Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

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Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 7/29/2016, 2:11 pm

First topic message reminder :

I've been unofficially shooting Bullseye for as long as I've been shooting.  Really enjoy trying to be as accurate as possible.  This started in the 1980's, and I'm now almost 73.

I know that accuracy is by far MOST dependent on the shooter, not the gun, but having a good gun helps.  I've now got a Les Baer Premiere II, and a S&W Model 41, and while I'm no expert, I like that the results continue to improve.  For reference, at 15 yards I'm typically shooting just under a 3" group with the 45, and a bit better with the 22.

One of the guns I've become very interested in, is a S&W Model 52, and what I've read about it on this forum just reinforces my desire to have one - not to "collect", but to shoot.  I can reload, so the precise ammo should be OK, and I realize buying one now means spending between $1200 and $1800.  They're findable on Gunbroker, so once I make up my mind, I'm pretty sure I could make this happen.


However, here are some things I've been thinking about.  I really wanted to get a Colt Python, but found out that there aren't that many people nowadays who are capable of working on that gun, maintaining it properly.  That, and there are so many collectors wanting one, that the price seems to be way out of line.  I'm not convinced that it would shoot any better than my S&W Model 28, especially with me shooting it.  I've read that the Model 52 is similar, in that it is a very unique gun, and if it needs work, that might become a problem.  I don't know if parts are readily available, and it might be difficult to find a gunsmith to do the work.


So, it's now 2016.  I know this gun was specifically made for target shooting, but are there other guns available that are "just as good"?  I assume that the bullets that are shot in the Model 52 will work in other guns.  The lighter recoil spring can also be replicated.  I know it's a very precise gun, with everything maxed out for performance, but is this a difference that an "average" shooter will even notice?  

To be useful for shooting, not collecting, I know that I need more than one magazine, and the special bushing wrench made for this gun.  Are there other things that are necessary, that I don't even know about yet?

(A relative of mine owns one, and I got to shoot it once.  I liked it, comparing it to my larger guns, but I don't know that it would shoot "better" than another 38 Special if I had one there to compare it to.  I also know it has now developed some kind of problem, and he's not sure how to go about getting it repaired.  As I said earlier, if I get one, it's to shoot it, not to "collect" it.)


Having said all the above, is this a gun that I should be trying to buy, or are there better choices now?
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Wobbley on 7/31/2016, 5:26 pm

When I just looked at Midway, they have Fiocchi, Winchester, Magtech, and Federal and Remgton currently out of stock.  I'd buy two boxes of Winchester and Magtech and a box of Fiocchi.  You may get lucky with the latter and your pistol may function.  And your pistol may like Magtech.  But I know my pistol likes Federal Winchester and Remington.  S&B it likes too.

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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Sa-tevp on 7/31/2016, 6:08 pm

The case of Zero I bought last year has worked fine in my 52-2. All bullets seated flush.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Wobbley on 7/31/2016, 6:22 pm

accuracy decent with the Zero ammo?

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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 7/31/2016, 7:02 pm

In trying to learn more about the gun, I found this video.  You guys probably all know about it already, but I thought it must be very helpful for a newcomer like me:

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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Sa-tevp on 7/31/2016, 7:03 pm

Wobbley wrote:accuracy decent with the Zero ammo?
Tough call. I shoot Indoors Sharpshooter and had a 25 yard 95-6 in Timed fire with Zero 148 HBWCs. Can't really say how it does at 50 yards but I haven't seen anything weird, just looks between my 22 and 45 performance. A little bit of leading at the beginning of the rifling. No alibis so far.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by jglenn21 on 7/31/2016, 7:15 pm

nice to see an original 52 that still had the double action....


love the guy's description of parts
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by KB2MBC on 7/31/2016, 7:29 pm

I would not disassemble the 52 the way Allen does it.
I pull the slide back to where I can pull out the slide stop assembly, remove the slide from the frame, remove recoil spring/guide assembly and then use my fingernail on one hand to depress the barrel bushing plunger while unscrewing the bushing with the other hand. Be sure the barrel is in lockup while unscrewing the bushing.
When assembling, beware of the ejector sticking up when you mount the slide onto the frame, you need to depress it in order to get the slide back to where you can insert the slide stop.
It's been a while but I think that's how it's described in the S&W manual.

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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by KB2MBC on 7/31/2016, 7:34 pm

I bought Federal Gold Match HBWC for the long line and I didn't do any better than my hand loads. I like the Hornady or Zero 148gr HBWC best. Too bad Remington HBWC are not available, their good too.

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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Wobbley on 7/31/2016, 7:39 pm

A PDF copy of the original manual with the CORRECT method of disassembly and reassembly is here http://smith-wessonforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=95854&d=1356735075

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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 7/31/2016, 10:48 pm

Oops....    I just printed out the PDF copy.  If sounds a lot simpler than what was done in the video.  I'm glad I saw the video anyway, but I'll do it the way you guys describe.  Sounds like how I take my 1911 apart, removing the slide as an assembly.

'kB2MBC' - I'm just trying to get some ammo to shoot to get used to the gun.  The plan is to reload my own - still need to read up on which bullets and powder load, but that's several weeks off.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 7/31/2016, 11:07 pm

I'm one of those guys who likes to read a manual cover to cover.  Had you not posted the link to the manual here, I'd never have gotten to read this line on page 4:

Dry firing may be done with the MANUAL SAFETY on.  A protective bar minimizes FIRING PIN wear.


I wonder how many people know that....
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Sa-tevp on 8/1/2016, 4:40 am

I turned a Pachmayr 38 special snap cap into a wadcutter by cutting the nose off instead for dry firing.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Dr.Don on 8/1/2016, 9:05 am

If your heart is set on a 52, that's fine.  I've owned both a 52-2 and a 1911 Clark 38 Spec conversion.  I let both go years ago when I thought I was through shooting bullseye.  The 52's have nice triggers, but the Clark outshot it in the accuracy department without the many aggravations reloaders have with getting a 52 load that really works well.  In my opinion the 52 barrel is just too slow twist, and Jerry's work with higher twist barrels supports that.  So if you are only going to shoot 50' gallery or 25yds, or just want one to play with, have fun.  But if you are looking for a 38 for serious CF outdoors, I would hold out for used 1911 conversion and get Jon or someone to tune it up.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 8/1/2016, 11:08 am

Thanks for the advice.  

I changed my forum classification to "?" because I don't think I have one yet.  I'm someone who has always done "bullseye shooting", but not formally.  I just do it because I enjoy doing so.  I don't know nearly enough yet.

If I get a Model 52, which I expect to do this coming Friday morning, I know there's a world of help here in this forum.  If I get a "Clark", I'm not sure that would be the case.  If I was "good enough".....    but I'm not.  I'm still in the "first grade" here compared to what I think of the rest of you.  I don't need my gun "tuned up"; I need me "tuned up".  With a S&W Model 28 revolver, I shot the best I've ever done.  Then I started working with a 1911, and I'm getting to where I've got 3" groups at 15 yards.  I stopped for a while, and started using my M-41 again, and the groups are maybe near 2" now.

I'm not sure how much better I'll ever get - maybe after I get my cataracts corrected this October, I'll have a chance.  I'm also 72, and that's another thing I'm fighting.  

Yes, if I were to buy a Clark, maybe it would be the same for me as the M-52, but I don't see it being "better" for me.  If I ever get to a 1 1/2" grouping at 15 yards, maybe......

This forum seems to be populated by the best shooters I'm likely to ever meet.  Maybe some of that will wear off on me.......     :-)
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Jerry Keefer on 8/1/2016, 1:07 pm






Last edited by Jerry Keefer on 8/1/2016, 10:56 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 8/1/2016, 1:28 pm

Maybe the "factory bean counters" limited what could be done, but does that really make the parts "junk"?

Had they done everything they could to make the gun absolutely the best that could be done, would it have sold for twice, or maybe three times the price?   ....or more?

If indeed the M-52 parts are considered "junk", then what does that say about all the other guns that are sold, that don't shoot as well as the M-52?



There's also the question of who the purchasers would be.  How many people who bought an M-52 would have paid three times the cost, for an M-55 built to the absolute best standards possible, without regard for cost?  .....and how many of those purchasers would have been good enough to actually see the improvement?   I dunno.....
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Jerry Keefer on 8/1/2016, 1:44 pm

..


Last edited by Jerry Keefer on 8/1/2016, 11:53 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : .)
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by orpheoet on 8/1/2016, 2:02 pm

Is it just me or did this thread turn into 'bashing the 52' a while back. I'm not a gunsmith, I'm not a high master, I'm not a ransom rest. I like my 52-2. There is not a design out there that can't be improved on. But for a mass produced pistol designed 60 years ago I think its pretty ok:)


Pistol expert Gil Hebard reports many groups 2" and smaller in his 1200-round test of four .38 Masters. In fact his groups with some ammo were no larger than might be expected from test barrels, fired under laboratory conditions. Ask your dealer for the S&W .38 Master, Model 52. Everything about this auto will help you turn its unusual grouping ability into unusual scores.

Read more:  Smith & Wesson 38 Caliber Model 52 Master Pistol (1969) http://www.ggarchives.com/bangor-punta/smith-wesson/1969-38-caliber-model-52-master-pistol.html#ixzz4G6qIBzyI 
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Last edited by orpheoet on 8/1/2016, 2:11 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by AllAces on 8/1/2016, 2:05 pm

Jerry Keefer wrote:I said the barrels are not target quality, or basically junk for the intended purpose..
If you're happy with your 52, I am happy for you... enjoy..your expectations have been met...

I've found after many discussions, and many observations, over the course of many years with people with high expectations that if I set my own expectations low enough that I am rarely disappointed.  That goes for equipment and people.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 8/1/2016, 2:16 pm

Actually, what you wrote was " Basically, they are junk."  I'm not (yet) happy with my M-52, as I won't have it until this coming Friday.  I'm real curious as to what others think, and why, and if someone else "bashes" the gun, I'll read that as well, but at this point in time, I am not considering anything else.

I've got a Mazda MX-5.  Compared to a Ferrari, or Lamborghini, or McLaren, I suppose my Mazda is "junk" too, but for a car to drive every day, I prefer just what I've got.

I do like what you wrote "for the intended purpose".  It's not really "high or low expectations".  People have different expectations for a lot of things, for a lot of different reasons.  That doesn't make one better or worse than another, just different.  For my intended purpose, and my one experience in shooting an M-52, the M-52 should be exactly what I want/need/desire.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by jmdavis on 8/1/2016, 2:21 pm

You guys do realize that Jerry rebuilt a 52 that WILL shoot at 50 yards and I'm pretty sure he has done it more than once. But at least in the cases I know about it involves new barrels machined from faster twist blanks, with better locking mechanisms and other changes too. 

Pointing out that it takes work to make the 52 a good platform for 50 yard shooting isn't bashing it. But it is making people aware that there are issues. 

I know two master shooters who were both unable to master the 52, (both independently say that it lulls one into thinking that he is shooting a 22 and the next thing you know you are being scored 80-8x or 90-8x with no idea where the other rounds went). Both say that you have to grip the 52 like you were shooting hardball out of a 1911.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by jmdavis on 8/1/2016, 2:23 pm

mikemyers wrote:Actually, what you wrote was " Basically, they are junk."  

Actually Jerry wrote "I have several new unfired barrels I acquired to study.. Basically, they are junk."
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by orpheoet on 8/1/2016, 2:31 pm

I'm not singleing anybody out least of all Jerry Keefer who CLEARLY knows what he's talking about. I'm just saying the 52 has a deserved reputation for excellence. We're talking about an old design made decades ago. Of course it can be improved on. If I knew someone that could do the work believe me I'd have it done. If Jerry ends up with a surplus of fast twist barrels he won't have to look far for a buyer:)
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by AllAces on 8/1/2016, 3:10 pm

There is a ready market out there for faster twist M52 barrels, but no one seems interested in doing the work.  The late Jim Clark, Jr and I had a number of discussions over the years at Perry regarding the M52 barrel and before his passing was trying to find suitable blanks that he could machine into a final product at a reasonable cost.

In June I had the pleasure of meeting the 91 year old S&W employee who was directly involved in the design and manufacture of the M52 and we discussed the barrel twist issue.  When I questioned the need for a faster twist for 50 yard accuracy he reminded me of the many High Masters who achieved significant center fire scores using an M52 and factory ammo.  He went on to say that there were never more than ten gunsmiths at S&W building M52's, at the rate of five per week per smith.  All work was done in the white as each gun was hand built and test fired by the builder.  Once the gun passed the accuracy test it was passed on to the bluing shop for final polishing and bluing.  He went on to say that you must master the grip of the M52 to achieve accuracy.  In my own case I know that a flabby grip can result in the M52 not even cycling.  I've tested M52's with a Ransom Rest and have been able to consistently achieve 2" groups at 50 yards using the classic load of 2.8 gr Bullseye and Zero 148 gr HB wad cutters.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by jmdavis on 8/1/2016, 3:21 pm

2 inches could do it. Thanks. 

I think I'm stuck on the 45 for the forseeable future.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

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