Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector Revolvers
S&W HE’s – Frame Sizes– S&W Hand Ejectors have letters designating their frame sizes. The "I" frame was the first, and was introduced with the S&W 32 HE First Model in 1896. It can be thought of as the typical frame size for a 6 shot .32 revolver. It is no longer produced, but with the introduction of the Chief’s Special in 38 Special caliber, the I frame was enlarged slightly to accept the longer cartridge and became the "J" frame, still immensely popular today for "pocket sized" back up and concealed carry revolvers. It may be thought of as the typical frame size for a 5 shot 38 Spl such as the "Chiefs Special". The "K" frame is the classic revolver of the 20th century. It was introduced in 1899 with the first S&W 38 Hand Ejector, also known as the .38 Military and Police (38 M&P). The model was aptly named as the K frame Smith became the basis for the most popular police issue revolvers of this century and for the famous Victory Models, issued to the Military during WWII. It may be thought of as the typical frame for a 6 shot 38 Special. The big "N" frame was introduced in 1908 for the famous S&W Triplelock 44 revolver. It has continued to become the basis for S&W’s Model 29 44 Magnum series of revolvers and could be considered the typical frame for a 44 or 45 caliber 6 shot revolver. The tiny M frame was used only for the 7 shot .22 Ladysmith revolver of the early 20th century.
Photo illustrating frame sizes, click to enlarge. Info continued below photo.
S&W Numbered Models
Beginning about 1957, S&W assigned a number to each of its
models. As engineering changes improved the designs of the guns, dash numbers
were added after the Model number. For example the first engineering design
change on a Model 10 would result in a model designation of "Model 10-1." The
dash system was also used to indicate special configurations of a particular
Photos & for sale listings of modern S&W numbered models
S&W Model Table - link to a nice guide to the various S&W Model numbers and frame designation letter system.
S&W I-Frame Hand Ejectors
The 32 Hand Ejector First Model (left column) was the first Hand Ejector made by S&W introduced in 1896 and offered through 1903. According to information published in the S&W Journal by factory historian Mr. Roy Jinks some years ago, all the frames of the 32 HE were manufactured prior to 1899 making them antiques. This first incarnation of the HE design included a type of cylinder stop that had not been seen since S&W discontinued their tip up revolvers – the cylinder stop is a long spring incorporated into the rear sight on the top strap of the revolver. Of course all later HE’s had the cylinder stop in the bottom of the frame, as did the earlier top break revolvers. Another unique feature of the 32 HE First, is the patent dates and address are marked on the cylinder rather than on the barrel. Although the I frame became obsolete, when the slightly larger J frame was introduced to accommodate the longer 38 Special cartridge, they remain an elegant little revolver.
S&W M-Frame Ladysmiths
Made from 1902 to 1921, this danty 7 shot .22 is a favorite of collectors. The First and Second Models both have round butts. The First Model is the only one of the three to have a button thumb latch on the side of the frame – the Second Model and the square butt Third Model both are released by pulling the knob on the underside of the barrel in front of the ejector rod. This is the same cylinder release method used on the S&W 32 HE First Model. They should not be confused with the modern Ladysmith line, which markets current production revolvers to the Women’s personal defense market.
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