Monday, March 10, 2008
Sunday Smith #38: Model PC627, 2002
With the introduction of its big-bore .44 and .41 Magnum cartridges, sales of Smith & Wesson's large-frame .357 Magnums began to tail off in the latter half of the 20th Century. The introduction of the beefed-up medium-size .357 Magnum revolvers of the L-frame type in the early Eighties seemed to be the death knell for the plain-Jane law enforcement-oriented Model 28 Highway Patrolman, which bowed out of the catalog in 1986, its fate sealed by a combination of the rugged L-frames and a growing trend for law enforcement to adopt semiautomatic pistols. The traditional blued Model 27, once S&W's flagship revolver, followed it into oblivion in 1994.
As a result, although S&W issued stainless steel N-frames in .44 Magnum and .41 Magnum in 1979 and 1986, respectively, it wasn't until 1989 that the Model 627 .357 Magnum Stainless debuted, and then only as a limited "Classic Hunter" edition with a full underlug heavy barrel. While the big stainless .357 flitted in and out of the catalog over the next few years, something radical happened in the six-shooter market: Seven-shooters. In the mid '90s both Smith and Taurus debuted medium-frame .357 magnum revolvers with seven shot cylinders. The implications of this were not lost on engineers at S&W.
In 1997, Smith & Wesson showed off a large-frame stainless .357 Magnum revolver with eight charge holes in the cylinder. The gun soon became a staple of the Performance Center catalog, with its cylinder recessed for moonclips and a bewildering array of barrel lengths and configurations. Variants were even released in .38 Super with an eye towards the competition shooting market. With their exotic features and the cachet bestowed by MSRP's over the $1,000 mark, the 627's quickly filled the niche of company flagship that had been left vacant by the departure of their 6-shot blue steel forebears.
The revolver pictured above, a 627-3, was acquired in Like-New-In-Box condition from a private seller in late '02 for just over $700. A 3" V-Comp, it shipped with a removable compensator that could be replaced with an unported muzzle protector. It is rare enough to not appear in the latest edition of the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson, and values on Performance Center guns are hard to fix at any rate. It is not unreasonable to assume it could fetch some $850-$900 or so at auction today. With the capacity of some semiautomatics and the wallop of a magnum wheelgun, the 627 makes a fine addition to any collection of Smith & Wesson revolvers.