View Full Version : model 21 or model 24 S&W? 44 Special

September 18, 2008, 21:22
I am looking into buying one of the S&W classics. I've got the nastalgia bug and can't decide between the 21 or 24. I've got a handmade holster for the 24 already but don't want that to sway me.

Its use will be like everything else I don't carry for defense. Lots of time in the back range shooting plates from 25 to 100 yards. Further if I ever get up to speed with it, I may use it to hunt from time to time on black bear or deer from tree stand range.

If they made a 5 1/2" I wouldn't be asking about it. What do you folks think?

September 19, 2008, 03:27
Well, the new Model 21's are only made with 4 inch barrels. I believe that the Model 24's are, theoretically, available with 3 and 6-1/2 inch barrels but I haven't seen either for sale locally yet.

I think 3 inches is a little short for general field use with a .44 Special, having had a couple each of the Model 24-3 and Model 624 Lwe Horton guns in that length. I don't understand why the new target-sighted guns in .44 Special aren't made with 4 inch barrels. I think that would be the best selling length.

I really like the bigger, blockier sight picture you get with the S&W adjustable sights, and the ability to zero the handgun to whatever load you are wanting to shoot, and with a round like the .44 Special, with the huge range of ammo possibilities if you handload, I think the Model 24 would be the way to go here. I would go with the 6-1/2 inch version and if it proves too long for your normal uses, have it cut to 5 inches, the perfect N frame barrel length.

The .44 Special is my favorite handgun cartridge and I've got over a dozen S&W revolvers so chambered.

September 19, 2008, 09:10
Having had frustrating experiences with an old S & W 44 Spec with fixed sights, I'd definately go with the M24.
A 5" barrel would be "the nutz" on this if you could find one. My 24 has the 4" tapered barrel and in hindsight wish I'd gone with the 6", the only other option then.

Buff called it right, with non-adj sight, you're going to limited to loads that shoot close to the point of aim, just as I was. That old "Triple- lock" is long gone! :sad:

September 19, 2008, 10:28
Right now spending any money seems crazy. But, how crazy and who could do an excellent job taking a new 6.5" 24 down to 5" - 5.5"? Thats the product I want and don't like the idea of having that many dollars in something thats just a little to long or short.

September 19, 2008, 10:35
I have two 6-1/2 inch Model 624's. I bought the second with the intention of having it cut to 5 inches. I have been looking for a gunsmith to do it so it looks factory but haven't gotten any photos from them that shows their work from the top, just profiles, and a screw holding the sight and base on just won't do.

Most of the folks I have e-mailed, including Mag-Na-Port, want about $200.00 for the job. If I am going to pay that much, I want it done right.

I have an original 1950 Target (pre-Model 24) made in 1952 with a 5 inch barrel, a scarce sixgun from what I read. In stainless, I figure it will be the perfect field gun.

K. Funk
September 19, 2008, 16:14
I have a 21-4 Thunder Ranch with the 4" barrel. I was dinging a 12" steel plate at 100yds off hand with 240 gr SWC over 6.5 gr Green Dot. It is pretty much my favorite wheelgun and I have several. I have had some 6-1/2" 624's come through, but I have not shot any of them. Also, the 21-4's seem to be coming down in price. If you look, you can get them for perhaps $550.


September 19, 2008, 16:20
I recently acquired a 4" nickle plate Model 22 . I am extremely satisfied with the craftsmanship and overall aesthetics.


The pinned front sight allows the end user to easily change the shape and or profile.

My biased vote would go for the Model 21.


September 19, 2008, 18:26
I've got a 6-1/2" M24, and although I really like it, I wish I had a 4" barrel instead. In fact, I'm seriously considering having the barrel cut to 4" and a different front sight installed.

I know a Smith who does outstanding work - he's done a couple of revolvers for me already, so that's not an issue. Be aware that getting the barrel cut is the least expensive part of the deal - it's having the front sight installed that gets spendy.

FWIW, anyone who has a stainless gun that they want shortened should contact SDM Fabricating at http://www.sdmfabricating.com/. They at least used to offer specials on this work from time to time.

Retired Bum
September 20, 2008, 00:03
Several years ago I went to a small rural gunshow here in Indiana and while browsing the rather meager offerings, I spotted two Model 24-3's on a seller's table. Both were NIB with all the paperwork and cleaning kits. One was the 6.5 inch version with the target grips, trigger and hammer. Front sight was the target patridge blade. The other was a four inch with standard hammer and trigger and target grips. Front sight was the blued Baughman ramp.

The seller was not a dealer. Just an older gentleman selling off his collection. I bought both 24-3's for a total of $550 with no tax or fees or paperwork. Made my day. Both have proven to be accurate shooters with my handloaded WC and SWC rounds.

As I understand it, S&W only made 7500 24-3's in the early 1980's. There were 5000 of the 6.5's and 2500 of the four inchers. Later on there were some three inch RB 24's made and also the stainless 624's in all three barrel lengths. I wanted one of the three inch 624's but then S&W came out with the new Model 696 L frame five shooter .44 Spl's with the three inch tube and the round butt. Ordered one and I think I paid about $500 for it. Took off the neoprene Hogues and fitted it with a set of S&W brand laminated boot grips. Fun to shoot with standard pressure loads, but the warmer rounds can be a handful in this revolver.

So that is the sum total of my .44 Spl experiences if I don't count that godawful Charter stainless Bulldog that started falling to pieces after only 200 rounds.

And so it goes.

The Retired One

September 20, 2008, 16:48
Just my opinion,..but if I was going to spend the kind of money that current S&W revolvers are bringing, I'd look around for a nice example of a pre 1980 example.

September 20, 2008, 19:37
Dang, I'm torn. At least I'm looking at buying a gun for a lifetime and not selling one. I appreciate all the comments. I'm gonna take my time and keep reading.

September 20, 2008, 23:55
Originally posted by Temp:

"Just my opinion,..but if I was going to spend the kind of money that current S&W revolvers are bringing, I'd look around for a nice example of a pre 1980 example."

Trouble with that is that there aren't hardly any!

Post-WWII to 1966 Smith & Wesson production of .44 Special revolvers was really limited. Adjustable sighted revolvers were all 1950 Targets, Model 24's after 1957; S&W made 5,050 of them. A nice used one, probably a 6-1/2 incher (most common) will run you about a grand, a nice 4 incher about $1,500 to $2,500 and a 5 incher higher than that.

Fixed sight guns are called 1950 Military Models, Model 21's after 1957. Only 1,200 of them made and a ratty one will cost you $1,000.

Pre-WWII S&W adjustable sight S&W's are even more scarce.

The re-introduction Model 24-3 came along in 1983, with 5,000 3 inch, 2,625 4 inch and 4,875 6-1/2 inch guns built. Nice 6-1/2 inch M-24-3's sell for $500-$650 on the S&W sites, 3 and 4 inchers more.

The most affordable S&W .44 Special sixgun made before they put internal locks on them and switched to MIM lockwork parts is the Model 624 stainless steel 1950 Target, introduced in 1985. Same barrel lengths, 3, 4 and 6-1/2 inch. No idea how many S&W made, probably 10-15,000 or so.

Older S&W N frame handgun prices have really taken off over the last 3 years.

While the "suggested retail price" of the new Model 24's is $1,011, nobody pays retail for S&W's. The fixed sight M-21-4, for example, retails for $995 but dealers like CCDN have sold them for under $600.

I think a good, used 6-1/2 inch M-24-3 or M-624 and a good gunsmith would be the best way to get to what Firewalker is after.

September 30, 2008, 14:18
The Model 21 M&P is selling here e for $525-575. They have the Model 22 also.
A friend bought a"Thunder Ranbch" special and loves it. He says it is his all time defense gun but he has enough loads that shoot to point of aim that it is not a problem for him.
Ther was a time I would heve wanted and adjustable sight but now I'd go with the fixed.

Para Driver
September 30, 2008, 21:37
jut keep looking, looking, looking.. it's out there looking for you too!

October 27, 2008, 12:35
I have a 21, not the Thunder Ranch but the plain old 21, and my only gripe is the round butt. I bought a set of old diamond service grips, made a black hard rubber filler for the front & rear of the grip frame to bring it up to square butt proportions and put a Tyler T Grip on it. After plugging the IL hole on the frame I'd say it looks very retro and period correct.

October 31, 2008, 20:29
I have a 24, 4' round butt. It is one of my favorite wheelguns. Outstanding round. I'd go with that one over the 21. I just don't like the barrel on the 21.

October 31, 2008, 22:34
I'de hold out for a 24 in 6.5 and have it trimmed to 5".
Check the freebore in the cylinders and the forcing cone S&W s quality control was iffy when the 24.3s were being built.
Another thought is a Ruger Blackhawk custom in 44 Spl.
I've seen some awful nice ones in Handloader Magazine. With Turnbull's Casehardening on the frames. WOW and they shoot.being that they are custom and precision line bored.
Thanks D.