SMITH AND WWESSON MODEL 57 , 41 MAG
Manufacturer: Smith & Wesson; smith-wesson.com
Type: Double-action revolver
Caliber: .41 Magnum
Cylinder Capacity: 6 rounds
Barrel: 6.0 in.
Overall Length: 11.5 in.
Width: 1.70 in.
Height: 6.0 in.
Weight, Empty: 47.6 ounces
Grips: Checkered walnut
Sights: Micro-adjustable white-outline rear, pinned red-ramp front
Trigger: 10-lb. DA pull, 3.5-lb. SA pull (as tested)
Safety: Transfer-bar firing mechanism, key-activated lock
In the early 1960s, Elmer Keith, Bill Jordan, and Skeeter Skelton, all noted firearms authorities and authors, lobbied Remington Arms and Smith & Wesson to introduce a new .41 caliber police cartridge with the objective of filling a perceived ballistic performance gap between the .357 and .44 Magnums, thus creating a chambering which they believed would be the ultimate for law enforcement purposes. In April 1964 Remington responded by introducing the .41 Magnum cartridge, and in concert, Smith & Wesson launched the Model 57 revolver chambered for the new ammunition. Elmer Keith originally proposed the name “.41 Police” for the new cartridge, but Remington instead chose .41 Magnum, hoping to capitalize on the notoriety and popularity of its earlier Magnum offerings.
First introduced in April 1964, the Model 57 was produced with 4″, 6″, 6-1/2″, and 8-3/8″ barrels in both highly polished blued and nickel–plated finishes. Using the S&W large “N” frame, the Model 57 was one of the companies’ premier products, offering superb fit and finish, basically the same pistol as the famous S&W Model 29, except in .41 instead of .44 caliber. Like the Model 29, the 57 sported a red insert front sight with a white outline adjustable rear iron open sight, as well as a target trigger, target hammer, and oversized wooden target grips.
|57-1||1982||Eliminate cylinder counter-bore and pinned barrel, change in cylinder length to 1.67″|
|57-1||1986||Nickel finish discontinued|
|57-2||1988||New yoke retention system, radius stud, floating hand|
|57-3||1990||Longer stop notch in cylinder|
|57-3||1992||4″ barrel discontinued, bluish hue finish only|
|57-4||1993||New rear sight leaf, drilled and tapped frame|
|57-5||2019||Reintroduced 6″ in carbon steel|
On July 10, 1964, S&W introduced a more basic and inexpensive .41 Magnum intended for procurement by police departments. This budget version of the Model 57 was similar in principle of design to the .38 Special S&W heavy-barrel Model 10, or .357 Magnum Model 28 Highway Patrolman. Weighing in at 41 ounces, the Model 58 featured a 4″ barrel, fixed iron open sights, and simpler standard “magna service” grips. Finish options were the same as its upscale Model 57 brethren, blued and nickel, but shortly after the Model 58’s introduction S&W decided a less expensive “matte” bluing treatment would be more appropriate for the basic “workingman” model. The no-frills Model 58 also lacked an ejection rod shroud, but retained the pinned barrel and counter bored cylinder of the more expensive Model 57. The Model 58 was manufactured from 1964 to 1977 and roughly 20,000 were produced. In 2008, it was released again by S&W, both in bright nickel and bright blue finish. Seldom has a new cartridge introduction been propelled by such a cast of six gun luminaries as the .41 Magnum. Depending on whom you talk to, Elmer Keith, Bill Jordan, and Skeeter Skelton all had a hand in convincing Smith & Wesson (along with ammo makers Remington and Norma) to join forces on the .41 project back in 1963.
The Middleweight Magnum
The initial rationale for the two resulting Smith & Wesson .41 N-Frame revolvers was twofold. One, the adjustable-sight Model 57, was intended as a serious big-game revolver. The other, the Model 58, primarily envisioned by Keith and Jordan, was to be a powered-up police revolver with fixed sights. The Model 57 was intended to use a 0.410-inch-diameter 210-grain JHP at a velocity of 1,400+ fps, while the 4.0-inch-barreled, bare-bones Model 58 (essentially an N-Frame take on a heavy-barreled, medium-frame Model 10—sort of an M&P on steroids) was to be employed with a 210-grain lead SWC at a considerably more manageable 950 to 1,000 fps in “Police Load” trim.
In addition to coming with a micro-adjustable rear sight, the Model 57 also had target-type stocks. Except for the bore diameter, it was a dead-ringer for the .44 Magnum Model 29 and could be had in several of the Model 29’s cataloged barrel lengths (4.0, 6.0, and 8.38 inches). My well-worn 1969 Guns & Ammo Annual lists identical prices for both guns: a cool $165. As befits a sidearm intended for the LE market, the Model 58 could be had for a department-friendly $96 (blued). However, the Model 58 didn’t catch on for a couple of reasons (see the accompanying sidebar). But the Model 57 did, although primarily with discerning sportsmen (and, yes, collectors) seeking something different.
The Smith & Wesson Model 57 is a large frame, double-action revolver with a six round cylinder, chambered for the .41 Magnum cartridge. It is designed and manufactured by the Smith & Wesson firearms company. The gun was designed as a weapon for law enforcement agencies. However, due to size and recoil it found more favor with civilian target shooters and hunters.
The Smith & Wesson Classics line is a subset of the main Smith & Wesson line…. They do not feature the traditional Performance Center upgrades (action package, tuning, etc.) but are really fully functioning reproductions of the products that were once a part of the standard S&W line.”
The current Classics iteration of the Model 57 comes with a 6.0-inch barrel, blued finish, and the key-lock safety feature. Other departures from the original format would be the frame-mounted firing pin and the crush-fit barrel. Pinned barrels went out in 1982, along with the slightly shorter counter-bored cylinder. The grips on today’s Model 57 Classics are different from the originals in that they are not as beefy as the target-type grips on the original, but the gun does have the true square-butt frame like the original and unlike most other current S&W revolvers that share a common K/L/N-Frame round butt..
The cross-section of .41 Magnum factory ammo is able to dig up for the Model 57 covered the cartridge’s mild-to-wild range of performance (more or less). Loads included Speer’s 210-grain Gold Dot HP, Federal’s 250-grain CastCore, Winchester’s Supreme 240-grain Platinum Tip and Super-X 175-grain Silvertip HP, and Hornady’s new 190-grain polymer-tipped FTX. The Silvertip offering—rated at 1,250 fps—is as close as you’re going to find to “mild,”
The new Model 57 is extremely impressive with all loads both in terms of accuracy as well as consistency. The lowest velocity extreme spread was 42 fps, and the highest was 63 fps. No shockingly spiky leaps were to be seen here.
At 3.5 creep-free pounds, the Model 57’s single-action trigger pull really lived up to the crispness clichés of breaking icicles and glass rods. And should you ever envision rapid-fire double-action shooting, the pull there was a short, manageable 10 pounds with no stacking that I could discover.
Interestingly, the elevation range in point of impact for all five loads tested at 25 yards was about 4.5 inches, well within the adjustment range of the Model 57’s excellent micro-adjustable sight. So unless you lay hands on a load that’s really out of the ordinary, you’re unlikely to run out of clicks.
The gun’s traditional plowshare grips, heavy loads tend to cause the gun to roll upward in recoil. Single-action fans often claim this makes recoil less onerous. I’ve found this to be true as far as it goes, provided you don’t bark your thumb on the edge of the hammer.