Sunday, February 10, 2008
Sunday Smith #35: Model 625-7, 1998.
When Colt's introduced the "Peacemaker" revolver in 1873, they also debuted one of the most enduring centerfire handgun cartridges ever loaded. Originally propelling its 255-grain lead bullet with a charge of forty grains of FFg black powder, the .45 Colt is still one of the most popular revolver chamberings in the land over one-and-one-third centuries after its conception. The new cartridge was adopted by the U.S. Army in 1875, virtually guaranteeing its commercial success.
This put Colt's arch rival Smith & Wesson in something of a bind. Smith was committed to their top-break "No. 3" design for a large-frame belt revolver, and the .45 Colt was just too much cartridge for the gun. It would not be until the debut of the S&W .44 Hand Ejectors in the first decade of the 20th Century that Smith had a revolver capable of handling the big .45 round. Smith & Wesson mostly sold the large frames in their own .44 caliber configuration, however, leaving .45 Colt variants as rare collector's prizes.
In the postwar era, a few hundred .45 Colt versions of the .45 ACP Model of 1950 and Model 25 were manufactured, but it remained scarce until a resurgence in demand for the old chambering towards the end of the 1970s. By then, reloaders were starting to experiment with very heavy .45 Colt loads to get .44 Magnum terminal performance at lower pressures and this, combined with the emerging sport of Cowboy Action Shooting meant that the .45 Colt was staging a big comeback in the marketplace. When the stainless Model 625 was released in 1989 most realized that a stainless .45 Colt wasn't far behind, and sure enough, the guns hit the shelves in 1990.
The Model 625 made the transition to the "flat-nose hammer" era in 1998, and in that year Smith made up a run of approximately 150 guns with 3" full-underlug barrels and round-butt frames for ace distributor Lew Horton. Back in the autumn of 2003 I was fortunate enough to stumble into one in trade (along with some cash) for a .223 "franken-FAL" I had been playing with, and when I realized what I had received, I felt pretty good about having made the deal. After all, there are only 149 other ones out there...
Valuation on the 3" gun pictured above is hard to make due to scarcity, but a nice example with box & docs would probably bring $800 or more, potentially a fair amount more if it is unfired, which mine most certainly is not. A more conventional 5" gun is still not a common sight, but would probably be in a more normal $500-$600 price bracket, with a 4" tapered barrel 625 Mountain Gun falling somewhere in scarcity and price between the 3" and 5" examples.