Smith & Wesson Model 51 Revolver

Discussion in 'The Ask the Pros & What's It Worth? Forum' started by DRB, Oct 1, 2011.

  1. DRB

    DRB New Member

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    I have a Smith & Wesson Model 51 Revolver with wood grips and a 3 1/2 inch barrel.

    There are a few different markings that I would like to ask you guys to verify.

    First there is a number on the frame on the bottom of the grip (56223), I assume this is the serial number.

    Second, there is a number (80601) on the frame under the left grip. The same number is also on the part that the cylinder attaches to (I believe that is called the crane; please correct me if I'm wrong as I am new to firearms and just learning all the terms).

    Third is a number (B562977) that has been etched on the frame just under the cylinder. Sorry, I don't have a picture of this one but can provide one if needed. I am assuming that this may have been something added by the previous owner.

    The condition appears to be in very-good to excellent condition to me. I will attach pictures for help with that though. It also has very nice blueing.

    I would like to know a few additional things about this gun:

    1. Please verify or correct my assumptions above.
    2. The date of manufacture.
    3. Approximate value (I'm not necessarily looking to sell but it is nice to know).
    4. Anything else that you 'the experts' think I should know.

    Thanks,

    Dan

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 1, 2011
  2. RJay

    RJay Well-Known Member

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    Well, don't know but I will try and answer your questions. The number on the bottom of the grip " the butt "' is the serial number. The numbers 80601 are assembly numbers, designed, once the parts are fitted together, stay together during the finial polishing and assembly. The B number, don't have the foggiest, could be a inventory number or identification number placed there by a individual or agency for either inventory control or identification if stolen and recovered. I'm leaning toward the previous owner etching his drivers license number there. There is a little bit of ambiguity on the serial number. It is listed as being used in 1959 however the Model 51 was not introduced until 1960. However it would not be unusual for S&W to have made a batch of frames in advance and didn't assembly it until 1960, the same frame is used on 4 different models of "J" frames revolvers. I believe that is what happened. One more odd thing which I can't explain is the lack of a model number under the crane" S&W went from Names ( such as 22-32 Kit gun ) to Model numbers in 1957 and at that time started stamping the model number under the crane. My old eyes don't see M-51 stamped there. Anyway , you have one of the first Model 51's made ( Made from 1960 until 1974 ), it's also a very desirable gun. I think you could get 350 to 450 from the right buyer. Perhaps others has more or more valid information to contribute :) I'm only an expert at getting to the kitchen table at dinner time, , but the Model 51 could also be ordered with a convertible 22 LR cylinder and crane, I don't know how they were marked to insure they stay togerher, perhaps some one knows?
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2011
  3. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    Ron, where are you getting your date from? My book, Standard Catalog of Smith and Wesson, 3rd Edition, puts J-frame numbers 55050 - 75000 as being made in 1955. That would explain the "no model number in the frame" thing.

    The book also says about the 1955 22/32 Kit Gun Airweight, "Also found chambered in .22 WMR in limited production with nickel or blue finish (rare;, the authors recommend verification before purchase on a gun chambered in 22 WMR)."

    So if it was me, first I'd put a magnet on the frame (to make sure it is an Airweight - aluminum frame) and then I'd spend the fifty bucks to get it lettered. If it's a steel frame, I don't know what the heck you got, 'cause it should not exist.
  4. RJay

    RJay Well-Known Member

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    Well don't know, my book, third edition on page 399 reads, for the Models 34,35,43,51 and pre models, Serial numbers 52673 through 62316 was used in 1959. Perhaps I'm reading it wrong, wouldn't be the first time.:)
  5. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

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    Nope, my bad. I was looking under "early J frame serial range" up at the top of that page, not in the "kit gun" section where you were.

    I shoulda known better. That wasn't a J. It was an Improved I.

    I'd still get it lettered, though.
  6. DRB

    DRB New Member

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    Thanks for all the info guys. After reading your replies and closer examination there IS a marking under the crane (MOD-51). I hadn't noticed that until pointed out. I also checked the frame with a magnet and it is steel and not aluminum.

    Again, thanks for the info.

    Attached Files:

  7. RJay

    RJay Well-Known Member

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    DRB, I agree with Alpo, If it were mine I would get a " Letter " from S&W ( 50 dollars, well spent ). The letter will confirm the date of manufacturer and first shipping location , also the guns configuration when it left the factory. I have reached the point where I have convinced myself that I do not need any additional guns, but I do believe that I would make an exception for your Model 51. Good Luck, hope that helps.:D
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2011
  8. DRB

    DRB New Member

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    Post in error
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2011
  9. Jim K

    Jim K New Member

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    While the year of the changeover to model numbers is usually given as 1957, it has been my understanding that they were phased in over what I was told was as long as a two year period. RJay is right in that frames and completed guns were stockpiled, and the dates usually given are shipping dates, not manufacturing dates.

    It has long been common practice in the firearms industry to set up tooling to make one model, or similar models, turn out a quantity estimated to last say, a year, then retool for another model. They keep doing that and if they calculate correctly, the stocked guns will last until the cycle comes around and it is time to make that model again. If they guess wrong, a model will be scarce until they can make some more. So actual manufacturing date and shipping date can be quite a bit different, and it may take some time for a "new" feature to show up at the local gun shop.

    Jim
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