All About Guns


Ed McGivern’s Registered Magnum.

Ask any Smith & Wesson collector, accumulator, or shooter what the most coveted gun displaying the S&W brand is and most likely, they’ll respond “registered magnum” in a confident, obvious-sounding voice.

Introduced in 1935 for the new .357 Magnum cartridge, the gun was essentially a custom-made revolver with hand-fitted parts, along with a “birth certificate” of sorts. Each gun was “registered” and came complete with its own registration card, hence the name “registered magnum.”

Registered magnums are considered the pinnacle of Smith & Wesson production, bringing hefty prices in today’s market. The guns were built to order, with customers specifying the type of finish — blued or nickel, the barrel length ranging from 3 ½” to 8 ¾”, and numerous front and rear sight options. The guns were also sighted-in at 25 yards, with buyers specifying either a 6 o’clock or “dead-center” hold.

In addition to the serial number, each gun was stamped with a registration number, complete with a corresponding registration card. After the purchaser filled out and sent the card back, a certificate signed by Douglas Wesson, confirming the owner’s name, registration number and customized features was sent to the owner.

The left side of Ed McGivern’s Registered Magnum.

Famous Registered Magnums

For their upcoming auction on Aug. 25-27, Rock Island Auction Company has a slew of registered magnums previously owned by very interesting people — the most well-known being Ed McGivern from the Dave Ballantyne Collection. Even if these guns are out of your price range, if you bid early, you can always say you had the honor of bidding on one, but it got away. Just reading about these guns and looking at the photos is informative and interesting.

A rare K-22 Hand Ejector Target belonging Ed McGivern.

Same gun, different pose.

Ed McGivern

Ed McGivern was considered the fastest shot alive before the likes of Jerry Miculek came along. McGivern (1874-1957), known as “the World’s Fastest Gun,” was fascinated by fast shooting after witnessing a shootout in Sheridan, Wyoming. He was a respected and well-known exhibition shooter and hand gunning author of the 20th century who also trained local law enforcement officers and federal agents with the FBI.

McGivern’s book, “Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting,” was published in 1938. He was known for drawing and firing five shots into a 1-inch group at 20 feet in less than half a second (recorded as 9/20th of a second in August 1932).

The accompanying factory letter states the revolver (Reg. No. 2902) was shipped on May 25, 1938, and delivered to Ed McGivern of Lewistown, Montana, with a 5-inch barrel (currently 3 1/2 inches), McGivern bead front sight, deep “U” notch rear sight (currently a square notch), blue finish, and checkered walnut Magna grips. The letter goes on to state, it was authorized “no charge” by D.B. Wesson and marked “for fast double-action shooting” for Ed McGivern. The auction is Aug. 25, Lot 478.

The second McGivern gun available is one of the rarest S&W guns in existence, with only 96 manufactured between 1936 to 1941. A K-32 Hand Ejector Target revolver, these revolvers are in the 653388-682207 serial # range and are square butt “K” target frame five screws, with pinned 6-inch round barrel.

Post-World War II, this model became part of the K-22/K-32/K-38 Masterpiece series of target revolvers. The factory letter confirms the 6-inch barrel, McGivern gold bead front sight, humpback hammer, blued and checkered walnut grips. It was shipped May 10, 1939, to Ed McGivern of Lewistown, Montana.

The McGivern sight, a gold bead on a black post, which is named after him, is the same type of sight on this revolver. The accompanying S&W invoice for this revolver confirms the configuration, as well as Ed McGivern being the recipient. The auction is Aug. 25, Lot 479.

Box and factory letter are included with the gun.

Frank Baughman’s pre-production .357 Magnum
used in testing & Evaluation.

Special Agent T. Frank Baughman

The next Smith & Wesson registered magnum is a historic pre-production S&W .357 Magnum used in U.S. Government Testing & Evaluation by the military and FBI. It was owned by legendary FBI firearms expert and Special Agent T. Frank Baughman, the inventor of the Baughman Quick Draw sight.

As told by S&W historian Roy Jinks in the accompanying factory letter, “This revolver is a very important handgun in the history of the .357 series, being one of the very first .357 Magnums produced for testing and evaluation. Because this handgun was to be used for evaluations, it was not assigned any registration number.

The gun is one of a pair of prototypes assembled in March 1935. Its companion revolver was serial number 45809. The auction is scheduled for Aug. 25, Lot 1498.

Baughman’s gun comes with factory leather case and plaque.

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