I was recently on a firearms forum where someone asked the members to name three iconic handguns. He didn’t specifically ask for American handguns, but many of the people who replied named American handguns. I think that’s because no other country has produced as wide a variety of guns that are so widely known and well regarded. Which is the definition of iconic.
My answers were,
Smith and Wesson “Hand Ejector” revolver.
Colt Single Action Army.
While I’ve shot all three types of guns, I’ve never owned a 1911 pattern pistol or a Colt SAA.
I have owned and still own, a variety of “Hand Ejectors” in a variety of frame sizes and calibers.
There have been books written about Smith & Wesson revolvers and I’m not going to attempt to give more than a cursory review of it’s development.
The original Hand Ejector was introduced by Smith & Wesson in 1896. The revolutionary design features of the firearm were a solid frame and a swing out cylinder. The solid frame made the revolver stronger overall. As new, more powerful calibers were introduced this would be important as frames were more resilient and less likely to break. The swing out cylinder made reloading faster, which is sometimes a nice feature to have. The early Colt revolvers had solid frames, but were not fast or easy to reload. The S&W “tip up” and “tip down” revolvers were easier to reload, but the hinge was a point of failure.
As the years went on, S&W worked with various ammunition manufacturers to make new, more powerful, ammunition. The “Hand Ejector” evolved into a series of revolvers in various frame sizes with different ammunition capacities and features. The two consistent features in all them are the solid frame and swing out cylinder.
Of the various frame sizes, the “K” frame is the most popular. The Military & Police Model of 1905, Fourth Change was introduced in 1915 and was produced without significant change until 1942. Well over 700,000 examples were built in several calibers. Chambered in .38 Special, it became the standard sidearm for American police officers. The M&P would become the Model 10 when Smith & Wesson in 1957 when the company switched from model names to model numbers.
If you watch just about any crime drama on TV or in the movies from the 1930s until the early 1990s, a K frame of some variation was featured. Occasionally, you would see a Colt revolver, but by and large it was a S&W. The bad guys often carried semi autos, but the good guys almost always carried a revolver.
There are even a few active police officers who carry a “Hand Ejector” to this day, although the number decreases each day as officers retire and new officers are not allowed to carry revolvers.
The Model 10 is still produced to this day, with some relatively minor changes in it’s design. Most of those changes are to make the gun safer to shoot or to improve manufacturing efficiency. The basics of the design, however are unchanged from 1896.
The Model 10 is one of those handguns that every gun owner should have at least one of. So, it won’t surprise my readers to find out I have two of them. Plus a bunch of other Hand Ejectors as well. They are great guns to shoot and if you can master the Double Action trigger on these guns, you’ll be able to shoot just about any gun accurately.
Here is a picture of one of my Model 10s. This is a 10-6 .38 Special with a four inch barrel. It’s also Nickel plated, which gives it a very nice appearance. The grips aren’t all that good looking, but they make the gun comfortable to shoot in my increasingly ancient hands.