Monday, February 04, 2008

Sunday Smith #34: Model 610-2, 1998.


Over the years, Smith & Wesson has made many changes to their Hand Ejector revolvers in the name of simplifying manufacture. After WWII their commercial revolvers took a cue from the spartan wartime Victory Model and dispensed with the separate 'mushroom' knob on the end of the ejector rod and just knurled the end of the rod itself. About a decade later, they realized that the top screw in the sideplate and the screw forward of the trigger guard were superfluous, and did away with those. A change that is still controversial amongst innately conservative revolver enthusiasts happened in the early '80s, when the pin that was used to locate the barrel was eliminated by simply crush-fitting the barrel. At the same time, the countersunk chamber mouths used on Magnum revolvers were discontinued. You'll still hear some enthusiasts speak of old "five screw" or "pinned and recessed" revolvers in reverent tones.

Few changes, however, generated as much sturm und drang amongst the faithful as the one that took place in the late 1990s, when the era of the "flat-nose hammer" began. Prior to this, Smith had used lockwork components, most notably triggers and hammers, that were finish-machined from forgings. Because the fit between these parts in a double action revolver is as precise as clockwork and because tool heads wear, this was an assembly step that required a great deal of hand labor, and one that resulted in a pile of hammers and triggers discarded as too out-of-spec to be fitted. Anything that could be done to improve this would prevent manufacturing costs from climbing to unreasonable levels.

Enter MIM, or Metal Injection Molding. With MIM, a correctly-dimensioned part could be made just once and used as a master for a mold. Then, through a process somewhat similar to sintering, a powdered metal matrix held by a plastic binder would be fired in a furnace under intense heat, cooking away the binder, and would come out as a finished hammer or trigger that was the same dimension every time. The guns with the new MIM lockwork were immediately distinguishable from their predecessors by the fact that they had flat-nosed hammers, the firing pin having been exchanged for a floating one in the frame similar to the setup that S&W's rimfire revolvers had used all along.

In 1998, Smith's large-frame revolvers made the jump to the new lockwork, including the Model 610. The 610, originally introduced in 1989, was Smith's stainless steel large, or "N", frame Hand Ejector chambered for the 10mm Auto cartridge. The 10mm was a factory-legitimized wildcat, a high-pressure loading capable of throwing a 180gr .40-caliber bullet at over 1200fps. Developed with an eye towards fitting in current autoloaders, the cartridge's overall length was kept roughly the same as that of the .45ACP. It was only natural that Smith, which had just resurrected the .45ACP revolver in a modern stainless form with a full-underlug barrel, offer essentially the same gun in the newer caliber as well. The 610 has always been moderately popular with competition shooters as its moonclips make for speedy reloads, plus it can also fire the shorter .40S&W cartridge, a round that has become nearly ubiquitous in America today.

The revolver pictured above, a Model 610-2, is one of a run of 300 with 3" barrels done for distributor Lew Horton in 1998. It was acquired back in 2002 in trade for a compact 1911. Complete with box and docs and all the factory accoutrement, it is worth probably $600-$650 on the current market. A far more common 5" or 6.5" gun in similar condition could be found for not too much over $500, and less if one is willing to forgo having the blue plastic case and the factory instruction manual. Just make sure the seller includes the moon clips, as they're definitely not as common a retail item in brick-'n'-mortar gun stores as their .45ACP cousins.

10 comments:

Kevin said...

I bet that's a very pleasant gun to shoot. I had no idea it even existed!

Garm said...

That looks like a great hiking gun. I love the 3" barrel on a revolver; apparently Horton did too.

What's the weight and trigger like?

Ricky said...

I love the 610. Have a 6.5" dash 2 and the just released dash 3 in 4". Now let me know where I can pick up a 3" for $600 and a 5" for $500!

Tam said...

It'll probably take a bit of shopping around.

Also, don't forget that prices are highly regional.

Ricky said...

Hey Tam. If you see a 3" or 5" anywhere near the prices you mention, I'd appreciate it if you'd drop me a line at the addy associated with this comment.

Shooter grade, no box or docs is fine. Thanks!

Tam said...

What are they bringing in your neck of the woods? And where is your neck of the woods?

I want to add that to the database, as it were.

Ricky said...

My neck of the woods is Austin, Texas. You just don't see them around here. Seriously, at the range/gun shop I frequent the staff had never seen a 610. One of my other favorite Smiths is the M625 and I occasionally see one of those.

I acquired my 2 610s for fairly reasonable prices through diligent internet shopping.

Tam said...

I picked mine up six years ago, and the guy was asking, IIRC, seven-ish or interesting trades. I swapped a fairly customized Springer V10. In all fairness, for the asking price, my 610 came with the box & docs, two sets of grips, Comp-Tac holster, moonclip holders, de-mooner, twelve snap-caps, and a freezer bag full of clips.

Ricky said...

Not a bad deal at all for your 610 with all the goodies. Love the grips you have on it.

There was a seller on GB listing a 3" Lew Horton 610 with a starting price of $1245. He kept re-listing it for weeks. Looks like he gave up since his last auction for it ended on 1/10. One of the members of the S&W Forum has the same gun for sale for $1225. Sigh. I'm hoping to find a 5" for a reasonable price.

Tam said...

Of course, "asking" and "selling" are frequently two different things. And mine is no "unfired-in-box" collector's piece, either; it was someone's IDPA blaster...