The full name of the legendary .357 Magnum cartridge is the .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum, which makes perfect sense as Smith & Wesson (more specifically Mr. Douglas B. Wesson) not only developed the cartridge in tandem with Philip B. Sharpe and the legendary Elmer Keith, they produced the very first gun chambered for the round back in 1935.
The gun is still in production 88 years later. That is the Smith & Wesson Model 27 double-action revolver.
S&W M27 History & Specifications
When the revolver made that 1935 debut, it was officially dubbed the Registered Magnum; it was essentially a custom-order handgun, and each handgun came with a Certificate of Authenticity. The very first registered Magnum was presented to legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Despite the fact the United States was in the throes of the Great Depression, the Registered Magnum sold very well, and S&W was indeed backlogged with orders for the first four years of production. The Kansas City Police Department was the first law enforcement agency to adopt the Magnum as its standard issue duty sidearm for its officers.
In 1939, the manufacturer officially renamed the gun the Model 27; the M27 was still the Registered Magnum, but standardized for mass production and economy of scale.
The gun is still going strong today. It is now part of the manufacturer’s N-frame series, which also includes most of the company’s large-bore revolvers such as the S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum and M57 .41 Magnum. For a basis of comparison, the Smith Model 19 .357 Magnum is part of the medium-sized K-frame series, while the behemoth Model 500 is an X-frame.
As the manufacturer’s official info page proclaims, “Smith & Wesson makes it possible for you to own a piece of history-in-the-making with these Classic revolvers. They’re the finest new handguns possible with designs harkening back to the most famous and collectible guns that Smith & Wesson ever constructed. Each is based on a model known for legendary performance then enhanced with modern advantages. They’re the timeless best of both worlds, Smith & Wesson Classics.”
In its current iteration, the Model 27 comes with the following specifications: carbon steel finish, a barrel length of 4 inches, an overall length of 9.25 inches, a width of 1.7 inches, a height of 6.1 inches, and a weight of 42 ounces. As is true of most (but not all) revolvers, ammo capacity is six rounds.
Experts’ Shooting Impressions
Professional shooter Skeeter Skelton – one of the contemporaries of the aforementioned Mr. Keith – opined that a 5” Model 27 was *the* best handgun for private citizen self-defense and police duty usage. Meanwhile, the legendary General George S. Patton carried an ivory-handled 3.5” Model 27 along with his ivory-handled Colt Single Action Army “Peacemaker” .45 Long Colt. As explained by the Guns & Ammo staff in an August 1971 issue (republished online in March 2018):
“Although popularly remembered as the ‘two-gun’ General, Patton actually seldom wore both of his “carrying guns” together. And, he owned several personal pistols aside from the two usually photographed on him in WWII. Further, his guns were usually ivory handled, NEVER pearl, as they were sometimes mistaken. The handguns most associated with him, and which are now in the Patton Collection of the West Point Museum, are a .45 Long Colt Single Action revolver, 1873 Army Model, and a .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson revolver … Of the two of them, aides and relatives have said that the .45 Colt was the one Patton stressed for everyday carry, while the .357 was to be the ‘killing gun,’ in his words, if the battlefield situation ever demanded it.”
Meanwhile, among present-day gun experts, self-defense guru and venerable law enforcement veteran Massad F. Ayoob saw fit to include the Model 27 in his book titled “Massad Ayoob’s Greatest Handguns of the World.”
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.