Monday, March 08, 2010

wilsonblogclassic® Originally posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In search of the Grail...
Over the years I guess I've been lucky. Since 1991 I have been collecting various types and brands of guns and have been able to find just about every firearm that I have ever wanted. Everything from sniper Garands to Beretta pistols, Winchester shotguns and rifles to Colt .45 automatics. Most of the guns that I would have liked to own I have, often finding them at an affordable price too.

Of course there are always exceptions and a couple of handguns that I always wanted have continued to elude me. The first one was a Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver. I have wanted a Python for a long while now but never seemed to find one at just the right time. Pythons aren't really that rare, in fact you see them quite often on the internet and gun shows, so I have had plenty of chances to find a good example but never found just the "right" one at a price that I like. I've never been "into" Colt revolvers very much, so I am sure that also played into not "finding" one to buy despite literally tons of them being offered for sale on the collectible gun market since I have been looking.

The other gun that I have not been able to track down over the years is considerably rarer than the Colt and one of the most coveted revolvers to S&W collectors, the prewar (WW II) magnum. In 1935 Smith & Wesson would introduce to the world the first magnum handgun along with the then brand new .357 S&W Magnum cartridge. It was for many years the most powerful handgun (and round) ever developed and the gun that helped build S&W's reputation in the modern era. Prewar magnums were the zenith of S&W handgun design and construction, each gun was pretty much hand made to the purchasers specifications, including grips and sights, barrel lengths and even to how the gun was sighted in, including at what distance and with what kind of ammo the buyer preferred. All of this custom attention also demanded a King's ransom, prewar magnums were not cheap by any standard and of course the gun's high cost kept production numbers down (even so Smith & Wesson sold more than they thought they would).

I bought my first Model 27 in 1994, it was a great gun that made shooting the powerful .357 Magnum cartridge enjoyable. The Model 27 was also the direct descendent of the prewar magnums and shared many quality features with it's forebears. After owning that gun a year on two I became interested in the history of the model and that's when I came across an article in a old Guns & Ammo® annual that really educated me about the grand history that belonged to this handgun. Well after reading that I began looking into it more and what I discovered was a gun that was rarely offered for sale, and when it was offered prices typically weren't low. I had heard stories about buyers that at times were able to pick up a "pre Model 27" from unaware sellers at affordable prices but I knew that was not likely, while I could see that this would be a gun that I would really like to own I also recognized that it was well beyond my meager income at the time.

But by 1999 things had changed, by then I had a much better paying job and more "expendable" income available. I was also still interested in finding a prewar registered or non-registered (that's a whole other story that I won't get into here) magnum and at that time decided to get more "serious" about finding one. That was eight years ago and I haven't found one yet. Over the years I have been looking (at some times harder than others) but I still don't have one of these fine revolvers in my collection for a couple of reasons. First they do not come up for sale everyday, unlike the aforementioned Colt where there are so many you can have one as soon as you're willing to put up the money, early S&W Magnums rarely come up for sale. Secondly, early Magnums have really escalated in price in recent years. It has come to a point where some of the nicer examples are well beyond the average gun collector's price range, often selling into the thousands of dollars. Fortunately I'm not much into pristine collector guns and would be quite happy with a "shooter" grade prewar magnum, but even those continue to climb in price. I know that if (when) I find that shooter it won't be exactly cheap either, I might even have to sell some guns to get it, but I will if that's what it takes for me to finally get one of these treasures.

I guess you could say that this gun has sort of become my "Holy Grail" over the years, the one that I keep searching for and never seem to find. I have seen them for sale on rare occasion but usually for much more than I can afford. But I don't give up, I know if I'm persistent sooner or later one of these fine examples of handgun design and execution will find its way to my humble collection, and with a little luck I still might be young enough to enjoy it.

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