A simpler and more elegant era of police duty guns. Colt vs S&W


By Luis Valdes

Not my photos, but I have a 1977 production 6″ Colt Trooper MkIII and a 1978 production 6″ S&W Model 19-4 in .357 Magnum in very similar condition. Problem is…. I’m five hundred miles away from them at the moment. So these pics will have to represent what I currently have to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

I can say that both are best of their lines. My 19-4 is a pre ’82 gun so it still has the pinned barrel and recessed cylinder unlike the one shown here. Both are smooth, accurate, and capable guns. Six inch guns are especially classy since they were the cat’s meow for cops back in the day. Motor Cops and Highway Troopers had a hankering for the six inchers since there was improved ballistics and a longer sight radius. They also just balance and handle better.

Anyways, the Trooper MkIII was a complete departure from the original Trooper/.357 Magnum line. Originally introduced in the early 1950s as a Medium Frame .357 Duty Gun, by the late 60s, the original Trooper was showing its age. So Colt completely redesigned the line. Stainless coil springs, shrouded ejector rod, better trigger, and that still classic deep royal blue finish. Adjustable sights of course are standard.

S&W also introduced their medium frame .357 duty gun at the behest of Bill Jordan’s wishes. S&W took the venerable K Frame .38 Special and strengthened it for the .357 Magnum. As the decades roled by, S&W also had to change things. But unlike Colt, it was gradual. The Model 19 by 1978 was on it’s fourth revision. But things were still good. And with S&W, things were exceptionally good.

They cornered the market. For every Colt Revolver, S&W sold five to ten to Law Enforcement. But Colt still fought it out with their main rival. And in the late 1970s, it was guns like this duking it out. Not the Python or the Model 27. It was the two mainstays of the medium frame duty gun.

The best modern comparison would be the GLOCK versus everyone else. There are just so many competitors in the field now. But back then it was pretty much three. Colt and S&W were the two established rivals with Ruger as the outlier with their Service/Police/Speed Six line. But Ruger was going after S&W, not Colt. Why? Because S&W was the main player. Ruger didn’t want to be second place. But that battle heated up in the 1980s.

These two guns represent the classic post war era of police duty guns and my God, am I blessed for having to fine examples of that era. They honestly are equally matched and a fine example of the quality and performance that both were able to produce.

Alas, S&W is a shadows of their former selves and could never reproduce such quality ever again. Those two guns shown and my two in my collection are examples of the bygone era. Luckily, Colt is back in the Wheel Gun game and doing very well with their Cobra and Python line. While not the same. It is a modernized design that speaks of quality, unlike the knock offs that S&W are producing today.

The photos are a screen capture from a YouTube video.


      • The reason I ask is that it looks from the pictures (which is difficult when they’re screencaps of videos) as tho they’ve been re-polished at some point.

        Compare the flutes on the cylinders of these revolvers with the K-22 you posted only a couple of postings before. NB how much crisper the edges are on that .22LR revolver…


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