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Are Smith & Wesson Revolvers the Most Overrated Guns Ever?

Model 460XVR
Model 460XVR. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Smith & Wesson revolvers – even though the tech behind them is old – are still one of the most popular guns around as they are reliable. However, they are pricey. Could these classic firearms be simply overrated in 2022? It’s difficult to beat a revolver for reliability. They usually don’t malfunction or jam because they have fewer moving parts compared to semi-automatics. They are effective in home defense situations. Many are chambered in many different calibers including beefy .44 or .357 Magnum for heavy-duty stopping power. They are easy to maintain – just use a bore brush for the barrel and cylinders and then wipe down the piece. But revolvers tend to be heavier and slower to load if you are not used to them.

Is Smith & Wesson Keeping Up With the Competition?

You can’t discuss revolvers without mentioning the Smith & Wesson brand. Since Horace Smith and Daniel Baird Wesson made their first repeating pistol in 1852, Smith & Wesson have been perfecting their firearms. But is S&W resting on its laurels and letting the competition eclipse them? Colt and Ruger make commendable revolvers too.

History of Smith & Wesson Revolvers

Sam Colt invented the revolver in 1836, so Colt has played the revolver game longer than Smith & Wesson. The Ruger Blackhawk gave the late 19th century legendary Colt Peacemaker a run for its money.

For Smith & Wesson, it was the Model 3 American that put them on the map in 1869. This gun, like the Peacemaker, proliferated around the Old West and was especially prized during the Civil War. The gun maker is also widely known for its Model 10 .38 caliber Military and Police revolver. By 1935, Smith & Wesson had a .357 Magnum version. In 1956, S&W pioneered the Model 29 .44 caliber made famous in popular culture by Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry movies. Then in 1966, S&W unveiled the first stainless steel revolver. In the 1980s profits went down because police departments in the United States were switching to lighter semi-automatics made by Glock and SIG Sauer.

Uh Oh, Quality May Be Taking a Hit

But lately, according to some reviewers, the Smith & Wesson brand has taken a dive. Gun blogger Chuck Hawks gives examples of why the S&W revolvers are having trouble accomplishing their basic mission.

First, two .22 Masterpiece target revolvers he inspected for a sporting goods store were so out of the ordinary that the cylinders could not be rotated fully. Upon another inspection for a gun shop, Hawks found the “cylinder ratchet notches were so poorly machined that no two were identical.” After a day at the range with a new Chief’s Special .38 Special revolver, he noticed that all the chambers on the cylinder had a small bulge.

These types of issues are likely the cause of poor quality control at the manufacturer. Hawks thinks the revolvers are not being tested correctly.

“Such examples are far too numerous and widespread. Design, quality, and quality control problems have been endemic to Smith & Wesson firearms for decades,” he wrote.

Some Reviewers Still Sing Praises for the S&W Revolver

S&W revolvers are still popular with other reviewers. Some like the heavy trigger pull that will keep the gun from firing unexpectedly. There are numerous types of holsters that offer ample concealment. You can usually find quality ammunition for the pistol.

The Model 500 Is One of the Most Powerful S&W Revolvers

The S&W Model 500 gets good reviews. You can mount optics on the Model 500. The front sight is interchangeable, and the rear sight is adjustable. 1945’s own Richard Douglas sings its praises.

“For one, Smith & Wesson recently developed the innovative ‘x-frame’ to give you a better grip and help to handle the recoil that comes along with the immense power of this handgun. This makes the 500 very comfortable to handle, and even features a recoil-absorbing rubberized grip complete with finger grooves to let you hold the gun at an angle that allows for optimal control and accuracy,” according to Douglas.

Smith & Wesson: Enviable Sales and Profits

Smith & Wesson has a legion of fans. You can tell from their record sales and profits. Sales went up 100 percent year over year in July 2021. The Springfield, Massachusetts company made over $250 million in profit during that period. S&W paid off its corporate debt and even gave full-time workers $1,200 bonuses.

Smith & Wesson Model 460XVR

Smith & Wesson Model 460XVR. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Smith & Wesson Model 351C

Smith & Wesson Model 351C. Image Credit: Creative Commons

All told Smith & Wesson revolvers get mixed reviews. It seems there are problems when models are produced in high numbers. Like all new guns, keep a close eye on your pistol when it comes out of the box and inspect it carefully after your first day on the range.

If there are problems with your Smith & Wesson revolver, the company has a limited one-year warranty. When you find a defect, put it in writing and the company promises that it will fix the problem free of charge.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Ashli Babbitt deserved it

    May 3, 2022 at 10:41 pm

    Nah, that would anything made by Colt.

    • John

      May 4, 2022 at 12:56 pm

      Personally one firearm I would put the in the catagory of “most overrated gun ever” would be the (Taurus Judge).Shooting .410 out of a revolver while cool seems to me to be a solution in search of a problem.Yes it makes a good snake gun but the amount of hype and enthusiasm some people have for the Judge seems to far outweigh any practical usefullness that I can see.

    • Ed Shea

      May 5, 2022 at 7:01 pm

      This article is coming out of left field, I have owned revolvers and automatics made by Smith and Wesson and they are excellent firearms to a fault. Never has one had a problem. They make a quality product. And, they are attractive firearms, that are fun to shoot. No better quality firearms can be had than from S&W.

  2. MarkB

    May 4, 2022 at 5:14 am

    I have a S&W Model 640-1 .357, a S&W 500 Magnum, and a Model 41 .22LR. All perform flawlessly, and are deadly accurate. Zero complaints. 🙂

  3. Dave

    May 4, 2022 at 10:11 am

    The limited 1 year warranty comment is not strictly true.

    “Smith & Wesson’s Lifetime Service Policy begins after the warranty period has expired. Smith & Wesson will repair, without charge, for the lifetime of the original owner, any Smith & Wesson handgun purchased on or after February 1, 1989, and any M&P15 series rifle, that is found to have a defect in material or workmanship. Eligibility for this Lifetime Service Policy requires returning the Product Registration Card within 30 days of purchase. The Lifetime Service Policy covers functional defects; it does not include the firearm’s finish, grips, magazines or sights. “

    This is pulled directly from their website under warranty.

    • Carl

      May 4, 2022 at 12:59 pm

      Lifetime Warranty to the Original Owner unless something has changed..

  4. Carl

    May 4, 2022 at 2:41 pm

    The Colt “Peacemaker or the Smith and Wesson number 3 where NOT prized during the Civil War. They were not even in production until well after the war. The S&W number 1, a small pocket size .22 was prized as a small hideout gun by both Union and Confederate officers.

    • Jeffrey E Lewandowski

      May 5, 2022 at 6:46 pm

      I have no issue finding handguns for sale, must be just in your area

  5. Mark

    May 4, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    Not “out of the ordinary” but “out of time”. Their QC also went haywire in the “Dirty Harry” days because of trying to keep up with insane demand. That being said, I have several S&W’s, old and new. Never had a bad one.

  6. Frank Garza

    May 4, 2022 at 6:53 pm

    I think S&W makes good revolvers. I’ve had several over the years and never had a problem. The 638 Bodyguard is one the best concealed carry revolvers I’ve ever owned and shot. The only modification I ever made to it was installing bigger grips. As much as I like S&W revolvers, I think Ruger firearms are a better value because they are less expensive and just as reliable as any S&W I ever owned.

  7. glyn

    May 5, 2022 at 3:41 am

    Yep their .22 semi auto pistol is kinda crappy.. jams all the time..piss poor customer service in Massachusetts..

    even worse tho is you cant get a decent pistol anywhere nowdays.. nothing in stock…of any brand.

    • Jeffrey E Lewandowski

      May 5, 2022 at 6:45 pm

      I have no issue finding handguns for sale, must be just in your area

  8. madbaldman

    May 5, 2022 at 8:10 am

    “For Smith & Wesson, it was the Model 3 American that put them on the map in 1869. This gun, like the Peacemaker, proliferated around the Old West and was especially prized during the Civil War.”

    Last I heard, the Civil War was over by 1865.

    All that aside, my old 686 was one of my favorite guns. Foolishly I parted with it some years back and never stopped regretting that decision. It’s really sad to hear about S&W turning out subpar products these days. Lots of people rolling over in their graves.

  9. Gary

    May 5, 2022 at 8:38 am

    This article would have been more accurate if you had known that the civil war was over in 1865. How could a revolver made in 1869 be popular during the civil war?

    Ant if you think Smith and Wessons are pricey, go price a Colt.

    • Michael Cappello

      May 5, 2022 at 9:37 am

      Phd or not, if you’re not a gunsmith, or a metalsmith, then don’t comment on a product or company that predates the existence of half the country. Through blood sweat and tears, the owners and employees have built up the reputation of what S&W is today. ALL companies have periods of poor management, or poor build quality, or inferior materials. The market tells the company whether they approve or not with sales numbers. If your intention was to pick a fight, then congratulations. But, If you want to improve their products, don’t bitch here, contact the management at S&W. I’m sure they’d love to hear from a man with a doctorate, tell them what they’re doing wrong.

  10. John G McAnaney

    May 5, 2022 at 10:31 am

    Chuck Hawks??? I thought he died last year.

  11. Jeffrey E Lewandowski

    May 5, 2022 at 6:51 pm

    I’ve read several of the articles by this person over the last few weeks.
    1st let me say I’m no scholar nor am I a historian by any means.

    Secondly, how can someone continually write articles without doing research, proofreading and a sense of integrity for their work?

    Blatant misinformation in these articles and a sense of superiority from the author are a real effing turn off. I’d fire you a**

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