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 Jack H on 8/1/2016, 3:22 pm

I like and appreciate all the work Jerry puts into the 52 and other bullseye guns.  But I have to ask; to what end is it all?  Will this work be available to us consumers?
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Thanks to all of you!

Post by mikemyers on 8/1/2016, 3:44 pm

Hi, one quick thought.

I posted this thread, because at the time, I wasn't sure what to do.  Having read a lot, watched a lot, and listened a lot, I'm now decided, and have already agreed to buy an M-52 from a member of this forum who offered to sell me one.

I'm very happy with my choice, and I will pick it up this Friday.

Thanks to all of you for such wonderful feedback.  It has all been helpful.
And an even bigger thank you to the fellow who I'm buying the gun from!   Smile

(This thread wasn't intended to get anyone upset at each other, just for me to get my mind sorted out as to what to do; mission accomplished.)
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Olde Pilot on 8/1/2016, 4:10 pm

AllAces and I are very fortunate to have met and chatted with Eddie Mitchell-the Navy WWII veteran, Model 52 builder and pistol production supervisor. BTW, if you aren't aware from my earlier posting, if your 52 has the number "2" on the front edge of the mag well, it's an Eddie Mitchell gun.


Personally, I think the 52 is just "cool." The fact that it may require some significant tweeking to even approach the requirements of today's HM shooter is, to me, secondary. More significant is S&W's extraordinary effort to produce the gun in the first place. So, the 52 earns my respect just because "it is."

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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Wobbley on 8/1/2016, 4:12 pm

The 52 is a joy to shoot and reasonably accurate.  It can be a heartless b***h at times throwing a wobbly out into the pasture but these still don't diminish its allure.  You have to feed it ammo it likes and when it is on, the accuracy will give you goosebumps.  When it isn't you'll curse it and question your sanity.

Can they be improved, yes.  I wish faster twist barrels and oversized barrels were available.  Better bushings too.

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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by C.Perkins on 8/1/2016, 8:31 pm

My .02 cents is that if you turn your M52 into a niche pistol with all the performance upgrades that can be done to them, what is the resale value ?
It is no longer a model 52.
The pic's I see on a certain M52 to be a cross of an M52 and .45(just not right in my book).
JMHO, your mileage may vary.
Shoot it as is and enjoy the ride.

Clarence
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by jmdavis on 8/2/2016, 11:03 am

C.Perkins wrote:My .02 cents is that if you turn your M52 into a niche pistol with all the performance upgrades that can be done to them, what is the resale value ?
It is no longer a model 52.
The pic's I see on a certain M52 to be a cross of an M52 and .45(just not right in my book).
JMHO, your mileage may vary.
Shoot it as is and enjoy the ride.

Clarence

When you pull out the dremmel and the wood expoxy and start working on a $250 custom grip, you are not helping the resale, but you (hopefully) are improving the fit and accuracy and looking for more points. 

I have the feeling that the model 52 that you are talking about would sell in a second if it were offered. The buyer would be a shooter. I further surmise that it would go for a good price. But I could be wrong. 

I'm shooting a Curtis Custom 45 wadgun. It's value is in its accuracy. It's a Baer Frame with tigertooth stippling on the front strap. It has a shortened trigger, fitted magazines, a little scratch on the side where the slide stop fits and will flat out shoot from a Ransom Rest or even my hand if my mind is straight. But its not a safe Queen, its an expensive working gun. The original owner bought it in 1998 for ~2.5x what a Les Baer would have cost, shot it for a decade, put it away and then sold it to me for the same price he paid in 2015.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by C.Perkins on 8/2/2016, 8:15 pm

jmdavis wrote:
C.Perkins wrote:My .02 cents is that if you turn your M52 into a niche pistol with all the performance upgrades that can be done to them, what is the resale value ?
It is no longer a model 52.
The pic's I see on a certain M52 to be a cross of an M52 and .45(just not right in my book).
JMHO, your mileage may vary.
Shoot it as is and enjoy the ride.

Clarence

When you pull out the dremmel and the wood expoxy and start working on a $250 custom grip, you are not helping the resale, but you (hopefully) are improving the fit and accuracy and looking for more points.

Good analogy but $250. is not $1300. give or take. 

I have the feeling that the model 52 that you are talking about would sell in a second if it were offered. The buyer would be a shooter. I further surmise that it would go for a good price. But I could be wrong. 

Who knows how much this single pistol will go for on the market.
It is custom made for a serious shooter.
This is my point, no one smiths the M52 for the very little masses that shoot it.
We all know that you shoot the .45 for both CF and .45 to make your goals.
For those that made our goal or just want to get into a good CF pistol just drive on with the M52 as it is, it will out shoot most that can handle it.

I'm shooting a Curtis Custom 45 wadgun. It's value is in its accuracy. It's a Baer Frame with tigertooth stippling on the front strap. It has a shortened trigger, fitted magazines, a little scratch on the side where the slide stop fits and will flat out shoot from a Ransom Rest or even my hand if my mind is straight. But its not a safe Queen, its an expensive working gun. The original owner bought it in 1998 for ~2.5x what a Les Baer would have cost, shot it for a decade, put it away and then sold it to me for the same price he paid in 2015.

I am glad it is working for you.
I understand where you are coming from and we all have our opinions.
Life is good.
Shoot well;
Clarence
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 8/6/2016, 11:56 am

As closure to this post, I want to thank the forum itself, and another forum member, who read this post and told me he had a Model 52 he would be willing to sell me.  I drove north 150 miles from Miami to meet him, and got exactly what I really wanted - a rarely fired M-52-2 that could have looked right at home in a showcase for new guns.  He also had all the accessories, and the original box, as well as two additional magazines and a mount for an optical sight.  .....and an extra set of wood Herrett grips for one hand shooting!

Since I wanted to get a gun for shooting, not placing it in a showcase, this is exactly what I dreamed of getting, but never expected to.  Unless he gives me permission, I won't post his name, but I'll very much thank him.   ...and this forum, for making it possible!

(I also belong to "The Highroad forums, that I also very much enjoy, and I signed up there for the $25 per year contributor's status.  If I can do the same thing here, I will....   but I don't yet know if members can do that, let alone how to do so.)


......edited, and added later - the person who helped me out getting the M-52 is user 'davekp'.
I head home tomorrow, Sunday.  Next step, after cleaning, is to set up my reloading press.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 8/7/2016, 8:43 pm

AllAces wrote:.....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 .........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.

That's a lovely bit of history.

...can I ask one more question here?  Are you suggesting that there is some unique way to grip the M52 differently than you otherwise would grip a pistol, in order to achieve the best results?  I think you're just saying that the way you grip the pistol is extremely important, which makes perfect sense to me.  Just curious.  

Also, is there a resource page, where you can find the year of manufacture of an M52 based on the serial number?
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by LenV on 8/7/2016, 10:40 pm

"...can I ask one more question here?  Are you suggesting that there is some unique way to grip the M52 differently than you otherwise would grip a pistol, in order to achieve the best results?  I think you're just saying that the way you grip the pistol is extremely important, which makes perfect sense to me.  Just curious." 

I refrained from answering because I knew I had a totally unique answer that might actually only help a very small number of shooters. But I got bored. First you have to modify all of your magazines and add bumper pads. This is not that hard to do but important for a good grip. This gives you a great place to rest your little finger and instant feedback if your gripping to hard since the pad can slip off. The rest of the grip is very similar to a 1911 grip with a pad. I grip the pistol hard enough with my middle and ring finger that the pistol starts to shake and then back off the pressure until pistol is gripped firmly but shakes stops. Extended length grips like Herrett Nationals takes away the requirement to add pads but then pads make those grips easier to use. What? Okay Okay. I did say this advice was not going to help everyone. However, if you have mongo hands this is great advice. Smile



Part 2 of your question the answer would be "no". You can buy a book that has that info or go to a S&W forum and ask but no place to just look up those dates.

Len
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 8/8/2016, 12:51 pm

Two thoughts, one specific and one general.

First, regarding how you grip the gun, I've got the opposite situation.  I have small hands.  They must be very small - when I grip the M52, there is space between my little finger and the magazine.

There's something else - there are so many explanations of how to grip a gun, that it's mind boggling, especially when I consider that they can't all be right, as they're contradictory.  Albert H League III wrote the book "The Perfect Pistol Shot", with explanations for everything in the book, and a way for people to test them out themselves, rather than take his word for it.  He says for the most precise results, to grip a handgun no more force than you'd use to grip a stapler.  (!!)    That goes against what so many others have said.   He says a lot of other "different" things as well, such as to keep your thumbs away from the gun, and as much as possible, to support the weight of the gun and the weight of your shooting hand/arm with your support hand/arm.

Oh well....   I haven't fired even one shot yet with the gun.  This week's job will to load some ammunition for it.

(Until I saw your photos, I had no intention of mounting an optical sight for a long time, but every time I see your photos, I get tempted!!   Smile   ).
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by AllAces on 8/8/2016, 1:20 pm

More advice on how to grip a Model 52:

Several years ago I attended a bullseye clinic and one of the coaches had previously coached members of the US Army Marksmanship Unit.  This person coached me to not apply any pressure with my thumb or little finger. His specific comment was, "I can cut off your thumb and little finger and you can still grip the pistol with your middle and ring fingers." He said that pushing, or pressure from the thumb can throw your shots off and that the pinky is mostly useless for bullseye shooting.  As for the M52, I've found that I need a much firmer grip vs. a 1911. Not so firm that I'm squeezing the oil out of the grips. I've found that the M52 does not respond well to a flabby grip, and with some people their grip is so flabby that the gun won't cycle.  As for the trigger finger, I was coached to never let the trigger finger drag against the frame.

The M52 is a fine pistol and a joy to shoot. Mine will keep ten rounds well in the 10-ring at fifty yards in a Ransom Rest using the classic load of 2.8 gr. Bullseye and 148 gr. Zero hollow base wadcutters.

Load some good ammo, enjoy the M52 and report back here.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 8/8/2016, 1:27 pm

AllAces wrote:......He said that pushing, or pressure from the thumb can throw your shots off ........classic load of 2.8 gr. Bullseye and 148 gr. Zero hollow base wadcutters.......Load some good ammo, enjoy the M52 and report back here.

I found out the first of those thoughts on my own - I just gripped the gun as if I was ready to shoot, and removed my thumb from touching the gun.  EVERY time I did that, the gun moved to the left.  Now my thumbs don't touch anything.

I will use that load.  (I would have started with 2.6 grains, but I'll follow the advice here.)

Any recommendations on where to buy Zero hollow base wadcutters right now?  I'll start searching as soon as I finish here, but the last time I tried, all I found was the company itself, who won't sell to consumers.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by orpheoet on 8/8/2016, 1:44 pm

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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by AllAces on 8/8/2016, 2:16 pm

mikemyers wrote:
AllAces wrote:......He said that pushing, or pressure from the thumb can throw your shots off ........classic load of 2.8 gr. Bullseye and 148 gr. Zero hollow base wadcutters.......Load some good ammo, enjoy the M52 and report back here.

I found out the first of those thoughts on my own - I just gripped the gun as if I was ready to shoot, and removed my thumb from touching the gun.  EVERY time I did that, the gun moved to the left.  Now my thumbs don't touch anything.

I will use that load.  (I would have started with 2.6 grains, but I'll follow the advice here.)

Any recommendations on where to buy Zero hollow base wadcutters right now?  I'll start searching as soon as I finish here, but the last time I tried, all I found was the company itself, who won't sell to consumers.
I would not recommend going below 2.7 gr Bullseye.  You might want to replace the recoil spring so that you are starting with a known spring per the number of rounds you shoot.  Also, I've done extensive Ransom Rest testing with 148 gr double ended wadcutters, both lead and coated and could not find a load that was as accurate as HB wadcutters.  I do pass all my M52 ammo through a Lee Factory Crimp Die as the final stage.
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 8/10/2016, 10:37 pm


....oops.
"Sorry, we are currently sold out of '38 Special (.357 Diameter) - 148 GR WCDE'. Please check back later."
Maybe I didn't place the order quickly enough.




Any thoughts on these, which are in stock at Midway now?
https://www.midwayusa.com/product/599723/speer-bullets-38-caliber-358-diameter-148-grain-lead-hollow-base-wadcutter-box-of-500 
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by LenV on 8/10/2016, 10:55 pm

Mike, These are what I use. They are in stock. Great bullet. Just scroll down to the 38's. I use the 514
http://saas.shopsite.com/magnusbullets/store/page11.html
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 8/11/2016, 11:01 am

Is there some specific reason to select Magnus, or Zero, or Speer?

Is it similar to driving into a Shell, or Mobile, or Texaco gas station?

Does one work "better" than another?
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Wobbley on 8/11/2016, 12:11 pm

Magnus and Zero both work.  Hornady and Speer can work.  The advantage with Magnus and Zero is that you can get large quantities.  The best of the bumpnch are the Remington, but good luck getting those.

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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by mikemyers on 8/11/2016, 2:38 pm

The guys at TheHighroad have been helping me get my Pro2000 running smoothly.  I had a discussion there about the new reloading dies from RCBS.  One of the responses describes things that are quite unusual - do you guys agree with this, or is it just one person's personal preferences:

http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost.php?p=10333384&postcount=8
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by Wobbley on 8/11/2016, 4:20 pm

Mr Noylj has also stated that here about sizing cases.  YMMV.  I size mine and I think so do most here.  Much of what else he says is true but you can go a little higher than 800 with HBWC bullets but there is absolutely no reason to do so.

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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by jglenn21 on 8/11/2016, 4:36 pm

the whole deal about taper or roll crimp is somewhat individual to the pistol itself..I run a taper crimp in all my wife's 38 ammo and her 52-1 eats it all just fine.. others find a roll crimp necessary.. just figure out what works for you.

I think you'll find win WST to be the best all round powder for the HBWC.

what Noylj is promoting is to not compress the bullet when inserting it into the case... I size mine but only use Remington brass.  I get no bulges.  I would not use a LEE FCD to size the case afterward. you are deforming the bullet

I have a modified M type die for my Dillon 550 that swags the case a bit deeper than a typical M die. this helps seat the bullet further before any compression of the bullet.. really helps to keep the bullet straight when seating..

lots of way to skin the cat on a 38 round
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by javaduke on 8/11/2016, 7:05 pm

I had a good experience with Precision Delta 148gr HBWC bullets : https://www.precisiondelta.com/products/bullets/bullets-38spl-148-hbwc-ml.html - I load mixed brass, 2.7gr Bullseye and roll crimp using the Lee Factory Crimp die. If I do my part, it shoots 10's and X's (I once shot 98 slow fire at 50 yards, the two shots at 9 were also on call - unfortunately I was never able to repeat this, but the problem is me, of course, not the gun or ammo. No excuses Smile)

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Magnus Bullets

Post by mikemyers on 8/12/2016, 5:25 pm

OldMaster66 wrote:Mike, These are what I use. They are in stock. Great bullet. Just scroll down to the 38's. I use the 514
http://saas.shopsite.com/magnusbullets/store/page11.html

Thanks!!

I placed an order for 250, then called to check on delivery (so they wouldn't arrive during the time I'm going to Toledo).  I had a very nice chat with Terry Labbe, the owner.  

After speaking to Terry, I have never been more satisfied than any purchases I've made from any company about any product - he did far more than just assure me he'd take care of me.  Very enjoyable and informative phone call.  I've never had a better experience buying something - and he knows all about the S&W M52.  I am *SO* glad you posted the reply up above, and I didn't buy any of the other bullets I had been considering.   There's even a discount for people who use this forum!

(Apparently there are two diameters that the barrel of the M52 was built to - do you know which is which, whether this applies to the M52-2, and if so, how to measure the barrel?  I guess I need to find a machinist to do that - I don't think my caliper is adequate?)
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

Post by jglenn21 on 8/12/2016, 5:40 pm

drive a slug(straight lead) through the bore and then mic it..
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Re: Advice on purchasing a S&W Model 52

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