Smith N-Frames Set the Benchmark
Dr. John Woods 02.11.17
As early as 1905, Smith and Wesson began development of a large framed, side-swing cylinder handgun. It was intended to handle the .44 caliber. This led to a series of handgun models that came to be officially known as the N-Frame.
The first installment in this series of big revolvers was the .44 Hand Ejector First Model. This initial model was succeeded by the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th models of the Hand Ejector. Other models in the entire series included target versions, military models including the .45 Hand Ejector U.S. Service Model of 1917.
Later came the .38/44 Heavy Duty and the .38/44 Outdoorsman, then a .357 Magnum version, which became the Model 27. Next around 1954 was a flat, brush blue utility version of the 27 for police called the .357 Highway Patrolman or Model 28. Other models, designations, and features came along.
Fast forward to the N-Frames more shooters are familiar with today. After development of the .44 Magnum round by Remington, Smith and Wesson created a new revolver to handle the magnum case and power. In 1956 that became the Model 29, .44 Magnum.
The Model 29 was immortalized when it became the chosen movie handgun by one Harry Callahan known as Dirty Harry. Actually the Model 29 was becoming a star long before that due to the writings of Elmer Keith, a noted big bore handgunner of the day. The 29 was first offered in barrel lengths of 4 and 6 ½ inch. Later the 8 3/8-inch barrel was added. As is normal, the 29 underwent a number of changes, enhancements, finishes, and such.
Sometime after 1963, Smith added the Model 57 to handle the newly developed .41 Magnum, a round between the .357 and .44 Magnums. The 57 was designed just like the 29, same features, barrels, and finishes. The Model 57 never achieved the status of the 29, but it has quite a following with collectors and hunters.
Finally, on the footsteps of the Model 57 came a police version for the .41 Magnum, the Model 58. It was a 4-inch blued or nickel model with plain open sights created as a police revolver. Production ceased in 1977 through a limited run came in 2009-2011. This was the last of the N-Frame Smiths.
The N-Frame Smiths created the benchmark for big bore magnum handguns. The fit, finish, accuracy, and collectability surpasses all other revolvers in this class with few exceptions.