The Registered Magnum
Updated: Dec 18, 2019
When Smith & Wesson introduced the now-legendary Registered Magnum in 1935, the United States was in the middle of the Great Depression. Even so, that didn't stop them from offering what was their most expensive revolver to date.
The entire gun was a custom order. You chose the barrel length (anything between 3 1/2" and 8 3/8" in 1/4" increments was fair game), dozens of sight choices, different grips, blue or nickel finish, etc. The buyer could also specify a specific type of ammo to be used for sighting in the gun at any distance up to 200 yards.
Shipped with each gun was a registration card. If you filled it out and mailed it back, the factory would send you a handsome certificate for framing that included your name, the specifics of the gun, and the registration number marked in the yoke. Less than half of the guns sold had the cards returned for certificates.
Because each one was unique, the average production time was 6 weeks. This all added up to a costly gun. In 1935, the average S&W K frame revolver cost $22-25. A Registered Magnum would set you back $60 - or, two weeks' pay for the average worker.
That was a lot of money, and the guns were a lot of work for the factory. Approximately 5,224 were made between 1935 and October 16, 1939 when Harold Wesson issued instructions to stop marking the guns with registration numbers.
Some big names in history have owned these gorgeous guns. Their ranks include J. Edgar Hoover, Elmer Keith, Ed McGivern, Jimmy Stewart, and George Patton, just to name a few.
Today, they still command a premium. They routinely fetch tens of thousands of dollars, though some can be had for less than $10,000 - if you're in the right place at the right time.
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