Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday Smith #11: Model 34, 1957


"Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag,
And smile, smile, smile!"

Once upon a time, everybody knew what a kit bag was. The lyrics above were from a World War One marching ditty that was later used for the title and theme song of a Laurel and Hardy film released in 1932. At the time, S&W had been without a truly "packable" .22 caliber revolver for over a decade, since the tiny "M-Frame" Ladysmith had been discontinued in 1921 which left the "Bekeart Models", with their 6" barrels and target stocks, as the only small-frame .22 revolvers in the catalog

Three years after the release of Pack Up Your Troubles, Smith released the .22/.32 Kit Gun. With its round butt grip profile and 4" barrel, this little .22 revolver on the .32-sized I-Frame was perfect for tossing in your kit bag for camping, hunting, fishing, or hiking. The little gun was extremely popular, and continued in production after WWII with a 2" barreled version added to the lineup. In time, the excess screws in the frame were dropped, the gun went to a coil mainspring, and was eventually moved to the larger "J-Frame" platform. S&W has abandoned the small steel-frame .22 revolver market to Taurus these days, but old Kit Guns are still extremely popular and increasingly coveted as plinkers, and the 2-inch guns make excellent "understudy" pieces for .38 caliber snubbies used for self-defense.

The pictured piece was made in 1957 and is therefore not a romantic "Kit Gun", but rather a prosaic "Model 34" (Such a difference a change in nomenclature can make!) It still shows many vintage Smith traits, such as the "diamond" grips (safely stored away for this photo), the 'flat latch' cylinder release, and the fact that it was made on the old "Improved I-Frame", which is the smaller, older frame size with the newer coil mainspring. It was purchased in "Like New In Box" condition back in early '03 for $375, which was about right for the gun's condition. Even given that it's been shot since then, the fact that it has the box and has suffered no finish wear means it's a sound investment. Look for prices on Kit Guns to range from $225-250 for a mediocre postwar piece to a couple of grand for a pristine prewar with all accoutrement. If you're not sure what you're looking at, it pays to get the help of a more experienced collector before plunking down the green for this most excellent of plinkers.

2 comments:

Steve said...

My brother has one that belonged to my mother. Never knew it as a "Model anything", just as a .22/.32 Kit Gun, so I think it may be one of the old ones. I haven't seen it in years, but I'm sure he still has it.

Tam said...

It's interesting to look back at pics of this gun taken while I was still treating it like a pampered collectible rather than shooting the wheels off it every weekend...