September 24, 2010
Our friend and resident dinosaur Payton Miller over at Guns & Ammo is a revolver nut, and he bestowed on Smith & Wesson's Model 58 a great honor--calling it one of the coolest revolvers ever. Sure, the Model 29 gets all the press, thanks to the "Dirty Harry" movies, but the Model 58 holds a special place among cultish types.
For one thing, it was introduced to fire a new cartridge, the .41 Magnum, which nowadays has also been relegated to cult status. But in its day, the combination of the cartridge--brainchild of the legendary Elmer Keith--and the revolver held the promise of becoming the new gold standard for policemen.
Introduced in 1964, the Model 58 is a square-butt K frame with a heavy four-inch barrel, and for the purist, an unadorned ejector shroud. It was discontinued in 1977, but over its lifetime it was adopted by large police departments such as San Antonio and San Francisco.
Although its eventual demise would've occurred with the advent of double-action semiautos anyway, the Model 58 might also have been hurt, according to Miller, by the introduction of two .41 Magnum loads.
A service load firing a 210-grain wadcutter at 1,000 fps was tailored for the Model 58, but a load designed for the Model 57 (a sporting version of the 58 introduced the same year) spit out a 210-grain jacketed hollowpoint at a smoking 1,300 fps. At 41 ounces, the Model 58 is no shrinking violet, but a few rounds of the more powerful load out of its skimpily stocked, checkered walnut grips surely convinced more than a few people that the gun wasn't for them.
By 1993 the Model 57 had also been discontinued. The .41 Magnum lived on in the Model 657 in various guises until just a couple of years ago, and now there's a reintroduced Model 57 in S&W's Classic line. But to many revolver aficionados, none have had or will have the panache of the Model 58.