I was in my mid-teens when my dad bought me an 8-3/8-inch Model 27, and I remain eternally grateful.
I took it hunting, and shot matches with it ranging from deer targets at 50 yards at the local turkey shoots, to bulls-eye matches, where it served as my Centerfire handgun. (In .45, most of the time, I used a similar Smith & Wesson Model 1955 Target in .45 ACP. .38 wadcutters in the 27 kicked less during timed and rapid fire, and were cheaper. Besides, that full 10-inch sight radius really did seem to cut down on errors in 50-yard slow fire.)
The heavy revolver was not uncomfortable in its slim, simple Lawrence holster. I did find it unwieldy on one occasion. I was 16, finishing a fruitless deer hunt near dusk.
The revolver was on the car seat behind me, about to be unloaded before I drove home, when I saw a fox standing in the road. Recalling that they were legal to shoot, I swung up the big Magnum‚ and the 8-3/8-inch barrel clanged against the wind wing on the driver‚ window of the‚ Pontiac I was driving. The fox scampered cheerfully away‚ and I found myself wishing for a shorter Model 27.
That came in my early twenties. I was a young cop who had just gotten into PPC shooting, and needed a 6-inch .38 I didn't have. Borrowing a good friend‚ 6-inch Python for the interim, I left my Model 27 with gunsmith Nolan Santy to have its 8-3/8-inch barrel replaced with a 6-incher.
The slick old six-shooter worked out great, and at the age of 25 I won my first New Hampshire State Law Enforcement Pistol Championship with it. I own it to this day, still a fine example of the gunmaker art.
What I always wanted, and could never justify purchasing until a recent self-indulgent moment, was a 3-1/2-inch Model 27. I agree with Taffin: there's just something classic in that gun look.
From the muzzle of whatever length barrel the user chooses, across the checkered topstrap, to the precisely grooved backstrap, this highly polished deluxe handgun is a significant piece of firearms history.
In hard performance and subjective mystique, as an icon of American workmanship for the collector or a functional firearm for the outdoorsman or the defender of the innocent, the Smith & Wesson Model 27 .357 Magnum will always hold a special and distinguished place in the firearms world.
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the new book Massad Ayoob's Greatest Handguns of the World. Click here to order.