S&W Model 65

April 1st, 2010

This 65-3 was produced in 1987.  Other notable events from that year include Gary Hart dropping out of the Presidential race, Sonny Bono running for the office of Mayor of Palm Springs, and Ronald Reagan delivering what was possibly his most important speech.  U2 released The Joshua Tree, and Rick Astley's song "Never Gonna Give You Up" reached #1 on both sides of the Atlantic, long before anybody with taste found it the least bit ironic.

The Model 65 was produced from 1972 until 2004.  It was the fixed-sight counterpart to the 66, and was carried by the Customs Service, as well as several state police agencies.

A common misconception is that the 65 was a stainless version of the Model 13.  This isn't entirely true, as the 13 was not introduced until 1974.  Prior to that, the blued counterpart to the 65 was the 10-6, which had been upgraded to .357.  While the 19 and 66 were referred to as the Combat Magnums, the 65 and 13 were never explicitly named.  Given their heritage, they could be referred to as the Military & Police Magnums.

Both the 13 and 65 share the distinction of being among the last standard-issue revolvers in law enforcement. There's some confusion as to which was the last issue revolver for the F.B.I.  As far as I can tell, it varied by field office and starting date, but agents were carrying both well into the 1980's.

The M&P Magnums were available in two configurations:  a 4" heavy barrel on the square-butt frame or a 3" heavy barrel on the round-butt frame.  While the 4" models are excellent sidearms, the 3" round butt makes for a perfect carry gun.  The fixed rear sight doesn't tend to bark the elbow like the sharp blade does on models with target sights, and the round butt helps prevent printing.  The K-Frame has always been a marvelous compromise between weight and controllability, and the 3" models exemplify this.

Though the front sight on these guns isn't as narrow or high as it was on their pencil-barreled predecessors, it lines up with the rear sight channel easily.  The target sights would be my first choice for long-distance work, but I've always found S&W fixed sights to be perfectly regulated, and they work just fine at interpersonal range.

Oddly enough, the gun seemed to like slow .38 wadcutters the best.  Modern 125gr .357s hit a bit low, but that may have been a function of distance.

It's fair enough, as people in both law enforcement and the civilian sector seem to prefer hot .38 loadings over Magnums.  Still, the gun acquits itself well with either loading.

In the 1990's, the Model 65 was issued with a frosted finish, rosewood grips and a barrel underlug as the LadySmith.  This can be incredibly confusing.  The first time S&W used the moniker was at the beginning of the 20th century, with a series of .22 caliber Ladysmith (note the lowercase "s") revolvers built on the now-defunct M-Frame.

The name was brought back in the 1980's, but with a capital "S."  To the best of my knowledge, it was applied to two other models.  One was a J-Frame Model 60 in .357 with a bead-blasted finish and rosewood laminate grips, which is still in production.  The other was the 3913LS automatic in 9mm, which is distinguished by light grey plastic grips.  As with all of their remarkable 3rd Generation pistols, it is sadly out of production.

Despite the marketing (and the curvy "LadySmith" engraved on the side), all three of the modern LadySmith guns are excellent firearms, even for those with Y chromosomes.


1 Comment
  1. Tam wrote, running Mozilla Firefox 3.6.3 on Windows XP

    …and the 65LS is the only way to get your 3" Magnum fixed-sight K-frame with a shrouded ejector rod, unless you track down a PC13. :)

    Nice writeup!

    Comment on April 16, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

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