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.