In my long and storied past there have been many a handgun come and go, but there is one I deeply regret no longer owning. It’s the fabled Smith and Wesson Model #27 .357 magnum revolver. It was a beautiful bright blue N-framed powerhouse with a five inch barrel. I loved it.
It had a serrated target trigger and the extra wide target hammer, with a white outlined adjustable rear sight and a blaze orange ramped front sight. The bluing was deep and rich and looked as if it was always coated with a fine sheen of oil. On the top of the back strap there was some fine stippling to break up glare along the sighting plane. There were lines machined into the top of the barrel that also served to prevent glare. The stocks were the hand filling deep rich wood variety with the gold colored S & W emblem inset near the center.
At the time, this revolver was the Cadillac of the Smith and Wesson line. I was a big fan of the Dirty Harry movies and considered them to be my training films. In the movies Harry Callahan carried the infamous Model #29, 44 magnum with a 6 1/2 inch barrel. I didn’t feel like I could handle that much gun at that time, so I opted for the shorter barrel, but needless to say that five inch barrel was going to cause me many problems.
No one, I repeat with gusto, NO ONE had a holster that would fit this gun, it was such an odd duck. The model #27 could be ordered with a 3″ – 4″ – 5″ – 6 1/2″ and an 8 3/8″ barrel. There were many N-framed holsters for a four inch barrel around that met my needs, but absolutely none for the five inch version. I finally found a black swivel holster that the big gun would fit in, or so I thought.
This swivel holster attached to your gun-belt in the normal fashion and then reinforced leather went down a ways to a metal swivel. Below the swivel was a holster that had a leather strap that is supposed to hold the gun in the holster. I had seen all the TV shows like Adam-12 and I just knew that the LA police department used this style of a holster and if it worked for them, it would work for me.
So I went to work the next day and immediately realized there was a problem. Wearing a holster that held the handgun below your waist line made your weight press the weapon into your leg. This made for a most uncomfortable ride in the patrol car all day. Not long after I got the holster I was out of my patrol car pushing a stalled car out of the road when my beautiful new gun fell out of it and made a sickening sound as it skidded across the blacktop, scarring it forever.
The next day I called F-15 (a police supply house in Houston) and ordered a high rise, lined holster with a thumb break for the model #27. Although I never fired this particular gun, I carried it on duty at all times. (It’s hard to believe now that we didn’t train with our weapons at all back then.)
I was careful to wipe it down every day to keep it from rusting. Eventually though it started to show signs of rust on the back-strap. Being a neophyte I had failed to remove the stocks and apply gun oil to the frame and grip area, so rust abounded there. I cleaned it up and vowed never to forget that area of cleaning again.
This Model #27 helped me make my first felony arrest.
It was a hot summer day and I was in my patrol car parked under a large oak tree in the parking lot of the Red Barn. For you local folks you’ll remember that the Red Barn was a large dance hall located in Kemah on Highway 146. The oak tree is still there, but the Red Barn is long gone and has been replaced by a Texas First Bank building. I was about twenty at the time and I had written lots of traffic tickets and made a few misdemeanor arrests, but never a felony.
Anyway, as I was watching traffic a car came south from the Seabrook side and made a quick right turn onto FM 518. Now I had my radar set up on FM 518 and the posted speed limit was 45 miles per hour. I watched the numbers on the digital display rise quickly and when it reached 59, I locked it on the screen. I started the patrol unit, (a Ford LTD II) and activated my overhead lights and siren and began chasing this speeder down.
The overhead lights on this old Ford were of the chain driven cherries type. That means that one side had an electric motor that drove a bicycle chain that rotated the light on the other side of the car. I used the chrome exterior of the spotlight to check and make sure that the lights were rotating, because sometimes only one side rotated. Sure enough the driver’s side wasn’t rotating, so I reached up with my left hand and gave it a sharp whack. Now remember, I was chasing a speeder in a marked patrol car doing about 70 mph and having to reach my hand out of the window and whack the light bar to make it rotate, so the speeder could see it. This was multitasking long before it was popular to do so.
I whacked it several times and it started working, so I focused my attention back on the targeted speeder. He drove down FM 518 towards a curve in the road. On one side there was a paved road and on the other side of the intersection there was a gravel driveway. I was reaching down to grab the microphone to check out on the radio when the Seabrook dispatcher started broadcasting a BOLO.
She described the vehicle and gave the license plate number. Excitedly, I got on the radio and said, “243 Seabrook, I got it, I got it”! I caught my breath and told her that I was in pursuit of the wanted vehicle and that I was headed west on FM 518 headed towards League City. She said that the suspect was a white male that had just stolen a purse containing a lot of money from a parked car on the Seabrook side. All this happened within a few seconds.
My adrenalin was very high at this point to say the least. The suspect vehicle made a hard right turn into the long gravel driveway, trying to elude me. Gravel and dust was flying everywhere and the driveway ended in the front yard of a home about a quarter mile from the paved FM road.
The suspect stopped his car and I slid my patrol unit in behind him in my best Hollywood slide and swung open the driver’s side door. Keeping my feet inside of the car I pulled out the big Model #27 and in a very loud voice explained that if his didn’t stop that I was going to remove his head from his body with the big gun.
Apparently he had seen some Dirty Harry too, because he immediately stopped and laid down on the ground. Before I even got out of the car I grabbed the radio and made sure that Seabrook knew where I was at and requested a back up unit.
I approached the prone suspect and repeated my instructions that he not move. To emphasize my instructions, I thumb cocked the double action behemoth revolver into the single action mode just like I had seen Harry Callahan do so many times. Anyway I got the frightened suspect handcuffed and stuffed into the back seat of my patrol car.
I returned to the suspect vehicle and I saw the purse he had stolen laying there on the back seat. I secured the purse and waited for the Seabrook police to arrive on the scene. Once they arrived I turned the suspect, the stolen purse, and the suspect vehicle over to them. I noted the incident in my patrol log and went out to catch more speeders.
The next day I got called into the Captain’s office. He told me that I should have searched the suspect’s vehicle. Seabrook PD found stolen items from eight home burglaries, over twenty pounds of marijuana, and three stolen guns. He asked me why I didn’t search the car. I told him that it was a Seabrook wanted vehicle and as far as I knew it hadn’t committed any crimes in Kemah.
He knew that I hadn’t yet been to the police academy at that time, so he wrote my actions off to inexperience. Later though, the wise old Chief of Police approached me and he said that what I did was exactly what he would have done in the same situation and that made me feel a little better. (Again, hard to believe you could go out and imitate Dirty Harry without ever having been professionally trained at all.)
As the rust on the grip handle of the Model #27 increased, my desire for something better grew too. Within a few months Smith and Wesson released a Model #66 stainless steel K-framed .357 magnum revolver. The Model #27 along with some hard earned extra job money to boot bought me a new rust resistant sidearm.
In my opinion the Model #27 of that era is on par with the Colt python. That’s another story that I’ll share with you in the future. Till next time, shoot straight, shoot often, and support the NRA to protect your 2nd amendment rights to bear arms.
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