Today, gun registration is anathema to those who understand the genius of the Second Amendment and its importance to the protection of our collective and individual freedoms. However, in 1935, the best shooters and most discriminating handgun enthusiasts were eager to register a certain type of revolver.
Smith & Wesson had just introduced the .357 Magnum cartridge, which reached power levels previously unheard of in a repeating handgun. It chambered the new cartridge in a new model of its large six-shot, N-frame revolver. That marked the beginning of serious handgun hunting and gave law enforcement a much more effective option than previous sidearms. Although it has long since been surpassed in power for hunting applications by cartridges such as the .44 Rem. Mag., .454 Casull and .500 S&W Mag., many experts believe that certain .357 Mag. loadings remain optimum for police and personal-defense use.
The earliest S&W .357 Magnums were built to the individual customer’s specifications in term of barrel length (in 1/8" increments), sights, grips and finish. In addition to being the most powerful, it was arguably the finest-made revolver of the time. Smith & Wesson was proud enough of the product that it assigned a “Registration Number” to each revolver, stamped in the frame cutout for the yoke. It shipped each gun with a card that allowed the owner to send in for a Registration Certificate, showing him as the original purchaser of that particular gun.
With its sleek lines, high quality, prominent place in firearm history and possible range of variations due to the special-order options that were available, the Smith & Wesson .357 Registered Magnum has emerged in the past few years as one of the hottest categories in the firearm collecting field.Its popularity among classic-handgun enthusiasts is such that some report values are increasing on a monthly basis.
The Blue Book of Gun Values lists the estimated value of a standard 98 percent Registered Magnum at $3,300. It rightly points out that scarce variations in configuration, historic usage and desirable related materials can sharply increase that value.
The example shown here rates 98 percent original blue, NRA Excellent condition, and it recently sold at auction for $12,100. The rare 83⁄8" barrel and a Border Patrol provenance contributed to the premium paid for this piece. Other reported auctions and private sales of Registereds in 2005 and 2006 with seller descriptions as “Excellent” and 90 percent or more original finish have ranged from $2,500 to more than $7,000, with several clustered in the $3,000 to $4,000 range.
Accompanying material can greatly impact the value. Collectors report that nice original boxes easily bring $1,000 or more by themselves, with original registration certificates changing hands for a similar or greater amount.