T. Logan Metesh
Smith & Wesson Bolt-Action Rifle Model 125
Updated: Jan 18
Smith & Wesson built their reputation on making high-quality revolvers. When the polymer pistol craze began, S&W jumped on the bandwagon as well and, while they still make a wide variety of revolvers, are mostly known for their pistols and AR-15 rifles – at least to the younger generation of shooters.
There was, however, a brief period of time where Smith & Wesson thought about offering high quality, American-made bolt-action rifles. The project began in S&W’s Engineering Department in December 1972.
The idea was to determine the feasibility of producing rifles at their Springfield, MA plant instead of importing them from Japan. This was around the same time that Winchester’s 101 rifle was being made in Japan and imported into the US.
Smith & Wesson’s new American-made design was to be known as the Model 125. The rifles were designed with two different grades: the deluxe grade would have a select European walnut stock with a Monte Carlo comb and contrasting rosewood fore-end tips and pistol grip caps with white line spacers. The standard grade would feature much of the above, but would omit the contrasting fore-end tips and grip caps.
On both grades, the bolt was fluted and chromed, featuring a 60-degree short lift with three solid locking lugs. The bolt fit into the “Accu-Guide” bolt slide slot for a “smoothness you’d expect in custom grades only.”
The receiver was drilled and tapped for a scope, with a step-style adjustable rear sight and a hooded front sight featuring a gold bead.
The rifles were to be offered in .30-06 and .270 Winchester, with fixed, five-shot magazines and 24” barrels. The deluxe model had a dealer cost of $127.46 and an MSRP of $174.95 and the standard model had a dealer cost of $131.21 and an MSRP of $169.95.
Unfortunately, the gun never got off the ground. Testing and market evaluation proved that it “was not a practical move” for the company and that a “cheaper and better rifle” could be imported and sold by S&W instead. As such, the project only lasted a year and was abandoned in 1973. The unfinished barreled actions were reportedly sold as scrap.
Even so, it seems that the gun lingered for a couple years in various pieces of gun literature. Two years after the project was scrapped, the 1975 Guns & Ammo Annual advertised the gun for sale. So, how many were made? No one knows for sure. The highest serial number observed puts production at a minimum of 100 guns if they were all serialized sequentially, which may or may not be the case.
Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson, regarded as “The Bible” for all things S&W, has very scant information on the gun’s production. The authors note it as being an incredibly rare model with as few as five surviving examples.
I’m currently only aware of two, both of which are deluxe models, and neither one is complete. I’ve never heard of anyone running across a complete gun. If you spot one in the wild, be sure to let me know!
(Even though you can't buy one of these S&W rifles from Brownells, you can still buy plenty of Smith & Wesson firearms and a wide variety of bolt-action rifles from them!)
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