W .460 and .500 Magnums, built on the mammoth stainless steel X-frame, the firm’s largest.
Improvements in manufacturing methods and other engineering changes, which eventually affected virtually every component, were adopted from time to time. All of these changes reflect the firm’s continuing commitment to offering a quality product of ever-greater strength and reliability at a comparatively affordable price, in an inexorable age of ever-scarcer and more expensive skilled labor. 356pp.