Impromptu group shotI was wiping down some of my N frames and on the spur of the moment decided to take this group shot. Yes, I know it's a crummy picture but it was the best I could do indoors and without the use of my lightbox, which is much too small for this many handguns.
In case you can't tell Smith & Wesson's large frame .357 is my favorite revolver ever! I like all model 27s but the 3 ½ inch incarnation is my most favorite. I just like the heft of it, the way it balances in my hand, the way it looks. The Model 27 is just an impressive piece of workmanship and has a lot of cool history behind it too. Yeah, I know it is a big hunk of steel, probably too much steel for the cartridge it fires but it does make shooting hot magnum loads easy. All that steel is actually good for something, sucking up recoil.
I've lost count of all the S&W N Frame .357s I have owned over the years, both "Pre" and Model 27s. I've owned every barrel length too except for the 5-inch. All were great guns. Wish I kept them all. Unfortunately being a "gun nut" on a limited budget does have its drawbacks. One being that when you really want some new gun some old gun usually has to go.
When I bought my first Model 27 over 15 years ago they weren't very popular. Revolvers in general were on the decline and it seemed that nearly every shooter wanted a autoloader, especially the high capacity 9MMs which were all the rage at that time. A big revolver that only held 6 rounds and weighed more than those hi-cap nines holding 20 bazillion rounds was a hard sell for most gun stores. Many revolvers spent a lot of time collecting dust on gun dealer's shelves before finally finding a buyer. One of the reasons I originally began looking at S&W revolvers was the value. Even as a new gun person I recognized the excellent bargain that they represented. Used Smith & Wesson revolvers were really undervalued for the level of quality that they had. I paid $220 for my first 27, it was a bargain price but even at that time you could regularly pick up lightly used shooter 27s in the $275-375 range. That was when similar quality (and condition) autos like Colts, Berettas etc. were usually within short reaching distance of the $500 price tag. Of the first 5 or 6 Model 27s I bought I don't recall ever paying over $400 for any of them and that included a couple that were in pristine, possibly unfired condition. As the 1990's continued prices slowly went up, but even as late as 2000 I remember you could still regularly find extremely nice M27s below the $500 mark.
But by the very late 1990s and into the 2000s all of that began changing. I blame the internet. First you had sites on the web starting to sell guns, even ebay sold guns! Secondly, and more importantly, you had gun sites like the S&W Forum (and other gun forums) where S&W nuts like me could hang out and talk about their favorite handguns, SMITH & WESSON! All of this web chatter created new interest in old Smiths and the numbers of collectors looking for those old S&W handguns swelled, driving availability of these guns down while sending prices up. I am of course way oversimplifying here, there are other factors at play but I believe the world wide web significantly changed the gun collecting game forever.
In the years since I first started collecting Smith & Wesson handguns collector's interest has increased substantially, and so have prices. While I use to watch nearly new S&W revolvers languish on dealer's shelves for weeks or months before finding a buyer now they might only sit on display for days, or maybe hours, before being snatched up. On one hand I am glad that there are so many more now that appreciate fine Smith & Wessons. I am glad that these guns are finally getting some of the recognition that they should have received all along. I'm also glad that more and more people are finding out what many of us already knew for some time, how great those old S&Ws were. But on the other hand I do miss those days when I might go into a gun shop and find some hidden treasure in a display case that most other shooters looked right over. Kind of felt like I was in some special little club that only a chosen few belonged to. Like I had special vision and could see diamonds where others could only see lumps of coal...