Monday, November 12, 2007

Sunday Smith #22: Model 547, 1982

Smith & Wesson's first foray into building a revolver chambered for a semiautomatic pistol cartridge was the Model 1917 revolver produced for the U.S. Army during the First World War. The challenge wasn't in chambering the round, as the chambers could be stepped, allowing the cartridge to headspace on the case mouth just like in an automatic, but in extraction. The hand ejector extraction system relied on a protruding cartridge rim for the extractor star to act against.

A solution was found by using a thin sheet metal clip that would clip into the pistol round's extractor groove, joining two or three of them together and giving the extractor something to grab. Still, this always felt like a temporary solution. It added an extra part to be looked after, required time to be spend inserting rounds into the little clips, and if the clips were bent, they could bind the action of the gun, rendering the cylinder hard to turn and the revolver effectively inoperable. Lose the clip, and you're spending precious time trying to pry spent cases out with your fingernails or poke them out with a stick.

LEFT: Extractor with fingers.

Over the years other chamberings were tried, usually as wartime experiments, but it wasn't until 1980 that the obstacle of rimless extraction would be overcome. In an attempt to court overseas sales, Smith & Wesson came up with a unique new extractor system that used six "fingers" on the ejector rod to lift out the rounds by their extractor grooves. They also overcame another problem with 9mm as a revolver round, which was case setback on firing due to the slight taper of the 9x19mm cartridge, by using a floating frame-mounted firing pin, and placing a second floating pin in the breechface immediately above it to provide case support and keep the brass from backing out of the chamber.

RIGHT: Breechface with two pins.

The new "Model 547 9mm Military & Police" was offered in both 4" square-butt (the standard service configuration) and 3" round-butt (preferred for plainclothes work) configurations, both with a heavy barrel. The revolver was, at a glance, nearly identical to the then-common Model 13 .357 Magnum M&P, but one dead giveaway externally was the 9mm's oddly shaped hammer.

The revolver never caught on with overseas customers, and tradition-minded U.S. revolver shooters gave it a lukewarm reception as well. It was no surprise then to see it fade from the catalog after 1985, only five years after its introduction. Naturally, its relative scarcity (only slightly more than 10,000 made) and unique mechanical nature has made it something for collectors to chase down and prices have climbed accordingly in the last half-decade or so. In 2000, it wasn't uncommon to find a nice 547 for maybe $250-$350; the example in the above photo, which is an honest 95%+ gun, was picked up at a gun show for right around $400 in mid-'04; these days nice ones are fetching north of $600 on auction sites, and a LNIB example could bring more than eight bills. Still, what collection of Smith "Military & Police" revolvers would be complete without at least one example of the oddest M&P?


Jay G said...

Lust, lust, lust...

That's just one heckuva nice wheelgun, Tam.

Was actually looking at a 610 today. Had to figure out which one of my kidneys I could live without...

Matt G said...

A fascinating revolver that I didn't know.


Worth waiting for.

Anonymous said...

Seems like an exercise in futility.
"An auto cartidge in a revolver"

Anonymous said...

Nice bluing!

Too bad the photo of the extractor is focused on the background. I have never seen this type before.

That gun would make a great bug for any 9mm auto.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Tam.

I'm not a huge Smith fan, but I do have some 6" model 14 love in the cabinet.

THIS gun, however, is one of the most beautiful revolvers you've shown by far. The caliber isn't my fav, but whatever.

What a gorgeous counterpoint Ruger's discontinued 3" SP101 in 9mm.

These guns look best with bobbed hammers, IMO.


Anonymous said...

Wow. That's my favorite in the series so far. I own three 3" RB K-frames and certainly wish I owned one like that one. It's absolutely beautiful.

Question: Do you just leave that penny out on that railing? :-)

Adrian K said...

Simply fantastic. I'm still hoping to see one show up at a local gun show in nearly that nice of condition, but I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

One word about the extractor rig:


Tam said...

Nope. A top-break uses an extractor star just like that of a hand ejector.

Anonymous said...

I have hunted for years for one at the right price. "No, thank you I will keep both my kidneys and you can keep your 547" I have recently been smitten by Colt revolvers....sigh.

Anonymous said...

Quite right about the top-break.

I looked at the pic more closely and spotted the difference. Quite clever indeed. My error.

Jonathan said...

No demand? I'd buy one. Overcoming the moon-clip problem is ingenious engineering.

Anonymous said...

Nice. I've only found the 4" square butt version in the past. I've always been interested in the Ruger and Smith 9mm wheelies.

Anonymous said...

I knew about this revolver for years but have not been able to view one until now. It is unique in my experience, particularly with the two floating firing pins. I have just purchased the model 547 -in absolute mint condition - that I saw and am very pleased with this purchase. Also, the $ was right.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea this pistol was getting to be a collectors item. I have the 547 model with round but stock that I just took up the range past weekend. This pistol holds nice groups . But looking at a xd 45 bitone. So this pistol will be looking for a new home. Always liked 45 over 9mm.

Anonymous said...

I own two of these mint 4" squarebutt and one I had chopped to round butt with a 3 in bbl...they are rated for +P+ and NATO submachinegun ammo...they are very accurate and smooth...with hot ammo they are .357 level and since I have a bagful of speedloaders for them I never worry about reloads...they make a good house gun and outside pocket rocket...when I can't get to a glock10mm I don't hesitate to use this 9mm. Randy, Tx

Anonymous said...

The S&W M547 is one of my favorite revolvers & am useing one currently as my home protection handgun..
I have the 4" Square Butt configuration & it's deadly accurate with just about any given rounds I've sent through it..
The semi bobbed hammer I was told was made that away because when the case sets back apon discharge the hammer bucks backward & this was to prevent a hammer bite situation.. The two floating firing pin setup is very cool along with the extractor segments & unique extractor assembly..
There's also several parts of the 547 that are made from berilium copper, I have always been carefull not to use copper solvent on these..
I hope to have this 4"er a long time & have a lead on a 3"er for a decent price which is unheard of nowdays, & the prices have went up since this thread was original typed as I have seen 547s listed for $950+ at GB & I have seen one sell for $1200 NIB there..
I have several thousand Isreali Sub Gun 9mm that I bought for $100 a thousand last year that are a hoot to shoot through the 547..
I also have a Smith & Wesson 940 & converted a Airweight to 9mm with a 940-1 cylinder..
I am Headknocker at the S&W Forum..
Stop Bye & Join & do a search for 547 over there..

Michael Zeleny said...

Manurhin beat S&W to the self-contained rimless extraction party by 7 years, with the 9mm Para version of their MR73. The underlying patent by André Pilorget, granted in August 1976 as FR2298077, was referenced by Bangor Punta on behalf of Smith & Wesson, in their own French patent FR2393260, granted in February 1978.

Anonymous said...

Depth of field needs a little work there in pic #2.

Anonymous said...

Got a 547 in '85. After a little basic instruction and dry firing, my wife loaded it and put the first six rounds of her life through the center of mass in a silhouette at 15 yards. Very good fit and finish, very smooth trigger, easy to point. Always has been my favorite handgun.