If this is what you are looking for at a gun show, then you are probably going to be disappointed.
For a collector, on the other hand, there is probably no place more exciting. Comparing a gun show to, say, your local gun store or an internet auction site is like comparing an African safari to a canned hunt over a baited field. At the gun show, you never know what you’re going to find.
This time around, I had a specific mission. A local dealer was going to be set up, and he was holding a gun back for me. It was a 1955-vintage K-22 Combat Masterpiece. I needed a shootable medium-frame .22 Smith with a 4” barrel to use as a trainer for my fighting K-frames, and I had a military-marked Remington 12 gauge that was gathering dust; the trade should be fairly straightforward.
After a little confusion, I found his table and, after a brief flurry of paperwork, for me the show was over. Now I was just going to be following BobbiX and Shootin’ Buddy around, putting noseprints on showcases and drooling over guns I couldn’t afford.
I ran into Frank W. James and we chatted a bit (this was especially cool because Shootin’ Buddy had just picked up Farmer Frank’s book Effective Handgun Defense and let me borrow it; I was planning on reading it when I got home…) Then we bumped into Caleb and wandered through the rest of the show as a group.
When we finally got to the far end of the huge 1500-table show, we made our final plans. Bobbi was out front, examining the Sistema she’d just picked up. Caleb and I would loiter at the end of one aisle while Shootin’ Buddy completed a personal errand, then he would pick up a half-case of .22LR and we’d rendezvous with BobbiX and split.
While Caleb and I were waiting for Shootin’ Buddy to return, my Smith Sense (closely related to Spider Sense) caused me to glance down at a handgun a guy was carrying past.
Huh. A nickel taper-barrel 4” Smith.
With fixed sights.
And a shrouded ejector rod.
Cue heartbeat: (Thump… thump… thump…)
What kind of Smith has a tapered barrel and a shrouded ejector rod?
It’s not an M&P… or a Model 13… Damn those wretched plastic faux stag grips. Is that an N-frame? It’s hard to tell; the guy’s paw is huge. It looks like a medium frame, but…
“Excuse me sir, what do you have there?”
“Oh, this? It’s a S&W Model 21 in .44 Special…”
“...it was my dad’s. He was a probation officer. He bought it off a retired cop.”
I tried not to gulp visibly. “Uhhh… Shame it’s been re-nickeled. How much were you needing to get out of it?”
“Oh, I know it’s a little ugly, but it sure shoots good. reckon I need $350.”
Oh jeez. Oh jeezojeezojeez. I don’t have a dime to my name, but they will never let me into the SWCA if I let this go by… Please gawd let Shootin’ Buddy still have some cash on him…
“My friend should be back in a minute and… uh… he might be interested.”
“Okay. You know, this is a neat old police gun. It’s got the guy’s badge number engraved on the back…”
Shootin’ Buddy got back. I passed the gun to him, and as the guy was telling him how much he wanted for it, I turned my back to the dude and tried to flash subtle hand signs at my friend, hoping he’d realize I was indicating the gun was worth at least five bills and not signaling for a curveball low and away.
The deal was closed.
I knew I had in my hand, at the very least, an ultra-rare and elusive Smith Model 21. Perhaps a Model of 1950 .44 Special Military Model.
When I got home, I broke out the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson and got to deciphering…
Wait a minute… It has a mushroom-head ejector rod… And no “S”-prefix on the serial number… This is a pre-war gun. With a shrouded ejector rod, but not a Triple Lock…
It’s a .44 Hand Ejector 3rd Model; aka the “Wolf & Klar” model, so named for the distributor that ordered them. With what appears to be “something.P.D.” and a badge number factory-stamped on the backstrap. 300 four-inch .44 HE’s were shipped to the Providence, Rhode Island PD in the 1930’s, and this gun’s serial number falls into that date range…
I need to get a Roy Jinks letter on this gun.
Maybe you didn’t get a good price on a Kel-Tec 9mm at the gun show this weekend, but you can’t tell me that good deals can’t be found there.
Because you’d be wrong.