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Model 58 (1964-1977)

The Model 58 Smith & Wesson .41 M&P Revolver, the Wrong Gun at the Wrong Time?

Smith & Wesson introduced the Model 58 in 1964 and discontinued it in 1977 after making only 20,000 of the guns. This gun was intended for, and marketed to, law enforcement agencies.

My FFL guy, Benny, is one the biggest fans of big bore Smith & Wesson handguns. And like most folks that are passionate about something; Benny likes to share his love of these firearms. He gave me a copy of Elmer Keith’s book “Hell I Was There” last year. It was after reading, and even re-reading parts of that book, that I began my search for just the right example of one of these old big bore guns.

Benny, My FFL Guy With The S&W Model 58 Law Enforcement Gun in .41 Magnum
Benny, My FFL Guy

Choosing this model and caliber to add to my collection was easy! At first glance, the gun reminds me of the .38 Special heavy-barrel Model 10. The fact that the Model 58 was a failure (sales-wise) and ultimately produced in such low numbers, only added to the appeal of the gun for collectors. Although I was unable to ascertain how many were nickel plated versus blued, I am speculating that only ten percent or approximately 2,000 of the 20,000 were nickel. It is a collector’s dream!

The S&W Model 58 Law Enforcement Gun in .41 Magnum
S&W Model 58 Law Enforcement Gun

If there is a bigger fan of Elmer Keith and the Smith & Wesson magnums than Benny, I've yet to meet them. I let Benny know that his giving me that book cost me some serious money this time. I've seen a few guns like this one over the years, but rarely have I seen one for sale.

The aim was right, but the target moved? I don’t think so, well perhaps…

In my research, I read a plethora (that means a toe-sack full) of reasons why the gun was not successful. Everything from the name of the gun, the name of the cartridge, the fact that the .41 was not released before the .44, it should have been on a K Frame, not N Frame, too big, the ejector rod should have been shrouded, there was no corresponding lower .41 Special, officers couldn't qualify with it, it was too heavy, to on and on and on.

The only reasoning that I read with which I totally disagreed was, semi-automatic pistols were already pushing revolvers out of law enforcement. Not in 1964. Not even in 1974. Yes, that did happen, but it was in the 1980s, long after this gun could have established itself if it was capable.

S&W .41 Magnum Trigger Shoe
S&W .41 Magnum Trigger Shoe

Before I opine on the commercial failure (sales) of the gun, I need to make one thing clear. If I had been there in 1963 when Elmer Keith, Bill Jordan, and Skeeter Skelton all three petitioned for a caliber to bridge the gap between .357 and .44, I would have listened to them, trusted, and yielded to their knowledge and experience.

In defense of those three gentlemen that told Smith & Wesson that the .41 would be the ideal handgun for law enforcement agencies, neither the resulting gun or cartridge were exactly as envisioned by them. It's important to note that Colt did not get on board the .41 Rem Mag bandwagon and never produced a gun for it.

S&W .41 Magnum with ear and eye protection gear laying on my desk
What's Not To Love?

Not being old enough to have first hand knowledge, I can't testify, but from the outside looking in, and looking back to this historic time, here's what I surmize. Law enforcement guys carry their sidearm a lot more than they draw it. They draw their handguns a lot more than they fire them. They fire them a lot more than they actually kill people with them.

My opinion... The .41 Magnum was a solution to a problem that not enough people identified with.

If the need for a bigger, more powerful sidearm had been that dire in the minds of the end-users, they would have welcomed it and adapted to it.

My Colt Python .357 is of similar size and weight and I've owned it for more than 30 years, yet I've never carried it. I have carried my light-weight Colt Cobra .38 a lot. Elmer Keith described the handgun as a "weapon of opportunity", meaning you could have it at the ready more easily than a long gun.


The S&W Model 58 Law Enforcement Gun in .41 Magnum
Model 58 Smith & Wesson .41 M&P

The .41 Remington Magnum and Model 58 were created for law enforcement and the cartridge was developed specifically to fill the gap between the .357 and .44 Magnums.

25 Years Later and It Was Like Yogi Berra Said, “It’s Déjà vu All Over Again!”

The .40 S&W was developed as a law enforcement cartridge, designed to fill the gap between the 9mm and the .45 ACP. I’ve never owned a handgun chambered for .40 S&W. I am not going to get sidetracked on the .40 S&W, so getting back to the .41 Magnum, here is how it was promoted.

This Smith & Wesson .41 M&P is giving undergunned urban policemen a new lease on life!


The Law Enforcement Gun in .41 Magnum
Department after department is proving it

With 2½ times the stopping power of a .38 Special, yet virtually no increase in danger to innocents – the big, new S&W .41 Military & Police revolver is the gun patrolmen have needed for a long time.

In the .41 “city” loading, a big, flat-nosed, 210-grain bullet moves out “just fast enough.” It puts more wallup, where you need it, than the Army .45! Yet its range is little more than a .38’s, with less penetration and ricochet. Range officers report this load is easy to shoot, in the large-frame Smith & Wesson.

"What if you want range and penetration? Slip in some .41 Magnum rounds. They have the same reach as the .44 Magnum, with 25% less recoil."

Several cities, such as Amarillo, Texas, have already standardized on this gun. It has been recommended for purchase in large cities throughout the country who are moving toward a switch.

The Law Enforcement Gun in .41 Magnum

Ask your S&W distributor for a look at the .41 M&P, at law-enforcement prices.

Note that the 1960s gun in the advertisement has a diamond around the grip screw. My 1970s gun doesn't even have that, which was likely just a cost saving measure.

The Law Enforcement Gun in .41 Magnum
This Gun was $124.50 New in 1973

Finding the ammunition I wanted was a problem. I searched the internet for about two hours trying to find Winchester Super X .41 Rem Mag 175 Grain Silvertip. I finally found a 20 round box from an individual up in Virginia. It's on the way, but didn't make it here in time for the photos for this article.

Conclusion

Elmer Keith said he had no use for a handgun without adjustable sights. On the other hand, I have little use for adjustable sights on a handgun. In the case of the .41, I must admit that a gun this size appears somewhat odd without them. Still, I love this one! Plus, if it had adjustable sights it wouldn't be a Model 58, it would be a Model 57.

The Law Enforcement Gun in .41 Magnum
Imperfectly Perfect

Without yet firing this one, I feel I can safely declare it king of the bed-side nightstand, king of my gun cabinet and perhaps king of all my handguns. This one may not be a candidate for mass production and colossal sales, but it is certainly a worthy and noble weapon. Now, to find some more ammo.

The gun that was supposed to be the ideal gun for law enforcement, instead became the ideal gun for collectors. It is truly an objet d'art, that's French for an object such as a tool, weapon or ornament, of historical interest.

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Final Word

The Model 58 serial numbers begin with the letter S or the letter N...


The serial numbers of the Model 58 fall in the range of numbers for all N-Frame guns. In the 1960s, these numbers began with the letter "S." In the 1970s, the serial numbers began with the letter "N."

"Benny always introduces the discoveries he's made and today he turned me on to Barricade."

S Series

Here, you can identify the year of your 1960s Model 58.

S&W Serial Number Table

S&W Year Of DOM Begin End
Late 1964 — Early 1965     S236000     S257999
Late 1965 — Early 1966 S258000 S261999
Late 1966 — Early 1967 S262000 S289999
Late 1967 — Early 1968 S290000 S304999
Late 1968 — Early 1969 S305000 S329999
Late 1969 — Early 1970 S330000 S333454

Precision One .41 Magnum Ammunition 210 Grain XTP Jacketed Hollow Point 50 Rounds
50 Rounds $102.05 October 11, 2022

After a very exhaustive search for the "not so powerful" loads, I ordered the 210 Grain Jacketed Hollow Points by Precision One. These are rated at 1300 - 1350 fps. I'm still waiting on my Winchester Silvertips and Benny just called to tell me that he found a box of the Silvertips that he is going to give to me.

Winchester Silvertip .41
Benny Came Through!

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N Series

Here, you can identify the year of your 1970s Model 58.

S&W Serial Number Table

S&W Year Of DOM         Begin           End
1970 - 1972         N1       N60000
1972 - 1974 N60001 N190000
1975 - 1977 N190001 N430000

If you own one of these highly collectible Smith & Wesson Model 58 revolvers, chambered for the .41 Magnum, I highly encourage you to order a letter for your gun. I'm in the process of ordering one for my 1973 gun now. With these serial number tables, hopefully you can get an idea of when your gun was made.

And don't forget to protect and care for your old guns like Benny and I do.


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Over the years, I've researched a lot of old guns and I have to say that information on the Model 58 is hard to find. There are articles out there about the Model 57. There are some articles out there about the .41 Magnum cartidge. And I should add this final note: Smith & Wesson brought the Model 58 back in its Classic lineup in 2008, but I did not pursue informstion on those guns.

It is Likely that the .41 Won't Even Show Up in a Search for Big Bore Handguns...

Although I believe there are still a few guns being made that are chambered for the .41, ammunition is hard to find. The ammo that I have found readily available are the very hot loads. You can get a Henry Big Boy lever action chambered for the .41 magnum. Out of a carbine length barrel, modern 170-grain projectiles leave the muzzle at over 1600 feet per second.

Those Winchester Silvertips that Benny gave to me are rated at 1250 fps with muzzle energy of 607 ft lbs. My .45 ACP rounds are rated at 1,000 fps and muzzle energy of 411 foot pounds. That's a pretty big difference.


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