For most of us who grew up when the revolver ruled the world, and the goose hung high in Springfield Massachusetts, the N-Frame Smith & Wesson revolver is a legendary piece. Offered in a variety of calibers from .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .45 Auto Rim, .455 Webley, and .45 Colt, the big Smiths enjoyed a reputation for reliability and accuracy.
From the original Hand Ejector to the modern Classic, these are powerful and reliable outdoorsman revolvers. They are also effective for home defense use. Among the best modern renditions of the big frame revolver is the Smith & Wesson Model 25-5 in the Classic line.
S&W Classic Model 25
This is a big, burly handgun that balances well in the hand and points well in fast shooting. The .45 Colt cartridge may not have gotten the attention the .44 Magnum has, but it is a fine general purpose cartridge. As an aside, Dirty Harry’s revolver was actually a .45 caliber revolver so the muzzle and chambers would appear even more impressive in the cinema.
The N-Frame revolver was out of production for several years. Smith & Wesson revived many of these revolvers in the classic line. The Classic line, including the Model 27 .357 Magnum and .45 Colt revolver reviewed here, are modern versions of the company’s legendary handguns.
The 6.5-inch barrel handgun illustrated is chambered for a cartridge introduced in 1873. While slightly predated by the .44 Russian and .44 Smith & Wesson American, the .45 Colt is among the oldest cartridges still in use in the world.
The Smith & Wesson N-Frame revolvers are large, relatively heavy revolvers, and are intended for hard use. The size is necessary due to the large caliber chambering.
This revolver features an attractive, bright-blue finish. The hammer and trigger are color case hardened. A nicely figured set of walnut grips offers good hand fit. The checkered surface allows a good firing grip.
The revolver illustrated features a swing-out cylinder for easy loading and unloading and a double-action trigger. The hammer may be cocked for deliberate single-action fire. The ejector rod easily ejects spent .45 Colt cartridge cases.
The Model 25-5 features fully adjustable rear sights and a tall, ramped front sight. It is simple enough to adjust the rear sight for windage and elevation. These sights allow a high degree of precision.
The single-action trigger is crisp, offering a clean break. The double-action trigger is smoother than most modern double-action revolvers. It isn’t difficult to keep six shots in the X-ring, firing double action (at least to 10 yards). These revolvers offer modest recoil compared to some of the lightweight revolvers chambered for powerful cartridges.
Why .45 Colt
This isn’t a concealed carry handgun by any means. However, it offers real potency for hunting and outdoors work. The .45 Colt is a good hunting load for medium-sized game. If you handload, the .45 Colt may be loaded a bit hotter than for use in Single Action Army-type revolvers, but not as hot as the Ruger Blackhawk standard in the big Smith & Wesson. Be careful and do your research when loading anything stronger than cowboy action standard.
Why choose the .45 Colt over the .44 Magnum? It is good to have both! The .45 Colt has much merit. When introduced, the .45 Colt was largely the result of the demands of Colonel Stephen Benet of Army Ordnance. Benet had a clear vision of the needs of western troopers.
The new service cartridge would offer unprecedented power. The original loading used a conical lead bullet of 230 to 255 grains over 30–40 grains of black powder. The standard loads that built the .45 Colt’s reputation, broke 875 fps in a 7.5-inch barrel. Even the lightest original loading I have tested (230-grain bullet at 832 fps), would prove an effective anti-personnel loading.
Since U.S. Marshals in general had access to military stores on the federal level, most used Army issue .45 Colt ammunition. There is a trivial story repeated in the popular press every few years regarding the .45 Colt versus .45 Long Colt and the correct name for the cartridge. I will not bore you to tears with this story. I am certain we all know what the .45 Colt cartridge is. The shorter cartridge, common in the Old West, was the .45 Schofield. It is still loaded by Black Hills ammunition.
I began firing the big Smith with a number of handloads. Acme Bullet Company’s coated 250-grain bullet at 820 fps is a favorite. I also had some older Leadhead cast bullets loaded in Remington brass at 790 fps. Most combinations would put five shots into two inches at 25 yards. Firing double action and in speed shooting, it isn’t difficult to keep shots in the K-zone well past 15 yards.
Moving up the scale, I fired a cylinder each of two powerful Buffalo Bore loads. The 225-grain cast hollow point and 255-grain hard cast Keith type semi wadcutter are each clocking along at well over 1,000 fps. These loads get the .45 Colt off its knees and into serious defensive territory. Big hogs and deer will fall to such loads.
On the second range session, I fired a couple of cowboy action loads. The Fiocchi cowboy load at 750 fps uses a special coated bullet that leads but little and offers good accuracy. The Fiocchi load was accurate enough for any contest with a 25-yard group of 1.6 inches.
The Smith & Wesson Classic Model 25 offers real accuracy with excellent fit and finish. This revolver is a good effort at reviving the great guns of the past and offers real utility for many tasks.
When it comes to BFRs (Big Frame Revolvers), the Smith and Wesson Model 25-5 is certainly among the best. Make a case for your favorite BFR in the Comment section.
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