One of the really great things about Smith & Wesson's "Gun-of-the-Week" modus operandi is that from time to time old favorites come back. We've seen the resurrection of the 1950 Target .44 Special in a limited run of both blue and stainless Model 24/624 .44 Specials, there are rumors floating about that the Model 26 .45 ACP will be resurrected, and just recently the five-inch Model 27 was re-introduced at the SHOT Show in Dallas. The Model 27 has remained a catalog item but only in four-, six-, and eight and three-eighths inch lengths with the three and one- half, six and one-half and Skeeter Skelton's favorite, the five-incher being dropped several years ago.

Now the five-inch .357 N-frame, the first, and to many still the best .357 Magnum ever produced, is back for at least a limited engagement. Having just recently acquired a 1950-ish Model 27 five-inch sixgun, I immediately contacted Smith & Wesson to receive a sample of the latest .357, not a Model 27, but a Model 27-5. Those familiar with Smith & Wesson nomenclature will recognize that the "dash five" means that engineering changes have been made over the years. Starting out simply as "The .357 Magnum" in 1935, the big Smith .357 became the Model 27 in the middle 1950's and then the 27-1 around 1959. So there have been four more engineering changes over the past thirty plus years.

Engineering changes in Smith & Wesson revolvers have been as subtle as changing the thread on the ejector rod and dropping the horizontal pin through the barrel and frame, and as major as dropping the recessed cylinder chambers which completely enclosed the head of the cartridge case.

At first glance both Smith & Wesson .357's look identical, but there are differences. My Model 27 five-inch .357 has both the pinned barrel feature and recessed cartridge heads on the cylinder, the Model 27-5 has neither. I cannot compare the actions as the original Model 27 has been tuned to perfection by Teddy Jacobsen and once I purchase the Model 27-5 it will receive the same treatment of complete action polishing, trigger job, and hammer and trigger smoothed, jewelled and polished. Until that time, the action of the Model 27-5 is smooth, though heavy in the double action mode, and actually has a very good single action trigger pull.

Removal of the blocky, saw-handle style Smith & Wesson Target grips is the only alteration accomplished thus far on the Model 27-5. This was done immediately and "Skeeter's Gun" instantly received Skeeter's favorite stocks, namely BearHug Skeeter Skelton grips of field grade walnut. Workin' stocks, not exhibition stocks. BluMagnum continues to offer the Skeeter Skelton style of stock in plain-jane walnut, fancy walnut and other exotic woods.

A trademark of the original .357 Magnum has always been the fully checkered top strap and barrel rib. This has always signified c-l-a-s-s and remains on the latest Model 27 offering. Both Model 27's weigh in at forty-four ounces empty and while they feel the same and function the same, one soon sees differences in the finishes. With thirty plus years separating their building, a side by side comparison shows the change that has occurred in the manufacture of firearms.

At one time the Model 27 ".357 Magnum", the Model 19 "Combat Magnum", and the Model 29 ".44 Magnum", were all offered in two finishes, Nickel and Bright Blue. The blue finish on the Model 27-5 looks fine by 1990's standards, but pales in comparison to the old Bright Blue finish of the original Model 27. Even after more than three decades of service, the older finish, though thinning, is deeper and brighter. The lettering on the barrel "S&W .357 MAGNUM" on the right side, and "SMITH & WESSON" on the left, is cut much smoother on the older .357 sixgun, and in fact the whole gun has a much smoother appearance.

To achieve the same effect today would require hours of extra polishing on the latest Model 27. It is simply a fact of life that to hold down cost, all of the big three, Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Ruger, have cut corners on surface preparation and polishing, and a comparison of guns produced in 1960 and 1990 by any of the three will show a marked contrast.

Three test sixguns that have been received from Smith & Wesson in the last month have all had the same malady. The pinned-in front sight blade is loose and can be ever so slightly rocked back and forth by hand. I am assuming that the hole in the sight blade is larger than the pin that holds it on and it will require the installation of an oversized pin to correct the problem. This should be easily accomplished by any gunsmith. Actually, the newer system is a better one for those who wish to replace the front sight blade. The sighting system of the original Model 27 consists of a pinned-on ramp base while modern technology has given us a base integral with the barrel.

It was only natural to run the two .357's side-by-side with the following results:




1959 M27

1991 M27-5

LYMAN #358429/13.5 GR. #2400* 1389 1 7/8" 1443 2 1/2"
LYMAN #358156/15.0 GR. #2400 1355 1 5/8"  1411 1 7/8"
125 JHP/CCI BLAZER 1236 2 1/4" 1421 2 3/8"
125 JHP/BLACK HILLS 1419 1 3/8"  1557  2 1/4"
125 JHP/WINCHESTER 1349 2 3/8" 1429  2 7/8"
140 JHP/CCI LAWMAN 1190  2 1/8" 1293 2 1/4"
158 LEAD SWC/FEDERAL 1190 1"  1260 2 1/4"
158 JSP/FEDERAL 1233 1 7/8"  1278 1 1/8"
158 JHP/BLACK HILLS 1175 2 1/8" 1221  2 1/4"
158 JSP/WINCHESTER 1269 1 1/4" 1325 1 1/2"
180 JHP/FEDERAL 1065 2"  1103 1 5/8"

It is easy to see that the older .357 is slightly more accurate than the new-out-of-the-box Model 27-5. This is certainly to be expected as the former has been worked over by an expert and the latter is barely shot in. They are close enough that the new .357 sixgun could actually wind up being the better shooter.