Sunday, September 02, 2007
Sunday Smith #12: Model 30, 1960
Smith & Wesson had debuted the Hand Ejector series (as well as the .32 S&W Long cartridge) with the diminutive .32 caliber I-frame in the closing years of the 19th Century. It was still being manufactured after World War Two, but more and more changes were being made to simplify production or to make the gun safer.
During World War Two, Smith had changed the ejector rod to speed up the manufacture of the Victory Model. Prewar revolvers had knurled knobs threaded onto the end of the ejector rod. This added a part and required machining a complex clearance cut on the underside of the barrel to accommodate the knob. The Victory Model dispensed with this by simply knurling the end of the ejector rod itself. After the war, this change was continued on all the company's commercial guns. Also during the war, Smith added a sliding hammer block as a safety device to positively prevent the revolver's discharging if the hammer was struck a blow and this, too, continued on all models in the postwar era.
In 1953 the leaf mainspring was replaced with a coil-type unit, causing the strain screw to disappear from the front of the grip portion of the frame; this resulted in the "Improved I-frame". At the same time, the screw in front of the trigger guard was deleted, followed by the upper sideplate screw in 1956. The very next year, 1957, Smith dropped the old model names in favor of number designations for the different guns and the .32 Hand Ejector became the Model 30.
The changes made over the years can be noticed easily by comparing the 1918-vintage hand ejector shown here with the 1960 Model 30 pictured above. The Model 30 was acquired earlier this year in trade for a well-loved Model 65. It came with the correct box and the condition of the gun is as close to new as makes no nevermind; in fact, by the condition of the breechface and rifling, it may not have been fired this side of the factory. Even given the condition and the box, relatively low demand means that this is a $375-$400 gun, tops. An excellent condition shooter can probably be picked up for not too much more than $250 with some careful shopping, thanks to the unpopularity of the .32 Smith & Wesson Long cartridge in this country. As with all pre-1982 Smiths, however (and I can't stress this enough) it's best to get while the gettin' is good.