Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson: Book Review

Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson

The Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson is easily the best reference for S&W guns I have ever purchased.  In fact, it may be the best reference book I have ever purchased since escaping some pretty advanced science courses back in college.

In its third edition, the Standard Catalog describes and values nearly 800 different Smith & Wesson guns.  Each firearm has a separate entry with as much production and collector information as the authors have been able to locate.

The book starts off by describing the key areas of concern when identifying and valuing S&W guns.  “Special concerns” covers important topics including revolver frame sizes, generations of semi-auto pistols, stocks, sights, factory engraving, types of finishes and more.

After covering the basics, the catalog moves into describing all of the firearms made by S&W, starting with the first issue of Model Number One.

Standard Catalog of Smith & WessonUnderstandably, much of the book is dedicated to revolvers.  Considering Smith & Wesson is probably the most prolific manufacturer of revolvers in the world, and the company has been around since the 1850’s, there should be no doubt that revolvers make up the bulk of their historical inventory.

Semi-automatic pistol enthusiasts shouldn’t worry, though.  The Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson provides a lot of information on these guns as well:  everything from the Model of 1913 .35 S&W Auto to the current generation of M&P polymer pistols.

Also included in the catalog are rifles and shotguns made over the years by and for Smith & Wesson.  Some of the interesting long guns discussed include the Model 76 submachine gun, Model 320 Revolving Rifle and the ultra-rare .30 Caliber M-1 Carbine prototypes.

I guess I am a certified gun geek, but I enjoy just opening this book and reading about some old S&W handgun I have never seen before.  Did you know that S&W developed a full-auto 12 gauge shotgun?  Yep.  It apparently had a passing resemblance to an AR-15, but it never went to production.

There have been multiple times that I have come across a Smith & Wesson revolver that I did not know anything about, and I reached for the Standard Catalog.  Each time, I was able to identify exactly what kind of gun I was looking at with little trouble.  The history lessons are great, but identifying guns is what I really bought this book for, and it performs very well.

 The Standard Catalog goes beyond describing the firearms from S&W.  The book also covers things like the different kinds of boxes in which Smith & Wesson guns shipped.  But the catalog goes even farther by describing air guns, knives, ammunition, reloading tools, police gear, posters, belt buckles, watches and other promotional items.

Some S&W branded products are very unusual and/or rare.  For example, did you know that Smith & Wesson made:

  • toilet valves
  • dishwashers
  • light socket fixtures
  • a .30-caliber suppressor

A couple of the items above are referenced in other literature, but actual examples are not known to still exist.

Smith Wesson Model 76 SMG

The Smith & Wesson Model 76 9mm SMG – Photo courtesy of Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson

The book is hard-covered with a colorful dust jacket.  It is 432 pages long and is well illustrated with color photos.

Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson

A sample page from the book – Photo courtesy of Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson

Is the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson perfect?  Nope.  Like any historical reference, there are spots where information is incomplete, missing or is uncertain.  The authors do a good job on indicating where information is spotty or unclear.  In fact, they actively seek input from other collectors so that in each successive edition, they can improve the amount and quality of information provided.  But the book still is the single best resource of information on Smith & Wesson firearms.

Another gripe about the book is the relative small size of the photos.  Most of the photographs are less than 1/4 page in size, which is fine in most cases.  However, when trying to make an ID on an older gun, a larger size photo can be invaluable.The problem with using larger photos, however, is the book would become enormous.  Using small photos, the book is already more than 400 pages long and is measured in pounds, not ounces.  Doubling the size of the photos could also double the number of pages and cost to produce.  I guess everything is a trade off.  All things considered, I prefer the smaller photos if the other option is to cut back on the information provided.

If you collect Smith & Wesson firearms, or if you have an interest in firearms history, the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson is a must-have book.  I’ve reviewed a lot of books, but this is the absolute best reference I’ve found in the firearms community.  Click here to buy the Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson on Amazon.