Sunday, September 30, 2007
Sunday Smith #16: Model 31-1, 1971
With the changeover from names to model numbers by Smith & Wesson in 1957, the ".32 Regulation Police" became the "Model 31". It continued to be produced on the older improved I-frame, with its smaller cylinder window, while the new J-frame .38-caliber revolvers exploded in popularity. Over time, the fortunes of the "I-frame" continued to wane alongside the .32 S&W Long cartridge to which it was historically tied.
In 1961, the Model 31 was shifted over to the newer "J-frame" size, and the changed weapon was dubbed the "Model 31-1". It would continue in this form largely unaltered (except for the deletion, over time, of the flat latch, diamond grips, and pinned barrel) for over twenty years. Finally, the 4" barrel was deleted from the catalog in 1978, leaving the only difference between the Model 30 and Model 31 as a matter of whether the pistol had a round or square butt, since both had 2" or 3" tubes. The Model 31 (by then the 31-3) was finally discontinued in 1991.
The weapon pictured above is a Model 31-1 produced in 1971. With its square butt, four-inch barrel, and mild .32 caliber recoil, the unprepossessing little revolver is a splendid introductory piece to the joys of the S&W wheelgun for the recoil sensitive or small of hand. It was purchased at a gun show in early '03 for some $200, which was about fair market value at the time, given the excellent condition. Considering the explosion in S&W prices in the intervening years, a really cherry example might bring three bills, or even more if it has the correct box and accoutrement.