Memories of S&W's Magnificent K-Frame Revolver

Was the world's best carry gun invented in 1899? Sheriff Jim Wilson weighs in!

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posted on May 19, 2023
Smith Wesson Model 10

It wouldn’t be much of a chore to prove that Smith & Wesson’s K-frame revolvers have been the most produced handgun in the last 125 years. All K-frame means is that it’s the company’s designation for its medium-frame revolvers. If you count the whole family of K-frames, something north of 6 million guns have been produced—possibly as high as 8 to 10 million. That’s how you define “popular,” and they continue to be so among savvy handgunners.

The story began in 1899, when Smith & Wesson introduced the .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899. As time went by, the company changed the name of this particular revolver to the Military & Police and, eventually, to the Model 10. Over the years, the gun came with short, long and medium-length barrels, as well as steel or alloy frames.

A whole raft of models of revolvers have been built on the same frame, with target sights, fixed sights, standard steel and stainless steel. Calibers included .38 Long Colt, .38 Special, .38 S&W, .357 Magnum, .22 LR, .22 Magnum, and some that I’ve probably forgotten.

The beauty of K-frame guns is that they fit the needs of most shooters. Calibers in a gun of that size and weight produce manageable recoil, and the frame size fits most shooter’s hands very well. Those with small hands used the “magna stocks,” or maybe a grip adapter. Larger hands did well with target stocks or the various after-market custom stocks that were available. 

The legendary Bill Jordan, who had hands that a grizzly bear would be proud of, shot K-frame revolvers using a stock of his own design in his Border Patrol duties, as well as his excellent shooting exhibitions. K-frame Smith & Wessons serve shooters well as concealed-carry armament, target guns and personal defense tools. They were (and remain) popular with armed citizens, law enforcement and the military.

In my lifetime, I’ve been two of the three of those categories, and I’ve had K-frame Smith & Wessons for over 60 years. Here are three of my favorites.

The first gun is a 2-inch Military & Police that was manufactured in the late 30s or early 1940s. It belonged to my Uncle Taylor, who was the “gun guy” in our family. He carried the gun loose in the right-hand pants pocket of his khakis while working to support his family during rough times. Uncle Taylor taught me the importance of keeping a gun clean and caring for it, so this old M&P shows very little wear. Even today, it stays loaded and is part of my home-defense plan.

The second gun is a 2½-inch Model 19. I got my first one in the late 60s or early 70s, and immediately fell in love with it. The round grip fits my hand and the gun balances extremely well for me. The one that I carry today has a pinned barrel and recessed chambers. It has had an action job and sports ivory grips and a grip adapter. I’ve had quite a few of those exciting adventures with the 2½-inch Model 19 and, in addition, taken quite a few varmints with it over the years. It is one of those guns that just suits me. In fact, I like it so much that I have another one just like it that serves as my backup gun. 

My final favorite K-frame gun is a Model 10 that I sent to Tiger McKee for his Chopper custom work. Tiger cut the barrel to 3 inches and flattened the sides of the bull barrel. In addition, he rounded all of the sharp edges, tapered the trigger guard, and tuned the action. Making a round-butt out of it, he then fitted it with synthetic boot grips and changed the front sight to one of the standard-size XS dot sights. So far, it has taken a feral hog and a number of rattlesnakes. For revolver guys it is a concealed-carry dream.

So here’s one old country sheriff who lifts his glass to Smith & Wesson and its magnificent K-frame revolvers. As country folks say, “they’ll do!”

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