In 1935, Smith & Wesson came out with the .357 Magnum and a new gun to fire it, the Model 27. All gussied up with special features and delivered to the custumer in a fitted box complete with a numbered registration certificate, it was so popular the production could barely keep up with demand.
While the gun was a commercial success, it was too fancy and too expensive for law enforcement. Smith & Wesson rallied to the cause with a bare bones gun: the Model 28—adding the Highway Patrolman moniker in order to entice law enforcement to take a second look.
While the internal workings were the same as the Model 27—smooth double-action with a crisp trigger pull—the M28’s finish was a different story. Gone was the high polish, the elaborate checkering and serrations on the barrel. In its place was a plain, satin blue barrel.
The gun was available in a four- or a six-inch barrel and came with the standard service-style walnut stocks, with the larger (and better) target stocks as an option. The M28 was equipped with a service-width hammer and trigger as opposed to the target-style hammer and trigger on the M27.
The weight was a crowd-pleasing 44 ounces with the six-inch barrel, just right for the .357. The Model 28 came with Smith & Wesson’s Micrometer adjustable rear sight and a Baughman front sight blade. Retail price in 1970 was $108 with an additional $10 for the larger target stocks.
There were variants, too. One run of fewer than 100 guns featured 83/8-inch barrels. Twenty-five guns were made in a nickel finish and a five-inch barrel, stamped “F.H.P.” (Florida Highway Patrol).
The Model 28 was in production for more than 30 years, and while the gun was used by about a dozen law enforcement agencies throughout its life, my friends and I used it for PPC competition and even small game hunting.
I bought mine in 1974, and it’s still as tight and as accurate as the day I bought it. I also have a Model 27, and the M28 is its equal bullet for bullet and load for load, which shouldn’t be a surprise since they both use the same barrels.
What impressed me the most is the trigger pull on the less-expensive Model 28. The single-action pull is a crisp 2.5 pounds without the slightest hint of creep. Double-action pull is 10 pounds with the usual stacking at the height of the hammer arc.
While the Model 28 is not a rare gun, if you find one in good condition for the going price of about $400 to $500, it’s worth the investment. Sorry—mine’s not for sale.