Smith & Wesson, the legendary gunmaker, experienced a wave of innovation in the 1950s. Basically, it was adapt to modern methods and models or die a commercial death.
Company president Carl Hellstrom was not going to let that happen, so a lot of great new models came out of the old Springfield plant. One of the most prolific guns, according to Bill Jordan, was the “answer to a policeman's prayer.” It was the revolver numbered as the Model 19 and named the Combat Magnum.
Today's pistoleros may not be aware of how big a breakthrough this medium frame Magnum actually was. While the .357 Mag. cartridge had been around since 1935, it was always found in big, heavy “N” frame revolvers. When modern engineering permitted the powerful round to be fired in a “K”frame gun, it meant that police officers could get the on-target performance of the bigger gun in a much lighter and more maneuverable package that was easier to carry, deploy and shoot.
Almost overnight, the Model 19 was the gun to have for the working cop. Made in high-polish blue or nickel finishes and with standard 2 1/2, 4 or 6-inch barrels, the Model 19 is encountered in (scarce) 3-inch and (rare) 5-inch versions. And at least one 3 1/2-incher was made in the old days.
When stainless steel blossomed in the 1970s, the stainless Combat Magnum was called the Model 66. However, it is the original Model 19 was a gun that I remember fondly as the first revolver I ever carried as a professional tool.