Smith & Wesson Model 52-2


Here is a classic with box and papers courtesy of friend of the site , Ann Marie Davis who is a pretty big fan of the 52.

You can see the pistol has a trigger shoe added. The wider surface area gives the impression of a lighter trigger pull. Keep in mind they are not safe to use in holsters if they project out further than the frame.


    • Mmm…. I don’t think you would want one for a carry piece. These were developed to shoot a very mildly loaded .38 Special round, running 148 grain full wadcutter bullets. The wadcutter was loaded flush with the case mouth of the cartridge.

      The gun to buy if you wanted a similar S&W was the S&W Model 39 for a single-stack, Model 59 for a double-stack. The 39 was the basis for the 52, without the double action. The 39 is a double-action pistol, but it has a very nice trigger in single-action mode. It was chambered in 9x19mm. I’ve worked on several of them for customers – they’re a very nice, solid, all-steel pistol, and the genesis of all of S&W’s steel/stainless semi-autos[1]

      The Model 52 was the outgrowth of an effort by S&W to deliver a bullseye pistol for the USAMU for bullseye competition, and that’s where the five-round capacity comes from. In bullseye competition, you never load more than five founds, even if your magazine could hold more.

      The Model 52 was guaranteed to hold a 2″ group at 50 yards. All examples were tested before being shipped to hold a 2″ group at 50 yards. If they didn’t pass, then they went back into S&W’s gunsmiths to get fixed until they would hold a 2″ group at 50.

      I’m a huge fan of the Model 52. I’m always on the lookout for a 52-2 that is in nice shape, as this one is. One day, when I run across a 52-2 in good shape at the right price, money will literally fly out of my pocket to the seller, I will grab the 52-2 and I’ll scurry away, saying “My precciouuuusssss… I gots it now I has!”

      They’re truly an exceptional handgun. They were purpose-built for target shooting.

      [1] I have consistently maintained, and continue to maintain, that S&W’s second and third generation steel/stainless semi-autos (with three and four digit model numbers, respectively) are some of the most solid, well-built, reliable handguns ever made. Why police departments wanted to pitch these guns overboard and go with a Glock is beyond me. There was absolutely nothing wrong with these pistols, and the way police departments ditched the S&W’s as tho they has leprosy was my first clue to a younger self that cops didn’t know squat about guns. To my trained eye, police departments haven’t gotten any smarter about guns since the late 1980’s.

      • First pistol I ever bought was a S&W 559. I will contend that that pistol was one of, if not the biggest pile of shiite I ever paid money for. My step-dad’s 39-2 was a lovely little gun, never a bobble, never a problem. The 559? POS from the day it was unboxed until the day I unloaded it on a collector who just wanted to have one to check the box. I never could have sold that thing to anyone who meant to use it for anything serious like a duty gun.

        S&W earned the crappy reputation it had with that third-gen series. First gen was another disaster, or so I’m told, but the second generation wasn’t bad, at all. Third? Turds, all of them. Day I unboxed mine, I spent an hour or two puzzling how to get all the shavings from the machining out of the inner fiddly bits. It’s the only gun I’ve ever had to do that with, and I’m here to tell you that I’m halfway convinced it was deliberate sabotage from the factory. I can’t remember which detent it was, but there was one that was bound up with what looked like steel wool, and the pistol wouldn’t even begin to function properly until I found that and cleaned it up. The machining was atrocious, all over the frame–Gouges in the finish, parts bound up that I had to use fine emery cloth on to get smooth enough to function, all kinds of crap.

        FWIW, I believe my 559 was one of the very first off the production line. I later looked at others belonging to friends and acquaintances that looked a hell of a lot better, internally, but those were built years after and just before the transition to fourth gen with the wrap-around grips and four-digit model numbers.

        Never bought another S&W since, never will.

      • The S&W Third Gen guns may be fine pieces, but it takes a lot more training to make someone proficient with a DA/SA pistol than it does to make them proficient with a striker-fired gun. And running hammer-fired guns cocked-and-locked or DAO comes with its own set of problems.

        Now, whether money would be better-spent on additional training or on new hardware is a discussion worth having, but clearly it’s easier to go to the mayor or the city council and say, “we need money for new guns” than it is to go and say, “we need pistol training because we don’t know how to use these things very well.”

        There are also problems when your manufacturer end-of-lifes your product. That’s kind of chicken-and-egg, but it’s a real thing.

        Somebody brought one of these to an intro pistol class a couple of years or so. I think the husband had bought it 15-20 years prior and it was still NIB, or ANIB anyway. I encouraged her to take care of it because they aren’t making them anymore.

      • There’s nothing wrong with carrying wadcutters though. They’re reliable, accurate and penetrate deep enough. They’re the go-to load for j-frames.
        Unless the 52 is designed to be used with handloads even milder than Federal GMM, I don’t actually know anything about the gun.

        • I don’t think they are the go to snobby load any more.

          Modern Golden Sabers, Short Barrel Gold Dots, and HSTs are far better.

          I still like a good 157 LSWCHP.

          Wascutters are adequate

          • Well the thing is that all of those are +P loads and that might cause problems for people who might want to shoot more than 50 rounds in a range session with an airweight snubby. The wadcutter still has its merits in 2020 and will continue to do so until someone makes a reliable hollow point with such low recoil.

            I also love the good old FBI load, the cheapest defensive ammo you can find. Very accurate as well. Unfortunately it has trouble expanding out of barrels shorter than 4″, even the softer lead Remington version.

  1. My dad shot the piss out of the 52 on the First Army pistol team back in about ‘69-‘70 along with High Standard .22s and 1911s. He probably still has some of that midrange stuff rattling around in a can somewhere.

    Never actually handled one my self but I’m a big fan of the 39 and would love to find a 639 in good shape that’s not stupid expensive.

  2. I’ve shot a few if them. They are wonderfully accurate and soft shooting.

    I haven’t had the chance to shoot it side by side with a Colt NM Mid range. That would be a neat comparison.


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