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.
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!
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. 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.
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.
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 .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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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 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.
|S&W Year Of DOM
|1970 - 1972
|1972 - 1974
|1975 - 1977
Smith & Wesson introduced the Model 58 in 1964 and discontinued it in 1977 after making only 20,000 of the guns. I am speculating that only ten percent or approximately 2,000 of the 20,000 were nickel.
My MOS when I served in the United States Army was 76Y. For you non-military readers, the Military Occupational Specialty of 76 Yankee means that I was a Unit Armorer. While on REFORGER 85, I trained with German Paratroopers and qualified as "Expert" with the German G-3 rifle, the Israeli Uzi 9mm sub-machinegun and the 9mm handgun.