This is a Smith & Wesson Model 67, the stainless Combat Masterpiece in .38 Special. According to Supica & Nahas, it was manufactured in 1974. This one’s a no-dash model from the first production run and has the stainless sights. It also has the tapered and pinned barrel, which would later be replaced with a straight, heavy barrel to match the Magnum frames.
The 67 is the stainless steel descendant of the Model 15, which was a sister of the Model 10, but with target sights (The 64 is the stainless version of the Model 10). Both the 15 and 67 are referred to as the “Combat Masterpiece,” while the 19 and 66 are called the “Combat Magnum.” The 15 had served countless police departments over the course of several decades, and it was standard issue in the Air Force until the mid 1980s. There was also a Model 68, which was a Model 66 modified to shoot only .38 Special, which basically made it the same as the Model 67, but with a 6″ barrel. Except the 68 had a shrouded ejector, unlike the 67.
Confused yet? Welcome to the Smith & Wesson’s arbitrary and confusing numbering system.
So, what the heck is this thing?
The revolver we’d come to know as the K-Frame was introduced in 1899. D. B. Wesson made some improvements in the .38 Long Colt loading and designed the .38 Hand Ejector Military and Police Model of 1899 around this new cartridge. The “Hand Ejector” nomenclature refers to the fact that the gun had a swing-out cylinder from which the cartridges had to be manually ejected, as opposed to the automatic ejection of top-break revolvers.
As it turns out, this design was far more resilient than the top-break, and the Hand Ejector platform would enable Smith & Wesson to design revolvers around even more powerful cartridges. This led to the development of one of the most influential handguns in the last century, the .44 Triple Lock. But, I digress.
The Military & Police went on to serve well on the hips of soldiers and police worldwide. A 5" version in .38 S&W (also known as .38-200) was common issue in Britain and Australia. A 6" K-Frame with a ribbed barrel and target sights was introduced as the Target Masterpiece, and the gun was renowned for its accuracy.
After World War II, the FBI took a great interest in the K-Frames. The 6" model was a great gun, but the barrel length was a bit unwieldy for carry. A 4" model was introduced as the Combat Masterpiece, and when S&W went to numbering their models in 1958, it became the Model 15.
Soon after, the barrel profile was made straighter and heavier, and a shroud was placed under the ejector rod. S&W had been steadily improving the strength of their internals, and in time, the K-Frame platform would be able to handle the .357 Magnum, one of the defining cartridges of the 20th Century.
But that’s a different story.
This is a .38 Special revolver, and that’s all it is. At that, it excels. It’s plenty strong (any numbered model Smith can handle +P ammo), but it doesn’t need to be so strong as to take Magnum loads, so it doesn’t need the heavy barrel. As such, it’s a bit lighter and handier than other K-Frames, but it’s still got enough heft as to make recoil negligible. Like all K-Frames, it has marvelous sights and a smooth trigger.
While Jeff Cooper rolled his eyes at the thought of a .38 Special being a “combat” gun, there have been huge strides in ammunition development over the years, and the round has saved the lives of hundreds of law enforcement agents and civilians. As I never get tired of saying, shot placement is king.
Sadly, when this one came over the counter, she looked every bit of 34 years old. Yes, it is possible to rust stainless steel, and there was lead in places I didn’t know you could get lead. In fact, much of the lead had started to turn white, and it resembled mold in spots.
I was 50/50 on this. Of course, first-run K-Frames are getting rare and pricey, but this one was really rough. At worst, I could strip her for parts or sell “as-is.” At best, destiny had just planted a wet kiss on me with too much tongue.
I had no way of telling, and the woman selling it wanted money in a hurry. So, she got a pittance (don’t hate me…), and I got to work.
It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I really should have taken “before” pictures.
One of the virtues of stainless revolvers is that almost any hurts can be healed with some Flitz, mineral spirits, steel wool and elbow grease. Fortunately, none of the damage was permanent or serious, though I spent several hours. I even had to chip solid chunks of lead out from under the sideplate.
In the end, I lucked out. Except for a few “character marks” and an adjustment to the cylinder catch, she’s in perfect shape, and she shoots like a dream. Sometimes fate smiles on the patient.